Op/Ed: Change the tone to dignity and respect for our children’s sake

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By Marian Moskowitz, Chester County Commissioners’ Chair

Marian Moskowitz

All of us are again dealing with our emotions over the latest senseless massacre, this one in Texas where 19 innocent children and two teachers were murdered. If you are like me, your feelings range from sadness and heartache to anger.

As invariably happens after every mass shooting, the debate again begins over gun laws and regulation. And yes, I would certainly like to see our legislators at the state and federal levels try to work together to develop areas of agreement. But my larger concern goes beyond legislation.

I keep asking myself why there is so much hate and anger in this country. I unfortunately come to the conclusion that politics has a great deal to do with stoking that hatred. Our children are watching the adults scream, yell, and curse at one another over anything and everything. Are we teaching the next generation that it is OK to hate one another? And if we are teaching this, could we be headed to a future where mass shootings become even more common?

When I grew up in Philadelphia, my parents were committee people. They hosted the voting polls in our garage. All the neighbors would come down, vote, and then hang around, have some food and drink, and argue about politics. The conversation could get loud, but it was respectful. The political parties did not hate one another. In fact, they liked each other. They were neighbors, friends, and acquaintances with different views.

As a public official and parent of five children (and grandparent of five), I feel powerless and frustrated that responsible adults cannot even agree on something as small as background searches or restrictions on sales of AR-15 rifles. And while elected officials continue to fight for changes, we also must address civil discourse in this country. This hatred and disrespect are an epidemic that we are all responsible for.

We can stem it through nonviolence, the personal practice of not causing harm to others under any condition, winning over people’s hearts and minds while letting people with opposing views maintain their dignity.

Chester County can serve as a model in this regard. Citizens with strong beliefs on various issues give public testimony each month before the Board of Commissioners. These citizens hold deeply felt views, but by and large they present their perspectives in a respectful way.

This is not a simple matter. As much as I wish we could, we cannot flip a switch and all start practicing the Golden Rule and magically stop the carnage. But we can do more to change the tone of the conversation.

Unfortunately, the tenor of the current discourse is teaching our young people how to hate instead of how to get along. Combine the hate with the fact that our nation has 400 million guns, and no one should be surprised when tragedies like the one in Uvalde, Texas or Sandy Hook, or a Buffalo grocery store occur.

The author and clergyman Norman Vincent Peale promoted the power of positive thinking in his lifetime saying, “When you change your thoughts, remember to also change your world.”

We need to learn or relearn how to forgive one another and live together. Anything less simply won’t do.

The guns are not going away. That makes it an imperative that public officials and the people we influence set a better example of respecting our opponents.

Marian Moskowitz is Chester County Commissioners’ Chair

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