Lawmakers on the House Floor of the Jonah Business Center, the temporary Capitol, at the onset of the 2017 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Technology is amazing. It allows us to monitor our front door when we aren’t home. It lets us have vacuums roam around our house cleaning while we are at work. It also provides us with communication and messaging tools that give us access to information in real time. We are more in tune with our politics and our world than ever before, but sometimes this comes at a price.

Rep. Landon Brown (R-Cheyenne)

Our world has lost civility. If a disagreement arises, there is automatically an enemy on the other side of the argument rather than an opposing point of view to consider. Technology has increased this trend as it allows us to instantly voice our opinions from behind a computer screen or a telephone, empowering some to say things they would never say in person. Facebook and Twitter have made it easy for us to turn on our friends and neighbors because they don’t hold the same beliefs about abortion, electric vehicles or even a favorite sports team. 

It was not that long ago when people could agree to disagree. They held the ability in their hearts and conscience to realize that not everything in this world has to be black-or-white, all-or-nothing.

Wyoming’s senior U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi often says that we can all generally find common ground on about 80% of our issues and move solutions forward — the other 20% is where we fall apart. This was a great rule for the past 20-plus years, but unfortunately, it no longer does holds true. If there is a disagreement on one point, the entire basis of a relationship is at risk.

I ran for political office when I was 29 years old. I ran because I wanted to make our state a better place to live. I knew I was never going to please everyone, but I was committed to doing my best to listen to others and make educated rational decisions.

There are multiple reasons why people put their name on a ballot. Ego? Sure, for some people that’s the case. Money? Not in this state. A desire to make a positive difference? I would guess that is why the majority of those who serve in elected office — from coroners to governors — choose to run. 

Yet it’s easy to blame elected officials for everything that is wrong. Here in Wyoming, we are fortunate to have a citizen legislature, meaning our lawmakers aren’t career politicians but rather teachers, small business owners, coaches, neighbors and friends. They have families, kids, jobs and lives outside of their elected offices. It’s full-time work.

I was recently attacked because I cosponsored a bill on animal cruelty. I was charged with not being pro-life (for humans) “enough.” I’m not sure that these two coincide with one another on any other planet, but here in Wyoming, a handful of individuals decided protecting Fido is how one is judged on abortion laws.

Regarding this issue, I have been called “sh#% for brains,” “worthless,” “stupid,” “money hungry” and other names that aren’t worth repeating. Criticism is expected as an elected official, but the type of personal attacks we see today are part of the reason many good people would never consider running for office. Do we really want to vilify those willing to serve our communities and work to solve problems? If we do, I fear potential quality candidates will choose to sit on the sidelines instead of entering office.

Instead of constantly berating the mayor, council members, commissioners, Legislature or governor, ask yourself: Is this person truly in need of being chastised, or can I call him or her to ask why they voted the way they did or said what they said? Maybe a civil conversation will get us further than hiding behind a computer screen hurling attacks. Imagine a world where we spoke in public the way we do on Facebook. Is that what we want for our country or state? 

I offer anyone the invitation to call or email me directly or talk with me face to face. The ridicule on Facebook is an unfortunate reflection of poor communication. Take a step back and realize that not a single soul is perfect and — yes!  — we can agree to disagree and still be decent to one another, and maybe even be friends.

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Landon Brown represents House District 09 in the Wyoming Legislature. He lives in Cheyenne.

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  1. Could Jews have avoided the Holocaust if they’d just been more civil to the Nazis?
    Could Native Americans have avoided their ethnic cleansing if they’d just been more civil to the Manifest Destinarians?
    Could black people in the U.S. have avoided all those Jim Crow-era lynchings if they’d just be more civil to the Ku Klux Klan?
    Could striking Colorado coal miners, their wives, and children have avoided the 1914 Ludlow Massacre if they’d just been more civil to the company goons who were shooting them with machine guns?
    Could the Tutsis in Rwanda have avoided their 1994 genocide if they’d just been more civil to their Hutu murderers?
    Could the Sabine women have avoided their ordeal in the 8th Century B.C. if they’d just been more civil to their Roman rapists?
    I could go on indefinitely, but I hope you see my point. Civility is overrated.

  2. In keeping with Rep. Brown’s overall theme, I agree with both Kim Viner’s comment AND Brown, Yes, this has happened before for a variety of reasons, though the Civil War is I hope not an apt comparison. And yes, we should think more than twice about behaving like that now. It doesn’t serve us individually (even if it feels justified for about 90 seconds) and it doesn’t serve Wyoming.

  3. When I hear this line, “It was not that long ago when people could agree to disagree. They held the ability in their hearts and conscience to realize that not everything in this world has to be black-or-white, all-or-nothing,” I experience a sense of incredulity. Has Mr. Brown not heard of the Civil War? Right here in Wyoming the “agree to disagree’ theme has been disregarded since we became a territory in 1868. In writing about Laramie attorney Stephen Downey’s 1871 campaign for the territorial legislative assembly I found newspaper accounts were rife with unfounded attacks on the character of one’s opponent. Republicans attacked Democrats, Democrats attacked Republicans and differing factions of Republicans attacked each other. Or perhaps we should remember the Johnson County War, At least one side was not able to “agree to disagree” and instead brought in hired guns to assassinate fellow Wyoming residents. In the succeeding political campaign one candidate was even compared to the devil. Nothing now is as bad as those events of 1892. Social media has an impact but to seemingly claim the current situation is new is erroneous.