I haven’t written a blog since my mother passed away last summer. Having just returned home following a straightforward heart procedure, she went into cardiac arrest less than two hours after walking through the front door. She did not recover despite the best attempts of emergency medical technicians to restart her heart. Her passing was unanticipated and took our family, her friends and her colleagues by surprise.
Not long afterward, I was asked to do some work for a company assisting with power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. I spent the next several months on the devastated island and saw firsthand how the people were impacted by the destruction. The storm turned the lives of millions of people upside down, immediately reordering their priorities. Political opinions, the economy and peace in the Middle East seem to matter very little when you’re worried about survival.
The reason I mention my mother’s death and Hurricane Maria is that these two events have provided me with a new perspective on things. For me, they caused me to take an operational pause from commenting on current events. It’s not that I stopped paying attention – it’s that I was no longer an observer, but an active participant. My mother has been gone for a year now and I have returned from Puerto Rico, so I have been feeling the urge to express my views on things with this fresh perspective. It’s akin to viewing the world through a new pair of glasses with an updated prescription. I just needed a topic.
And then Charles Krauthammer died.
Dr. Krauthammer, as many people know, was a conservative commentator, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, psychiatrist, husband and father. Confined to a wheel chair following a tragic diving accident while in medical school at Harvard, he was an example of how grit, determination, perseverance and courage can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. [More]
But in my mind, what was so remarkable about him was his demeanor. He always approached issues from a detached, intellectual position. He was soft-spoken, candid, articulate and treated those with whom he disagreed with courtesy and professionalism. But he wasn’t just a nice guy. He pulled no punches. “If you're going to leave the medical profession because you think you have something to say, you betray your whole life if you don't say what you think and if you don't say it honestly and bluntly," Krauthammer said. Above all, Charles Krauthammer personified the notion of civil discourse, where opposing points of view could be debated without heated rhetoric and personal attacks.
Our politicians in the United States, from both sides of the aisle, could learn much him. There are too many examples of this type of behavior where those espousing different points of view are belittled, vilified and demonized. If you need examples, all you have to do is turn on your television.
The lesson we should all learn from Charles Krauthammer is that we should be able to disagree, even strongly, and not take it personally while treating everyone with dignity and respect. He was proof the noise of democracy doesn’t have to be ugly. It can be beautiful.