The Loss of Civility and the Hard Work of Reconciliation


Civility is living in tension, and requires much more of us than simple politeness.

Harsh winds and frozen grounds have set in for what is expected to be the Dark Winter of 2020. All that was lush, and flourishing is now fallow-limp on the ground and rotting. As we go into this uncertain Winter, the worst part it all for me is not the pandemic, the political theater and ranker, or the awful tyranny of distance from loved ones but rather the lost hope that civility and acceptance will someday re-emerge from the frozen ground of America. We live in dichotomous times of harsh winds, times where nuance and contextualization lay rotting on the ground like annuals after the first real frost of Fall.

My hydrangeas and lilacs will return as sure as anything-as the ground thaws and warmth returns, so will the beauty of nature. I have lost hope, however, that such will be the case for civility. Civility requires a listening ear, the ability to empathize with the ‘other,’ and a basic value for those we couldn’t disagree with more. These are not merely values in short supply, they are values to be mocked and slain in places of public discourse. What use to be safe places of debate and dialogue are now execution stations where the other is slain with sharp tongues, quick Tweets, and a cancel culture that is bent on eradicating the ‘other’ wherever she may be found.

I find myself in the hard place of the middle, I am a perpetual other in an increasingly polarized America. I am an African American Republican. I am socially progressive in many regards, yet a literalist Christian. I have spent two decades fighting modern-day slavery, engaging in civil rights for African Americans, and learning to be the best environmental steward I can possibly be.

So why does it feel like I am not also allowed …

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