War is the ultimate incivility, the violent breakdown of any ability or willingness to disagree rationally. The world is seeing where that can lead in the insanity and brutality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Peace-loving nations are watching in horror as Russia’s army, backed by its leader’s threat of a nuclear response if other nations intervene, is demolishing cities and murdering civilians in the pursuit of its leader’s fever dream of reassembling the old Soviet Union.
Madness, we say. Yet many roads may lead to war unless people exercise restraint.
Such restraint was once demonstrated in America by democratically elected representatives who introduced their public disagreements with others by referring to an opponent as “my good friend across the aisle.”
This kind of civility in political speeches sometimes seemed like an old-fashioned flourish suited only for an earlier time. It’s a flourish that elected officials and all Americans need to reclaim in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in which a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the presidential election.
Americans must again learn to disagree civilly and to model that behavior for younger generations.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, is the latest example of a rising tide of incivility in the U.S.
During President Biden’s State of the Union speech this week, she shouted at him as he began to speak about his son, who died from cancer that may have stemmed from exposure to toxins when he served in the military in Iraq and Kosovo.
Democrats responded in kind. They booed her and one shouted, “Kick her out.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, engaged in less visible, but no less uncivil behavior during the same speech. She live-tweeted allegations and objections during Biden’s speech and demanded that he resign.
In another egregious example of unacceptable behavior by an elected official, Idaho Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin last week delivered a pre-recorded speech to a white supremacist group in Florida. The Associated Press reported that she said, “she needs ‘freedom fighters from all over this country that are willing to stand up and fight’ even when that means fighting ‘amongst our own ranks.’”
In 2020, McGeachin was part of a video made to object to restrictions implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19. In it she appeared holding a Bible and a handgun.
Is it any wonder that Idaho elected officials have reported high levels of bullying, harassment and threats through emails, social media and phone calls? Is it any wonder that some have quietly resigned or decided not to run again?
America is unified in decrying the war in Ukraine. We must become unified in stopping incivility in our own nation before it leads us down a road that ends in violence.
Let us return to referring to people with whom we disagree as “my friend across the aisle.” We must ultimately be friendly opponents or risk becoming deadly enemies.
“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to email@example.com.