Over the past few days I have gotten to a point where I am doing my best to avoid watching the evening news because I know that I will be assailed by the sounds of the strident, vicious and contemptuous insults coming out of the mouth of Donald Trump – a man who is supposedly campaigning to be President of the United States. As I see it, Trump’s ugly “hate-speech” about Mexican immigrants, his mean-spirited insults directed against respected public figures and his ludicrous bullying of others in the political process has taken us to a "new low” in the public discourse of this country.
When I listen to Donald Trump utter his onerous speech against other human beings I am even more disturbed over the fact that people in his audiences actually laugh and cheer at what he says. In fact, early polls put this man at the top of popular possible presidential candidates. Some people say they like the fact that he is outspoken and says what he means. As for me, whether or not I agree with his politics, I don’t think any one of us has the right to pollute the air with contemptuous hate-speech and monstrous attacks on the dignity of other human beings.
I wonder sometimes if today’s political process coupled with our unfiltered use of social media may have take us down a very slippery slope in our own day, causing us to devolve to a new level of “incivility” in the way we treat our fellow human beings.
A recent article in the New York Times has suggested that the “internet” in contemporary culture has turned us into people who have become coarser and cruder, concluding that a world wide web has provoked in us an inherent capacity for monstrosity.
In some ways I sort of agree with this analysis.
As I browse the social media every day I am often appalled at the cruelty and the contempt people heap upon one another in tweets, in blogs and Facebook comments. In fact the newly emerging “internet troll” has become a cultural phenomenon nowadays. “Trolls" are people who dedicate themselves to going online and uttering the meanest and most monstrous speech imaginable in order to provoke, debase and bully fellow human beings - “trolling” has become somewhat of a sport for some folks nowadays.
It seems to me that the lesson of history is obvious: a culture, a nation is always on a slippery slope when citizens turn against fellow citizens rather than working together for a common good. I honestly wonder sometimes if we aren’t becoming more and more a nation of barbarians rather than a civilized society?
When I listen to the ranting of people like Donald Trump and browse the daily twitter feeds, I don’t expect that we always need to agree with one another - in fact I believe that voices of opposition are symptomatic of a healthy society. But I also believe that no matter what, we must always “respect” one another’s dignity. A lack of respect does not only make us less civilized, it makes us less human.
I think about something Dr. King once said back many years ago,
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period was not
the strident clamor of the bad people,
but the appalling silence of the good people.
I think perhaps these very same words might be said of our own times. We are inundated by so much “strident clamor,” but where are the voices of people of goodwill in the midst of all this? Instead of silence maybe we all need to stand up and say, “enough of this.”
In the Christian tradition, before people are baptized they are first asked a question about their willingness to respect the dignity of others. It seems to me that this is a good question for all of us to to ask of of one another as we are deluged by the “strident clamor” of our times
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and
respect the dignity of every human being?
It's time to raise our voices and say "yes!"