Joseph Sabino Mistick: Let’s put politics aside and end war of contempt
“Love thy neighbor” is important enough to get top billing in the Old Testament and the New Testament, and a similar command is part of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Islam. But, in our political culture, contempt too often takes the place of love, and our neighbor is quickly cast as our enemy.
Anyone who opposes Donald Trump is often labeled a “snowflake,” their compassion portrayed as weakness and used as a bludgeon. And pro-Trumpers are quickly labeled nut-jobs, as if only the ignorant and unthinking could believe what they believe. Those are mild examples, but you get the idea.
Each side swamps social media with far worse — vulgar and heartless personal attacks — usually lacking even a grain of an idea. The anonymity of Twitter, Facebook and other sites makes them havens for cowards who launch vicious attacks from their dark holes.
With “Love your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt,” author Arthur C. Brooks is betting that most Americans are fed up with political wars, and they are longing to break this pattern.
Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that has its share of critics who believe it has encouraged divisions in American society. But Brooks blames “leaders who, instead of bringing us together, depict our differences in unbridgeable, apocalyptic terms.”
It is a gutter tactic that self-serving politicians use to gin up their bases. In their own interest, they convince us that our neighbors want to destroy our country, and they tell us that we must “utterly vanquish the other, even if it leaves our neighbors without a voice.”
And Brooks says, “We need to fight back.”
National politics may be beyond saving, since the sheer momentum of vicious rivalry is enough to sustain the hate-mongers well into the future. But locally — where folks were once friends and can be friends again, where families miss sharing a meal — there is a chance.
Jim Roddey, former Allegheny County executive and former Republican Chairman of Allegheny County, has taken a first local step with the establishment of the Moe Coleman Award, which will annually recognize one Democrat and one Republican who have worked together — partisanship aside.
Coleman, who died earlier this year, founded and directed the Institute of Politics at Pitt, and spent his life bringing people to the table. He kept opposing parties talking, striving for what was best for the public. A Democrat, Coleman believed that we govern best when we govern together — all of us.
When Roddey sought sponsors, they jumped at the chance. The League of Women Voters, the Urban League of Pittsburgh, Trib Total Media, WPXI/PCNC, the Institute of Politics, Highmark and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce are some of the groups eager to encourage discussions instead of accusations.
So Brooks may be onto something. In his introduction, he asks, “Are you sick of fighting yet?” Then he quotes Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to assure today’s Americans that it is normal to grow weary of conflict.
At war’s end, Sherman said, “I confess without shame, I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine.”
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].