A Japanese mother sent a letter to her adopted country. It’s deeply and profoundly relevant to our conversation on civility.

The Fox News of crowds and disruptions. My parents spent much of their lives living in Japan, where I grew up. Growing up, I had to be one of the well-behaved, quietest kids on…

A Japanese mother sent a letter to her adopted country. It's deeply and profoundly relevant to our conversation on civility.

The Fox News of crowds and disruptions.

My parents spent much of their lives living in Japan, where I grew up. Growing up, I had to be one of the well-behaved, quietest kids on the block to be accepted. When the Saturday bulletin rolled in, usually a face-to-face conversation about religion, I’d be kept home as a result of a simple complaint to the local bishop.

As a Japanese kid, those problems were often compounded. In the 1930s, I remember nagging neighbors sending me morning teas and once, a pack of security guards trying to tear me from my family’s living room while they counted the plates of rice they’d delivered that morning. This may seem like minor things, but a Japan I remember as a child didn’t have protections like hate crimes or civility laws. As a result, an eccentric neighbor could have come by and bludgeoned me to death if I hadn’t been able to bring enough of my relatives to the U.S. Embassy to sit on a couch and chat through the night.

Years later, I’d return to Japan and had to again face those same neighbors. This time, the neighbors were respectful. They offered to tutor me and kept their distance.

This tale is well known in Japan. In spite of the risk to myself and my family, I’d had to figure out for myself what was acceptable and what wasn’t. To this day, I respect the value of civility in Japanese society.

What started out as a joyful observation about progress turned into a post about me and what’s been normalized in today’s America. It was my desire to help to explain what’s so wrong with those words and to create a discourse on what it means to engage in disagreement with someone when you respect their perspectives.

The anger with which I now refer to those words came to a head last week, when I was arguing against those words on Twitter. The backlash has been nothing short of vitriolic.

Indeed, I posted that the words needed to be normalized. Some attacked me for being out of touch, while others condemned me for having an opinion that ran counter to liberal values.

But that was in response to what I deemed absurd rhetoric. And I felt that anyone who argued those words were out of touch with their value.

This isn’t about whether or not those words need to be normalized. They already are, because they’re right. They are uncivil. They are sad. They are divisive. They are destructive to relationships between different groups of people. When people take the time to decry public anger and begin to dismiss it, this society is in bad shape. In fact, the reactions I was directed toward by many of my online critics inadvertently confirmed why.

In order to recognize our personal power as adults, we have to care more about one another than we do our own egos or opinions.

Let’s not use words that silence each other, that punish dissent, that strengthen the hate and anger we’re already living with. The last thing we need is more vitriol.

The lesson I’d like for people of all sides to take away from this story is the importance of civil and honest conversation. While we can talk loudly about issues, we should not be so quick to dismiss others’ views as bogus. Everyone should have the right to be heard, no matter what the discussion.

When my parents moved to the U.S., the reaction was great. It was fear of their radical religion and desire to educate me, given a multiracial environment and culture of respect and tolerance.

The sadness I feel today is that those values are changing. We believe that disagreement is unproductive and gives us the power to shut someone down.

We think that talking about differences will only make us more divided and pits us against one another. It’s important to remind people that if we stop talking, we will be more likely to act in a manner that damages ourselves and others.

It’s time for us to find a balance between expressing frustration and tone and take responsibility for what we do and how we do it.

To argue strongly that something is wrong with or counterproductive to our current understanding of social codes or our belief system, isn’t just oversimplifying. The discussion that needs to happen is uncomfortable but necessary to find the middle ground to avoid more violence and more division.

If we lose that balance, it’s going to be even harder to reverse the growing divisiveness in our country.

As my mother often told me: “Be patient with yourself. Be patient with others.”

Amanda Nguyen is a Washington Post columnist and the author of the novel “The Stronger I Am.”

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