It may not be the only answer to the woes of a divided nation, but promoting civility at home is a good start.
Some liberals from South Whidbey and conservatives from Oak Harbor started a grassroots movement dedicated to the ideals of respect and courtesy. Civility First describes itself as a group of Island County citizens “concerned about the normalization of uncivil discourse.”
It may seem impossible not to talk about President Donald Trump in any discussion about the proliferation of rudeness and disrespectful language. The New York Times reported this summer that he’s on track to insult 650 people, places and things on Twitter alone by the end of his first term.
Yet Civility First isn’t about discussing or criticizing the president or any other political figure. It’s strictly nonpartisan. Cathy Whitmire, one of the founders, says the group’s focus is on civility — defining what it means and promoting it in the community.
The group’s secret weapon is the Civility First Pledge. It’s available online at www.civilityfirst.org.
In signing the pledge, people are agreeing to “model civil behavior and tone, online as well as in public,” to genuinely attempt to understand the point of view of others, to make only accurate statements in defending a position and to expect others to do all of the above.
It’s not about being quietly complacent and agreeable. The pledge calls for people to challenge disrespectful behavior, but in a courteous manner. That might be the most difficult part of the pledge for many of us, whether we are those who shrink from confrontation or have a hard time remaining calm.
But being a positive role model for children — which we should all strive to be — means standing up to bullies and making it clear that rudeness is not acceptable behavior in a civil society.
Of course, there are no civility police to ensure people are following the pledge. But the mere act of reading the pledge and affixing a signature has power, even if it’s just a reminder of the lessons we all should have learned in kindergarten.