A class on civil discourse aims to teach us to be nice

Mon, 2017-09-04

Boston Globe

DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — If a sudden, smiling plague of newfound civility sweeps the nation, infecting partisans on the left and right with virulent strains of respect and dignity, maybe it will have started here, in an idyllic town on the river.

More than 100 Mainers showed up at a Quaker meetinghouse here for a forum about how to be civil while discussing politics — or in other words, how to talk to your uncle about Trump without devolving into red-faced shouting and sarcasm. In a left-leaning town of about 2,000 in a starkly divided county, it wasn’t quite group therapy. But it was something close.

“You wouldn’t be here tonight if you didn’t think this was serious,” said Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the University of Arizona-based National Institute for Civil Discourse, who came to Damariscotta to lead the civility training. Maine is one of four states where the organization is launching an initiative called Revive Civility.