Where Has Civil Discourse Gone?

In the last 24 hours, I have heard a former President of the United States say that all those of us who attended a Tea Party and disagree with President Obama are racist, and read scathing, hateful letters sent to my congressional representative, Jeff Flake (R – Arizona), because he broke ranks with the Republican Party and voted to reprimand Representative Joe Wilson for calling President Obama a liar.

Where has civil discourse gone?

I am very much opposed to most of the political policies being fostered by President Obama and the Democratic Party, but why can’t we debate these issues in a civilized manner? Why can’t we seek to find common ground and then with passion, fervor and logic, state our respective cases without sinking to vitriol and hate?

Certainly not all attendees at tea parties are racist any more than all Democrats are communist.  Why do politicians, pundits and ordinary people too often espouse those broad, vindictive generalities? Can we not can find a way to disagree with our President without decorating a picture of him with a Hitler moustache or a Joker blackface?  Can we not express a difference of opinion with folks in a Tea Party protest without labeling them as a racist mob?

In his book Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, Gordon B. Hinckley wrote:

“Civility carries with it the essence of courtesy, politeness, and consideration of others.  All the education and accomplishments in the world will not count for much unless they are accompanied by marks of gentility, of respect for others, of going the extra mile.”

We are fellow citizens of the greatest nation in the world. One of the most precious freedoms we enjoy is the freedom of expression.  We always have and always will have wide differences of opinion.  But I sincerely hope will we dig deep within ourselves, recognize each other as the brothers and sisters we truly are, and learn how to restore civility to our society.

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Phoenix Tea Party – September 12, 2009

Today I attended my first ever political rally, with my daughter Angie.  Located in front of the Arizona State Capitol building, about 2,000 people gathered in a peaceful rally to celebrate freedom and express mutual resolve to work together to protect the freedoms we enjoy.  The participants were certainly not radical mobsters as some in the press would have us believe.  We certainly didn’t have as many participants as the big gathering in Washington, DC, but the folks who gathered in Phoenix were enthusiastic and vocal in support of freedom.

We listened to some patriotic, inspiring speeches.  My favorite was a fellow in the character of Patrick Henry repeating parts of speeches he had given in support of the Revolutionary War and later, in support of the Bill of Rights.

Here’s a shot looking forward from where we stood, facing the speaker platform.

Phoenix Tea Party

Another shot of the folks behind us.

Phoenix Tea Party

Of course, many people carried signs.  My favorite:

Recycle Congress - Phoenix Tea Party

All in all, it was a great experience.  I look forward to participating in the future.  But next time, I’ll bring a chair – and maybe my own sign!

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Harold B. Lee: Do Not Preach Pessimism

“Men may fail in this country, earthquakes may come, seas may heave beyond their bounds, there may be great drought, disaster, and hardship, but this nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail. … This is the place that the Lord said is favored above all.  I plead with you not to preach pessimism. Preach that this is the greatest country in all the world. This is the favored land. This is the land of our forefathers. It is the nation that will stand despite whatever trials or crises it may yet have to pass through.” (Ye Are the Light of the World, p. 350-351)

Harold B. Lee, 11th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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ConSource: Constitutional Sources Project

The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) was founded in 2005 to “facilitate research, increase understanding, and encourage discussion of the U.S. Constitution by creating and maintaining the first, free, fully-indexed, comprehensive online library of constitutional sources.”

The primary objective of this project is to:

“connect ‘We The People’ with the thoughts and ideas of the Framers. High-resolution original images give users the opportunity to see exactly what the readers of the late 1780’s saw. The advanced search capabilities of transcribed text, scholarly certification standards, and constitutional cross-referencing of each document ensure that everyone, from the sixth-grader to The Supreme Court Justice, has direct access to the ideas that helped forge a nation.”

The site includes a treasure trove of  source documents related to the Constitution.  For example, while browsing through the Federalist Papers, I found this bit of wisdom in The Federalist, No. II, written by John Jay, who became first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court:

“This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous and alien sovereignties.”

I hope that our study of the Constitution will strengthen our union and the freedoms we enjoy.

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Salute to Workers Everywhere

Today is Labor Day, a United States holiday formally established by Congress in 1894 to honor workers throughout the nation.  We celebrated today by doing some yard work and then having a delightful family gathering at our son’s home.  We flew the flag and relaxed and generally had a good time.

But we also pause today to salute all the people who work for a living, with their hands, their minds and their hearts, in whatever occupation they are in.  We are grateful to live in a nation that offers such great opportunity to so many. 

My dad likes to say that we stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before.  I’m grateful for the hard working men and women upon whose shoulders I stand, those great souls who did so much so my family can be where we are today.

Our hearts ache for those who are unemployed at this time.  We have been there.  We know the feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy, the fear of not knowing where the next paycheck will come from, the concern about what tomorrow might bring.  We share our thoughts and prayers with you today, in hope for a brighter future.

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