2017-06-21 / Editorial

Lawmakers and citizens alike must tone down the heated rhetoric

Following the tragic shooting at a suburban baseball field last week, lawmakers and citizens have been doing soul searching over the state of political discourse. The incendiary talk is fueling strong divisions, sometimes leading to violence.

It is our hope that the conversation over the brutal rhetoric that has replaced civil discourse leads to real change. While very few but the most disturbed of minds ever resort to real violence like the lone gunman who shot U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others gathered to practice for a charity event, the time is overdue to tone down the rhetoric.

There is plenty of bipartisan blame to spread. Those on both sides of the political aisle lob vicious attacks on those who disagree with their views without ever acknowledging another side to issues.

A few months after Rep. Gabby Giffords and 19 others were shot by a gunman in Arizona in 2011, the Institute for Civil Discourse was created. “What has changed is that we no longer share the same facts, and we no longer presume the basic legitimacy of other political players,” explained founder Fred DuVal. “So it makes it easier to demonize the speaker rather than the idea. None of this will change until we assume good — and patriotic — intentions in those with whom we disagree.”

Still, there is some reason for optimism. When the 115th Congress was sworn in this year, 47 members of the freshman class signed a Commitment to Civility pledging to show proper respect and serve as models of civility.

Words truly matter. And for change to come, those at the top need to set the example. 

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