Sen. Tim Scott advocates for civility in politics

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott visited Hilton Head Island last week to talk politics, or rather, how Americans talk politics.

Scott was invited by the Judie Aronson Social Justice Initiative, along with moderator Rabbi Brad Bloom, to speak simply on the topic of respectful debate — or as the program put it, “the importance of civility in our public discourse.”

“One of the places where we are failing as a nation is the latest polls say two-thirds of Republicans and two-thirds of Democrats do not have a single friend who is not affiliated with their partisan politics,” Scott began.

“Think about how that trickles down through race relations and all the issues we struggle with as a country. We have to learn to talk to one another. And one of the challenges is, the more uncivil the public forum, the smaller the ideas that are presented in the public forum.

“That’s dangerous for the greatest democracy ever on earth.”

Scott went on to speak about the dangers of tribalism and the notion that only people of one’s own race, creed, ethnicity, etc., have their best interests in mind.

Scott emphasized that in World War II there were Americans from very different backgrounds fighting for the freedom of Jewish and other persecuted groups.

And in that vein, he introduced the surprise portion of the program: a display of all the medals Bloom’s father, Oscar Bloom, earned in World War II.

Oscar was considered a war hero of the highest order, having earned nine medals for his service including the Purple Heart. But they were all lost to Bloom’s family.

After a research effort, Scott’s office was able to return seven medals to Bloom on Thursday, including the Purple Heart. Bloom was visibly emotional but said he held back his tears to continue the program.

Returning to the topic of the evening, Scott emphasized the importance of respectful dialogue when facing controversial topics.

“We have to have a healthy public forum so that we can have a debate over the most challenging and important issues that we are going to have to tackle as a nation. If we are not willing to do it together, we will not do it all,” he said.

The second-term Republican senator said he believes “monetized conflict” in the media is partly to blame for political vitriol.

“We’ve figured out… that it pays to have conflict on every single channel in the country,” he said. “The conflict that we see in our constant stream of consciousness, it corrodes our ability to have a conservation.”

Scott reminisced “on a time when we had a single source of information that was shared in a public, objective manner and then pages called opinion pages that were more opinions.

“We are not hearing actual objective facts from the news. We’re hearing commentaries on those facts,” Scott said.