Technology is amazing. It helps us see our front door when we aren’t home. It allows us to 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.

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 movement because it allows all of us to instantly voice our opinions from behind a computer screen or a telephone, empowering some to say things that we 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 believe the same way you do about abortion, electric vehicles or even your 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 divisive and tear us apart.

Wyoming 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 no longer does this hold 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.

When someone puts their name on a ballot there are multiple reasons that they do it. Ego? Sure, for some people that’s the case. Money? Not in this state. Feel like they can make a difference? I would guess that is why the majority of those who serve in elected office — from coroner to governor — choose to run. They are trying to make a positive difference.

Yet it is 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, instead, are teachers, small business owners, coaches, neighbors and friends. They have families, kids, jobs and lives outside of their elected offices. It’s a full-time job.

I was recently attacked because I cosponsored a bill on animal cruelty and 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.

I have been called “sh#% for brains,” “worthless,” “stupid,” “money hungry” and many other things that just aren’t even 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 community and that have ideas on how to solve problems? If we do, I fear they 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 this person and ask them 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. Imagine a world if 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 and talk with me face to face. The ridicule on Facebook is a sorry reflection of not being able to properly communicate. Take a step back and realize not a single soul is perfect and — yes — we can agree to disagree and still be decent to one another, and, maybe, even friends.

Rep. Landon Brown represents House District 9 in the Wyoming Legislature. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

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