Our country was founded over 200 years ago after enough colonists agreed that the rule by the King of England no longer made sense for the colonies. They did not agree on every aspect of the how and the why, but they all agreed that it must change. The biggest aspect of agreement and disagreement in the birth of our Nation was the right of each human to agree and disagree. There foremost ideal that drove the creation of our constitution, can be said to be creating a government that could stand for and thrive while maintaining this and other freedoms.
This turned out to be a humongous task and goal. First and foremost the procedure and processes for dealing with disagreement had to be agreed upon. There will always be different beliefs and ideals. However, most of all they understood that in order to have peace while preserving everyone’s ability to exercise their Freedoms, they must have a process and rules for dealing with Disagreement or conflicts of personal Freedoms between all people. This is where the concept of Liberty was created and defined. Liberty, for the sake of our constitution, would be the definition of civility and common agreement on how to deal with Freedoms in all situations, including when there is disagreement.
As these great men debated and resolved as many as possible of the disagreements about how this would be done, they accomplished the one thing that we are struggling within our country today, Agreement. Not necessarily complete and total agreement but enough agreement that things could move forward with respect for all in the debate.
In the beginning decades of our constitution, it was commonplace, to see people in public places, speaking and debating concepts and opinions about this same as well many other issues. Social etiquette and respect is the foundation of Liberty.
Why is it so difficult in today’s society for us to debate civilly and respectfully. Even if there is no common ground on an issue, why can we no longer agree to disagree and move on? Why do we become obsessed with the issue and lose all respect for each other?
As I look around at my own experiences as well as observing others experiencing this, I have tried to objectively gain an understanding as to what things are taking away our ability to debate civilly and respectfully.
The biggest wall to respectful debate, that I have observed, is very simply, allowing the conversation or debate to change from the issue, to the Character of either one of the participants. Once this happens it is virtually impossible to have any further communication on the original issue and it becomes all about the character of the participants.
You would think that we could just say turn a cheek and ignore the attack and things will go forward. However personally, I have very rarely ever been able to make that happen. Perhaps when it becomes about the person, we feel we are allowed to treat each other differently and the normal expectation of Social Etiquette and respect no longer seems to apply.
So if turning the other cheek is not an option, what can one do? There are not many things that work reliably when the conversation gets to this point because it requires Agreement to treat each other with more respect in order to be effective going forward. Often walking away is all that can be done. Sometimes that will actually cause the offender to think about and realize what may have caused the conversation to break down.
So where do we go from here? It is my hope, that by understanding what is happening, we can avoid doing two things, the first is, being the initial attacker and the second, refusing to participate by reacting to the attack in the same fashion.
So my recommendation as to how we overcome this dilemma. We must understand as Constitutionalists (I believe that is our common thread), we must recognize that there are rules and procedures that require respect for the person and a conscious effort to stay on the issue at hand, in order be constitutionally successful. An agreement may very well be that we must agree to disagree.
I believe with all my heart and soul is that if we participate in the back and forth of character attacks as part of a discussion or debate, we will always fail.
Can we as constitutionalists, understand and practice this ideal and show others what it is and how it works through our actions? By demonstrating that respect for the character as well as equal rights and freedoms is a solution and not the problem.
I know personally, I will be striving to be better at this and try to show by example.