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Americans united: Agree to disagree
Karen Owen's op-ed column on civility in politics, even among good friends.

 George Allen, wife Susan at his side (left), addresses supporters after conceding the senatorial election last fall.
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Date published: 6/23/2013

OUR LACK of civility toward one another, whether in chat rooms, in line at the grocery store, at political conventions, throughout the media, or in traffic on the interstate, is ubiquitous.

Just as a for-instance, whenever I hear Rush Limbaugh speak, I find myself cringing, not so much because what he says is anathema to me but because he's so the opposite of clever. I can forgive a lot if the speaker or writer is amusing or brilliant or capable of laughing at the antics of someone of his own political stripe. Ham-handedness, trite remarks, or mere regurgitation of something first said by someone else is not appreciated by yours truly, even when I agree with the sentiment.

But lately, fellow liberals, I've witnessed examples of a) sophomoric humor, unworthy of the source; and b) unreasonable emotion in political discussion from people who generally feel the same way as I do about important issues.

I worry about this because it seems that we as a people can no longer broker any disagreement whatsoever on anything. We fly off the handle and, worse, we don't listen. When we don't listen, we misinterpret. A seemingly innocent comment provokes unseemly anger.

Sometimes, shouting ensues.

I'm so floored by these encounters that it takes days for me to recover. And I can't help but worry about what's to become of us.


Recently, I was reminiscing with a dear, dear friend about a speech that former Gov. George Allen made to the Virginia Press Association soon after he was inaugurated in 1994. He was there to push his vision of attracting a Disney "history-land" park in Prince William County. (I was against the project because I couldn't see how our transportation system could handle the droves of tourists that would respond to the Disney siren song, but I might have considered it a great idea somewhere near Farmville.)

At the end of the speech, he said he was glad to have had the opportunity to speak to us members of the press. He indicated that he had a thick skin, and could handle the criticism that would surely come in his direction from newspapers in the next four years.

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Karen Owen is Viewpoints editor of The Free Lance-Star.