The Civility Project: A needed effort to stop the screaming

Mark DeMoss and Lanny Davis are probably about two of the most politically opposite people you would ever want to meet. DeMoss is a conservative evangelical who worked for Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign and is president of The DeMoss Group public relations firm which represents, among others, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse non-profit and Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship. Davis is a Jew who is a veteran adviser to the Clintons and is a three-time member of the Democratic National Committee. He was on the other side of the fence from DeMoss in 2008 deep into Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House. What the two men have in common is a distaste for the finger-pointing, name calling and bombast that has become all too common from both sides of the ideological spectrum. The pair is leaders of The Civility Project which asks Americans of all political stripes to sign an online petition with three important caveats: • 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. Having taught middle school before, this is essentially the same principles preached to 11 year-olds, which should provide a hint as to how far off-track our ability to disagree with one another has become as adults. “We don’t get our way with a lot of things in this world,” DeMoss said in an interview. “I didn’t get my way in the last election. I didn’t vote for President Obama. But because I didn’t get my way doesn’t mean I’m going to go make a scene or interrupt some meeting. … There is enough guilt and blame on this incivility for both sides of the political spectrum.” Certainly the screaming matches that have erupted at health care town halls come to mind. People have concerns and they should be answered by our elected representatives. I am 100 percent in favor of holding public officials to task. That being said, you’re much more likely to get an answer you may not agree with, but can understand, if you’re not screaming at the top of your lungs screaming about euthanizing your grandmother. Similarly it is irksome when some advocates of gay marriage will try use a broad brush to paint all Christians as hypocritical bigots for opposing the ceremonies on faith-based grounds. A conservative interpretation of Scripture does not make someone analogous to hosing down civil rights protesters with a water cannon. Neither side has a monopoly on worthy ideas and legitimate criticism, nor is either side free of some people who simply don’t know when to stop and just listen. Our ability to listen and accept differing points of view is one of our greatest strengths as a culture; it’s a major part of what separates us from places like Iran and Myanmar. By all means, make your point and defend your stance. Just do it without shouting in someone else’s face. Links: The Civility Project: http://www.civilityproject.org/ Mark DeMoss interview on National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=111801766&m=111801756

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