The need for civil public discourse

Nov. 16, 2012 @ 05:16 AM

Where has it all gone?

That is the question we ask ourselves each and every time we have an election.

The question does not relate to a particular candidate or party, but to the lack of civility in public discourse.

And don't think for one minute that the lack of civility is constrained to just national politics.

In North Carolina, there has been an ever-growing ideological rigidity and polarization that has extended to state politics.

"Civility in America" released a poll this summer that stated 85 percent of those polled said they believed that political rhetoric is increasingly more uncivil.

Now, granted, in Rutherford County, there were no political races — statewide or local — that had a bearing of a lack of civility. In fact, much to our gratitude, most, if not all of the races, seemed to be rather tame.

However, while we can express our dissatisfaction with politicians and their rhetoric, we believe that the general public does bear some responsibility for civil discourse.

It is easy to point fingers at elected officials and their sometimes lack of civility when it comes to discourse. It is easy when a member of Congress calls the President a "liar" during a State of the Union address.

But, as a citizenry, we have to elevate our discourse above such actions.

There has to be a level of respect for our fellow citizen, regardless of whether or not they agree with us politically or philosophically.

John F. Kennedy once said:

"So, let us not be blind to our differences - but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved."

To exercise civility and respect for our fellow citizens is something that should be a life priority, not just politically, but also socially.

Another figure from the civility study showed that 91 percent of respondents were concerned that incivility has a negative consequence for the nation.

With that number being as high as it is, we believe citizens should assume more accountability for their own behavior and communicate with civility on all levels of discussion.

And, that communication, with regards to politics, has got to go beyond national and state politics. It has to extend to county and municipal levels of government in Rutherford County.

With that, we want to challenge residents of Rutherford County to pledge civility on all levels of public discourse.

By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board


The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark