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Civil discourse


Dear Friends,

In a moment, we’ll address Terry Madonna’s forum about civility in politics today. Our granddaughter, Grace Meredith, has a boyfriend who created quite a stir at Franklin and Marshall College where he is a senior.

He organized a debate about civil discourse which Madonna moderated. Madonna runs the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at F&M and is a well known pollster.

But first, here’s a heads up about why I’m for Pete Buttigieg for president. (Buttigieg is pronounced “Boot-eh-gedge). It’s not that he’s young (only 37); it’s not that he’s a Rhodes scholar; it’s not that he speaks seven languages and is a Harvard graduate; it’s not that he’s an Afghanistan War veteran; it’s not that he’s openly gay and has a husband; it’s not that he’s a classical pianist; it’s not that he’s a devout Christian; and it’s not that he’s the mayor of a small city in Indiana.

It’s because I can relate to him.

One of the famous themes that describe journalism is: “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I think of that phrase when I listen to Buttigieg speak. I remember what it was like as a young, 31-year-old Bucks County commissioner when critics pointed out that I was too young to hold high office. I remember leaders of the Bucks County Republican Party who thought it was heresy to work with a county commissioner who was a Democrat (Walter Farley).

No, I contrast Mayor Pete Buttigieg to Donald Trump, the leader of what the Republican Party has become, of my political party; the scoundrel who occupies the White House. What a contrast!

But I stray.

Grace Meredith’s boyfriend is Nate Hughes, a senior who’ll graduate from F&M in May. It was he and his friend, Gianfranco Iaia, who believed that uncivil discourse had become the norm at F&M and they vowed to do something about it.

They invited the chairs of the Pennsylvania Democratic and Republican Committees to come to F & M and discuss civil discourse. Both Nancy Patton Mills (Democrat) andVal DiGiorgio (Republican) accepted. Hughes and Iaia asked Terry Madonna to moderate the panel.

Mighty Betsy and I attended and were impressed by what Nate and his colleague had put together. Terry Madonna wrote about the evening about a week later.

“Extreme politics and ideological thinking have always existed in American politics,” Madonna wrote, “but usually at the margins of the political dialogue and power.

“For much of American history, politics has played out toward the center of the political spectrum, orchestrated mostly by moderate and centrists willing to seek consensus among competing interests.”

Madonna believes those politicians are gone; that electorate is gone; and increasingly America’s ability to govern itself is gone. Is Madonna correct?

“The underlying roots of our polarization inspired governmental dysfunction are not mysterious,” Madonna concluded. “Our form of government is federal but our electorate more clearly resembles the ideologically driven coalition politics characterizing parliamentary systems like the United Kingdom. Our political ‘split personality’ produces the schizophrenic politics witnessed daily.

“Ultimately, we must decide whether to continue down the road we are on … away from consensus politics and stable governing …or we must turn back toward the moderate, centrists politics that allowed the country to thrive for almost two and a half centuries.

“There is no third choice!”

From the question-and-answer portion at the end of the discussion, you could tell that while everyone seemed to believe that compromise was the best solution, most doubted that America would return to civility anytime soon.

I’ll close with one of the things that impresses me about Mayor Pete Buttigieg … it’s his civility. Boy, do we need civility right now.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

By the way, one of my frequent critics from Coopersburg took issue with one of my columns that referred to Jesus and whether he condemned homosexuality? My search of the Four Gospels revealed that Jesus said nothing about being gay. Many of you readers think that my arguments are wrong.Don of Coopersburg included.

“Truly, though, Our Lord never used the words ‘homosexuality or homosexual,’ Don wrote. “Jesus very clearly and unambiguously identified ‘marriage’ as being determined by God, from the beginning involving a man and a woman …when the Pharisees challenged Jesus about the lawfulness of divorce.

“While you certainly have every right to reject the truth of God’s Word,” Don concluded, “you should be more careful when you seek to explain that somehow Our Lord’s teachings, by not specifically mentioning ‘homosexuality,’ did not approve of its practice.”