Along with many Californians, I’m concerned about the current state of politics. There’s too much yelling, finger pointing, and blaming the other person.
A disturbing trend of politicians in essence telling one another to “shut up” is becoming commonplace. Free speech is the backbone of our democracy, but it’s being cast aside more and more as elected leaders treat it as some sort of inconvenience rather than a fundamental right. Both political parties share blame in this.
The examples are numerous. Earlier this month, United State Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell silenced fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren for reading a letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Senate Floor as part of her opposition to the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General.
Last week, California’s State Senate stopped Orange County Senator Janet Nguyen from speaking out against the anti-Vietnam War record of former Sen. Tom Hayden, and had her removed from the senate chamber.
Over this past weekend, Trump Administration spokesman Sean Spicer stopped reporters from various news agencies from attending what is usually an open briefing because those news agencies have regularly questioned the factual accuracy of statements put forth by the administration.
Have we become intolerant of what others have to say? What happened to the concept of the loyal opposition? Can we disagree respectfully and end a conversation with respect for one another even if neither person found anything the other had to say persuasive?
The answer has to start with ourselves in our own lives. As a teacher I took pride in listening to my students, their parents and school administrators and giving them a voice in the teaching process. Being a good listener is one of the things that made me a good teacher.
Now, as a state legislator, I’m working hard to reach out to people who I may not agree with on some important issues, but may have other issues where we can find common ground. Listening and learning about other people’s points of view are important in this job because my constituents and all Californians expect their leaders to work for them and quality of life.
They should expect that while we’re working for better jobs, roads, and schools, we’re make our democracy stronger by listening to one another.
Please join me in setting an example for others to follow by taking the time to listen to someone you don’t agree with today. Our democracy and the children who we hope will inherit it will benefit greatly from your leadership.
Sharon Quirk-Silva. Until her election to the state Assembly, Sharon taught 3rd grade students fulltime in the Fullerton School District. She represents the 65th Assembly District, which includes Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Palma, Stanton and most of West Anaheim.
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