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The loss of civility is tearing the republic apart

The loss of civility is tearing the republic apart

The loss of civility is tearing the republic apart
October 15
12:00 2021

Before an idea made it to the halls of Congress, whether it be the Green New Deal or the FUTURE Act, it started in the minds of citizens who had to convince their peers such an action was necessary. 

Civility is the key to achieve the future you want. It has two meanings. The ability to refrain from insults and ad-hominems, and to behave in ways necessary for cooperative projects, according to Harvard Professor Archon Fung. 

Today, people do not want to work in the collaboration known as the U.S. In the past month, right-leaning influencers such as Isabella Riley and David Reaboi have advocated for national divorce, the separation of the country on ideological grounds. National divorce is a popular opinion among certain voters, with 52 percent of Trump and 41 percent of Biden voters somewhat agree to a secessionist movement, according to a University of Virginia Canter for Politics poll.

The people do not take lightly to differences in policy. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema was followed into a restroom at Arizona State University by activists over her decision not to support the reconciliation $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill. However, there is a precedent to mobs over disagreements.

Before the fall of the Roman Republic, Cicero wrote about the rise and power of political leaders. He blamed the people of Rome for latching onto Caesar and his vision of a new, wonderful society. These actions are not much of a surprise in the same polling. In the previously mentioned poll, a majority of both Biden and Trump voters believed there was no real difference between Republicans with fascists and Democrats with socialists. 

Both of those assumptions come out of a place of ignorance, a belief that others should believe and live as we live our own lives. Nowhere is this more apparent than the divide between rural and urban America. Some urban elites characterize Southern evangelicals as people who hate the poor, but these two groups are more similar than they might think. Out in the Bible Belt, highly religious Americans live their values by volunteering. They volunteer nearly twice as much compared to non-religious people and tend to donate more to help their community, according to a Pew Research Center study. In contrast, Democrats are more likely to advocate for the poor via government action, such as minimum wage increases and rent control. Both these groups care for the poor, but they do so in separate ways.

What then can be done to save the republic? Cicero too pondered over that ages ago. He envisioned a new citizen, one who envisions their own path.

“The authority of the teacher is often a disadvantage to those who are willing to learn. As they refuse to use their own judgment, and rely implicitly on him whom they make choice of for a preceptor,” Cicero wrote. Civics education cannot happen via instruction, where students seem disconnected and absorb their teachers’ opinions. 

Karl Popper’s paradox of tolerance provides a roadmap to what should be done to maintain a tolerant society. He argued the suppression of those we see as intolerant would be unwise. The intolerant can be countered with rational arguments and by public opinion. Once the intolerant use their fists or pistols, limit debate and denounce rational argument altogether, then the intolerant may be suppressed. 

Both the political left and the right of the U.S. have a lot of work to do if they want to keep the republic alive. It begins in the hearts and minds of the people, not just to tolerate those they disagree with, but to understand why they believe what they do. Political leaders swayed the public into believing the other side is out to destroy their way of life. Talk to someone you disagree with — you might learn something about yourself, someone else or even the world.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Chris Sotelo

Chris Sotelo

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