Do as I say, not as I do (and did this summer with Oxford*) -- Democracy: A commitment to civility.
Democracy is a means of living together despite our differences. Democratic deliberation is an alternative to physical violence. It is predicated on the assumption that it's possible to disagree agreeably, that it's better to laugh than cry, that one can vigorously contest the positions of one's adversary without questioning his or her personal integrity or motivation, and that parties to a debate are entitled to the presumption that their views are legitimate if not correct.- Thomas Mann
With few exceptions, such definitions of how the nation we live in should conduct its public discourse is not reflected in our current political campaigns. Many are being conducted with a winner-take-all mentality that's based on purely inflammatory and often false information.
The Thomas Mann quote describing democratic debate is incorporated into a document called "Guidelines for Civil Discourse" adopted by the Lexington, Mass., city government as a way to encourage respect for each person's right to free speech. The guidelines evidently grew out of conduct and less-than-civil discussions at some past city government meeting, but the rules are just as applicable to candidates as to citizens, to political panels and moderators, to newscasters and news makers and to city council presidents and council members.
It discourages the mean-spirited personal attacks that build from heated debates on substantive and trivial issues and encourages a more civil exchange of ideas.
Some of the Lexington guidelines are:
• Show respect for others. Only one person should be speaking at any given time. Use helpful, not hurtful language.
• Restate ideas when necessary but use a civil tone of voice.
• Respectfully hear and listen to differing points of view.
• Realize that what you say and what people understand you to have said may be different.
• Recognize that people can agree to disagree.
Good advice extracted taken from an editorial in the 10-4-04 Macon Telegraph.
* Although he did deserve it.