Sanford's CNN Comments Spark Outrage

posted by Kelly Golden - 

GOP Congressman Mark Sanford tells CNN, President Trump is partly to blame for political division in country.

SANFORD's Follow Up Statement: "Given all the emotion and back and forth I’ve heard through calls that have come into the office over the last 24 hours, I want to return to the notion of civility in the public forum. More broadly, I have a thought or two on civility in general, given its importance and the ways in which it’s vital to the workings of an open government and free people.

Toward that end, I’ve included below another video clip. This one was recorded last night with Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN while at the Congressional baseball game. I would ask that you take a look and that you forward or email, this text and clip to a friend who may have questions about what I said yesterday.

The dust up came because of the way some commentators and press outlets chose to make it sound like I blamed President Trump for the tragic shooting that took place in Washington. I did not. I was talking about civility in the public realm and how he, and every one of us, has responsibilities in what we say and how we say it. But to be clear, there was only one shooter on Wednesday, and only one person pulled the trigger. We don't all own horrendous outcomes.

Civility in the way that we engage with each other is certainly a part of growing up Southern - but more broadly, it’s part of growing up American. Unlike so many other places in the world, where people will not tolerate a differing viewpoint, our Founding Fathers enshrined their belief in the significance of open dialogue with the first of our American rights. In our country, we can say what we believe, and this is a privilege relative to so many other places in the world where this is not the case. But with every right comes a responsibility. To carry on our tradition, there has to be some degree of measure in what we say and how we say it. It’s for that reason that the Bible says in Colossians 4:6 that our conversation should always be filled with Grace. The Founding Fathers had many thoughts here, and even the Supreme Court has said that we can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre because of the way that words could cause harm in that instance.

The points in all of this are several fold:

One, American politics has always been contentious. We wouldn’t want it any other way, as we are the Land of the Free and we hold our views strongly. But we’ve also always been able to separate the sin from the sinner. In this equation, we were able to separate the person from the ideas they held. Doing so is vital to a healthy debate whether that’s at home, in business, or even in the body politic. Ideas are not us; they’re ideas. Some are big and some are small. Hopefully most of the ones we debate in public forums are of scale and much bigger than any man or woman - which makes it that much more important that we separate personalities from ideas. It has to be about an idea - if we are really going to debate the idea. What I have seen of late is a degree of personalization and demonization of differing viewpoints that is dangerous in our form of government. What I hope the tragedy of the day before yesterday did was to focus all of us on how dangerous it is for anyone to be so incensed in their politics that they take it to the point of wanting to shoot people who hold a different view.

Two, knee jerk reactions are dangerous. We have to find a better way of listening rather than reacting. Steven Covey once wrote of the importance of seeking first to understand before we try to be understood. Matthew 7 conveys the same idea as it talks about taking the log out of your own eye before you worry about the splinter in someone else’s. Social media has been dangerous on this front for the way that people feel free to very quickly react before they gather all of the facts or even choose to measure their words.

Three, truth matters. It matters for all of us. I believe that there is objective truth. It’s important in a reason based society that we listen to what the Founding Fathers talked about when they talked about unassailable truths. The president has been fast and loose with some of his facts and that’s dangerous, just as it is that the media will combine a few different thoughts - regardless of their context - and try and create a great headline whether it fits with reality and truth or not.

Finally, as I stated in each of the three interviews yesterday, it’s important that we all do our part in returning civility to the public sphere. Too often here, people seem to think that two wrongs make a right. Someone told me that Snoop Dogg [whoever he is] had done some skit where he pointed a gun at the President’s head and that Madonna had said something awful. We need to call them out on it. The same is true whether it’s school, the workplace, or the local bar when we hear something that just doesn’t pass muster with regard to some measure civilized engagement.

My worry here is that if we don’t get ahead of this thing, tribalism in the way we debate can lead an open society to very dangerous places. Tribalism, I would define, is not debate about ideas but rather nothing more than the law of the jungle and my group against yours in the way that we express ourselves. If my team says that it’s okay, it's okay. If your team says it, it’s wrong. This is not the reason based society that we inherited from our Founding Fathers, and my fear is that if the economy were to turn down - which I believe it’s due to do - these sentiments can become very strong. There was a great book written years ago titled Popular Illusions in the Madness of Crowds, and it talks about this very phenomenon through the ages. These sentiments become especially heightened when people’s basic needs are not being addressed and this often happens with economic downturns.

The long and short of all of this is that it is my prayer that the tragedy that occurred in Washington this week will serve as a catalyst to more thoughtful engagement in the world of politics from all its participants - elected leaders, the media, and in even each of us as voters. We can make it so….one person at a time."

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