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Is Our Problem a Loss of Civility?

As a nation, we are deeply divided. Emotions run high, often resulting in arguments, insults and name calling. This division has spilled over into Congress. Or maybe it’s the division in Congress that is spilling into America.

It’s okay to have different ideas. But when we can no longer debate them – and truly listen to all sides – that’s when we falter. Have we lost our ideals as Americans? Is it that we no longer understand what it means to be a constitutional republic?

If you look at history, when was America civil? Not during the early conflict between the Federalists and the Jeffersonians. The only thing different about that era was that the media did not claim to be unbiased. No – they were self-declared, one-sided, blazing cannons, and very clear about their biases. And yet amidst all that blatant rancor, Americans could choose, knowing clearly what each side stood for.

THAT was America. And we must debate. But we must also listen.

Further, what if CNN, MSNBC and Fox all stopped “pretending” to represent the absolute truth and acknowledged that they are on opposite sides? And in the process, each should clearly describe what their version and vision of America would actually mean to citizens. Such openness in reporting would allow us to debate principles of governance and reduce emotionalism, which has now reached a religious-like fervor.

The problem is not a loss of civility. It’s the wholesale ignoring of the founding principle of free speech – and considerate listening – that resulted in our prosperous, innovative, advanced society. We must seek to understand each other. That founding principle must be held up as a metric for all discussions about the future direction of America.

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