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Bill Donius Headshot

Lost: Civility, Found: Vitriol in Public Debate

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Is teen suicide the price we pay for the loss of civility in public debate? I've wondered about the unintended consequences from public debates filled increasingly with racial slurs, anger and the threat of violence. What messages are the children of this country internalizing?

Is the manner in which a message is presented as important as the message itself? Is is okay to vilify a politician you don't agree with? Worse, is any comment or action 'fair game' in pursuit of a particular position?

Our democracy and heritage are shorted when we are unable to have a honest, civil discussion about an issue. Yet, increasingly the country is polarized by groups unable to sit down and have a discussion about our differences. For starters, where would these discussion occur?

Talking about solutions presents a even bigger challenge. We've seen the health care reform debate, the bailout bills, and other issues of the day bring forth behavior we've not witnessed before in this country.

Is the reason these issues are so emotionally charged? Or, we are increasingly divided politically? Or, we as a nation are not well informed enough to have a true in-depth discussion on a particular topic? I'm not sure I know the answer. The effect on the country cannot be positive. In addition, vitriolic debate offers a poor example for the younger generation. How can we expect them to learn civility in debate? Moreover, how can we expect them to care enough to dig deep enough to actually study the issues prior to debate?

Perhaps we should all try sitting down with an opponent on an issue to determine if there is anything we can learn about an opposing position?