It’s not merely the “music” blaring through the open windows of the car momentarily parked next to us at the red light, nor the racket from the backyard party down the block. The shrill and often disrespectful rhetoric from talk show hosts and the disgraceful comments of some bloggers seem to have made our world deeply offensive to traditional good taste, as well as violent on the eardrums.
The multiple tragedies of violence across the country in recent weeks have caused national heartaches beyond measure. Individual families have been shattered and communities torn apart … and there is another part of our country’s soul which has been reduced to utter, sad silence.
I continue to be convinced that all the bloodshed and angry rhetoric is somehow related to what has become the radical individualism of our American world. People seem utterly free to say what they wish in any language of choice and without restraints of either truth or good taste.
It’s not simply that global communication has brought the entire world into our living rooms or to kitchen radios. Contemporary reporting has indeed shrunken the world and brought the heartaches of everyone into our immediate sphere of attention, but I am convinced something more has been at work in our world, and it’s not good.
The utter crassness of American politics months ago cannot be easily absolved from its own contribution to the culture of disrespect in which our families are forced to live.
When people feel free to say whatever they wish, however they wish, whenever they wish … without respect for either the truth or the basic human sensitivities of others, the human spirit is diminished.
We have all become poorer and the Gospel mandates of truth, charity and justice have been compromised, possibly to an irreparable degree.
The puerile name calling of today’s political discourse would not even be acceptable in adolescent circles. Our teenagers themselves know better and show it in their daily lives.
Good and decent Christians, Jews and Muslims across the land lament our loss of mutual respect and fundamental decency of speech. I contend there is a deep relationship between the shabby rhetoric of today’s public discourse and the social violence that has come to characterize our society.
People on radio who use trigger-happy tongues without restraint make the whole world a worse place. They contribute to the violence of our atmosphere.
Years ago I attended a parish council meeting at our Native American Congregation of the Great Spirit in Milwaukee. It was, in fact, a tense meeting and the differences in opinion were quiet, but very deep. Nevertheless, every person paused for at least two minutes of silent reflection after each person’s expressed opinion in the matter to offer respect to that conviction and to search its deeper truth.
The restraint of the discussion and the way they slowly came to consensus revealed that the Native American community had much to teach the larger Anglo world around them, especially at this point in history. How dare we call them primitive in our textbooks? It was a lesson I have never forgotten, and one which our world needs more urgently today than ever before.
It would be a sad situation if we find ourselves virtually forced to turn off the TV to protect our children from crude political name-calling, as well as from crass exploitation of sexuality. Human society deserves better than this … and the Gospel demands it.