COMMENTARY: Improve our Political Discourse

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Political discourse has hardened to the point where many Americans no longer feel free to exchange political views.  Sadly, this can be seen in many families. Many have become polarized.  This is not healthy. The suppression of opinion does not solve problems it leads only to increased tension, bad public decisions and ultimately violence.

Improving discourse begins with humility, no matter how strongly we hold an opinion, we must realize that we share space on this earth with others.  A person’s point of view is as unique as his fingerprints or DNA.  This must be respected.

Political outlooks are shaped by a person’s view of history, society, law and property.  It can be mapped on a spectrum. At one end is the so-called “conservative,” characterized by a strong focus on history; skepticism about human society, a strong preference for order, and a high premium placed on the importance of private property. The “liberal” at the other end is marked by a focus on the future, an embrace of human society, a preference for equity over order, and a tentativeness toward the importance of personal property. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. These outlooks and their infinite variations are the sum total of the lessons that life has taught people.

In the great public debate that democracy demands, opinions get challenged through discourse. This is how people learn and grow and public policy is formulated. Recently however, the line between acceptable and unacceptable discourse is eroding.  Personal insults, threats, condemnations and even violence are becoming far too frequent. Those who engage in such practices claim falsely that their views are superior to all others, a claim that is both false and absurd.

The truly ugly are the extremists, who not only demonize those they disagree with but seek to do them physical harm. Those who engage in such practices are attempting to destroy our democracy.  They have existed under many guises, in our past, and emerge during times, when they sense the seeds of their hatred might take root.  We must oppose them.  Never succumb to the temptation to deprive others of their rights, or do them harm . To do otherwise allows hatred and violence to take root and our precious Republic to perish.

Dennis Galvin is a Westford resident.