As a career naval officer and former civil servant, I never had the time to write opinion pieces. Quite frankly my main concern was ensuring my ships were ready to sail into harm’s way and that if we engaged in armed conflict, I was able to bring the crew home intact. So, writing opinion pieces is a rather new experience for me and I thank Jeanine Martin and The Bull Elephant for allowing me to voice my opinion on pertinent issues that impact our lives.
For those who have never served in the military many think there is no room for free thought nor dissent – quite the opposite is true. Servicemembers are frequently asked for their input on various issues and their input is taken seriously before an informed decision by the commander is reached. I guess many civilians have had their perceptions unfortunately shaped by Hollywood vice the reality of service to one’s country.
Since my commentaries have been published, I have received mixed reviews – some positive and others negative. It is the latter that concerns me because it reflects an unfortunate trend that has been destroying the very fiber of this nation and our communities for several years. That is the decline in civility and the inability for us to listen to all sides of an issue before passing judgment on our neighbor.
One only has to glance at any form of media, social, electronic, or print to see that people are frequently quick to attack the individual vice the ideas they may represent. At the end of the day for many it is about denigrating a person because of his or her beliefs – it happens on all sides of the aisle and in between.
I believe my experience is typical of what has now become the norm in America. Among other things I have been called “ignorant,” “full of BS,” etc. by those who disagree with me. Instead of initiating a constructive discussion over our differences in opinion, I like others are attacked for my values, beliefs, or ideas. It is as if the goal of the new “normal” is to destroy or humiliate a person vice attempt to understand their respective point of view.
Our Founding Fathers created a Republic where open dissent and freedom of speech was not only encouraged but guaranteed by the Bill Of Rights. They had to foresight to envision the inevitable friction that occurs between citizens across the political spectrum. This is one of the fundamental principles that makes America great. One need only look to Russia as an example where freedom of speech is not an option and dissent is punished. This sacred principle is what our founders fought for and what makes America stand out among other nations.
So, at the end of the day if you do not agree with someone’s politics or beliefs, rather than attack them just say “it is O.K. to agree to disagree.” Words we all should say more often.