‘Elect to be Civil’ and what if candidates don’t?

by John Borst, Past Pres. Rotary Club of Dryden

In the October 2016 issue of “The Rotarian” RI published a timely piece by Steve Almond titled “Elect to be Civil” in which Almond bemoans the “tribal nature” of America’s politics. In the very first sentence, he calls the current situation “terrifying”. He laments that Americans no longer see politics as a “collective civic endeavor, the means by which our society sought to solve common crises.”

elect-to-be-civil-350x317Regarding the present presidential race Almond calls it “brutal” and says, “Election 2016 has represented a new low when it comes to political acrimony.”

Almond concludes his piece by calling on Rotarians to figure “out how to remain politically and civically engaged without vilifying those whose goals clash with our own”, “to change the ways in which we think about and discuss politics,” and to model “for our children a brand of political belief based on shared values.”

This is a tall order given that there is no shared agreement among the candidates that the principles laid out by Almond have any validity at this time in America.

So what is a Rotarian to do? Certainly, no candidate is ever perfect. They never are. But I think Almond provides us with a guide by which, if we want to stay true to the values espoused by Paul Harris and the mission we try to live by, then we can discern which candidate has played more to our “tribal” instincts; which candidate has used vilification as a crutch to lean on, and because I’m a grandparent and former educator which candidate provides the better model for our children about what is dearest to us is this living thing called “democracy”.

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