One night last week, I was inspired, however, by a small group of people who are trying to restore civility in public conversation – and therefore help us make better progress in solving our problems. Our big three, the economy, health care, war, are all stymied now by vast differences of opinion and approach – and high levels of mistrust – of each other’s ideas on how to move forward.
The Village Square, an informal civic group that’s now two years old here in Tallahassee, had invited to town former Iowa Republican Congressman Jim Leach, who is now chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Leach isn’t exactly a rock star on a world tour, but he is setting out to visit all 50 states on his mission of reinventing civility as a path to solving some of the above gargantuan problems.
It was just a few days before the earthquake in Haiti when The Nature Conservancy’s Andy McLeod, introducing Leach, spoke of avenues to progress. “Its saving grace is in a society that seeks to cultivate moral sensibility,” he said.
In its government institutions and among its citizens, progress can hardly occur without moral sensibility; that is, respect for each other.
This is notably lacking today with rancor that’s become business-as-usual and widely accepted. Spouting off is habit-forming – if even the loudest spouters realize it’s not very helpful.
Leach is mercifully self-effacing, noting that “few subjects are duller than public manners.” Yet his proposition is a simple challenge that any one of us can apply to ourselves (and our blogs): We can use words, he said, “to bring out our better angels” or we can use them dishonestly to confuse and undermine each other.
When it comes to the rivalry of ideas, Leach said, our choice is to “stir anger, polarize and compel violence” with what we say.
Or, conversely, we can use “healing language” such as Lincoln used in his second inaugural address, inspiring the nation to bind up its Civil War wounds “with malice toward none.”
Read the whole article HERE.