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Advocate

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Civil Discourse in the Era of Polarization

A few weeks past Mayor Brian Arrigo wrote a powerful commentary on the pages of the Revere Advocate. His piece titled “We’ve all gone mad…and just too far,” spoke truth to power.

As Arrigo stated, “What tragedy must occur to bring us back together? What war must we fight to right our collective spirit of oneness? What heinous act will we have to witness? What storm will we need to weather together to bring us back together?”

I agree with the mayor that America’s experiment of self-governance is being tested once again. Living in this age of polarization, the stakes are too high to maintain neutrality. Thanks to the echo chambers out there in our midst being fed by a media less intent on giving us news and facts and more intent on both dividing and pitting us against each other. Our elected officials in both parties act out against each other and all we get is a maddening crowd. There is a lot of sound and fury but most of it is meaningless.

President James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, once observed that if men were angels there would be little need for government, which is why we have a constitution to follow. We are far lesser than angels and we see this fact every day.

Lately, in the City of Revere, we see this national passion play at work. Civil discourse has given way to an explosion of passion. It has been seen recently at both City Council meetings and those of the Human Rights Commission.

We need to listen more than talk. We need to maintain respect for opposing views. We should be able to listen and respond without going to the nuclear option. Words and actions must be respectful. We are all one people. We are all looking out for what is best for our nation, our state and here in this city, for Revere. This “us” versus “them” mentality hurts everyone and it is up to each of us to understand this reality.

The last time America fought like one nation was back on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when America was attacked at the World Trade Center. I still remember what that felt like. It felt good but it took a horrible tragedy to knock some sense into us. That period of oneness was far too brief.

Today, America is back once again to September 10, 2001, when we were our usual disunited selves. In more recent years this polarization has gone really out of control and grown into a spreading cancer of sorts. The cure is found in each of us to find those ways to bind us together. There is always more that unites us, than divides us.

This polarization isn’t helping fix anything in this country and only builds walls around each of us. We can’t wait for our elected leaders to find solutions when most of them are the problem. We wait for the free press to offer solutions when they seem to enjoy the turmoil.

To put it short and simply, Mayor Brian Arrigo is correct: WE’VE ALL GONE MAD. The job for all of us is to recognize the madness around us and be part of the solution bringing us back to sanity again. I am willing to take the first step. Anyone want to join me?

Government, after all, is our business. Act like you know that either we run it or it runs us. Standing together beats screaming and yelling like a bunch of banshees. Stop the madness.

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