The State of our Civility
For political junkies, the State of the Union Address provides some of the best political theatre for the entire year. The pomp and circumstance of the speech is surpassed only by the presidential inauguration. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, however, this year there was something historic about the address. For the first time in over one hundred years, Republicans and Democrats did not stick to their normal partisan seating pattern. After Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) made the suggestion following the Tuscon shooting tragedy, dozens of senators and representatives sat with members of the opposite party.
On the one hand, this is an incredibly small gesture and the fact that it is being made into a big deal shows how far our leaders are from a state of civility with each other. The partisanship and bickering of our legislators seems to many to be at an all time high, while their ability to compromise for the good of the country is on the wane. But even still, if our country is going to work towards a more civil environment for political discourse, maybe we need to make small steps like sitting with someone we disagree with.
The type of unity that was demonstrated by Congress last night should not be a one time event, neither should it be simply for our leaders. It is easy to blame politicians for the hyper-partisanship that is dominating the political scene, but politicians only reflect the will of the people (usually that is). They would not be so hyper-partisan if it weren’t for the fact that their constituents want them to act in such a manner. So what can we do about it? Maybe we could follow their lead and sit next to someone we disagree with. Enjoy a conversation with someone of the opposite political persuasion, and instead of arguing about the many points of difference, look for something that you agree on. Building relationships with our political opponents may just be what this volatile political climate needs.