Wow. Just mention the words “gun” and “control” in the same sentence and a lot of people get upset. I mean really upset. Some of them are the people who concern me the most if they’re carrying guns. Last month I wrote about what I believe to be logical safety measures, specifically to protect children from the incidence of mishandling, and was called a “lib-tard,” a “snowflake,” “unhinged” and was instructed to “go back to comedy.”

Someone else jumped in to say I’ve “never been funny” either. I’m not sure what he thought I should go back to in that case, and his hurtful words caused me such grief I cried and cried until my tears ran dry.

(Not really. I just thought it would be nice during the holiday season to give him a moment of joy).

Truth is, insults don’t affect me much; I know they’re as shallow as the impulse to use them. What troubled me, though, is that my children can read these comments and they get confused. They don’t suddenly question the integrity of their father, but they get a little frightened that people would be so insulting over an opinion. An opinion, whether agreed with or not, is a position to improve their safety.

What has troubled me for some time is that this playground-level rancor has become the new normal. And I believe it is eroding real values and is showing our children that maturity and respect are not all that important after all.

There can be no foray into this subject without mentioning the president’s rhetorical dynamic. There is no denying that his confrontational style is to debase an opponent in order to debase their position. It is a tactic rooted in childhood when we did, in fact, hurt each other with name calling and deflective phrases like: “I know you are, but what am I?”

Or by calling someone a “loser.”

Trump supporters — don’t waste a millisecond of your time defending him.

This article is not about gun control, and it isn’t about President Trump’s policies; it is a challenge to all adults to do better with how we speak to each other when we disagree. All of us. Are we showing our kids, grandkids and our friend’s kids the best ways to communicate, to find solutions, to promote justice and to show respect? Is our rhetoric employing the highest standards to allow for disagreements and differences?

The other day my youngest son’s middle school teacher called me up just to tell me how thoughtful and considerate my son is in school. Absolutely nothing could make me more proud. I’m not pretending to be a saint myself or that I can’t do better, but I am part of a team that is doing something right.

Maybe that’s something we can vow to do over the holidays; create communities of respect. We are all neighbors in the Cedar Valley and we can make a difference right here.

Gary Kroeger is an advertising executive in Cedar Falls and a former Iowa legislative candidate.

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