Whatever Happened to Civilized Debate?

Carter-Reagan-Debate2I’m old enough to remember watching President Reagan & President Carter on prime-time television debating over key issues. I can remember the Iranian Hostages and how we went to bed each night praying they would be returned to their families here in the US. It didn’t matter which side of the aisle you were on, we shared a common interest. I can also remember President Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich admitting their differences but working together to resolve budgetary issues that faced our nation. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long ago, but the world we live in today is in such stark contrast to what I remember growing up.

The past two weeks on Facebook have been a consistent flow of rhetoric and ugliness from each side. I make no apologies, I consider myself to be a conservative (sometimes Libertarian, sometimes Republican) –but I have many friends who are liberals that tend to support Democratic agendas. In my opinion, it’s the contrast in ideas that make us great. I have honestly learned things from my liberal friends, and in some cases I’d like to think that I’ve provided insight to them on various issues. Lately though I’ve been very discouraged because I’ve seen some pretty ugly discourse between friends who have different political leanings. It’s been pretty ugly.

The fact that we can all jump on Facebook or Twitter and share our thoughts used to be a good thing, I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. I’ve felt a personal conviction for not doing more to “construct” or build from the things that I share lately –instead, it seems that no matter what I share politically things “destruct” or get ugly so quickly. I’m not sure that I remember a time in history when there has been so much polarization.

These past two weeks I’ve made it a point to share “positive thoughts” from both the RNC and the DNC conventions in hopes to lighten the mood, or at least prove to myself that common ground is something we can still achieve. During the RNC I was very compelled by the sacrifices made by our military, the Benghazi survivors as well as Marcus Luttrell, the Lone Survivor, literally moved me to tears. It also broke my heart to hear from the mothers that have buried their children due to the senseless violence we have going on everyday due to terrorism. During the DNC I found myself listening to President Clinton on stage recapping how he and Hillary first met and how proud he was of her achievements. As a husband, I have to tell you –it gave me pause to think about how inadequately I talk about my wife and her accomplishments in public. I’m married to an extraordinary woman who is gifted in so many ways, why do I make her sound so ordinary (in my opinion) when I talk about her to others. Of course, none of us will ever have the gift of public speaking that President Clinton has perfected over the years. His charisma can captivate a room regardless of how they feel about him (even though he’s made his mistakes and hurt others in the process).

I had the privilege to do some consulting early this year with a PAC that supports Donald Trump. Please keep in mind that two years ago I would have loved to have punched him in the face, seriously. I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the presidential process just so I could say that I had done it I guess. In retrospect, I sometimes wish that I would have never gotten involved. I saw things that were ugly, deceptive, and underhanded by candidates within the same political party. I also saw candidates sign a pledge to support the winner regardless and then saw those candidates break that pledge in front of the American people, essentially breaking their word. If a candidate doesn’t keep his word in the primaries, how can we expect them to function in office?

I’ve also witnessed the DNC scandal regarding the leaked emails on wikileaks that pretty much prove that the Democratic party (and the media) conspired with one candidate to exclude another. That’s pretty ugly in itself and sort of makes you lose faith in the process. I was only two years old when Richard Nixon resigned over the watergate scandal, this new controversy makes watergate look minor in comparison.

Probably the most upsetting thing for me throughout this entire process is knowing that instead of things getting better that they will undoubtedly get worse. I can only imagine how ugly things will be when my son is old enough to get involved in politics. How ugly are our history books going to be when he reaches high school?

I haven’t even mentioned the racial division we have in this country right now. We can’t seem to decide on who’s lives matter… This is the most disheartening thing of all. I’ve been doing my best to raise my son to be colorblind. I was brought up in the Mississippi Delta where racial tensions have always ran high but I can remember having many friends that weren’t my race. I can honestly admit that I’d trade the political bickering and hatefulness (that I despise) for racial equality. I have no idea why those police officers shot those people, I have no idea why those people shot those police officers –but I can tell you that neither side accomplished anything toward finding common ground.

In business I’ve always enjoyed meetings where there were several schools of thought that were considered before arriving at a course of action. When people can work together toward a common goal and achieve it there’s no better sense of accomplishment –or foundation for success. It seems like we can’t get anything accomplished these days because of all of the division (and honestly hatred).

I don’t have the answers, except to say that my faith guides my path and I pray daily for direction. I’m far from perfect, heck I’d like to hit people with sticks half the time, but if I’m able to tame my tongue and insist upon “construction” instead of “destruction” –I’ve somehow done my small part and set an example for my son. I was recently listening to one of Aerosmith’s classic tunes, ‘Living on the Edge’, and even though it was recorded several years ago, it perfectly describes the situation we live in today. Listen to the lyrics…

Am I the only one worried about our current path?

About Cotton Rohrscheib

Cotton Rohrscheib is the CEO of Rohrscheib Capital Partners. Over the past 20 years he has been associated with numerous projects in the IT, Healthcare, and Agriculture industries. Born a serial entrepreneur, Cotton has personally been involved in several startups, product launches, and brand acquisitions during his career and has consulted on hundreds of projects for clients around the world. Today he still services the marketing and consulting needs for clients while trying to maintain a healthy balance between work and being a good husband and father to his wife, Donna, and their son, Spencer.