Longing for an age of civil discourse in America

Photo by Tyler Meuter

Can our country maintain a union of two increasingly distanced wings of thought? Now more than ever before it seems that the climate of hate within the United States has reached a tempered boil, and it is unclear whether the gas can be turned off at this point.

Regular citizens hate their countrymen simply for having a differing viewpoint on political issues. Need convincing? Look at any number of videos from this election cycle’s political rallies and events. While it might be easy to spot the blatant animosity and crudely-directed anger coming from those in the Trump camp, a close examination of Clinton’s leal supporters will reveal a horrific wall — nay, a sheer cliff of contempt accompanied by a torrential downpour of condescension for those they disagree with.

Why has political discourse devolved to this level? It is easy to diagnose it as yet another symptom of America’s lack of greatness in this particular day and age. But the difficulty of actually debating the root causes of this or any other issue is unbelievable.

No one listens to well-crafted arguments anymore. There is no respect for facts or rhetoric of the like that William F. Buckley sold on “Firing Line” for so many years. Indeed, it is a great tragedy that we have lost his measured hand in our approach to discussion today. For those unfamiliar, the approach was best summarized by Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, who said, “Buckley really believes that in order to convince, you have to debate and not just preach, which of course means risking the possibility that someone will beat you in debate.”

Today, there is nothing but preaching. Even the presidential debates — routinely blown out of proportion as some great and final decider in the selection of candidates — are simply some arbitrary length of time which has been allotted for the sole purpose of holding a bonafide alpha-talking contest between two individuals with nothing new or interesting to say.

It is worth noting that it does not need to remain like this forever. But, if current trends continue — and there seems no reason to suspect they might not — the process will only delve deeper into the rank catacombs of facade appeal. Even a surprise Trump win next Tuesday would do nothing to change the course we are on; his entire persona revolves around a hyperbolic image without substance.

In fact, perhaps it could be said that a Trump presidency would serve as a lesson to all those who were so eager to watch him stumble his way into our political system. Even if he falls short, the trail he has blazed should be a fair course to slake the thirsts of all those out there who cannot be bothered with engaging in real, practiced discourse with those with whom their views might differ.