After years of increasingly polarized rhetoric, there’s talk of a new civility in the air. It seems to have taken the tragic shooting in Tucson to shake some of our leaders into the recognition of the harmfulness of incivility. We expect to see a step tomorrow evening with Republicans and Democrats sitting side by side during the State of the Union address. It’s just a step, and there’s a deep culture of incivility that will have to be transformed before a new civility can dawn.
What might change the shared beliefs, values, and behaviors that make up the culture of incivility? Changing any culture is exceedingly difficult. There are enormous forces allied with the status quo. But cultures can change. This week on OurValues.org, we’ll talk about the current culture of incivility, where it comes from—and how it might be changed.
For today, how about getting members of Congress to sign a “civility pledge”? Mark DeMoss, self-described as a “conservative evangelical Southern Baptist,” and Lanny David, a liberal, launched just such an effort. In early 2009, the duo formed the CivilityProject.org. One effort was a “Civility Pledge”—a 32-word document sent in May last year to all sitting members of Congress.
Here’s the text:
- I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
- I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
- I will stand against incivility when I see it.
How many members of Congress do you suppose signed it? 100? 200? Maybe more? Actually, only three did: Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent, Representatives Frank Wolfe and Sue Myrick, both Republicans.
Due to the lack of interest, DeMoss and company have decided to shut down the Civility Project. DeMoss says he hasn’t given up on civility, but the title of his recent blog is, “Don’t Expect Civility.”
Do you think he’s right?
Or, is there hope?
How would you promote a culture of civility?
Please, “Comment” below.
(Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)