Op-Ed

Incivility and Untruth will haunt our land until we throw off partisan masks

Glowing on the steps of Transylvania University’s Old Morrison through Oct. 31, these jack-o-lanterns are friendly compared with the twin ghouls of Incivility and Untruth that are haunting our land.
Glowing on the steps of Transylvania University’s Old Morrison through Oct. 31, these jack-o-lanterns are friendly compared with the twin ghouls of Incivility and Untruth that are haunting our land. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Ghosties and Ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties

and things that go “bump” in the night

There are a lot of Ghosties and Ghoulies around this Halloween; more and more masks coming off. Truth is edging courageously forward to strip away some facades that have hidden ugliness it's been easier not to see.

Speaking of the revelations about movie producer Harvey Weinstein, on “Meet the Press, one U.S. senator said, “Isn’t it terrible that it has taken something as horrific as this event to bring enough voices together to speak out strongly?” as four women of the Senate told their stories of sexual harassment. Another identified a “societal issue” that is bigger than sexual harassment, and the distracting-from-the-larger-picture-finger-pointing about which celebrity is worse than the other when it comes to this particular topic.

What if we cut to the core, acknowledge that it’s not about any one issue? Incivility and untruth are ugly twins, truly haunting this country in an overall sense, leading to the kind of divisiveness that threatens to eat us alive, from the inside.

In 2016, the Oxford dictionary chose “post- truth” as its word of the year. Oxford Senior Assistant Editor Jeffrey Sherwood defined the term as meaning “truth which is no longer relevant.”

Earlier, Stephen Colbert had coined the word “truthiness.” To Sherwood, truthiness suggests that something feels true, but whether it is or not is not known, while post-truth says that the truth can be known, but it doesn’t matter. That’s a scary thought.

It’s even more frightening to look at the complex tangle of incivility and untruth and the pointing of the finger of polarization.

Yes, we have a societal problem. A big one. If I were a technological wizard I would invent a video camera with the capacity to capture all of the events that are being challenged for veracity to accompany the questions I ask oppositional groups:

▪ What’s in it for you to hold on to this opposing view rather than looking for a way to come together?

▪  If I had a video camera trained on the event, what would it reveal that is different from the “he said-she said” accusations?

Unfortunately, we are too aware that partisan victory is the answer to the first question. Party first, regardless of what happens to the country and its people is the sad truth unmasked daily. Accompanying that unmasking are “’isms” we have not wanted to acknowledge.

Add in scathing hate, and fear — fear that some point of privilege is going to be lost. Fear that our melting pot of America has melted a little too much.

Ghosties and Ghoulies are running around chanting taunting questions for which we no longer have answers: Just who do you think you are, Americans? What kind of people are you really, Americans? What’s behind your masks, Americans?

Then there’s the biggest one: Who are you willing to be, Americans?

A place who lives into the democracy they claim? A respecter of humanity? A people of reason and rationality?

Or oppositional people who would rather go down being their version of “right,” waving a partisan flag, be it donkey or elephant?

With masks on our faces and mythical red, white and blue clothing we claim to be the “land of the free and the home of the brave” where all are welcome. We’ll pass out goodies for trick-or-treat, and as the calendar turns, put away the costumes for another year and turn our thoughts toward that all-American celebration of Thanksgiving. (There are lots of arguments about the real turkey day story, as well.)

What we’ve begun to unmask of these yoked Ghosties and Ghoulies of Incivility and Untruth is a beginning. But until we answer the questions of who we are willing to become, together, the Ghosties and Ghoulies will continue to howl, day and night.

Kay Collier McLaughlin is an author and leadership consultant who lives in Nicholas County. Reach her at kcollierm@gmail.com.

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