by Coach Dave Kenson
We have all heard the expression, “There is nothing as uncommon as common sense.” In today’s political climate, I would like to add a new one. “There is nothing as uncommon as common decency”. It is next to impossible now to have an intelligent, civil discussion about politics, religion or even our favorite sports team with someone who has an opposing viewpoint. When exacerbated by social media this “discussion” soon sinks to the level of personal attacks. It will probably contain nouns like libtard, nazi, snowflake or racist and adjectives like stupid, ignorant and others that common decency prevents me from listing. How did we get to this point and what, if anything, can be done to change it?
“To be free from suffering, free yourself from attachments” — Buddha
We live in a time of extreme tribalism. Within the areas of politics and religion we attach ourselves with labels to a particular path of faith, party, or “ism”. It can become extreme when a person having a different perception or viewpoint is considered to be an enemy unworthy of respect. If they disagree with us, they should just shut up, leave “our” country or worse. It has become an “all in” affair with an us/them consciousness where we agree with everything our tribe believes and disagree with everything that comes from the other tribe or tribes, even if their input is factual. We engage in social media gossip by posting or sharing “news” that we either know to be untrue and don’t care or that we don’t bother to fact check because it agrees with our bias and the goal is not to convince, but rather to irritate the opposition. We post about an event and then add false correlations. In addition, we comment on the other tribe’s post in a rude and disrespectful manner (under the guise of not being politically correct) in order to show our disgust and to rile up the opposition. We have lost sight of the fact that in politics, it is compromise that makes things happen. Otto von Bismarck said that “politics is the art of the next best”. If your goal is to be happy and have peace of mind, and mine is, engaging in these attacks makes the goal impossible. The satisfaction that we think we gain from “destroying” or “shutting down” someone we disagree with is short-lived, if it exists at all; and attacks on our position can make us apoplectic and causes us to seek revenge.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them” – James Baldwin
Charles Barkley once stated that he was not a role model. He was wrong. Adults don’t decide whether or not they are a role model. Kids decide who their role models are. They are always observing the behaviors that determine what kind of people the next generation will become. As the saying goes, “Who we are speaks so loudly that they can’t hear what we are saying.” Children are not born bullies. It is a learned behavior.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
Some version of the Golden Rule is a part of all the religions of the world. But many of us have modified it to say that we will treat others the way that they treat us. J. Martin Kohe wrote a great book called Your Greatest Power. He states that our greatest power as human beings is our power to choose. We choose our thoughts. We choose our beliefs. We choose our attitudes. We choose our behaviors. When we react to others in the same manner in which they behave toward us, we have given up this power.
“I don’t have to agree with you to respect and like you” — Anthony Bourdain
We have all been told what opinions are like, and yes, some of them do stink. Somewhere along the line we, as a culture, decided that all opinions are important. They’re not. Factual opinions are important. An NBA player made a statement this past year that the world is flat, an opinion that is not fact based, and therefore NOT important. He is entitled to it, but it should not be taken seriously. Do you want to become irritated? Go ahead and spend your valuable time arguing with a conspiracy theorist. But only do this if you are willing to give up your happiness and peace of mind. Also, understand that there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know enough about a subject to have an opinion or to comment on another’s opinion”. Finally, as Tony Bourdain said, it’s okay to respect and like people who have different opinions.