Scorching rants on AM talk shows. Back stabbing gossip of "reality" TV shows. The extreme of political polarities. Demonizing the wealthy or those on welfare. Bounties to cripple NFL opponents. Compromise is weakness. Retard. Homo. Slut.
In this environment, are we really surprised our children are bullying others?
Not to Walter Roberts Jr., a nationally known expert on bullying and professor of counselor education at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Roberts stopped by the Free Press offices at our invitation to help us determine what role we might play in addressing the latest scourge, bullying.
We didn't walk away encouraged.
"It's like trying to pick up a basketball with your teeth," he said. The problem and its causes are too big.
We're all talking about what needs to be done in schools. We're looking in the wrong place. It's a lot wider than that.
Primarily, Roberts said, it's the lack of civility in today's culture that is giving our kids the green light to act without empathy or caring.
Our children feel such behavior must be all right because they see it all the time on television shows, news broadcasts and movies. Our culture is not only permitting it but fomenting it.
Take a look at some of the comments that appear on our own Free Press Facebook pages. It only takes about two comments before it starts to devolve into a string of accusations. Rather than respecting a different perspective, commentators go on the attack labeling each other as being stupid, ignorant or a lefty socialist or a neanderthal neoconservative.
The anonymity of social media has exacerbated the problem. We say things online we would dare not say in the supermarket. When using social media, we don't humanize the people so our normal inhibitions to act civil don't kick in and it's a free-for-all to see how clever and biting we can be.
When will that all change? According to Roberts, when civility returns as a virtue.
If we keep finding entertainment and virtue in demonizing those with whom we differ, don't expect our children to behave any differently.
It all starts at home. It starts with you and me. It starts with us looking in the mirror and determining what kind of role model we want to be. Don't try to change the world if you're not willing to change yourself first.