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September 20, 2004



Hugo, you continue to be a passionate and compelling advocate for civil and respectful political discourse across enormous gulfs of deep disagreement. You're obviously rather good at it, and you do a wonderful job of inspiring it here. I admire your patience and commitment to such goals.

I'm just thinking out loud here, but let me ask a question: When are civility and respect not appropriate responses (if ever)? It seems to me like outrage, disengagement, and yes, disrespect (or a particular sort) might be appropriate responses to some positions and arguments.

It's my suspicion that such responses are not only understandable in some circumstances, but appropriate. If I can figure out how to articulate the conditions under which I think this is the case with any conviction or pursausiveness, I will, but but while I'm chewing on that I'm curious what you or your other readers might think about this.


Oh, and me too on the gay marriage issue. And discussions about treatment of prisoners and prison conditions with those who think this isn't a big deal because those are bad people and as such deserve no better. Most other topics I keep my suavity and composure relatively easily.


Well, I often think about Nazis. Real, contemporary, flesh-and-blood swastika wearing types. How do I have civil discourse with them?

I agree, dfw, I don't think it's possible. But I don't think civility requires me to engage in dialogue with everyone all the time. I think a firm, tactful disengagement is acceptable. It may even be the wisest strategy when dealing with folks who may have a propensity to act violently.

I also think we have a responsibility to listen, but not endlessly. Lots of folks get very repetitive, and civility does not obligate us to sit, stupified, while they unwind on us. Again, disengaging gracefully is the ticket.


Wow, I wish that everyone took your thoughtful approach to politics.

As for myself, I get to be in a very interesting position. I love politics, which is why I went into the industry. Technically, I work in the political arena. However, because I work in the election industry and not within a party, I cannot allow myself to engage in anything that identifies with a side. Officially, I can say anything that I want, give money where I want, etc. just like anyone else. Realistically, I can’t. It isn’t feasible or wise. I can talk about the process, the new technology, legislation, etc. but all in neutral tones. It’s very, very difficult. The upside is that I truly believe in the voting process and almost always feel good about the work that I do. The downside is that it really isn’t that fun to feel the need to always disengage gracefully.

La Lubu

What will I do in the next 43 days, as far as political conversation goes? Mostly preach to the choir, especially the choir that is so demoralized they might just stay home instead of get out and sing. I applaud your efforts, and hope you get somewhere; I get too stressed out and aggravated. My path in these situations with certain family members has been disengagement. I mean, what kind of enlightened conversation is going to take place between me and my screwy, uhhmm..politically challenged uncle, the one who thinks that something as fairly innocuous as zoning laws are a communist plot? Blood pressure just isn't supposed to rise that high.

Point being, if I find that mutual respect, even in disagreement, is a likely result in a political conversation...I'll engage. I like to talk, I like to listen, I like to learn. But I have no intention of being anyone's verbal punching bag, and I've got real battles to fight, so I'm not spoiling for one just for the hell of it. "Don't encourage them" is my mother's advice, and I've found it to be sound.

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