Public Discourse vs. Public DisCOARSE

Public discourseSocial media and the evening news are both making me tired.

Sad.

Discouraged.

Done.

Today, I hit my limit.

A friend posted a link announcing the president had signed an executive order correcting a difficult, complicated, and sad policy.

(I’m not taking a politically partisan position here—just making an observation.)

Her post acknowledged the Executive Order stopping family separations. She simply wrote “Thank God!” with a link to a major news outlet.

The comments that followed made me cringe. Instead of acknowledging something positive had occurred, comments ranged from “Trump will still get criticized” to “How is the genius planning to reunite the children with their parents?” One person wrote, “So he is now fixing an ‘issue’ started under the Obama admin.” Another wrote, “There is nothing to celebrate…this was a chance for Trump to show off.”

Let me say again, I am not taking a partisan position here. The point I’m making is that as a nation, we’ve lost the ability to discuss anything even remotely related to politics, civics, or culture in general.

Public discourse has deteriorated to public discoarse.

Namecalling.

Hyperbole.

Personal attacks.

I’m sure you’ve seen and heard some of these quotes:

  • “You can’t fix stupid.”
  • “I’m unfriending anyone who supports this.”
  • “USA. Like it or leave it.”

Do I have strong opinions on civic, moral, and political issues?
You bet I do. Most of us do.

But when 50% of our nation appears to despise the other 50%, I’m reminded of Jesus’ observation in Matthew 12:25 (ESV), “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

Celebrities have called for the death of the president. Supporters of the current administration vilify his critics.

The two sides are talking over each other.

At each other.

But they’re not talking to each other.

Allow me to amend that last sentence: We’re not talking to each other. Because it’s not us versus them. We’re all us.

The people who voted for the other side (whatever “the other side” is for you), are the same people who you:

  • grew up with
  • went to school with
  • attend church with
  • or share DNA with.

Delete KeyHave we come to the point where we cut people out of our life—or our social media feeds—simply because we disagree with them?

If so, we’re choosing to live in an echo chamber, hearing only what affirms our preconceived opinions. Demonizing the other side instead of seeing them as people like us who have different beliefs.

How can we hope to persuade others if we’re preoccupied with vilifying them?

And for those who are Christians, how can we follow Christ’s command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 ESV) if we’re obsessed with demeaning them?

As the originator of the post I mentioned above noted:

“At some point, we begin to sound like nothing more than clanging cymbals.”

Hmmm…clanging cymbals. That’s how the apostle Paul describes us when we speak or act without love (I Corinthians 13:1).

So the next time you and I hear someone we disagree with, will we determine to:

  • Converse instead of criticize?
  • Discuss instead of demean?
  • Persuade instead of pummel?
  • Dialogue instead of demonize?

And if the “other side” refuses to dialogue, will we at least resist the urge to vilify?

Most importantly, will we purpose to love instead of loathe?


12 responses to “Public Discourse vs. Public DisCOARSE”

  1. Paulette says:

    Thanks for writing this, Ava. We are indeed more polarized than since the Vietnam Nam war, in my experience. The difference seems to be that if we don’t agree about one thing (immigration, water pollution, abortion, style of worship, gluten free diet) we can’t seem to get past that one thing and end up disagreeing about everything.

    Last weekend we attended a statewide disability conference. The governor makes a speech and stays for hours to meet and take a photo with anyone who wants one. This year was the 20th anniversary of the conference and Rick Scott was there for the 8th visit. For the first time there were two disrespectful hecklers in the crowd. One had to be removed from the room. Eight years of Jeb Bush, one year of Charlie Crist, eight of Scott. Every year there are people with angry questions and situations, and every year the governors have responded compassionately with a personal meeting or referral to the proper department. Until this year every person was polite and had their concerns addressed. This was the first year I saw security surround the governor, remove him from the stage, and tightly control the photo opportunities. To his credit, the governor stayed until everyone had their pic taken. I’m sure he appreciated Faith saying, “we love you Rick Scott!” Because he asked for a pic with just her before our family pic. A little love goes a long way!

  2. Ava Pennington says:

    Wow, Paulette. Another sad illustration. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Kathy Chelsen says:

    I absolutely refuse to talk politics with family because I know most of them do not share my views. Fortunately we all have other things to talk about. As for social media, I was recently part of an exchange on a friend’s timeline where a British Trump supporter accused someone else in the discussion of name calling (which was not the case). I stepped in with a polite response, acknowledging her right to her opinion, but pointing out that she doesn’t live in the U.S.; told her I would never presume to tell my British friends what is wrong with Parliament and asked that she not presume to tell us what is wrong with our government. Sadly I don’t think she saw it as she never responded.

  4. Jane Roach says:

    Thanks, Ava!

  5. Linda Schmidt says:

    You are so right on. Anything to make someone look bad. Being unwilling to admit there are two or more sides to the issue. We need win-win, not win-lose. Now we have lose-lose.

  6. Robin Watkins says:

    Thank You Ava, I have been thinking about this for a long time and you where able to put it into meaningful words. But it is heartbreaking to me that there are so many professing Christians, who are showing by their words and actions, that they do not believe God’s word. I am also saddened by how people have no appreciation or graditute for God Blessing us with a country where we have the freedom to worship as we please. (This is called despising your blessings ). The hope is that all of this is pointing to the return of Jesus Christ! May God Bless You In All You Do In Jesus Name.

  7. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you Robin. Yes, it is heartbreaking!

  8. Dianna Cone says:

    So well said Ava!

  9. Cheryl Townes says:

    On point Ava. I find even among Christians there is a divide. It grieves me to read post of political opinions. There’s a presence of hate,name calling and division. We’ve become so politically driven, we’re no longer spiritually driven.

  10. Ava Pennington says:

    Yes, Cheryl. “Politically driven instead of spiritually driven.” Truly a sad description.

  11. Barbara Dusenbery says:

    Thank You Ava for this very timely reminder. All this disCourse seems to be reaching the boiling point now. I heard an elected official say on a sound bite that “ God is on their side”. I have to remember about the clanging bell ( 1 Corinthians 13:1) and how very destructive talking over, name calling, embarrassing etc… all of this is. Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ. Ephesians 4:32. Thank You Ava .

  12. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Barbara. Yes, it is disheartening, especially when we Christians forget the verses you mentioned.

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