Taking a Stand for Civility

(Adam Tinworth)

I think almost every reader will agree with me when they say they hated reading Facebook after the election results. Gloating, name-calling, and absurd statements about “moving to Canada” seemed to take over everyone’s mind for a few days.

The next morning, in the Baylor Lariat editorial, students were urged to “Support President Obama” for “America’s sake”. By this, it seems the editorial was using the word “support” to mean “respect”. Surely we are not all expected to agree with the President’s policies and forget his shortcomings, but we would do well to be civil in our debates and political discussions, in order to not alienate friends and family.

The key quote from the editorial was,

“Whether you voted for Obama or Romney, this is a call for respect and civility in debates and political decision-making.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Right under the Lariat editorial on the morning after Election Day was a column by Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald. In his column, Pitts accused conservatives of wanting to “repeal the decade” of civil rights.

Pitts goes on to allege that conservatives want to “restore our past”, accusing them of a “collective yearning for the perceived simplicity and normalcy of yesterday.”

According to Pitts,

“The power it holds over conservative minds is proved in the decibel level of the temper tantrum, the desperate fury of the resistance.”

Let me ask you this – how is this considered “civil and respectful debate”? Accusing an entire party of being racists is not just disrespectful. It is malicious and offensive.

In a prior column (also published by the Lariat), Pitts attacked the Republican party with another outrageous claim. According to Pitts, Republicans only view women as “bystanders to their own existence, their individual situations subordinate to a one-size-fits-all morality, their very selves unimportant, except as vessels bearing children.” Now, apparently, Republicans hate women too.

In yet another column (published Friday by the Lariat), Pitts again reflects his hatred of the Republican party by arguing it “has chosen to appeal to [their] base with a platform of fear mongering, xenophobia, demagoguery and inchoate anger” and “has embraced the politics of pitchforks and bomb throwing.”

Do all of these comments sound like respect and civility in political debates? Not at all. They are inflammatory insults with no basis in facts. Yet, for some reason, Pitts’ believes these comments are appropriate to be printed in newspapers around the country.

Pitts is not the first to embrace the temptation to insult political opponents. Chris Matthews of MSNBC, on the day of the election, “predicted” multiple times that Obama would not do well in the South because of his race. Never mind the fact that Obama won more votes in Texas in both 2008 and 2012 than John Kerry in 2004.
Insulting your political opponents or exaggerating their views is no way to change their mind. It may even make them more set in their beliefs.
A variation of this article was originally published in the Baylor Lariat on 11/13/12.
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4 responses to “Taking a Stand for Civility

  1. Amen! Let’s be fair, though, Include at least one example from the conservative side of uncivil discourse, your choice.

    • Agreed. This article was specifically targeted to the Baylor Lariat audience, responding to Pitts’ columns. I made the title more general in the online version, but didn’t add any other text. (As you noticed)

      There certainly are plenty of examples. Calling Obama a socialist could be a good example. Or, more personally, I was having a discussion at church the other day with a girl in my college group who is a Democrat. She said she was pro-life, but healthcare was more important to her. Another girl commented, “killing babies isn’t important to you?” I pointed out that it was a perfect example of what my column was about.

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