Death of Discourse

June 13, 2016

Years ago when I worked at Planned Parenthood in Kansas City, I had to cross a picket line every day I went into work.  Many of the people in this line acted poorly, to say the least.  Screaming profanities, violence and hate at the employees as we tried to get into the building.  I remember one woman in particular who used a bull horn to yell her vitriol.  She would follow me to and from my car, having spent her entire day at the clinic, yelling her hate.

As employees, we were not allowed to ‘engage’ with the protestors.  Most of the time this was fine by me, as truth be told, they frightened me.  It was glaringly obvious that we had no common ground from which a ‘discussion’ could arise.  If it existed, it was so far buried beneath emotional outrage that it was not even accessible.  There could be no grown up, reasonable discourse in this atmosphere.

It seems to me that *everything* is emotionally charged these days.  Gun control, immigration, sexuality, equality… just to name a few.  Reading comments on Facebook regarding any of these topics is enough to make one’s head explode.  We are so divided as humans that there literally is no common ground.  No middle road.  No place from which a conversation can be had.  Obviously, disagreements on how societal issues should be handled exist, yet when did we lose our ability to reason with each other?  Our ability to engage in a discourse without violence and insults?  Has it always been this way? And, if not… what in the hell has happened to us?

I don’t claim to have any answers, nor obvious fixes to our never ending divisiveness.  It does seem apparent, however, that without respect for others and a core sense of common decency, we will only widen the chasm.

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