Bob Meade - Let's recapture civility

  • Published in Columns

What we read in the “letters” section of this and other newspapers, is a microcosm of how our country is functioning today. Or, more accurately, how our country is dis-functioning today. Hardly a day goes by without our being able to read a letter demeaning another writer. The writers don’t make an argument of substance, but will often take someone to task for expressing their faith, or their differing political viewpoint, or because they’re old and not “hip,” or because they’re overweight, or they have a bumper sticker supporting a different politician, or because they’re old white men, and so on. Recently, a writer was even critical of this writer because the picture heading his column was too old.

It appears that these judgmental assessments are made by some about people they have never met. The writers probably have no idea as to the background and life experience of those they are demeaning. Nor do they have any idea as to the contributions to society made by those they are berating, or their family history, their medical conditions, or their handicaps or other life struggles. One has to wonder if the writers would have the courage, or the audacity, to make such statements face to face to the one they’re faulting. Clearly, some of the name calling is more like school yard bravado than mature discussion. There’s an old Boy Scout phrase worth repeating: You don’t build yourself up by trying to tear someone else down.

As we all have seen since the last election cycle and continuing, the lack of civility and tolerance is not limited to our letters section . . . it is rampant throughout our government. It seems like everyone is trying to outdo the other guy. Our politicians don’t seem willing to cooperate on issues of substance that matter to the people; they are more concerned with destroying their political opponent. Spying, prying, lying, and denying are more likely to happen than are comity and cooperation. Our politicians feel they must embarrassingly defeat the other guy, and then gloat over their accomplishment. What’s missing is not only respect for the views of the other person, and simple civility, it is the absence of a willingness to work cooperatively to meet the needs of the people.

Many of our leaders, and I use that term loosely, are hell bent on destroying our duly-elected president. They, we, have been on a hunt since November 9, 2016, in search of a crime. We still don’t know if there was or is one but our political structure is being undermined with leaks and politicians seem willing to sacrifice the integrity of our government in order to “get him.” How is that different from what is happening in Venezuela? Are we headed for third world status because we’re unwilling to accept and respect the outcome of an election? Or accept and respect the opinion of our neighbor? It was Walt Kelley’s "Pogo" who said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

If we the readers and writers to The Daily Sun are unable to be tolerant of and civil to each other, how can we demand our elected politicians to be so? How well would you make out if there were 16 top flight lawyers, with unlimited investigative resources, checking your every written and spoken word, financial transaction, all your current and past history of personal and working relationships, and so on? I think most of us have said things we wish we hadn’t, or written a nasty letter that we now regret.

Some time ago I coined the phrase "make an argument not an enemy." What that means is that if you simply resort to name calling, and self-serving or demeaning statements, you are on your way to making an enemy. To that point, there are people who write letters that I don’t agree with, but I read them because they are making a reasoned case for their position. There are others who write that, within their first or second sentence, resort to glorified name calling or demeaning or belittling personal attacks . . . and I read no further. If readers don’t agree with another columnist or letter writer’s position, I encourage them to make a reasoned argument for their position. If that is done, the readers can assess two well thought out viewpoints and make their own decision as to whether they agree or disagree with either or both.

We need to demand better from our politicians . . . and ourselves.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)