I think the Times’ more liberal-leaning columnist are wrong about a lot things — but I don’t hate any of them. I just disagree with them. Unfortunately, we live in a world where disagreement and hate are often seen as the same thing.
I benefit from hearing the points of view of people with whom I disagree. If nothing else, the arguments they make force me to consider the validity of my own. Debate is a good thing. In fact, our system of government demands it. The problem today is everyone is talking, but no one is listening. Add to that a near absolute unwillingness to compromise and democracy doesn’t seem to have a chance anymore.
One liberal thinker who is on the receiving end of more than his fair share of vitriol is Tom Zirpoli. I wonder sometimes if the people who throw such hate his way really know anything about the man. Dr. Zirpoli is a lot more than a columnist for the Times.
He holds an endowed chair at McDaniel College. Only the most highly recognized professors get funded by an endowed chair. He also coordinates a graduate program for the school. Since 1996, he has served as president and CEO of Target Community & Educational Services, Inc. Target serves Carroll County’s children and adults with disabilities and currently employs more than 230 people. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t speak highly of Target. And Zirpoli serves on several boards of directors and holds other leadership positions in the community.
Yet, when I go back and look at some of the comments made about him on the paper’s Facebook page, I find he’s called an idiot, a liar, a looney, and of course, there are those who possess the perfect blend of adolescent candor and churlish insensitivity to belittle his appearance.
Actually, the insult leveled at Zirpoli I find most amusing is “he’s useless.” I challenge anyone to compare their life’s accomplishments to those of Zirpoli’s and then call the man, “useless.” As far as I can tell, Zirpoli’s only fault (and I say this tongue-in-cheek), is he’s a liberal.
I worry about where all this name-calling is leading us. I know from history what the result can be when societies splinter or one group of people begins to vilify another. We are treading dangerous ground.
I’m reminded of another McDaniel professor who was physically assaulted earlier this year as he walked home after attending a Biden rally. How much distance is there really between calling someone a name and physically attacking him? One leads to the other. For you fellow Christians out there, allow me to remind you of the Lord’s words in Matthew 5:21,22.
Wherever we happen to fall on the political spectrum, we need to be certain any comment we choose to make is something more than just bile. Continue to write. Continue to criticize. Continue to challenge — yourself and others — and advocate for positions that are important to you. But there is no reason why that discussion can’t rise above childlike, mindless character assassination.
There are so many critical challenges this country faces right now, but instead of coming together as a people to address those challenges, we are busy fighting each other, much to the satisfaction of our adversaries everywhere.
We should be seeking common ground with our political opponents, not looking for ways to destroy them. Those with whom we disagree are not the enemy, they’re our fellow citizens.
The name calling is an insidious evil. It breeds hate. How do you work with someone you call a racist, or a fascist Nazi, or a left-wing loon? You don’t compromise with evil, but that is how we are being conditioned to view those with whom we differ.
Neither political party and no single politician has all the answers. Why are we so loathe to admit that? Why do we continue to splinter ourselves into competing clans fighting a zero sum, winner-take-all game?
The people we’ve elected to solve our problems instead stoke division and use the mistrust they cultivate for their own political advantage. More important to them than anything is winning the next election. They dream of the day when their party has enough votes to do whatever it is it wants to do without having to worry about what anyone else thinks about it.
Chasing that dream may very well be the end of this country, because in the interim, both parties have concluded it is better to do nothing than to give the “other side” credit for anything, and in an environment like that, the only victories are pyrrhic.
Chris Roemer is a former banker and a former Carroll County Public Schools middle school principal who writes from Finksburg. Reach him at email@example.com.
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