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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Letter to the Editor: Civil Discourse

    On January 8, 2011, Tucson congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords hosted a “Congress on Your Corner” event at Safeway on the corner of West Ina and North Oracle roads. The event was the first of its kind for the congresswoman, who wanted to connect with her constituents in a casual setting.

    However, the event was cut short when a gunman began firing into the crowd in an attempt to assassinate the congresswoman. The gunman was later identified as Jared Lee Loughner, a disturbed college dropout who disagreed with Giffords’ policies. The shooting left six dead and 19 injured, including the congresswoman, who suffered severe brain trauma when the bullet passed through her skull.

    Loughner’s assassination attempt launched a national debate about the dangers of political incivility. When tolerance and civil discourse are removed from the democratic landscape, conflict and gridlock fill their void. Political polarization is at a recent high in American politics. We live in a time period where people vote for candidates solely based upon their party affiliation and where politicians are more concerned with their parties than with their constituencies.

    Unfortunately, this polarization has created political incivility that has left political discourse and inter-party cooperation at a standstill. It has even threatened the lives of policymakers and civilians, such as Giffords and the bystanders at her event.

    Polarization and incivility have become a prominent trend across the board in American government. One such example of this can be seen through the 114th Congress, which passed fewer bills than any other Congress since the 1940s. The inaction of Congress leaves the most urgent problems — immigration reform, the nation’s debt, civil rights — unresolved. It is no wonder that the American people are losing faith in government.

    In 2011, CBS reported that the American approval rating for Congress was 9 percent, only 4 percent higher than their approval of Cuba’s former dictator and human rights violator, Fidel Castro. In addition, the Republican-controlled House has demonized the president since his election in 2008 in attempts to regain the power of the White House. This constant battle between the president and Congress has led to 33 separate repeals of Obamacare repeal in the House and even a government shutdown in 2013.

    There are dozens of real problems facing this nation that need to be solved through effective leadership. However, the uncooperative attitude of the two major political parties has created a divide in resolving issues that has left the American people without the system of leadership that has the ability to make meaningful progress.

    It is essential for the American people to take a stand to end this gridlock-causing incivility. The movement starts with educating our youth about the adverse effects of polarization and noncooperation on policy making and democracy. It is more important than ever for young people to start tracing the origins of their political beliefs, holding themselves accountable for those beliefs, and discussing them in mixed company.

    It is after these steps have been taken that we will be able to celebrate political tolerance, embrace diversity and effectively compromise to create policies and elect leaders that work on the behalf of all Americans.

    I invite all UA students and community members to become part of the solution that is restoring civility to the American political landscape. Please join me and the National Institute for Civil Discourse for what will be a productive evening of civil discourse on April 14 in the university’s Social Sciences building, Room 100, from 7-9 p.m.

    The event will feature Emmy-nominated filmmaker Julie Winokur and a screening of her award-winning documentary “Bring it to the Table.” The film documents her journey traveling around the U.S. while talking to people on both sides of the aisle about the emergence and endurance of their political beliefs. 

    After the documentary screening, audience members will be encouraged to speak about the origins of their beliefs among others with differing ideologies. Attendees will walk away from the event with an open mind, a spirit of collaboration and a deeper understanding of the views of others.

    Together, we can take steps to protect our nation from divisive politics and political incivility that has rendered policymaking ineffective. Through opening the lines of communication and engaging in civil discourse, we can ensure that tragedies, such as the shooting of Giffords, never happen again.


    — Elena Gold, senior studying philosophy, politics, economics and law

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