We need a return to tolerance, civility

Published 8:12 pm Saturday, October 29, 2016

We’re just over a week from being done with this presidential election, which should please us all, regardless of which side of the aisle you fall.

However, while we all hope our Facebook feeds will settle down come next Wednesday, that’s unlikely to happen.

This election, among other things, has brought to the surface a level of hate and intolerance the likes of which I haven’t seen in my lifetime. I’m afraid that’s not going to go away, and that scares me.

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It should scare you, too.

That’s not American. We come from a long, proud line of statesmen — people of different faiths who came together to forge a place in which we all could live freely and peacefully and in tolerance of our fellow man, even if the religions we practice are different from one another.

We’ve lost that along the way, and what we are experiencing now is a product of something I don’t understand. And it’s ugly and it needs to end.

This election cycle has turned neighbors into haters. It’s turned people who profess to be followers of Christ into those who apparently find nothing wrong with profane language and plain old meanness directed toward their fellow man.

But we can’t blame it all on the election. That’s just brought it to the surface.

We can’t blame it on social media, either, like I did a month or so ago in my Sunday newspaper column. I blamed social media for giving people a ready vehicle in which to spew their hate somewhat anonymously. I received lots of positive comments on that column. However, one commenter made me stop and take notice. She said — and I paraphrase — why are you blaming social media, rather than holding responsible the people who are making the hateful, often racist and intolerant comments?

That person was correct. Social media may have made it easier for us to share our opinions, but it hasn’t forced anyone to spew hate.

I felt so for our staff writer Terri Cowart Frazier, who recently had the courage to publish her opinion about one the behavior of the candidates in the upcoming election. She took lots of heat — unfairly in my opinion — for having the courage to take a stand. However, she took that criticism like a trooper.

People, this is America. Terri’s column was clearly labeled as her opinion, published on our Opinion page, just as my column is published today.

Anyone with a differing opinion was and is welcome to send that opinion to us for publication. Doing that is easy and how to do it is printed on this page. We verify the person who sent the letter is who they say they are, and as long as the letter does not libel anyone and falls within standards of decency, we print it. The emails and phone calls I received, by and large, did not meet those standards.

It seems we have lost all tolerance for any opinion that does not jive with our own. That’s a shame. That’s not America.

We should be able to listen to another’s opinion, and if we disagree, we should be able to issue forth our own opinion and debate an issue on its merits without tearing down the other person.

If you can’t do that, make a decent case for your beliefs and values without resorting to personal attacks, maybe you need to rethink your own position.

The good news for us all is our country still has plenty of people like Terri, who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to risk the backlash of an angry, hateful mob.

That’s what sets America apart from many other nations. That’s why America is great.

Jan Griffey is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at jan.griffey@vicksburgpost.com. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.