Hear from AJT Publisher Michael A. Morris as he reflects on the current lack of civility in political conversations.
Michael A. Morris is the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times.
I am going to ask for a lot of forgiveness. I am going to ask for all of us on the right to forgive all of those on the left; and, I am going to ask all of us on the left to forgive all of us on the right. I know that is a tall order; but I think all of us can agree, it is well overdue.
What I have come to learn over the past year is that neither side is evil, neither side is acting in malice and neither side is against freedom and democracy. However, both sides have become so passionate about their position that the arguments have become vicious, degrading, and lack civility, character and integrity. We are persecuting our friends. We are demonizing our neighbors. Both sides are acting irrational, irresponsible and behaving like children throwing temper tantrums; and we are all suffering.
Let me highlight an example right here at the Atlanta Jewish Times that keenly demonstrates the fallacy of the ultra-hardline and emotional position on both sides of the aisle. If I told you that every month, we lose a reader or two, I am sure you would not be surprised. People move out of town, pass away, change their priorities, and so much more. Recently, every month or so, we have lost a reader (or so they claim) because that person feels the AJT is just too far left. I would take that at face-value except every month or so, we lose a reader (and often in the same week and/or same day) because we are just too far right! As my kids would say, “Really”?
What this clearly, beyond any shadow of doubt tells us all, is that it is not what we choose to print, it’s not what our readers choose to read, it is how any reader chooses to interpret what is written. This means that before we listen to the news or read someone’s opinion, we allow our own personal bias to influence our understanding of what someone else is attempting to share. This means that even if the AJT shares two sides of a story, each side is incapable of accepting equity, fairness and the right of someone to a differing opinion.
Let me explain this a different way. If people are telling me that they are going to stop reading the AJT because it is too left and too right at the same time, it is not the paper, it’s the reader. I will go so far as to say, it is the intolerance of the reader from both sides of the aisle. An intolerance that neither side will admit to, but is clearly demonstrated. I hope, at least, you can see a certain amount of humor in this dichotomy.
It is beyond time that we, as a community, as American citizens, as civilized humans, stop acting like 2-year-old children when we don’t get our way, when we do not like the compromise, when we see things a little differently. It is beyond time that we stop hating our friends and neighbors. It is beyond time that we stop seeing or assuming the worst in others. The person we disagree with may be wrong, in our opinion, but their opinion is not based upon spite, malice or hate (yes, this statement excludes violent extremists from any walk of life).
It is time to get back to respectful debates. Let us reap the benefits of freedom and democracy as we muddle through ways to make our system even better. It is okay to disagree, to believe in a different path to accomplish our goals and compromise to move forward. And to do so without uncontrollable rage and hate for those that do not agree with us.
This holiday, I would suggest, don’t just repent but think forward. Consider how you will change your actions, reactions, interpretations and responses.
Shana Tova, wishing you a happy and harmonious New Year.