yearning for civility in discourse

Civility is becoming somewhat of a buzz word these days. Tony Magliano has penned a well written column over at the National Catholic Reporter called The need for civility.  He writes,

But it is sad to note that in our society, rudeness and even downright meanness is now more common than civility. It has become the norm to be disagreeable, and disagreeable in a nasty manner, at that.

The art of respectful dialogue has all but disappeared in serious private and public discourse. From the intractability in Congress to talk radio to the family interaction, consistent respectful discourse has become almost nonexistent.

Ironically, some of the responses on the discussion board following this article are far from civil!

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and head of the US Catholic Bishops Conference, has asked the presidential and vice-presidential candidates to sign a civility pledge developed by the Knights of Columbus; to focus on the issues at hand rather than personal attacks of one’s opponent. Personally, I’m not a fan of pledges and this one smacks too much of a publicity tactic by a cardinal who is already garnering too much publicity in this election. But, I agree with the point being made. Before asking the candidates to sign the pledge, I’d like to see all bishops and priests sign the same pledge. Oh, and all bloggers, discussion board participants, media commentators, opinion editorialists….

As a promoter of dialogue, I hope that this call to civility becomes a growing movement. It is time to put an end to endless diatribes, hateful name-calling, and polarizing partisan politics whether in society or in our church. It is time to shame those who stoop to vicious attacks rather than intelligent discourse. But we need to do this in a civil way…

Hubby and I watched in awe last night as Former President Bill Clinton addressed the Democratic National Convention. He showed that being civil doesn’t require milquetoast words. Not usually a fan of speeches, he had me hooked for 48 minutes. Rather than platitude-filled rambling or pot-shots at his opponents, he systematically addressed all the issues that the Republicans had used to discredit the democrats. He did it intelligently, ensuring that it was understandable for all to grasp.

Yes, this is a man who is obviously embracing the role of elder statesman. His light-heartedness had the audience eating out of his hand; although at times he had to emphasize when he was being serious. But, there were no cruel over-tones. If there were attacks, they were at misrepresentations of issues, not at persons.

Early in the speech he stated, “Though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.” Of course, the hatred can and does come from both sides. But, he hopefully believes that “Democracy does not have to be a bloodsport. It can be an honest enterprise.”

Politics, like life, is seldom black and white. No one person has all the answers. No one answer is satisfactory for all. Politics requires public dialogue and discourse, within a respectful atmosphere. I hope and pray for all my American friends in these coming weeks. As the electoral process unfolds, may a spirit of civility and respect heal current divisions, so all voices can be heard and clear-minded decisions be made.