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The Commons
Voices / Letters from readers

The erosion of courtesy in discourse makes us numb

Originally published in The Commons issue #437 (Wednesday, December 6, 2017). This story appeared on page D1.



Only one week after the shootings in Texas with 26 dead, including a fetus and its mother, my reaction has been rather strange. It is as if I have wrapped Teflon around my body, my soul, and my humanity.

My reaction has been, “Oh, that’s too bad. What’s playing at the movies tonight?”

There have been so many of these shootings and mass murders that I no longer have a humane and caring reaction to these events. They just roll over me, and I am left with little feeling.

With such a bombardment of my senses and my emotions, I have been desensitized to the tragedies. I remember the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting when I felt true sadness and despair for the children killed that day and for their community and their families.

What has happened to me since then? It might be a survival strategy to maintain my sanity.

But I think it is more than that. I think a coarsening and uncivilized aberration has been occurring in our society as a whole. It spreads from our president down to kids talking dirty in the locker rooms of a high school. Nothing seems to be left of courtesy or civil discourse.

It is now a race — be it a gunman in Texas or a government official in Washington — to see who can be the best name caller on Twitter or our news services. To see who can demean their enemy the most. To see who can disrupt society from its civilized course.

All of this and more has deadened me to the real tragedies going on around me. What am I going to do about my numb feelings?

I don’t know. But I am not going to stop looking for ways to regain my humanity and caring for my fellow humans.

Betty Armstrong


Putney

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