The death of civil discourse

Civil discourse has been a long-standing tradition in American politics and society. Since the campaign season that began in 2007, civil discourse has suffered a slow and agonizing death. Last night I had an experience that not only infuriated me but led me block someone who had “friended” me on Facebook. It wasn’t that I disagreed with this person’s opinion as much as I objected to personal attacks because I did not share their view of racial relations or economics within the United States. 

Ever since my teenage years, I have been fascinated with the concept of public debate. Television shows like NOVA and Meet the Press were among my favorites, especially when two commentators disagreed over issues or facts. Since the aftermath of 9-11 and the second election of President George W. Bush, it seems civil discourse is now becoming increasingly uncivil. 

The uncivil discourse on race within the nation

Everyone is familiar with the movement started by San Francisco football quarterback Colin Kaepernick and kneeling during the national anthem. To be honest, I think he and others who are following him were being manipulated. They are being manipulated by those seeking to create civil unrest before a major election. News sources both inside and outside the United States indicate the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has two main sources of funding – George Soros and his new surrogate, the Democratic Party. Using “adjusted” statistics, they are claiming that African-American men are more likely to be shot by police than whites.

But if the raw data is considered, a much different story is told. In 2015, over 50% of all men killed by law enforcement were white. Only 26% were African-American and within that percentage, nearly 87% were involved in a violent crime. Yet to highlight this manipulation of facts, the American Left and the Democratic Party leadership silences opposition by charges of racism and bigotry against those that disagree with them.

Uncivil discourse relies heavily on misstated facts or revised history

Since 2009, President Barack H. Obama, has waged a war against the police. Wrapped in the banner of the 1960s police are naturally racist movement, local and state law enforcement officers have been haunted with the ghost of Democrat Eugene “Bull” Conner. This man stood against the 1950s civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama and used the city’s law enforcement to silence the movement. While there are those in law enforcement today that do have actions dictated by race, I do not believe the majority of law enforcement officers do.

America has heard her president declare every chance he gets that law enforcement “acted stupidly” when the law is forced to act against minorities – specifically African-Americans. Again, to disagree with the message of the president or the mainstream media means your opinion will be devalued. To discredit you, the labels of racist, bigot, or ignorant will be used to describe you. Their arguments are based not in a realistic perception of fact but how the fact impacts emotion. Emotions can be easily manipulated. In the end, those hostile to ideas that are different from their own use a philosophy based on “the facts aren’t important. It’s how I feel about them that matters…”

The uncivil discourse, white privilege, and minority safe spaces

I grew up in a home with a father who was career military. About every two or three years, he would be assigned to another post and the entire family moved. Like many other military families, each move forced me to leave old friends behind and to make all new friends. In the world of the military brat, it’s not skin color, religion, or sexual preference that mattered. What mattered was what we had in common. What mattered were the things we enjoyed doing. If you enjoyed them too, then you were welcomed into our circle. When you left, we missed you, but soon found someone else that enjoyed those things too. We respected differences, we also were able to ask questions about those differences and learn to appreciate them.

I know many will disagree with me, but these safe spaces are nothing more than a slap in the face to every American. It is a return to segregation in all but name. And what is the most telling is it is the Liberal Democrat – normally whites – that are pushing and supporting segregation. These safe spaces are welcoming of everyone but whites, who are deemed to be naturally racist and not to be trusted. This has all but silenced discourse on inclusiveness and actually encourages racial intolerance and bigotry. It encourages exclusivity based on race and feeds the development of racism. Sadly, it ends any discussion about inclusiveness. It also prohibits the free flow of ideas and puts to death any hope of honest dialogue that may lead to racial equality and national healing. 

The uncivil discourse on poverty and wealth within America

In the late 19th century, Marx and Engels presented their interpretation of human history. According to their theory, everything is based on the constant state of war between the workers (proletariat) and the owners (bourgeois). Within those seeking to promote the economic justice movement, they normally ask the question “when will the wealthy ever have enough?” It is not that a true dialogue on the causes of economic inequality is ever desired. What is desired is a public justification of the limiting and confiscating of wealth for redistribution – a Marxist concept. We even heard Senator Elizabeth Warren and President Obama make the argument “you didn’t build that…” about the American entrepreneur.

The uncivil discourse about the source of wealth

Within the capitalist system the United States was founded on is the idea that a man’s opportunity for wealth and property is solely based on the merits of his ability to work. This idea is based on the writings of John Locke and his understanding that all money is a token representation of how much of your life (labor) was exchanged for specie (currency) by an employer. The more valuable your skills are, the more your employer will pay you for your labor. Jobs that require low skilled workers will, naturally, offer the lowest wages. Jobs that require extensive skills will offer wages that reflect the demand of those skills. For this reason, a fast-food worker will always make less money than a doctor or an accountant. 

There’s also a second factor that goes hand-in-hand with the skills required – risk. As unfair as it sounds, there are jobs that pay low wages in America because there is very little risk involved. A football player for the NFL has more risk for personal harm than a fast-food worker or taxi cab driver. As unfair as it may seem, this is how a free market works. The reason the military is an exception to this rule is that it is a government provided service and is not subject to the economic principles of supply and demand. This is also why teachers, police, firefighters, and other related positions do not pay similar wages as does the corporate world.

Post-industrial America and the lack of discourse

If America is to become prosperous again, we must have a discussion on how to bring industry back to our nation. Beginning in the 1960s, there was a disdain for blue-collar America by liberal elites in academia. They insisted that the nation needed college-educated men and women to enter the workforce. They heralded the day when the nation would become post-industrial – no longer dependent upon industry for its national wealth. This vision has failed; post-industrial America has not lived up to its expectations. It has left a large portion of our society underemployed, impoverished, and facing heavy trade deficits.

In many counties across the nation, the school board is the largest employer. By it’s very nature, a school board is not a creator of wealth. It consumes wealth. A creator of wealth produces something tangible. This is where local wealth comes from – the tax revenues generated by manufacturing have always brought money into the treasury. Additionally, employees from manufacturing also generate tax revenue based on income taxes, property taxes, and what is purchased. Watch how rapidly the standard of living changes in any location-based on the departure or arrival of a single factory. Yet to question the wisdom of everyone going to college is met with ridicule. Not everyone needs to go to college to become successful in this nation. That’s the beauty of America.

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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One response to “The death of civil discourse

  1. It is sad that we can no longer have a civil conversation with anyone that disagrees with us anymore. Instead of listening to what they have to say and/or trying to persuade them, we must attack the person. Often times I think it’s done because we’re too dumb anymore to have an intelligent conversation. Many people can’t articulate why they believe what they believe and why their way of thinking is the correct way.