Sarah L. Weiss is executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
As Americans, we enjoy a rich tradition of political discourse, ideological diversity, and debate. Although we are in the midst of a very tense and divisive political season, let each of us be a voice for civility.
As we approach Election Day, let's take the time to reflect on the importance of cordial public discourse and respect of different viewpoints.
Jewish tradition teaches that we should avoid shaming, embarrassing, and belittling one another by acting or speaking rashly in the heat of passion. However, at times, particularly during elections, political discourse can become needlessly acrimonious and undermine the spirit of engagement and citizenship among Americans. While it may seem difficult, we must engage in civil dialogue, even with those who think differently than us.
So, nine days out, here are nine reasons to choose civility this election season.
1. Preserve a strong democracy. Healthy debate and dialogue can ensure our successful democracy. Held in a spirit of respect, this exchange can allow us to find common ground when warranted and foster a more united America.
2. We can solve problems, together. A vigorous exchange of ideas featuring different perspectives allows us to experiment with varied approaches and arrive at effective public policy solutions that help improve the lives of us all.
3. Pluralism in America. We are fortunate to live in one of the few places in the world where pluralism works, but we have to value our differences in order to ensure we don’t fail in this endeavor.
4. All politics are local. While much of the focus of this election season has been on the presidential election, many decisions effecting our everyday lives are made on the local level. We need to be able to engage in dialogue about issues and candidates on a local level that will have a direct impact on our lives.
5. Our children are watching. I have heard many young people question the hateful, divisive rhetoric we have seen during this campaign cycle. Allowing this rhetoric to persist could alienate our youth and make them less likely to engage civically. Let’s show them how interesting and constructive, and not how ugly and negative, civic engagement can be.
6. We must foster tolerance. Shrill political discussion can cross the line and spread intolerance and bigotry. Especially during elections, when divisions are most pronounced, we must be vigilant in preventing political discourse from drawing on deep-seated resentment and intolerance.
7. Maintain our integrity. In order to live up to our moral imperative, we must not walk away from the possibility of debate, but we must engage in a way that protects and furthers our own interests without denigrating those with whom we may disagree.
8. We can learn from each other. As interdependent human beings, we have come to lean on each other both in times of despair and in times of hope and possibility. As we continue to write new chapters of history every day, we continuously learn and realize that acting with integrity and empathy will help achieve a truly civil society in which our collective effort to propel the world forward can become a reality.
9. The election will be over. No matter what happens on Nov. 8, we will need to act civilly and work together. We might as well start now.