Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

On Civility in Political Communication

Albert Merz, OFM, has written a short paper for the Franciscan Action Network entitled On Civility in Political Communication. Here is an excerpt:
One of the consequences of incivility in how we talk “to” or “at” each other is alienation. People are pushed apart rather than pulled together. The roots of solutions to society’s problems have to be found in common ground. It is almost impossible to find this common ground in a non-relational environment.

The more threatening consequence of incivility in how we talk “to” or “at” each other is that it can become a “seed of violence.” Our minds and our emotions feed on words. Both the speaker and the hearer are affected by them. There is an old saying: “We become what we eat.” In an applied sense we might say: “We become what we speak.” The very words we speak change us. We can calm ourselves and we can ignite ourselves by the words and tone we use. Likewise we can affect the ones to whom we are speaking.

. . .

Recently I read that the public school system in the United States grew out of a concern on the part of our political leaders that people were losing a sense of the common good, i.e., they were becoming uncivil. Therefore, the need for education in civics in the original meaning of the word was deemed necessary. Civility, then, really means more than just being polite. It means genuinely respecting and caring for one another.

It seems to me that we need to revive such courses in civics, but this time in adult education programs. I would visualize the course syllabus to include the following topics:

1) How perspectives are formed – thus we could respect how others obtained their points of view;

2) The value of open-mindedness to a diverse pool of ideas – thus we might spawn a greater idea;

3) The necessity of serving the common good – thus we would realize the need for some individual sacrificing;

4) The importance of building trust in the community – thus we would be able to function together;

5) The significance of respect and civility in communication – thus we could maintain a positive atmosphere for creative progress.
We suggest that you read the entire statement here.

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