It's not always about the politics, people


It was such a simple thing, at first.

Upon seeing the news that former President George H.W. Bush had been released from a Houston hospital after winning a bout with bronchitis, a bacterial infection and a bad cough, I posted good wishes on Facebook.

"Congratulations, Mr. President! George H.W. Bush discharged from Texas hospital, after whipping bacterial infection. It'll take more than that to keep a good man down," I wrote.

That's when a Facebook friend brought the hate. Telling me that he didn't think the former president was a particularly good person, he gave a few reasons why and then shared that "I'm hoping a very large meteor hits his funeral."

Really?

The truth is, I do admire the former president. He served as a naval aviator during World War II and was shot down while bombing Japanese installations on the Bonin Islands (but not before completing his mission). He's an inspiration to seniors with an active lifestyle that includes skydiving with the Army's Golden Knights parachute team every year on his birthday. He's taken up many charitable and philanthropic endeavors in the years since he left the White House. He led a war in the Middle East the right way. And while president, he decided to do what he perceived as the right thing instead of sticking to a campaign-trail promise, an act that contributed to his losing the presidency to Bill Clinton in 1992.

That doesn't mean I endorse everything Bush did politically, or that I agree with him on a majority of the issues. But my Facebook point wasn't political, it was humanitarian: One American citizen wishing a former president of the United States a speedy recovery.

But these days, everything's political, and everything's ugly.

I didn't much care for the politics and presidency of George W. Bush, especially the genesis of the Iraq war. But that doesn't mean I have to wish ill on him, does it? I find former Vice President Dick Cheney's theories about the conduct of the war on terrorism (especially the treatment of enemies detained in that war) short-sighted and wrong. Does that mean I have to hate him, too?

On Friday, Mitch Fox, the longtime host of "Nevada Week in Review" posted on Twitter an announcement that we'd be interviewing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on that evening's program. Immediately, vitriolic, Reid-hating tweets followed, some making reference to legitimate issues, some not.

Again, it's possible to disagree with everything Harry Reid stands for without hating him. It's possible to think Reid's approach to governing is bad without thinking Reid is the personification of evil. I certainly don't agree with Reid on all issues, but I can still acknowledge his political skills and be grateful for the things his influence has brought to Nevada.

Can't I?

Last week, Secretary of State Ross Miller held a hearing about his new bill to use DMV photos in electronic polling books to prevent in-person voter fraud. During the hearing, political strategist Andres Ramirez was making a point about the safeguards against illegal immigrant voting.

"Are you one of them?" yelled a member of the crowd.

Really?

As someone who regularly writes about politics, I understand passions run high. I understand that we're suspicious of our opponents and often contemptuous of their ideas and what we perceive of their motives. I've often been guilty of it myself.

But we've all got to calm down, take a deep breath and at least try to be a little more civil to each other. You don't have to surrender your ideas or philosophy. You certainly don't have to shut up about your own opinions. As a wise lawyer friend of mine once wrote, you can be as tough as you need to be in any situation, but that doesn't mean you can't also be nice to people.

Amen to that.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.