OPINION: We must return to civility

Published 1:32 pm Monday, May 7, 2018

State Rep. Donna Mayfield may have stunned those in attendance or listening and watching the candidates’ forum Wednesday night as she withdrew her name from the primary election.

No one should be shocked by the idea politics has gotten excessively nasty and vicious.

Regardless of how you feel about Mayfield’s views or policy decisions while serving eight years in the state legislature, she made a valid point about the current political climate.

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Mayfield referred to verbal abuse, threats of violence, physical confrontations, criminal actions and more against lawmakers and their families during this often heated legislative session.

This is unacceptable.

Ironically, a perfect example was offered up moments earlier when Geoff Young, candidate for the state’s 6th District U.S. Representative seat, called opponent Amy McGrath a war criminal for her distinguished military career of more than two decades. McGrath honorably served her country but was being attacked because of it.

It was embarrassing and shameful.

As a society, our entire approach to politics and public discourse has changed. We seem to have lost our ability to have civil conversations and disagree without being disagreeable, as the old saying goes.

Those who have different viewpoints are now viewed as not only being wrong, but also idiotic, corrupt or evil.

That’s a dangerous atmosphere.

That’s not to say lawmakers, elected officials and those seeking public office shouldn’t be criticized for decisions they make.

In Mayfield’s case, her position and vote on the pension reform plan — legislation we believe was flawed in its process and its contents — certainly put her in a position where constituents had every right to challenge her.

But there are lines that should never be crossed. We saw instances of that in this legislative session and virtually every political season in recent years.

Although we disagree with some of the decisions Mayfield made in her nearly eight years in the state legislature, we appreciate her commitment and thank her for the years of public service.

Why has politics gotten so much nastier? Social media is certainly a factor as it seems we’ve become desensitized to this or perhaps do not fully understand the weight of the words we say and when commentary goes beyond politics to become personal.

And it certainly starts at the top.

Regardless of your political affiliation, it’s impossible to argue that President Donald Trump speaks more aggressively and abrasively, in public at least, than any of his predecessors in the modern era. This sets a tone that trickles down through the rest of society.

This creates a toxic environment within government and becomes a significant deterrent for good people who want to serve for the right reasons.

We must find a way to get back some of our civility. Our democracy depends on it.

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board. The board is comprised of publisher Michael Caldwell and managing editor Whitney Leggett. To inquire about a meeting with the board, contact Caldwell at 759-0095.