What is civility? Civility in public discourse has come to be equated with a level of due process, allowing everyone to have their say without being heckled or intimidated, not turning policy issues into personal ones, and keeping debates peaceful. To find an acceptable definition, Justice Scalia might turn to a dictionary to be accurate, and one defines civility as follows:
- Courteous behavior; politeness.
- A courteous act or utterance.
A civil discussion should in some way define and advance our goals for a civil society. It should go well beyond the mere process of allowing people to speak about their already formed positions. It must encourage us to collectively address issues through a process that moves us closer to achieving shared goals. Lining us up and having us hit each other with thickly padded gloves to avoid bloodshed does not accomplish much, but simply sends us all home with a headache rather than a broken nose. We should challenge ourselves in our public discourse to raise the bar of civility to focus on a process that builds unifying bridges, and perhaps we'll all be better off.