According to definitions.net, “civil discourse is engagement in discourse intended to enhance understanding.” Kenneth J. Gergen describes civil discourse as “the language of dispassionate objectivity,” and suggests that it requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. “It neither diminishes the other’s moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences.” (www.definitions.net, 8/4/19).
Social media is anything but social. It has encouraged anonymous posts that are full of anger, disrespect, rancor and ignorance. Let’s have a conversation begin with sincere listening to one another’s side of the issue. Let’s thoughtfully point out where we can agree to begin steps to reach solutions that address our societal problems. It may be safe to say that family stability, quality education and financial security are important. How do we ensure that everyone who plays by the rules, works hard with a spirit of excellence, can fairly achieve those laudable goals? Collaboratively develop a game plan that fairly empowers anyone to reach their full potential — regardless of their background. Let’s put aside pettiness, insecurity, immaturity and name calling. Time to talk and act like adults. The kindergarten-level shenanigans have gone on long enough. Civil discourse or mature, respectful communication that will lead to meaningful outcomes is long overdue. I miss old school manners. Saying please, thank you, excuse me, you’re welcome are rarely spoken let alone texted, posted or emailed. Let’s get back to healthy discussions that leave us empowered, encouraged and energized. Then maybe next time we won’t have to ask whatever happened to civil discourse because it’s happening – in the White House, in the governor’s mansion, in houses of worship, at sports events, in our schools or at the grocery counter. Let’s start caring about each other without a crisis or tragedy taking place. Let’s see people as people with the same goals as we do, which were mentioned earlier. I’m reminded of two songs of long ago – Lean on Me by Bill Withers — “You just call on me brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on. I just might have a problem that you’ll understand. We all need somebody to lean on.” The other is What the World Needs Now by Jackie DeShannon – “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Simple words but powerful concepts that can help us return to civil discourse.
The most important things in life aren’t things.