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Home | Opinion | Life On Purpose | Technology, civility and political passions: Let’s make space for the golden rule

Technology, civility and political passions: Let’s make space for the golden rule

I was seriously considering shutting down my Facebook last week, (my kids would be so happy), but I’d miss the pictures of dogs and my kids! However, social media has a dark side too. Cyber bullying is a real thing. Recent studies reveal that texting, emails and social media is also causing changes to our brain resulting in addictions to technology.

Technology, in particular, social media, seriously decreases the filters we regularly use in face-to-face communication. We use all of our senses in face-to-face communications to filter our speech and body language, so as to get our points across without attacking or offending one another. Without that face-to-face contact, essential tools of communication are lost.

Online communication is different even than writing a letter. Back in the day, when you wrote a letter to the editor to express your opinions to be published in the paper, there were rules of civility, and editors reserved the right to edit grammar for the sake of clarity. You also had to include your name, address and phone number so the editor could contact you directly. Anonymous letters weren’t published. You owned your opinion. In any letter, there are more steps to complete and time to think about what you wrote before you put it in the mail.

But these days… ugh. My head and my heart hurt just thinking about it. We’ve lost our filters, folks. And it’s time we get them back before we lose our right to free speech, not because of the threat of legal action, but because people will just stop speaking for fear of attack.

While it’s true that most of my political views align with conservative principles, my personal convictions on how I live out those principles often differ from those who hold to the same values. One of my daughters describes it as being a “New York conservative” — exposed to so many different viewpoints, you learn to live with and love those with whom you don’t agree.

I also call it “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” It’s sometimes a lonely place to be because everybody gets mad at you for something.

In this election, I believe that we all voted for flawed candidates, unless you didn’t vote. So we had to vote for our bottom line issues. The bottom line for me is respect for human life, from conception to natural death. Abortion and euthanasia are the deal breakers and are the issues where I part company with most of my friends who hold more liberal views. I don’t believe anyone has the right to purposefully kill another human being, except for self-defense. A human life begins at conception and so does the right to life.

I am not passive about my positions, especially respect for all life and religious liberty. Respect for life goes beyond the womb and extends to caring for the poor, disabled, disenfranchised in society, no matter what backgrounds and beliefs they hold or sexual orientations they express in intimate relationships. I choose to stand in love, not judging or condemning another for opposing views. I stand for what I believe in.

We live in a country that protects our right to free speech. But that freedom does not give us the right to malign, degrade and attack another human being. We need to be both free to speak and respectful of one another. We are all human beings worthy of respect.

Civil society used to ascribe to “the golden rule; “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) I believe we need to get back to applying that golden rule once again.

If we apply the golden rule in our face to face and in online communications, it stands to reason; if we want to be heard, we must listen. We each have our reasons for why we voted for our elected officials. We can disagree and respect one other’s opinions. Maybe if we’d apply the golden rule, stop the name-calling and swearing at each other, then all our voices can be heard.

The day after the election, I was reading the angry posts on Facebook in tears. Then in the distance, I heard my daughter Johanna singing in our schoolroom on the first floor of the house. She and her teacher were searching online for patriotic songs in honor of Veterans’ Day. The words of the national anthem rang through the house as Jo’s sweet little voice rose in song.

In her childlike simplicity, my daughter lives each day by the golden rule. The disabilities she lives with mostly tend to bring out the best in others. As her mother and her legal guardian, I carefully presented the candidates’ positions in appropriate ways that she could understand. Johanna expressed, with childlike simplicity and profound clarity, her own concerns that under Clinton’s presidency, children like her, diagnosed with disabilities, were more likely to be aborted. I agree.

I seriously considered not voting this time. But I could not. I voted for Trump, not because we think he’s pro-life. In some ways, I believe he appears to lack respect for human life. But in his own words and the people he’s chosen to surround himself with, he appears to be anti-abortion and at least willing to protect our religious rights to stop taxpayer funding of abortion.

I am not an uneducated, angry misogynist or a hateful, judgmental or passive conservative. My friends who voted for Clinton are also not the terrible names they’ve been called either. All of us are free human beings with rights, and neighbors in this beautiful land we call America. We need to show each other respect.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. Over 100 years ago, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving to God for the blessings we have received.

When President Lincoln made this proclamation, our country was in the midst of the Civil War. He called for Americans to set aside their differences and thank God for our many blessings and “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.” (http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm)

President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, in the midst of the Civil War, speaks volumes to me now as I observe our national unrest. This Thanksgiving, we need now more than ever, the “Almighty Hand of God to heal these wounds and enjoy peace, harmony, tranquility and unity.”

At many of our Thanksgiving tables and in our hearts, there will also be empty spaces which were once filled with the laughter and conversations from family members who have now died. For our family, this Thanksgiving, as in many over the past twenty years, my daughter will be back in the hospital for another surgery to correct pressure building up in her brain.

When we face the loss of loved ones and the sufferings of other human beings, especially during the holidays, it causes us to pause and give thanks for our blessings. These experiences can motivate us to put our differences aside, to love others and listen to their needs in ways that help them to be heard. The golden rule is a good place to start.

Benthal Eileen hed 14Eileen Benthal is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University. She is the author of Breathing Underwater: A Caregiver’s Journey of Hope.

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