As the National Grange Master/President, every now and then I am quoted on a topic for a news release, by the media, or I write a blog or article. Often it draws no comment and one wonders if anyone reads it. Occasionally, it draws a bit of opposition and support and people send comments or emails to me.
It is a fact that people who like something send in their comments in far fewer numbers than those who dislike something you have said. What is interesting is how few opposing comments are civil and respectful. Depending upon the topic, the response normally is an attack on my intelligence, a questioning of my values, an accusation of partisanship, or the charge that I’ve abandoned the Grange values.
If criticism of an elected official’s actions or words is made, their supporters will quickly jump to their defense. If a Grange policy is promoted that someone disagrees with, then the messenger is wrong. This gives me more evidence that the highly-charged partisan world we live in has serious problems.
I believe that the extreme partisanship we see in many politicians is the result, not of their leadership, but of the intolerance of their constituents. When we as the people, are not being civil and tolerant, why would many of our elected representatives choose to be above the fray? And those who disagree with the disrespectful often find themselves labeled as extremist simply for a difference in opinion.
When we react to things without thinking, or take the position that we are right and any differing view is wrong, it is human nature not to listen. Regardless of if your point of view is partisan or a specific policy position, the moment you cease to listen to other viewpoints, your argument is weakened and you cease adding to the discussion.
America and the Grange are supposed to be places where disagreement is acceptable; where the minority can express themselves and have a voice; where the majority has its way within our broad structure, yet takes no rights away from the minority; where each listens to the opinions of all.
The Grange encourages healthy, civil debate among its members. Discussion of issues and events are done outside the partisan arena and only our members create Grange policies. We view elected officials as representing all their constituents, and criticism or accolades are given based on their actions, not party affiliation.
When our members react in an uncivil “kneejerk” fashion, we explain why that position was taken. The teaching of Grange philosophy in the area of civility remains a constant process. New members are often unaware of this fundamental value and grow to appreciate it. Older members can forget this value on occasion and be thankful for a gentle reminder.
America needs the Grange philosophy of civility and respect for all. Our doors are open to any wishing to explore this old-fashioned idea. As our members say throughout the country, “Welcome to the Grange!”