Things are back to normal. Bobcats, area high school teams prepare for the playoffs, communities try to hold back Christmas to actually celebrate Thanksgiving first and the longest nights of winter are just beginning.
Best of all, those offensive political commercials where people try to denigrate each other as much as possible have ended. Yes, the election is over.
Was there a blue or red wave or no wave? Did the Republicans retain the House of Representatives? Were there upsets?
Since the results are unknown as of the deadline for this column, it will be very objective about moving forward, and move forward we must.
The problem is that the next election in two years will be a presidential contest, and as the opposing candidates begin to emerge, there will be no let up in the intense political discourse.
However, wouldn’t it be great if people could approach this next election with some semblance of civility? One can hope, but don’t count on it.
Here, nonetheless, are some suggestions.
Candidates, if you won the election, be modest. Reach out to ALL of your constituents, not just the ones who belong to your political base.
Stop the incessant attacks on the opposition and offer an olive branch. Be a model for others.
Unfortunately, your followers who use social media have been taught by some leaders that the only way to communicate is in the most vicious manner possible.
They have been trained to make fun of others, call them names and find inventive ways to be insulting (ha—admit it—some of you may be thinking “libtard” or “republiCON” right now).
You have to change this level of communication by demonstrating that you won’t do that. You will rise above throwing mud and be the model of civility.
Next, if you are a supporter on social media yourself, take the moral high ground. If they go low, you go high. You can be honest and factual without being demeaning.
Don’t back down and don’t give up, but do listen. When you do respond, use civility and measured words. Be diplomatic.
If your side lost the election, be gracious. Congratulate the other team and offer your sincere wishes to work together for the locality, state and country.
Don’t vow to do everything you can to see that the other side fails. Support where you can and disagree when appropriate.
Americans in the past (even politicians) had political arguments but then socialized later. They could disagree without being disagreeable.
They could fight hard, but civilly, for what they believed in and have dinner together in the evening.
Civility isn’t weakness; it is acting honorably in interactions. Good manners cost nothing.
There have been several examples of inappropriate dialogue at all levels of government. Everyone must condemn words and actions that are denigrating, prejudicial, dishonest or below the standards of decency. All legislators must do this regardless of political affiliation.
There has to be a reasonable code of conduct in public life that all can agree to follow.
When someone, even in the highest offices in the nation, acts irresponsibly, Americans must rise above politics and jointly condemn their words and actions. People must know that no decent person will tolerate that behavior.
Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Words matter. When a powerful person abuses the ethical standards of civil society, all must unite in condemnation. It can’t be just the opposition party.
Constituents must understand that abusive, dishonest or prejudicial statements are wrong, or followers will say and do the same thing.
Hold people accountable, and the abuses will end because all will learn that there is a line that should not be crossed in a respectful society.
Good men and women can help model good behavior. People can debate issues and demonstrate respect toward others. Good examples by leaders will help to build expected behavior in followers.
Now is the time. Elections have been held and political battles decided. It is time to set a new standard and return to an appropriate level of discourse where respect, honor and decency set the tone.
No matter which side won or lost, and no matter which side you’re on, dedicate yourself to being an example, a role model and a person with character.
There is a meme with a message that is said to be based on ancient wisdom. Perhaps it would be a good basic guideline for political leaders and, well, all of us: Before you speak, THINK…
T – Is it true?
H – Is it helpful?
I – Is it inspiring?
N – Is it necessary?
K – Is it kind?
American society will not change for the better unless men and women decide to be courageous and take a stand for what is right. And don’t forget, our children are learning from adult examples.
If you think it is just foolish optimism to hope for a more civil society, remember what Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
With these difficult elections decided, this would seem like an opportunistic time to change our political discourse—for the better.
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.