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JOSEPHINE CUNNINGHAM: Our disagreements need not be uncivl

on August 30, 2013 10:30 AM

Change is a difficult thing to acknowledge. It most often happens without any great fanfare or instant recognition. It can happen suddenly though and, of course, have lasting effects.

But what is unique about change is that it is always constant. It cannot be altered again to become what has changed.

In other words, it cannot be managed to create exactly what was once before. And so it is with revisionist history and nostalgic longing.

As a lifelong student of history and a former teacher of history, I am still surprised at how much most of us don’t know about our past. Lately, in this newspaper some very startling accusations have been made concerning what America is today.

Comparisons have been made between Adolf Hitler and our current president. Our Founding Fathers have been lumped together as one voice, idyllically enfolded into a sentimental past.

Religion has been used by various letter writers to divide and subdivide us from one another.

The Constitution has been quoted, misquoted and used as a truncheon to quell disagreement. Often those employing that particular technique aren’t fully aware of the document as a whole.

Occasionally there will be factual renderings of our past. Some letters have been thoroughly researched and the writers of those letters have cited legitimate sources.

But the personal attacks of some writers have lessened their arguments and cheapened their opinions.

What they forget is what they propose to endorse, and that is civility in public discourse.

To call the poor lazy or to compare the current president to Hitler or to write that the current administration is “the most corrupt” in our history is to forget from where we have come.

As a nation we strive to uphold the ideals of democracy and to make a “more perfect union.” The struggle to achieve this is as constant as the change we so unwittingly refuse to acknowledge.

What would be my hope (an essential ingredient to a democracy) is that we learn from our past and have discussions worthy of the debates that took place in Philadelphia in that summer of 1787.

Disagreement need not to be uncivil and change need not to be feared. The promise of the future depends on it.

Josephine Cunningham


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