“Father, father / We don’t need to escalate / You see, war is not the answer / For only love can conquer hate / You know we’ve got to find a way / To bring some lovin’ here today.” / “What’s Going On”
— Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye’s lyrics to an America twisting in turmoil over the war in Vietnam resonate not only with those who lived through the struggles decades ago, but also with those — like me — who fear our country has given up on civility and discourse today.
While America is not at war like it was in Vietnam, we seem to be at war with each other. Regardless of what side of the political divide one falls, it is clear that many are all too willing to escalate their extreme language with greater frequency and vitriol on issues ranging from the local (the unionization effort at Volks -wagen) to the national (immigration or the Affordable care Act).
Look at comments on local websites, or sites like Yahoo, or news channels like Fox or MSNBC, or talk radio. The language that’s used is divisive and extreme. Many people blame the rise of the Internet and the anonymity of hiding behind a username; certainly that has made things worse.
But I blame something more basic: anger. We’ve all become too angry in this country, which inhibits our ability to listen to each other. Anger is on full display from social media, the “talking heads” on TV and radio, to our political leaders. Our language is full of extreme words and dire predictions.
All of the vitriol and anger I encounter prompts me to ask “What’s going on?” with our country. I’m appalled and ashamed of how so many Americans have lost their ability to stop and think before they speak. So much of what we see, hear and read is far beyond reason and simple human decency. No longer can people simply disagree – now they have to tear the other side or person down, denigrate them, and make outlandish claims not based on fact.
We all like to look at Washington (especially), and blame those in power for arguing and not dealing with the great problems our nation faces. While it’s true that Washington is “broken,” we the people are “broken.” Washington merely reflects where we are as a people, and we seem to be an angry, disagreeable lot. We can no longer sit down and reasonably discuss our differences. We are not willing to give an inch or compromise on anything.
I wish we’d take some time to remember that none of us has all the answers or is right all of the time, nor are the people we elect to office. There is nothing wrong with considering that the other side has some good points and good ideas. I wish that we would remember that our political opponents are good people, who are doing the best they can for our country, our state, and our city and county. Whatever one thinks of our president and our representatives in Washington, or our governor and legislators in Nashville, let us remember that they trying to do what is best for our state and our nation.
But most of all, whatever your politics, I hope you can say, like Marvin Gaye, “You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today.”
Ed Gilmour is a longtime Chattanooga resident. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.