BY BECKY SHANKLAND
AND BARBARA CALEF
Co-Presidents, League of Women Voters
In letters to the School Board and in several County Council meetings, observers have been noticing an increase in harsh, impolite, even abusive language from members of the public addressing our elected officials. What are the consequences?
- Residents will be deterred from participating in our local government, fearful of being attacked or upset by disrespectful and hurtful comments.
- People will hesitate to run for office, feeling that they may be targets of unhappy citizens.
- Resolution of important issues will be delayed when the discourse is too emotional.
League observers and others have been dismayed by attacks directed at individuals. It’s a valuable tradition that in political discourse, one argues against a policy, not a person.
It’s not only in politics that we need civility. The playground, the classroom, the playing field, the political forum all depend on fair treatment of those who participate. The playground bully, the classroom clown, the political quarreler—all these prevent others from enjoyment, learning, or mature discussion.
Civil discourse does not insist on everyone agreeing, only on sharing all the views and perspectives that shape people’s positions using an open process.
What can be done?
- Avoid rhetoric intended to humiliate, malign, or question the motivation of those whose opinions are different from yours.
- Speak truthfully without accusation, and avoid distortion.
- Respect the right of all people to hold different opinions and perspectives by keeping a bi-partisan mindset.
The board of the League of Women Voters reminds all of you—keep it civil!