Tim Burke: The loss of civility in our society is disturbing

I miss President Ronald Reagan. Not just for his conservative politics, but for his ability to gracefully bring his message to the American people without bullying his opponents.

Known as the “Great Communicator,” Reagan emphasized that it was not just “my rhetoric or delivery” that carried him into the White House but that his speeches contained basic truths that the average American instinctively recognized, like the necessity of preserving individual freedom.

“What I said simply made sense to the person on the street,” he said. Reagan also addressed and rejected the liberal argument that “We have to choose between a left or right. There is no such thing as left or right,” he said. “There’s only an up or down, up to man’s age-old dream of individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”

Now it seems like we are forced to choose sides and not be able to compromise on critical issues. Our society is experiencing an alarming upward trend in name-calling, bullying, intolerance, and violence. I witnessed this firsthand while getting gas from the station in front of one of our grocery stores here in Pahrump.

Directly across the pump from me was a group of four females. They were obviously on a family vacation and I guessed that at least three different generations were present. They had just finished pumping their gas when one of the four pulled out their phone to take a group selfie before they loaded back into their car.

As they posed for the camera, a motorhome pulled up behind them. The driver began honking his horn at them, impatient that they were taking an additional minute to capture a family moment while on vacation. I rolled down my window and told the driver, “You can wait 30 seconds, they are almost done,” at which point he proceeded to give me a two-handed salute with his middle fingers.

At that moment several thoughts crossed my mind. One thought was that perhaps the older and obviously retired man in the RV and I could talk better face to face. I instead decided that I did not want to make a guest appearance on an episode of “Live PD” and that confronting him was not in my best interest.

As I drove away from the gas pumps I thought to myself, “well, at least he is probably not from here.” No such luck, Nevada plates on his RV. Why have we degenerated to this type of behavior?

We are now hearing about the “The Trump Effect.” Want-to-be politicians are trying to ride President Donald Trump’s coattails by declaring themselves as “anti-tax, anti-big government, and pro-Trump” hoping to persuade voters into electing them.

Psychologists talk about an alternative “Trump Effect” and that is that the president’s bullying style is having a negative effect on our society.

It is now predictable that when someone says something that the president doesn’t like he will tweet about it in a very direct way. It is also predictable that the left-leaning media will have a meltdown over the tweet and react just as harshly back at the president. There is a definite lack of respect in both directions.

Both political parties and their politicians have lost any sort of civility toward each other. That behavior is now being emulated by our citizens.

Trump has been effective in carrying out many of his campaign promises and the improving economy is a good indicator of his success so far. I just wonder how much more successful he would be if he borrowed some of Reagan’s rhetoric and was more civil toward his detractors? It certainly is a better example for our society to act with civility rather than bullying.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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