In simple terms civil discourse is the engagement in discourse intended to enhance understanding. Civil discourse can only occur when each side demonstrates respect for the other’s right to their opinion; listens to understand, and doesn’t assume that their side is right and the other side is wrong.
I believe that our country is sadly lacking in Civil Discourse. Discourse intended to enhance understanding seldom happens and when it does it is generally not civil.
Raise your hand if you can honestly say you have observed or been a part of a discussion where two people who have opposing opinions on a political or social issue have been able to have an honest but reasonable conversation without getting angry or raising their voices.
Now, raise your hand if the only conversations about political or social issues you have are with people whom you already know are in agreement with you?
Most of us don’t engage in any civil discourse because our previous experiences have taught us that it will just result in an argument and sometimes can even result in the loss of a friendship.
If we do engage in discourse about an issue, it is not because we want to enhance our understanding but rather our intent is to affirm what we already believe by talking with the people whom we already know agree with us.
It is alarming to me that in a country that has “free speech” as one of it fundamental principles, it is almost impossible for us to exercise that right without being yelled at or condemned for our viewpoints by those who disagree with us.
A democracy needs Civil Discourse in order to thrive, grow and change. The honest exchange of ideas between individuals or groups with different opinions and strategies is a part of the strength of this country and democracy.
We are facing many important problems in our country: immigration issues, safety within our communities, racism, poverty, sex trafficking, and more. These are complicated issues. No one person or group has “THE” right answer, but if we got together and participated in Civic Discourse through a Civic Dialogue process about these issues over time we could come up with solutions that could be accepted by all.
As I was researching some sites about “civil discourse” I came across the Bill of Rights Institute. This organization promotes education of young adults about the Bill of Rights and the process of Civil Discourse. I’ve pasted the link to YouTube that shows a two-minute video about the definition and importance of Civil Discourse. I found it both enlightening and encouraging. I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to hear your thoughts about it as well as your opinions about what I’ve stated in this blog.
Paste the following URL into your browser to view a 2 minute video produced by Bill of Rights Institute:
https://youtu.be/go5pjCDE (If this url does not work, then go to You Tube and search for Bill of Rights Institute and you should come up with their video on what civil discourse means.) I tried this URL earlier today and it took me right to it but when I tried it after I posted it I got an error message.
Definitions of Civic Discourse Civic discourse is when people talk about issues in the “worlds” around them to begin a discussion where people communicate with one another about political, social, cultural or economic issues that are faced by their community.
Definition of Civic Dialogue This is a structured format for public dialogue that provides a tool to build bridges across the chasm of public viewpoints. Civil dialogue helps people communicate in vigil and productive ways especially when they face “hot topics” and need to employ “cool heads.”