Finding civility: League of Women Voters present case for civil discourse in today’s world

Thu, 2017-11-09

Martha Cox has a passion for politics. Since retiring as a high school English teacher 10 years ago, she’s become active with the League of Women Voters, currently serving as first vice president in the state organization. Saturday (Nov. 4), she took a plane-hopping day trip from San Diego to conduct a workshop on politicking.

That event—held at Chico State, titled “What Kind of Talk Does Democracy Need?”—focused on bringing together community members to solve problems through civil discourse, in a time when incivility runs rampant. Cox has devoted the better part of six years to finding a means to counter divisiveness and coarseness in public dialogue.

“I just found that our country was in trouble, because we were not able to sit around a table and solve our country’s problems,” she told the CN&R after the workshop, echoing a theme of her introductory remarks. “It seemed like the decibel level needed to be raised before any discussion occurred; it was not productive discussion, and it seemed like there needed to be a better way.

“The league’s motto is ‘Make Democracy Work’—and to me [this effort] made perfect sense.”

A seminal event spurred action. In 2011, then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot while meeting constituents in Arizona. She was wounded, but six people died that day. Cox and her North County San Diego league colleagues dedicated themselves to addressing the problem of incivility. They were not alone: Within weeks of the tragedy, citizens of Tucson and others formed the National Institute for Civil Discourse, whose work the San Diego league members used as a resource.