A Message For Beth

Beth, of My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy was a little tired, so when I came across this excellent article I thought of her. -Because you know, we all get a little beaten down in the struggle.

It isn’t an easy time in our nation. So in the spirit of better communication and of seeking to work at finding the right track to take.

Anchor Rising: Discussing the Incivility in Today’s Public Discourse

Once someone wields the hammer — once the incivility starts — others will take it as an invitation to join in, and pretty soon there’s no limit to the incivility…

This illustrates the second aspect of the broken windows theory: Once the insults begin flying, many will opt out…

This is the real danger of incivility. Our free, self-governing society requires an open exchange of ideas, which in turn requires a certain level of civility rooted in mutual respect for each other’s opinions and viewpoints.

What we see today I am afraid, is an accelerating competition between the left and the right to see which side can inflict the most damage with the hammer of incivility. Increasingly, those who take part in public debates appear to be exchanging ideas when, in fact, they are trading insults: idiot, liar, moron, traitor.

…civility isn’t an accessory one can put on or take off like a scarf. It is inseparable from the character of great leaders…

Incivility is not a social blunder to be compared with using the wrong fork. Rather, it betrays a defect of character. Incivility is dangerous graffiti, regardless of whether it is spray-painted on a subway car, or embossed on the title page of a book. The broken windows theory shows us the dangers in both cases.

……. After four years of study at Hillsdale, you know the difference between attacking a person’s argument and attacking a person’s character.

Respect that difference.

Your education here has taught you how to engage in rational debate and either hold your own or lose with grace and civility.

Take that lesson with you.

Your professors at Hillsdale have shown you, by their example, that you don’t need the hammer of incivility to make your point.

Follow their example.

Defend your convictions – those virtues – with all the spirit you can. But do it with all the civility that you ought. Ben Rogers calls it “a place as special as Hillsdale.”

So, as you leave this special place, Lay your hammer down…

As you reflect on current events such as the Senate judicial filibuster, contrast the words of Dr. Feulner to those of, say, Senator Harry Reid. And then ask who displays the greater intolerance in today’s public discourse.

Surely we can all do better. For the good of our country, we must all do better.

But those cases aren’t parallel in every way, and in closing I want to call your attention to an important difference. When behavioral norms break down in a community, police can restore order. But when civility breaks down in the marketplace of ideas, the law is powerless to set things right.

And properly so. Our right to speak freely — and to speak with incivility, if we choose — is guaranteed by those five glorious words in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law ….”

And yet, the need for civility has never been greater. Our nation is divided as never before between the left and the right. We are at loggerheads on profoundly important political and social questions. Civilization itself is under barbaric attack from without.

Sadly, too many us are not rising to these challenges as a democratic people…

Rather than helping to reverse this decline, the rising chorus of incivility is driving out citizens of honest intent and encouraging those who trade in jeering and mockery…

If we are to prevail as a free, self-governing people, we must first govern our tongues and our pens. Restoring civility to public discourse is not an option. It is a necessity.

Who will begin the restoration of civility?…

4 thoughts on “A Message For Beth”

  1. Tip from Ma Ingalls:

    If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
    Five things observe with care.
    To whom you speak,
    Of whom you speak,
    And how, and when, and where.

    Caroline Ingalls
    Nov 1881

  2. You are a well of wisdom and encouragement- I devoted a post to you on the new blog.

  3. I strongly suggest reading Tom Shachtman’s excellent “The inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America” (1995 The Free Press) — the best work I’ve ever read on the restoration of dignity to public discourse.

  4. That does sound like good reading! Thanks for the suggestion. I wonder if you, being in media for a living, find it difficult to maintain your equilbirium? I know it sorely tests me and I just read blogs,etc.

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