(Visit our neighbors over at Purple State of Mind to read this post and pull up a chair and visit while you’re at it.)
It’s a lonely, lonely cross I’ve borne. Advocating for political civility is a sort of Siberian No Man’s Land: It’s quiet here, you never quite know when you’ll get the next meal and if you need surgery you’ll probably have to do it yourself.
Well, not. any. more. Last week I spent a glorious 3 days in a veritable city-wide street festival of civility.
Graciously invited to Venice (Florida, not Italy, although perhaps we should hold our reunion there) to a Because It Matters training session, I joined other trainees for all civility, all the time.
Because what matters, you ask?
Here, for your reading pleasure, are 25 previously little known facts about civility (although now that they’ve made the Purple blog will be common knowledge):
1. There is such a thing as a civility expert, called…uh….Civility Experts. And goodness knows we need them to fan out into a civility fleet, no less powerful than our Navy. And in case you’re suspicious that this might be a plot hatched by the (Republican/Democratic, circle one) side of the political aisle, Civility Experts is actually the brainchild of Canadian Lew Bayer who finally decided she’d had enough. So in America’s vast partisan divide, she’s Switzerland. Or – uh – Canada?
2. There will be an International Civility Conference in 2011. You’ll know where to find me.
3. There is actually a website You’re So Rude.com. I’m thinking of sending a few folks the link. Do you think that would be rude?
4. Civility is really only civil if everyone gets the same respect from you every time. That’s everyone, regardless of how much you disagree with them, you listening 99% of the Senate and House?
5. There is an actual website Rude Busters.com. I might send another whole group of people this link.
6. University of Virginia students, under the tutelage of a renowned expert on George Washington and the one and only Miss Manners are rewriting George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation for this century.
7. Technology has created daunting problems in our effort to be civil to each other. The constant electronic connection may make us wired to the internet, but it distracts us from being “wired” to each other.
8. Attending workshops about not allowing technology to make us interpersonally rude nearly made my head explode because I couldn’t check my email.
9. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about asking ourselves three questions before passing something on: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it worthy?
10. Maybe more people should read the Wall Street Journal.
11. Maybe the Wall Street Journal editorial page writers should read the Wall Street Journal. (And to be fair, everyone who writes in every other paper on – well – the planet.)
12. There is something called social intelligence and it’s a really important thing for people to have in a civilized society. We have less and less of it.
13. There is something called social capital and it is a really important thing for communities to have because it is what makes us a civilized society.
14. There is such a thing as “hurry sickness” that causes headaches and insomnia.
15. I have to hurry up and make my deadline to get this blog post up and I have a headache because I didn’t sleep last night.
16. There’s a great exercise for children (or adults who act like children) on thinking before you speak (or write a post on a website, are you listening, people): Give everyone a tube of toothpaste and race with each other to squeeze all the toothpaste out. Declare a winner! Then give everyone a knife and have them race to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Point made.
17. I think as a society we may be squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube.
18. Our civility trainer knew someone (who called her “little lady”) who plucked a hair from his head and used it to floss his teeth in front of her.
20. At a buffet, you’re supposed to serve yourself one course at a time.
21. At the buffet at the conference, I forgot to serve myself one course at a time.
22. Asian women cover their mouths when they smile because they consider their gums unattractive.
23. The key to stopping bullying is activating bystanders.
24. I think it’s officially time now to activate a whole country full of bystanders.
25. Civility and diversity training is a growth industry. Go figure.
–Liz Joyner is the Executive Director of The Village Square, a nonprofit devoted to improving the civility and factual accuracy of the political dialogue. Liz now has really gray hair, but really good manners.