Friday, October 10, 2008

A Plea for Civility

Right now emotions are running high—as they always do right before major elections. We see ads running that are misleading at best and outright lies at worst. Fear drives people to take stands denouncing anyone who disagrees with that person's position. Today I'd like to make a plea.

Please listen with respect to someone who supports the person you oppose. Listen for the fear that lies behind that support. And then listen to your own arguments and hear the fear in your own voice. We all want what's best for this country. Where we disagree is in what might provide that solution—or who might provide that solution.

I don't believe anyone has a lock on wisdom. Our best shot of creating a happier, healthier and yes, safer country and world is to work together, all of us treating each other with respect as we do so.

I understand ambition and I cringe every time I see or hear someone abandon their principles in order to succeed. I admire those who are willing to acknowledge that someone with whom they disagree could be a good and decent person anyway.

It's hard to do that when we are afraid and yet paradoxically it's our best shot at solving whatever crisis is scaring us.

If you are a writer, how do your characters deal with disagreements? Do they listen with respect? Do they attack? What in their past experience has shaped how they deal with disagreement? What does it mean to them? What do or could your characters who disagree learn from each other?

Even if ultimately we or our characters must take a stand, our best shot of persuading others to stand with us is to begin by listen to and hearing and respecting the fear that shapes the other person's position.

Stepping off my soapbox now. But just imagine what kind of world this could be if we all began by treating each other with respect.