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Bridging the Great Divide (Cont'd)

"Civility and politeness was always part of my culture and continued to be when I moved to Washington. My theory on the erosion of civility: telemarketing. All of my training to be thoughtful and polite went out the window when I became bombarded with solicitation calls. . . . I found myself interrupting callers, hanging up on persistent talkers and abandoning my civility." -- C.F., Washington, D.C.

Most striking of all, perhaps, were the people who admitted being incapable of showing civility toward the political opposition. One writer, M.R., said that it's too late to bring political civility to the country, that finding common ground with what he called the "Radical Right administration" is tantamount to compromising with the devil.

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Bridging the Great Divide (The Washington Post, Jan 29, 2005)
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R.J. of Virginia saw it much the same way. She said she had no intention of "playing nice" with an administration that takes advantage of liberals and Democrats whenever they show the slightest weakness or compromise. "Power is the only thing these creatures understand," she wrote.

Another writer, D.C. of Massachusetts, was completely dismissive of liberal Democrats, calling them "racists. They approve of blacks attaining the highest offices as long as they adhere to the leftie line." How's that for trying to reach a higher ground?

Am I suggesting that Democrats and Republicans should all hold hands and dance and sing and forget about their differences on critical issues? Am I trying to suggest that partisan activists or people with liberal and conservative mind-sets should surrender their convictions and begin speaking softly and tenderly with each other? Of course not.

But the enmity, as emotionally satisfying as it may be to the holder, stands in the way of the civility required to bridge political differences.

One thing shines through in the dozens of responses: Ideological and partisan rivals do have something in common -- an exaggerated sense of their own righteousness, aggravated by an inability to recognize that the other side may not be evil incarnate with nothing to offer.

Even when there is an acknowledgment of something of value on the other side, it's done with sentiment best reserved for al Qaeda.

Hear the likely next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, expressing his admiration this week for the display of discipline in the other party's organization. He prefaced that statement with the observation, "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for." "Hate"? Sadly, some Republicans feel likewise about Democrats.

America is "confident and strong"? What about our nightmare politics?

kingc@washpost.com


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