Debate is at the heart of a democracy. Discourse is what fuels growth in any organization.
When our aim is to silence one another rather than to enter into a respectful discussion, it’s a sign that society is beginning to fail.
For democracy to thrive, openness must prevail.
In the United States, President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was recently deleted by an unnamed, disaffected employee for 11 minutes. It was the employee’s last act before voluntarily leaving the company. Some called for the employee to win the Nobel peace prize. Whatever your politics, the situation was frightening. This is not Nobel prize worthy. For Twitter to be in a position of power to silence a sitting US president speaks volumes to the issue of ensuring each of us remain open to debate and discourse. At a minimum each of us must have the tools in which to do so.
But President Trump is not helping the situation either. He too is guilty of diminishing the importance of open dialog. He too is a culprit of forgetting the core values of a healthy society.
His own mercurial Twitter feed exemplifies my point. Trump repeatedly denounces the opinions of others, refers to elected officials and journalists by derogatory and divisive names, and attempts to minimize ideas that are not his own by twisting truths into lies. (e.g. climate change) When members of his own cabinet propose alternate ways in which to handle situations, rather than being respectful and listening to the idea, Trump uses threats to counter-punch Secretary of State Tillerson provides a prime example. Most recently he has been tasked with stick-handling the bombastic file that is North Korea. Trump’s confidence building leadership is to suggest it’s unlikely that Tillerson will even finish his four-year appointment term. That’s not being open. It’s sociopathic, closed-minded and egregious.
In Canada, the governing Liberal Party’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, has been repeatedly called “climate Barbie” by members of the media outlet, The Rebel, including its founder Ezra Levant. A political opponent of McKenna, Conservative Gerry Ritz, had the audacity to use the same derogatory term in a tweet. The intimidation tactic did not phase Minister McKenna. She fought back admirably with verve. But the aim of Levant, Ritz and others is to silence McKenna. Their real quest is to mute her. It won’t happen but it also will not inspire other women and men from getting into politics in the first place. This is when democracy and discourse is lost. These are the acts of silencing future generations.
Citizenship is defined as having membership in a community. Democracy is a community. Our organizations are a community. Society is a community. We cannot silence members of the community. Our aim must not be to hush what others bring to the table of possibility. It has to remain an endless feast. Our democracy and our organizations deserve the opportunity to review the thoughts of everyone.
When we silence one another we kill democracy. When we bully we destroy our organizations. When we stop listening we ruin society.
Respect for the opinion of others is the starting point for a values-based society. At this point in time in 2017, it seems to me as though our values are spiraling out of control.
The first ominous meteorite that is crashing to earth is our respect for open debate and discourse.
We need to do better.