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If we disagree, let's at least agree to be civil

December 10, 2006|by LINDA DUFFIELD

Talk about contrasts.

In the Nov. 28 paper, on the Young at Heart pages, was a story about giving Christmas gifts that come from the heart, not the shelf.

In the story, we talked to women who handcraft Christmas gifts for their children and their grandchildren.

One woman last year made her granddaughter a blanket that had a colorful Noah's Ark scene. This year, her plans call for making the youngster a doll.

Another woman made her grandson a large personalized stocking last year and a honeybee sweater this year.

Now, switch gears for a second and think about the scenes we've seen on television, read about in the newspaper and online, and perhaps seen with our own eyes as we braved the crowds to do our holiday shopping.

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Think about the people who waited in line for hours and hours before stores opened in order to latch on to the latest technological toy or gadget.

Some of those people got surly. Fistfights broke out when people tried to jump the line. Locally, angry words were exchanged, and there was at least one report that bottles were thrown by disgruntled bargain seekers.

And I thought civility was a thing of the past just because people couldn't sit down for a meal in a restaurant or check out at a grocery store without talking on their cell phones.

Maybe behavior such as pushing, shoving and hurling bottles and insulting remarks at people in a line and ignoring a dinner companion or a cashier while talking on the phone are symptoms of a greater malaise creeping across the country.

Honest disagreement over issues is one thing. But a lot of people seem to feel it is acceptable to insult not only the beliefs and opinions of others, which is bad enough, but those who hold those beliefs and opinions.

I'm not just talking about the situation in Iraq, which understandably is a hot-button issue for many folks who have strong feelings about what the United States has done and is doing in that country.

At The Herald-Mail, it's not uncommon to receive letters to the editor or calls to Mail Call/You Said It that are vicious personal attacks against someone with whom the writer or caller disagrees. The worst of these are scary and don't make it into print.

There are plenty of topics that spark ugly comments. Political beliefs, gay marriage, immigration and religion are a few of them.

People also seem to get incensed about how early their neighbors put out their holiday decorations, what somebody else believes about evolution and what environmentalists suggest.

A fair number of comments end with the suggestion that the person being attacked just leave the country.

Maybe this holiday season, as people of different religions celebrate different holidays, would be a good time for us to take stock of what we do and say, both as a nation and as individuals.

Perhaps we could work on being patient, understanding and kind to those with whom we disagree. We might even come to realize that our opinions aren't the only ones with validity and learn to respect even those with whom we disagree.

Eventually, we could start working toward the concept that has for a long time seemed to be nothing more than a line from a Christmas carol: Peace on earth, good will toward all.

Linda Duffield is associate editor of The Herald-Mail. You may reach her at 301-733-5131, ext. 7591, or by e-mail at lindad@herald-mail.com.

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