Last September I wrote a blog post called “Civility and the 2016 Presidential Election.” Sadly, that may have been the last time I used those two concepts in the same sentence for many months unless I lamented the very lack thereof.
But as someone who has lived in the Washington, D.C. metro area for nearly my entire adult life, I can honestly say that the events of the last week brought those two ideas back into my consciousness in a way no other week in this city ever has.
Like many of you, I imagine, I watched the inauguration of President Trump on TV and gloried in the extraordinary commitment to a peaceful transition of power represented by having four former presidents on the dais. Does that happen anywhere else? What a lesson to our children (and to us!) to see those who disagree and debate with great passion nevertheless come together in peace and with respect toward each other for the sake of a greater good.
I also marched the day following the inauguration in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life coming together to exercise our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition our government for a redress of grievances. We know with all too much certainty that gatherings of that nature and size do not and cannot happen in other places around the world due to repression and police state tactics. Again, what a lesson to teach our children in peaceful, passionate communication to those tasked with representing us all.
Each day was its own big lesson in civility. No question, some failed and continue to fail the test from those lessons in the same city during the same weekend, but many, many more passed.
So now what? Now we have to decide to pass it at the same time, not on different days in our own relatively similar bubbles. We have to decide that we will talk about the issues that concern us – education, climate, healthcare, jobs, our role in the world, poverty, immigration, the rights of minority groups, and on and on – with those whose opinions about these same issues differ from our own. We cannot continue to silo ourselves in self-fulfilling social groups that validate our own beliefs and fail to challenge us to move beyond our own perspectives to understand those of others.
We have been writing a series in this blog about each of the lessons in our Don’t Laugh at Me curriculum. If you have been following along, you know that they follow four cornerstone themes: expressing feelings, building community, resolving conflict creatively, and celebrating diversity. Today I feel like perhaps the whole country, including and, perhaps, especially, our elected leaders, should do the whole series together. Wonder if we would find that the hardest diversity to celebrate is diversity of opinion?