Probably the toughest challenge for people once elected to office, apart from not taking too personally all that kissing up, is to bear up under the zealotry and frankly crude and outrageous public dialogue. If you can call it dialogue.
Electronic communications have unleashed the demons in a lot of otherwise (I sincerely hope) well-behaved people… The fact that public officials hear more often from extremists than from moderates no doubt contributes to their finding such comfort in party ideology. Just repeat the party line; repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s much less of a strain than examining the jumble of nuances of public policies and risk exposing yourself as an independent thinker, rather than a loyal ideologue. (Voters are, sad to say, merciless on officials who change their minds – which is absurd on the part of voters if the official has merely learned a thing or two.)
2010 would be a good time to begin working our way out of the current practice of twisting and shouting on every topic. We do that via every means of communication and in every venue – except for that most civil of them all, over your shopping cart at the grocery story.
The Village Square and Florida Humanities Council are noble bearers of this calming effort, trying again on Jan. 12 to convey the message that you can sometimes make progress by just talking to one another about the things you have in common and then working on your points of disagreement.
This approach is call civilization. It’s what separates us from the braying beasts of the field, some of which look pretty nonthreatening compared to the bellowing at town hall meetings that marked the year ’09.
Former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Leach will be speaking at the Village Square’s Challenger Center event on the 12th, kicking off his 50-state “Civility Tour.” It’s meant to emphasize the dangers of perpetuating what Leach calls this “era of clashing civilizations” – on the back streets of cities as well as the back halls of Washington and Tallahassee.
Give me a yell if you find an online link so that you can read this whole excellent article.