Putting the “Dis” into Discourse



I’m not surprised that hundreds of people from across the nation have sent me and my council colleagues e-mails after we took a stand for national unity, for treating all people in our country compassionately and fairly, and for calling on our Congressional leaders to undertake comprehensive immigration reform now.   I’ve been bemused, however, by the lack of civility in many of the e-mails and the apparent unwillingness of some to consider the greater good for all of us.  What happened to the notion of liberty and justice for all?

It’s been referenced in other publications this week and it’s true – many of the messages we received were invective-laced rants. There was a baker’s dozen or more calling us idiots, a fairly pedestrian term that we’ve grown accustomed to hearing. But then there were some other instant classics.

“You are a maliciously incompetent a**-clown.  Please resign,” wrote Ralph.

In most cases, short and sweet was the theme. John B. predicts that we’ll all “rot in hell” for our vote on Monday, while another writer instructed me to “eat sh*t b*tch [sic].” A different writer named John instructed us to kiss an undetermined number of posteriors. To whom those backsides belong to, no one is certain, and John didn’t elucidate.

If brevity isn’t your thing, a writer named Tom promised a boycott of Seattle:

“You clearly have sh*t for brains. I’m doing the only little thing that I can think of, but I hope it becomes a movement, as you deserve to be revenue-strapped even further for the bullsh*t policies you implement within your city limits! In short you can f**k the hell off!!!!”

These statements demonstrate desperation from many who have long fancied themselves to be in a privileged and static position. But things are changing as we all know, and many of these correspondents who no longer have control over economics or the skin color of their neighbors are worried.  “Take our country back” is a fear-filled theme. Back to what, you might ask?  Our goal ought to be to move forward to a land where all of us have opportunities to actually feel and know that “Justice for All” is a reachable goal.

Tony Robinson, writing for Crosscut, shares some great observations:

“People understand and identify themselves along lines of generation or occupation, politics or a particular life experience, race or gender, ethnicity or religion, neighborhood or any number of other particular characteristics that distinguish them from others and in the whole. A capacity to identify with a larger whole or community is often very limited.  We really are enriched by the diversity. But diversity that is not held in healthy tension with unity becomes destructive not only to the common good but to the parts themselves. People devolve into thinking of themselves (seemingly no matter how well off or relatively secure) as aggrieved. Of course this is not entirely new. Mark Twain remarked, ‘There isn’t a Parallel of Latitude but thinks it would have been the equator if it had its rights.’ “

We’ll never be able to simply avoid the difficult but important issues, and I know just how loud, messy and sometimes complicated things will be. I encourage dialogue that helps us move beyond the “Us v. Them” mentality.  It’s about us, all of us. Even the a**clowns.

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