When you weigh a political candidate’s strengths and capabilities, is civility one of the measures you consider? The current political climate in the US has turned decades of common courtesy and respect for differences into constant conflict, name-calling and general disrespect. Governing with civility has become your doddering old Aunt. Her views of treating others with courtesy and respect are now obsolete in an environment where struggling groups of people feel belittled and ignored. It’s easy to see how a “fight to win” philosophy beats a “ respect your opponent” attitude when you are feeling trampled and forgotten. But, civility is not a sign of weakness in a battle; it is a marker of strength.
“Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process. Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, Founders, Institute for Civility in Government
Civility does not mean agreeing. It means the ability to productively and respectfully work together in spite of a difference in views or opinion. We’ve always been a nation of vigorous debate. Presenting different sides of any issue is healthy and needed. Debasing one side over the other with hateful vitriol is unhealthy and it’s tearing us apart. A democracy only works when lawmakers can work together to find common ground and move forward.
We should all work toward restoring a civil tone in our communities. One way to begin is to center every political conversation in empathy. The person, whose view is so counter opposed to yours, is still… a person. Someone’s mother, father, sister or brother; someone like you who has strong feelings, wants to be heard and wants to be believed. Maybe they also want desperately to change your mind and what starts off as a lively discussion, turns into something that feels controlling and manipulative. If that happens, stop and remind yourself that this opponent is still your community partner. The world is a small place and we are all in this together.
As your local representative I can’t wait for Washington to pull its’ head out of the sand and work toward restoring a kind compassionate atmosphere of political discourse. In our town of South Lake Tahoe, civility is the founding principal of how I govern. Civility is a crucial tool in a small town where many hold strongly opposing views. This never means silencing or ignoring views. Civility can mean anything from facilitating constructive council-staff relations, diffusing tense situations or encouraging community members to open up positive dialogue.
As your City Council representative I have and will continue to see and embrace all of our community members as equals with valid opinions and ideas…even when they differ from mine.