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Thu, Sept. 19

Cantlon: We must be able to treat each other with civility

We are watching our ability to be civilized getting hollowed out before our eyes. It is amazing how fragile it is.

Examples abound. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is casually being endangered by the president. She made a point about how some Muslims became terrorists and attacked us and then all Muslims suffered because of it. Fox News and others made it sound like she was being flippant about the deaths on 9/11. She wasn’t, but let’s just say it’s a matter of their opinion. President Trump sent out a tweet along the same line. Again, could just be his opinion. Then news sites report that she receives death threats. Well, even more than she had been getting. Still, President Trump tweets a similar message again. At that point it’s hard to see it as anything but disregard for her safety. A president casually endangering a member of Congress.

President Trump declares himself to be eager to dump asylum-seekers in sanctuary cities as sort of a comeuppance for opposing his immigration position. A sanctuary city being one where, if an undocumented immigrant is arrested for a nonviolent or minor offense, he or she won’t be turned straight over to immigration officials. I could understand intelligent people being on either side of that debate. That’s not the point. The point is the president, who is supposed to be president of all Americans, openly declaring he wants to harass cities that don’t agree with him, and use other human beings as pawns to do so. Human beings who have already passed the first screening indicating they may have a legitimate need for asylum. People least able to deal with being used as pawns.

Our attorney general declaring to Congress, in public, that the FBI may have “spied” on the president’s campaign. If that happened it should certainly be investigated, but there are two huge problems with this. First, the “spying” he is referring to was anything but. It was not “spying” but rather investigating a possible crime. It is “spying” only in the same sense that the FBI investigated Richard Nixon’s campaign after credible evidence was found indicating a crime might have been committed. The attorney general, a man of experienced official legal work, using the word “spy” in that way makes it hard to see it as anything other than an attempt to cast critics of the president in a bad light. The second problem is he said he had no evidence. If he thinks something wrong was done, fine, investigate and then let Congress and the public know. To just casually throw it out there, in inflammatory terms, at the same time he says he has no evidence just makes it that much worse.

Corruption among high officials has become so commonplace, and I’m talking just about the exposed corruption, that much of it leads to no consequences. As just one example, read about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross not getting rid of stock that created a conflict of interest, lying about it, then profiting off the sale of it when it came out. No consequence at all.

The president endangering a member of Congress, playing Americans against one another, the attorney general seeming to play the toady partisan, corruption unchallenged. These are bits of our democratic system, our system of rights, our ability to live in civilized ways together, eroding as we watch. And there ain’t nothin’ anyone can do about it, ’cept us.

What we expect of our officials, what we demand of them, and how we interact with one another is the only force that can stop the erosion and demand a rebuilding of the standards that allow us to disagree but do so as civilized human beings. Human history if full of examples of what the alternative is.

It starts with one thing, which we absolutely cannot have change without. How we treat one another.

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at tomcantlon.com.

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