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Experts weigh in on how America became so divided and how we can remain civil

By October 15, 2020December 15th, 2020No Comments

UArizona’s National Institute for Civil Discourse describes how we can have constructive conversations when politicians don’t

By Karly Tinsley // KOLD News

While our country feels divided, more than in years past, there’s a call to practice better civil discourse.

Keith Allred, the executive director of the University of Arizona’s Institute for Civil Discourse said in simple terms, it means engaging each other with dignity and respect.

However, Allred says that level of respect feels like it’s gone by the wayside. And despite seeing times of great division in the past, this one sticks out.

“We’ve been more deeply divided before in our country during war and civil rights and the Vietnam era. Those were deep divisions. What’s different this time is we’re so deeply divided on partisan lines.”

Moments that support this, the first presidential debate. Allred studies presidential candidates’ discourse in elections going back to the 1960′s. This one he says was unlike any other.

“All of us could see for ourselves without formal analysis that the first presidential debate of 2020 was much worse than any had gone before,” said Allred.

What’s crazy about this political divide is that Allred said average republicans and democrats actually agree on certain policy issues. Yet recently we’ve become angrier at the other party. It creates an us-versus-them mentality that can be fueled by the loudest voices.

“The extremes talk longer and louder than the rest of us, so they create a misimpression that the division between every day Americans are greater than they really are on the issues.”

So how do we become better? Allred’s points on keeping things civil stem from the basics.

  • Do not interrupt: Give a chance for the other side to speak to say their peace
  • Don’t resort to name calling: Stick to the merits of an exchange of ideas. Allred said when people are resorting to character assassination in a discussion or debate, they sort of recognize they aren’t going to win on the merits. Otherwise you’d stick to the merits.
  • Listen for understanding: Really try to hear out and understand the other perspective. This is different than agreeing. Allred said just getting to the point where you understand where they’re coming from and why. And there’s still room for you to also advocate your own perspective but that whole discussion is going to be much more productive if both sides are genuinely trying to listen to each other.
  • Be willing to move on: Allred said not everyone will be reasonable or have views that are based in fact. It’s ok to agree to disagree and walk away.

They’re practices not only for politicians but for people, something Allred said we need to work on to leave the next generation intact.

“We should really take responsibility and say we have to pass this republic off to the next generation in better shape than it is now. If we were all doing more of that the country would be a lot better off. We need to both listen and advocate across those divides without ridicule,” said Allred.

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