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  • Reverend James Squire

“It’s business! It’s not personal”

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Leave it to Dr. Fauci to summarize the partisan dilemma on both sides of the aisle. President Trump recently attacked Dr. Fauci on his incorrect predictions and assistance with curbing the Covid 19 virus. I suppose that when someone calls you an “idiot”, you have to make a response.

Fauci channeled words from the Godfather movie, “It’s business! It’s not personal!” meaning that it is not about you and me. It is about the issue at hand. In this case, the Pandemic!

In ethical language, Trump’s approach has been to attack the person with whom he disagrees. It is referred to as Ad Hominen attacks which means against a person. He demonizes them with such statements including words such as low life, scum, and terrible. His comments don’t have much to do with the issues. Joe Biden fell into this pattern at the first debate calling Trump a clown and liar. It is very easy to require a defense to what a bully says. Notice how Time Magazine’s Man of The Year and the recipient of a leadership award by a scientific infectious disease society responded to Trump’s accusations. “It’s business! It’s not personal!” No one could have made a better response identifying the issue for what it was, a matter of science and not a personal attack.

The problem is not fake news. It is blood news. We are all to blame. A story about polite behavior doesn’t sell. What does sell is attack and counter attack. The media may regret that they get what they pray for, namely to get rid of Trump. He has been the best thing ever for the news media. Each day there is something outrageous to write about him. The President rarely disappoints!

The problem is that is all that our children are seeing to the point that it has become the new normal. They assume that this is the way everyone acts.

A political contest will make my point. Have you seen anything on the news about Democrat Darren Parry of Providence, Utah and Republican Blake Moore of Salt Lake City, Utah? They are in a race to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Bob Bishop in Congress. Both Parry and Moore have pledged to run a positive, issue-oriented campaign.

The two candidates are very different in their backgrounds and their policies. Parry has been active in Utah politics for years. Moore is a business consultant who is a novice in the world of politics. Both have stated that discussion of the issues in their campaigns should build bridges. Moore stated, “I think that there is more that binds us together than divides us.” Moore went on to say, “If I am successful in winning the seat in Congress, I hope to be able to stay in touch with Darren and solicit ideas from him.”

The comments that they make about each other are uplifting. I am reminded of the reason we shake hands before an athletic contest. It is to thank your opponent for the opportunity to compete. Without them, there would be no game. One candidate calls the other “very cordial”. The other says, “He is a great guy. I like him a lot.”

What if this election in Utah was part of a news cycle so that our kids could see first-hand what an ethical approach looks like. They would have something to contrast to the verbal blood bath in the national arena.

After a Town Hall Meeting with Biden, Trump and his public relations person said, “It looked like Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.” I think that we have had enough of might makes right.

Let me give you a personal example. When I was a parish priest in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania I had parishioners from the faculty of Swarthmore College, one of the top small colleges in the nation.

One of those faculty members was Dr. Lin Urban who was Chair of the Religion Department. His father, Dr. Percy Urban, had taught me at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Lin and I would debate issues. Debate is what you did in Swarthmore as it was like a “swing through an intellectual juggle gym.” When one of us would be struggling to make a point, the other would say, “Have you thought about this. It strengthens your point of view.” We were on different sides of several issues. But this approach of getting the best idea on both our parts strengthened our debate leading to a better conclusion. (Full disclosure alert. He helped me more than I helped him.)

Making the accusation that a Town Hall was like Mr. Roger’s neighborhood was meant as a criticism. However, maybe it’s the very definition of “civil discourse”. It is what is needed.

The Utah race for a congressional seat doesn’t’ get much attention compared to “attack politics”, but it is exactly what our kids and the nation need to see. Forget the ratings or the number of subscriptions that your newspaper or online news has. Tom Friedman, writer from the New York Times, said this election is about “America being on the ballot”. It is. But how to conduct our public business is on the ballot as well. We don’t want our children growing up and see what passes for political discourse in Washington. They deserve better.

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