Over the past week the listservs have lit up with some pretty heated exchanges over the sale of "Kindness Kits" by area vendors. Sadly, some of the postings have been anything but kind and, from an unknowledgeable observer's point of view, even explicitly hateful. I almost felt as if someone had let Donald Trump loose on the listservs to spread his vitriol. Having read the original posting myself, I didn't understand what all of the fuss was about, because I thought it was pretty clear that this was another wonderful, local home-based vendor who was selling a home-made product. Therefore, I was quite surprised by the outcry that bullied its way onto the listservs.
However, it reminded me of something personal that has been rankling for a few weeks. Recently I was accused of providing someone with "faux well wishes" when I ended a somewhat contentious email exchange with best wishes for the holidays. Apparently because it followed upon such an exchange, that made it "faux." While I was rather frustrated by the statement, it led me to think a lot about civility and the ability of human beings to interact with one another in a positive way, even when they disagree and even when they are frustrated with one another. I have to ask: when did it become impossible for someone to disagree with someone else or even be frustrated by them, and yet still treat them as human beings worthy of respect and well wishes? Or at the very least not engage in ad hominem attacks? Are there more Donald Trumps in this country than I imagined?
Vitriolic responses are one of the many reasons that my family first considered leaving the South for good. As fish often swimming against the stream in the southern states, politically and socially speaking, many times we felt alienated and sometimes even unsafe in certain places. I guess I decided somewhere along the way that I'd rather spend more time "preaching to the choir" than being stoned on the pulpit. Thus, it was with no small amount of relief that we moved our family to a place where our viewpoints appear to be a little more main-stream, if not our accents! I felt more comfortable that my children could voice their fledgling religious and political points of view without having friends tell them they are going to hell and without hearing racist or sexist comments about public figures they admire.
Of course, that does not mean that they will never be challenged. As my opening paragraph makes clear challenges can happen anywhere and for any small reason. Yet, I still feel that we made the right decision, a feeling bolstered by the many other responses on the listserv discussing the importance of compassion and civility. And that being said, this will probably be one of the few times I come within 1,000 feet of writing about something even remotely political or religious in my blog—for obvious reasons I have developed a preference for keeping those points of view to myself. I use this merely for illustrative purposes with regards to my larger point, which is that I hope that the trend away from civility and compassion that seems to infect our social and political spheres is a short-lived one and that, sooner rather than later, we'll head towards a more peaceable existence. In the meantime, y'all have a good one (and I really mean it)!