After a day spent celebrating our independence, it’s worth noting that civility does still matter in this country, no matter what we are told daily by the screaming heads on both the left and the right who so frequently dominate the conversation.
Civility matters in politics because it still matters in our day-to-day interactions with our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers, and the loss or degradation of civility in politics affects our day-to-day lives as well. The more difficult it becomes for each of us to tolerate differing points of view and engage with those with whom we disagree, the more difficult it becomes to be kind to strangers or accept kindness from them.
The American Revolution was ultimately successful not just because our country won hard-fought victories against a numerically superior enemy on the battlefield, but also because after those victories, we were prepared for independence. We were ready for self-government because we already had a long-established civil society, including local government, a judiciary, state militia and civic organizations. Much of the Declaration of Independence is a list of grievances against King George III specifying ways in which he violated those longstanding cultural norms. Now it’s up to us to make sure we uphold the legacy of the Revolution rather than emulating the tyrant our founding fathers were rebelling against. Part of that necessitates a recommitment to civility in politics and in government.
Civility should not preclude disagreement or division; we shouldn’t feel a need to suppress opinions (ours or anyone else’s) in order to remain civil to one another. The famous admonition to avoid talking politics or religion is true to a certain extent, but it should be taken to mean that there’s a time and a place for such discussions, not that they should always be avoided. It also doesn’t mean…