Civility, not intolerance

See Disclaimer. Also published as a Letter to the Editor (“Recommit to civility”), Hood River News, August 10, 2019.

Bigotry, racism, xenophobia: All reflect intolerance, in some specific form:

  • Bigotry: “Obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices.”
  • Racism: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
  • Xenophobia: “Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”

It is deeply troubling that all three words arguably apply to—in fact, might be defining traits of—the current US president.

It is even more troubling that these traits were not hidden prior to the 2016 election—yet he got elected.

It is further troubling that he is not the first US president to be xenophobic, racist or bigot—even if he distinctively combines all three forms of intolerance into a blunt political tool.

However, perhaps most troubling is our political discourse being overwhelmed by bigotry. Personified but not exclusive to this president, political bigotry is embraced by each of us—red, blue or otherwise—when we intolerantly close our minds to different opinions.     

We must reflect on what all this says about us as individuals, communities and country. And we must do (much) better.

Only then can we build a society …

… that is an inspiring beacon of freedom, democracy and hope.

… that protects itself from external enemies, but does not fear or hate based on where people are born.

… that finds in its diversity—in race, political opinions, and so much more—a source of pride, strength, vitality, success and quality of life.

… that remains healthy through a cultural blend of entrepreneurship, innovation, ethics, tolerance and compassion—while respecting and protecting the land, water and air that we all need to survive and prosper.

… where we would want our grandkids, and theirs, to grow up and thrive.

We must proceed without panic or despair, but in all due haste. Starting with a renewed commitment to civility—both in the narrow sense of civilized dialogue, and in the broader sense of constructive, participatory citizenry.

— Antonio Baptista

Note: Definitions from the Merriam Webster dictionary


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