Do Unto Others….
“Political civility is not about being polite to each other. It's about reclaiming the power of 'We the People' to come together, debate the common good and call American democracy back to its highest values amid our differences.” —Parker Palmer
You may not be familiar with Palmer, an award-winning educator, author and philosopher, but he describes an attitude that it seems to me is entirely absent in government today. An attitude, we can only hope that will be embraced by the new generation of politicians and activists that will replace the sorry group that is letting our government stagnate in discord.
I couldn't help reflecting on this new generation as I sat with Kathy, filled with parental pride, at the graduation ceremonies earlier this year of our daughter Lauren and son Mathew. Lauren got her Masters degree from Northwestern University, and Mathew his undergraduate degree from Lake Forest College. There is an atmosphere of profound hope and optimism that infuses the nation’s commencement season now ended. Sitting surrounded by young adults beginning their careers in this world is not only an inspiration for those of us who’ve been around awhile, but also an exercise in optimism. Their achievements, the hard work, discipline, creativity and raw intelligence required of them to get those degrees, tell me that our country’s best days are yet ahead.
These are the men and women who will make a difference in a world of disruptive change, a world seemingly infused at times with irredeemable anger and hatred. A world where civility of all kinds, especially civic and political, has eroded to a point where governments are paralyzed, and reason, generosity, and respect for those who differ have all but disappeared. This is not only an American phenomenon of course. We see it around the world, where the simple, biblical lesson, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” has been discarded as weakness and politically obtuse, by the generations now in charge.
There are signs, however, that those graduating are not buying this wholly destructive, morally bankrupt and politically paralyzing view of the world. In this country particularly, the demeaning performance of a president who pledged to “drain the swamp” but instead has created one, has mobilized a new generation of political activists. These are young democrats and republicans, moderates and dealmakers from across the political spectrum who refuse to accept the uncompromising selfishness and stupidity that has infected Washington today.
I could not help but feel a surge of pride and conviction that the country will be in good hands.
Looking around at the young men and women sitting with Lauren and Mathew, I could not help but feel a surge of pride and conviction that the country will be in good hands. These young adults may not remember a time when our politicians believed in governing, in doing what is necessary to mobilize the kinds of programs that build a strong economy and a healthy citizenry. But if the surveys and media stories are correct, a great many of them are getting involved in politics and government, not to sit on their hands and say “no”, but in order to be of service.
By all accounts it is a generation that believes in jobs with purpose and in treating each other honorably and fairly, that believes in honesty and civic transparency, in generosity and compassion. It is a generation that believes in challenging conventional wisdom. We can only, fervently hope so.
If this country is to prosper and realize its full potential and responsibility in an unpredictable and increasingly demanding world, we must absolutely reject the toxic politics we have today. We must restore a political environment that tolerates disagreement without hatred, that nurtures compromise and rewards those who respect each other and the citizens they represent.
Otherwise we face a grim and unproductive future. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it: “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.” Here’s to a new generation of disciplined nonconformists.