Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Threat of Civility?

Is incivility defensible? Special Forum guest blogger Rosanne Thomas of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc. reflects on the uncivil response to Jon Stewart's call for respectful public discourse. 

Jon Stewart has called for a restoration of respectful public discourse through a "Million Moderate March," scheduled for October 30 in Washington. One cannot argue with the merits of such a pursuit or malign the person who proposed it, can one?

Apparently, one can and many have. Actual defenses of incivility as just "the way to get things done" are lumped in with personal attacks upon Mr. Stewart that include references to his heritage, his intelligence, his leanings, his motives, his audience and the success (read failure) of an event that will not be held for another month. Really? For suggesting respectful discourse? It would seem a "rally to restore sanity" is coming in the nick of time.

The purpose of the March, says Mr. Stewart, is to counter "the minority of 15 percent to 20 percent of the country that has dominated the national political discussion with extreme rhetoric." He holds both major political parties accountable for their roles in the discussion. In calling for the rally, Mr. Stewart has imposed upon himself a very high standard. For his own credibility and to achieve his goal, he will need to both model civility and maintain an apolitical stance, not necessarily an easy thing to do for someone with strong opinions. Yet, it can be done, and if done well, will provide a workable template for us all.

In the meantime, some simple thoughts on promoting public discourse include:
  • To be respected, one must respect
  • To be heard, one must listen
  • To be understood, one must strive to understand
  • To teach, one must be willing to learn

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I applaud Jon Stewart for taking a stand on returning our country to productive dialog, not hate, extremist rhetoric and vitriol. Listen hard to the side you think you disagree with... you just might find you agree with them!