Sunday, May 1, 2011

Where Has Civility Gone?

This is going to be one of my 'wondering out loud' posts.  It has little to do with budgets, or debt reduction, or living sustainably.  But I wanted to post my thoughts somewhere, so my apologies for going off topic.

I read quite a few news and opinion websites.  I try and read a cross section of left and right leaning pages.  I never want to be guilty of falling for propaganda.  BTW, if you are someone who only reads FoxNews or MSNBC or Drudge or Huffpo, you really should get out more.  Start by reading all the above.  It's amazing how the same story can be interpreted so differently depending on your political world view or core values.

The disparity in viewpoints of columnists and reporters does not disturb me.  We all view the world through the prism of how we, or our editors, see things.  Freedom of the Press allows for debate.  It challenges us to think for ourselves.  The internet is a wonderful tool because it overcomes the potential filter of censorship.  It's much harder these days to have only one side of a story told.

I am disturbed, however, by the vitriol and disgusting behavior of many of the individuals who comment on open boards and feedback sections of articles.  Web 2.0 has allowed for open feedback and discourse.  Nearly every article and blog offers a place for readers to comment.  Be careful what you wish for.

The anonymity of the internet has opened the door for a lot of ugliness and anger to be expressed.  I've read death threats, profanity laced ad hominem tirades and some things that are so nasty they are best skipped over.  There is a great deal of anger out there.  Name calling is not an argument.  Wishing disease and death those who disagree with you does not further your cause.  It only polarizes. 

There are still some excellent examples of grace, mercy and civility in the world, but on the whole I fear we are drifting and the current is quickening.  The resolution of our decline will not come from political parties or an economic turnaround, nor will it come from tighter internet regulations or fairness doctrines.  We need a heart transplant.  Three thousand years ago, King David of Israel, wrote:  Create in me a clean heart, Oh God.  And renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51).  We could use a whole bunch of that heart cleaning about now.  We are angry and bitter.  A social storm brews just beneath the surface.  I know of someone who doesn't just predict storms, like the national weather service, He calms them.  We need His help now more than ever.