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Francy that: 'As a civil society, we know better'

In general, Americans are generous and willing to lend a helping hand to our fellow citizens. Donations after disasters, local charitable fundraisers and volunteer efforts for those in need demonstrate our benevolence no matter what political party individuals follow. So, what happens to our ability to be kind in the political arena? As we advance through this election cycle, we spiral deeper into the quagmire of negative, and too often derogatory attacks on those who do not share our views, ideals or political stance.

Face it — we humans are a tribal creation. In ancient times a social network of like-minded souls meant survival. Along the way conflicts arose over territorial borders, wealth accumulation and, of course, power. History books recount the hundreds of actions resulting from political differences leading to wars to fight oppression, gain independence, or correct injustices. Too many wars. Now, however, it seems as though the battles are in our backyards, against neighbors and family members with hostilities compounding as we near election day.

Politics has never been a friendly endeavor. However, in recent times it seems it has become nastier. Images of political opponents on ads have been altered to present unappealing gray characteristics that are almost scary. Limits on mudslinging know no bounds. Lies and half-truths are the norm.

As a civil society, we know better. From the time of our early childhood, we’ve been taught to play nice, be kind, take turns and follow the rules. Knowing all of this, how did our society devolve into such rancor toward others whenever public policy is discussed?

Some may blame radio, television and movies that increased the amount of vitriolic language that was allowed after censorship rules relaxed. Others may look to social media platforms that allow slings and arrows to fly unabated. However, behind every disrespectful act and unkind word is one of us.

Nowadays, when we encounter those who challenge our political stance, kindness and acceptance disintegrate. Too many of our political leaders on all sides shun the concepts of respect and decency in the contests to win votes. “Attack” ads pummel the public from all directions. We can’t control them, but we can control ourselves.

After the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II, her Christmas message from 2016 was aired as tributes were paid to her leadership. In that announcement she said, “On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.” Perhaps now is the time to apply the Queen’s advice to our personal political behavior. Just maybe “small acts of goodness” in politics will make a difference.

Writer Francy Chammings is a retired English teacher and clinical psychologist who loves living in Carlton County.

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