I recently read a New York Times article written by a professor of clinical psychiatry
bemoaning the increase in incivility in political discourse.
Dr. Richard Friedman’s belief is that the increase of negatively evaluative comments coming from President Trump is having a negative effect. Dr. Friedman cites several studies in making his case that using dehumanizing language increases prejudice, decreases sensitivity to verbal aggression over time and is linked to anger and impulses toward violence. He also talks about how when one group feels threatened, it makes it much easier to think about people in another group as less than human and to have little empathy for them.
In these times of increasing polarization, it has never been more important to call for civil discourse and to hold ourselves and our politicians to this higher standard.
Dr. Friedman also partook in an open letter regarding civility in public discourse. The letter is an initiative of a Michigan politician who created a website where over 220 individuals and groups, mostly Michigan citizens, have endorsed the movement. Their names stand as a commitment to “standing up for civility in public debate and discussions of policy.” They want public discourse to be collaborative – to disagree without being disagreeable, to debate without personal attacks, to solve problems together. There is even a website asking others to join the initiative: www.civilityforus.com.
Wouldn’t it be great if every municipality and every provincial politician and every federal politician started a website where they could collect names of those who endorse civility in politics? I love it!
We are social animals. Our behaviours catch on. Let’s add our voices to the ones spreading kindness and civility.