Civility Linkblogging: City Government and Bangladesh

By Anita Pratanti, via flickr

This post is part of our ongoing effort to highlight discourse about civility around the web. Our articles for civility linkblogging come from a wide cross-section of blogs and newspapers, magazines and other websites, from the United States and abroad.

This week, we delve into civic politics from Tallahasse, Florida, to Buffalo, New York, to Columbia, South Carolina, noting especially a thoughtful piece by Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin, who begins with the story of an old man’s words to his grandson:

“There is a battle raging inside of me, a terrible fight between two wolves.

“One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

“The other is good,” he continued. “He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

“There is a battle raging inside of me. It rages inside of everyone in our village, inside every person since time began, and it rages inside of you.”

Frightened, the boy asked, “But, Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The old man reached out with weathered arms embracing his grandson to comfort him and, holding him close, answered: “Whichever one you feed, child. Whichever one you feed.”

If you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now, onto the links:

From The Left: There Is A Place For Civility In Politics
Posted by GameND at, March 20, 2014

When I speak of civility, I don’t mean that politics should not be a full contact activity. I really believe that there is a time and a place for aggressive and even negative campaigning. When you put your name on a ballot, you open your life up to public scrutiny.

However, there is a fine line between attacking a candidate’s position or their qualifications and attacking the candidate as a person and/or attacking their family.

Benjamin: Let Us Choose Civility
Posted by Steve Benjamin at, March 25, 2014

It’s not about Bull Street or baseball or even Columbia. It’s bigger than that. It’s the name calling and wild accusations, the victory-at-all-costs attitude on display across our nation from school boards to state legislatures, city councils to Congress. It’s a bitter pill for anyone to swallow, and it’s making all of us petty and mean.

The answer is civility — rules not of courtesy or etiquette but rather of citizenship: making the commitment to respect each other as citizens if not as individuals and putting the common good before our personal ambitions. It’s about recognizing that whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together, and building our collective future is more important than winning an argument.

Collapse of Civility in Bangladeshi Politics
Posted by Quamrul Haider at The Daily Star, March 27, 2014

Even in the rough-and-tumble world of political rivalry, there are limits to how uncivil politicians should be. Unfortunately, Bangladeshi politicians have crossed all boundaries of decency. Incivility reached its lowest ebb when threat of physical harm was issued by an influential lawmaker of the ruling party.

Politics is an art of compromise, not a show of incivility. And civility in politics is the art of tolerating dissent and reconciling differences amicably. Civility requires a willingness to consider respectfully the views of others and try to make compromise. However, compromise does not necessarily imply total agreement. It means putting personal animosity aside, placing the country ahead of the party and discussing the real issues with an open mind.

Conduct City Business with Order and Civility
Posted by Mike Sittig at, March 27, 2014

For too long, the discussion of important public issues has often resembled a free-for-all hosted by World Wrestling Entertainment instead of a dialogue to benefit the taxpayers of our communities.

It’s time someone took a positive step forward to improve our discourse, prevent the hijacking of meetings to promote personal vendettas and ensure that our leaders are tackling the public business in front of them.

Conference Explores Civility and Compromise
Posted by Deidre Williams at The Buffalo News, March 28, 2014

In a serious tone, [Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster] said the key to compromise is not to abandon moral principles and to recognize you are not always going to convince everyone you are right, he said, adding that everyone should separate people’s political views and ideology and “see the person.”

Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen said the two must go hand in hand.

“If we have compromise without civility, we make decisions that do not include others,” he said. “And that’s how you end up with classism and racism.”

Civility Linkblogging: The (Mostly) Canada Edition

By Anita Pratanti, via flickr

This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility online. We glean the articles for civility linkblogging from a broad cross-section of blogs, newspapers, and magazines, from the United States and abroad.

This week, our linkblogging segment focuses primarily on Canada: on Rob Ford’s ongoing stewardship of Toronto; on increased polarization in the national legislature; on the poor influence — the polarizing influence — of political culture imported from the United States; and on one grade six class that has had just about enough of name-calling, and will no longer visit Alberta’s provincial legislature meetings.

If you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

Polly: A Time When Political Civility Was Rule, Not Exception
Posted at The Eastern Arizona Courier, March 12, 2014

Polly believed that what she did as a legislator was important, but she never considered herself important. Her important work is not forgotten. In fact, an annual Polly Rosenbaum Dinner is being held every year in Clifton to honor her dedication on behalf of Greenlee County. The 6th annual event honoring her is Thursday, March 20, at Tyler’s Taste of Texas in Clifton.

It is being sponsored by the Greenlee Democrats – and while Polly was a lifelong Democrat – anybody is welcome to the dinner, regardless of political affiliation. Polly would have liked it that way.

A Lesson in Online Civility
Posted at The Calgary Herald, March 12, 2014

Coun. Sean Chu may be a newcomer to city hall, but he’s getting a quick education on the etiquette of social media.

Tuesday, Chu questioned the accuracy of city staff’s cycling counts along the new 7th Street S.W. bike lane. Fair enough, but the Ward 4 politician went further, appearing to attack city staff who are unable to respond to such criticism publicly. …

He has issued an apology, but still faces the prospect of being censured under council’s ethical conduct policy.

Tory MP On Cusp of Retirement Laments Decline of Commons Civility
Posted by Jennifer Ditchburn at The Ottowa Star, March 14, 2014

Hawn doesn’t lay the blame for the lack of civility on any particular party, or expect any particular leader to produce a solution.

“I think it does come down to individuals thinking about what they’re doing and saying every day and just the simple things. People fire a shot, a nasty shot, instead of just saying, ‘Well you know what, maybe they’ve got some good ideas’,” said Hawn.

“I’ve always said, the opposition aren’t stupid people, we’re all here for the same reason, they all came to Ottawa to make a positive difference and we all want to get essentially to the same destination … we argue about the road we’re on to get there.”

Political Trash-Talking is Nothing New, but It’s Getting Worse
Posted by Wendy Gillis at, March 15, 2014

Are our democratic institutions imploding, or is heated debate just an inevitable part of the system, serving as evidence of a healthy diversity of representation?

Researchers interviewed by the Star agree there has a recent downward spiral in the conduct of our politicians and civility in office, both on a local scale and in other levels of government.

Gary Levy, a political scientist at Carleton University, says it’s hard to pinpoint what prompted it — a spike in tumultuous minority governments, maybe the polarizing influence of the U.S. — but agrees politicians’ behaviour has seen a change for the worse.

“I just get the feeling that there’s no longer the concept of fair is fair, and do unto others — golden rule type of thing. It’s rather ‘the end justifies the means,’ and ‘we’ll do anything to stay in power.’”

Legislature Could Use Some Civility
Posted at The Lethbridge Herald, March 19, 2014

Premier Alison Redford and Opposition leader Danielle Smith have sparred on numerous occasions and the battle between the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Alliance is primed to heat up even further.

Those disagreements have been widely publicized, and often fuelled by combatants through social media, as the race to form this province’s next government has caused a never-ending cycle of mudslinging.

For members of the media, and citizens deeply involved in politics, much of this comes as no surprise. However, the issue received much more attention last week when a Grade 6 class in Innisfail informed the Legislature students would no longer attend question period.

Repeated displays of rudeness, name calling and offensive language were cited as just some of the reasons the class felt the need to speak out, as the childish behaviour witnessed was simply too much for the youngsters to tolerate.

Civility Linkblogging: Campus, Raceway, and Ghana

By Anita Pratanti, via flickr

This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility from around the Web.  We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues, from the United States and around the world.

This week’s civility linkblogging features stories that focus on the domestic sphere, especially: on the adjustment that college students face as they move out of their parents’ homes, and must negotiate space with roommates who are sometimes all but strangers; and on the fierce world of rivalries between sports fans, where loyalty all too easily slips into ad hominem attacks.

This week also features a column about incivility in the national politics of Ghana, where American readers will find familiar the writer’s articulation of the problems of party polarization, incessant name-calling, and the incendiary effect of cable news.

Do you have a link that you think would be right for this segment? Please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

Divided Stockton City Council Looking For More Civility At Meetings
Posted at CBS Sacramento, August 14, 2013

Stockton’s legislative council gathered on Wednesday and asked for recommendations from city staff on how to make the meetings more smooth and civilized.

Civility Critical to Surviving Dormatory Life
Posted by Debra Nussbaum at, August 18, 2013

The rules for making peace with roommates are not much different from the basic etiquette that makes life better for everyone. To get you started this fall, try these tips from local students and Rutgers roommate agreements.

Ohio Politicians to Address Their Own Divisiveness With Help of National Civility Group
Posted by David Scott at, August 18, 2013

This year, a group of Ohio lawmakers is getting together to understand each other on a personal level…. Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley Twp., with help from former Ohio Rep. Ted Celeste, D-Lakewood, is arranging a bipartisan meeting of as many as 30 legislators in the Statehouse on Sept. 17 that will be an off-the-record attempt to learn more about each other, how they form their political views and how they can achieve greater cooperation.

Fan Civility
Posted by Tammy Kaehler at Two For The Road, August 19, 2013

I get that we all have a microphone now, and I do enjoy the conversation that is social media … I’ve gotten to meet (virtually and in person) a lot of great people because of those conversations. But I suppose there’s also the looming possibility that someone’s going to call me ignorant or an a—— because I’m expressing an opinion that’s different than theirs.

All I can say is, like and hate who you choose in the racing world. I won’t judge you, if you don’t judge me.

Political Incivility in Ghana
Posted by Nana Marfo at GhanaWeb, August 22, 2013

Common features of civility are having good manners, being willing to listen, and showing a concern for other people’s feelings and opinions. But political civility requires more than politeness and respectful listening; it also requires a realization that we must live together and ultimately compromise on some things where we differ in fundamental ways.

Civility Linkblogging: Canada, Cuba, Buddhism, and Civility In America

By Anita Pratanti, via flickr

This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility from around the Web. We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues, from the United States and around the world.

This week’s posts highlight online reactions to Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate’s 2013 study, Civility in America. Conducted in conjunction with KRC Research, it gauges the American public’s attitudes toward civility and self-reported experiences with incivility in a variety of areas of American society and daily life. It measures something of the sentiment among Americans that we suffer from a civility problem, and that it is likely to get worse.

A detailed summary of the study’s findings may be found here [PDF].

Meanwhile, if you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now, on to the list:

Buddhists Eye a More Civil Society, Not ‘Cannibalism’
Posted by Ven. Ocean-of-Wisdom Sakya at, August 2, 2013

In my tradition we try to be conscientious not only of our own behavior but to encourage others to be socially conscious. It is a reciprocal relationship in which each member helps the other become better.

In secular terms I suppose we are speaking about civility, which is the opposite of cannibalism.

However, recently it seems to me the cannibals are gaining ground.

Local Councils Are Not Fiefdoms
Posted by Dermod Travis at The Castlegar Source, August 5, 2013

In his new book, The Importance of Being Civil: The Struggle for Political Decency, McGill University professor John A. Hall explains that civility is the glue that holds society together.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Hall went on to explain that: “Talking is crucial because, if you talk, you make people more reasonable. Civility on the part of government is absolutely vital.”

Hall’s book should be required reading for local councils and every candidate before next year’s local elections.

7 in 10 Americans Believe Incivility Has Hit Crisis Levels
Posted at ETN Global Travel Industry News, August 6, 2013

Civility in America continues to disintegrate and rude behavior is becoming the “new normal,” according to a new national survey. Reports of personal infringements are on the rise, driving 70 percent of Americans to believe that incivility has reached crisis proportions. With Americans encountering incivility more than twice a day, on average, and 43 percent expecting to experience incivility in the next 24 hours, dealing with incivility has become a way of life for many.

Civility in America – Getting from Problems to Solutions
Posted at The Mom Pledge Blog, August 7, 2013

I recently shared a few alarming results from the 2013 Civility In America Study and detailed an example of a missed opportunity to make a difference. Today, I want to delve deeper into what the research shows.

It’s not shocking, to me anyway. I have long been aware we have a pervasive culture of incivility in America. This latest study reveals how widespread the problem is. Incivility has essentially become a way of life in America.

Raul Castro’s Empty Talk on Civility in Cuba
Posted at The Washington Post, August 12, 2013

The kind of civility that is recognized all over the world as basic dignity — the freedom to speak and associate, to choose one’s leaders, to live without fearing a regime’s security services — is not on Mr. Castro’s mind. His regime continues to threaten and persecute those who dare challenge its legitimacy.

Institute Co-Founders Featured in The Boston Globe

Eastern MassachusettsThe month of August saw Institute for Civility in Government co-founders Cassandra Dahnke and Tomas Spath each featured independently in articles in The Boston Globe.

Early in the month, reporter Peter Schworm sought comment from Cassandra about cases in which discontent has bubbled over into shouting matches and heated exchanges, screaming and table-pounding, at municipal meetings around Massachusetts. A health board meeting in Hanson, for example, abruptly ended when one participant overturned a table. While meetings of school boards and town councils in Salisbury and Dracut have degenerated into shouting matches.

When asked about creeping incivility, Cassandra responded that “this stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum” — that “what you see is actually a reflection of the population at large.” She told Schworm that a reality-show culture, in which extreme views dominate the conversation, has crept into all corners of life. And that when “what gets attention gets edgier and edgier … people think ‘I have to do something bigger and bolder if I am going to make my point.'”

Meanwhile, later in the month, Tomas spoke to The Boston Globe‘s Calvin Hennick about a lawsuit filed by Robert Schuler against the town of Shirley, MA. Schuler, a former member of the town’s Finance Committee, had been barred from town property at the end of 2011 after public comments in which he seemed to threaten town selectmen with a gun. “The only question I have about the budget,” he is reported to have said, “is what have the selectmen done with this, if anything? Don’t tell me they haven’t done anything with it, or I’m going to pull my gun out and start shooting or something. It drives me nuts!’’

The American Civil Liberties Union defended Schuler, who eventually won his case.

When asked for comment on the situation, Tomas replied: “I think we get frustrated because we just don’t know how to work through issues…. We all need to take a deep breath and start over again and work through our issues before we get to a place where we lambaste one another.”

Peter Schworm’s full article, “Local Government Boards Feel the Sting of Incivility,” is available, complete with Cassandra’s comments, here online.

Calvin Hennick’s article, “Shirley Settles Lawsuit by Town Official Banned Over Gun Remark,” may be found by clicking here.

You can find more information about the Institute’s definition of, and approach to, civility here.