A recent poll by the Center for Political Participation at Allegheny College and Zogby International found that the majority of Americans say they are "turned off" when politics become "rude and nasty," and 95 percent say civility in politics is important for a healthy democracy.
Do we make the argument that the present level of discourse in our society provides some people a sense of entitlement to act or do things that might not ordinarily do? Have we fallen so far that it only takes a sound-bite to launch a tragedy?
The following passage could have come from any of a dozen of today's popular media columnists like George Will, Maureen Dowd or Charles Krauthammer. But in fact, it is from a piece written in 1776 by one of our founding fathers, John Adams. It seemed an appropriate thought to finish my column:
"We may please ourselves with the prospect of free and popular governments, God grant us the way. But I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise rather than sense, by meanness rather than greatness, and by ignorance and not learning. There is one thing...that must be attempted and most sacredly observed, or we are all undone. There must be decency and respect and veneration introduced for persons of every rank, or we are undone. In popular government, this is our only way."
Adams' negatives - noise, meanness and ignorance - describe the state of discourse today. If they continue, indeed we are undone.
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