Resolve can restore the scorched earth

By Carol Walker


Say, wasn’t it a welcome retreat to hear about the “moose on the loose” this week after weeks, months, years of being trampled by donkeys and elephants? By the time the election was over on Tuesday, I felt like I had been on the ground, in the midst of a stampede. How about you?

George Will compared it to “Americans standing on scorched earth that is still smoldering.” What are the embers that are still alive? Perhaps the fiery rhetoric we heard from both sides in the news, on the talk shows, Facebook, Twitter – they are all in our memories. More than that, the coals are being stirred by reports of rioting on the streets and calls for the electors to refrain from casting their votes.

What are we to think about the angry words, name-calling and incivility that we heard during the election? Some say political civility has been declining for a long time, and it is a symptom of our changing culture. An Associated Press article credited Mark DeMoss, a public relations executive, with launching the Civility Project in 2011, but soon abandoning it when only three members of Congress would sign a pledge to act respectfully. Are you kidding me? Only three members of Congress could make a promise to act decently toward their colleagues? What does that tell us?

That’s them – in Washington — but then there’s us, the common people. Are we civil and decent? When our culture feeds on violence and profanity in books, movies and the internet, is it any wonder our minds and mouths are affected? The natural inclination of humankind is to watch a fight and see the favored one prevail as the perceived enemy gets creamed.

Children hear the language, observe the attitude from family members and in the media, and they emulate what they experience. I believe an effort toward civility can begin in the home. Teachers in the classroom see it spill over at school, having less time for the three Rs because they must deal with rudeness, rhetoric and rebellion. Sunday’s Rapid City Journal related the difficulty teachers are having answering the questions students bring to them at school.

“My family is Muslim. Does Donald Trump really hate us?” was one of the hard questions asked of a Sioux Falls teacher. Now I don’t need to defend president-elect Donald Trump, but did he really say he hates Muslims, or did he say he wants to stop the immigration of Muslims to this country until they can be adequately vetted? Sounds like conversations at home drew the conclusion that aroused the question in the child.

Granted, if the children were exposed to the news over the past year, they have seen and heard plenty of name-calling, bullying and explosive rhetoric by candidate Trump and others who have not set a good example for young people. No wonder there are questions. One teacher said, “We are teaching these children to not bully people and just to be kind and respectful. That’s hard to explain.”

Managers of natural resources know that from fire, there often comes new life, healthy and green. Let’s hope that from the “scorched earth” we are feeling, will come a new resolve to speak with respect and civility in our homes, at school, and in the workplace. The Good Book says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,…” Perhaps this could ignite a grassroots fire that will go from the bottom up to the highest levels of our government, and if there is a Congressional Civility Project launched again, there might be at least a doubling of the numbers who would take the pledge.

We can only hope.