The New All-American Cruelty

In every religion in the world, and all non-religious moral systems as well, compassion and love for our fellows forms a central theme, the foundation of all. Even before we were a nation, George Washington insisted that the British soldiers who were captured were to be treated with no less civility than we would hope to be, a reflection of the Golden Rule. In so doing, he set the tone for the new nation.

Very little of that remains, apparently.

Conservative politicians have found audiences who seemed more like Romans cheering for the lions than the Christians they so proudly claim to be. Presented with situations where a person had no health insurance, but became ill, they turned thumbs down. Let him die, they shouted. If a family has lost employment, then their house, car, and possessions? Tough. It’s your problem, buddy. Don’t believe for a minute that your government should have any responsibility to help you. They booed a gay military man who had served in battle, a man who had risked life and limb for them.

And not a single of the supposedly Christian and moral politicians present said a word to object. Not one. To the last person, they were silent, where they should have angrily attacked these amoral fools on the spot, and challenged them to prove that they were actually the Christians they claimed to be.

The military caught up with Osama bin Laden a while back, after an unnecessary delay of eight years because of inept political leadership, and summarily shot him. People danced in the street. They cheer and celebrate when someone the military decides is “the enemy” dies.

Is this how we should behave? The answer is emphatically, NO! These reactions are not the reactions of a civilized nation or of moral people. Misfortune and death are not something to celebrate, no matter who is involved.

Take a look at the online comments about political matters. Hiding behind their anonymity, the normal practice for commenters is to use explicatives and name-calling. Normal! All persons on the other side are fucking idiot assholes. The comments are full of offensive four-letter words and derogatory jeering. There is no discussion, no possibility of persuasion.

For contrast, listen to “As It Happens”, the Canadian broadcast we can hear daily on public radio. People who call in about a topic are to the last person polite, respectful, and humorous, even though they may voice a strong objection. And no one tries to hide his name or city, to hide behind anonymity.

Now turn to American talk radio. Or more properly, hate radio. There isn’t a shred of civility. The hosts are universally rude, loud, unpleasant. Not one ever has a good word for any liberal (they are to the last one conservatives). Any caller who doesn’t echo the host’s unsavory rant is summarily disconnected. This passes for political discussion. Few people on either side of the liberal/conservative line are able to even entertain the possibility that their opposite might have something interesting to say.

Is this the best we can do? Is this what we have become?

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