Doesn’t it seem like we have lost a certain amount of civility in our everyday discourse?

Aren’t we a little less patient, a little less thoughtful, a little more self-interested?

Where did this start?

I have a theory. I will readily admit that it is unsubstantiated. I have no research to support it and no science on which it is based. So I will be anxious to hear whether you agree or not.

The rhetoric coming from our nation’s leaders is increasingly shrill, rude and personal. This is not a political statement; I pass no judgment on the content of the message.

But the insults that come from our elected officials are something I have not heard in my lifetime. It starts from the very top.

Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in part through brutal, personal attacks on his opponents.

He demeaned Ted Cruz by repeatedly calling him “Lyin’ Ted.”

He referred to Marco Rubio as “Little Marco.”

He insulted Carly Fiorina’s appearance and asked whether anyone could vote for “that face.”

His insults were not limited to political opponents.

He demeaned women by insulting Megyn Kelly saying she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her...whatever.”

He denigrated POW’s everywhere and John McCain in particular by saying that he preferred war heroes that were not caught by the enemy.

And President Trump is not alone.

CNN and MSNBC frequently had commentators that made it clear that only an “idiot” would vote for Trump. Unfortunately, the post-election discourse is no better. President Trump regularly tweets insults and comes up with demeaning nicknames for foreign leaders.

He is derided, in turn, with his Secretary of State calling him a “?!8:ing Moron”.

Again, I am not talking about the message. I do not know whether Trump’s policy in North Korea will prove better than Obama’s.

I am simply saying I can imagine no other President referring to another world leader in a speech before the United Nations as “Little Rocket Man” or a similarly demeaning nickname.

When this kind of rhetoric comes from our nation’s leaders and the persons who are paid to comment on them, how can it not affect popular discourse?

Is it an accident that hate crimes have skyrocketed since the election?

And I am not blaming the politicians. They are elected to represent us; we don’t have to reflect them.

The best thing about our country is we get to choose how we speak and what we say.

Unlike in many countries, we can speak out against what our government is doing.

In this case, I am not speaking against what our politicians are doing or saying; I am criticizing how they are saying it. And I am criticizing those of us who follow suit.

We have a choice. Let’s start choosing compassion over ridicule. Let’s pass up the quick joke at someone else’s expense.

Let’s speak with kindness. Let’s not ridicule.

Maybe, if we all demonstrate tolerance and respect, our elected officials will follow us.