EDITORIAL: Civility goes both ways


In America, it’s easy to find examples of incivility.

Just scroll through social media, turn on a 24-hour cable news show or even listen to our political leaders.

Name-calling seems to be more accepted in America, even as we teach children not to bully one another. Those on both sides of the political spectrum take aim at each other, sometimes going to extreme lengths to disparage the other side.

The internet can bring out the worst versions of people as they post hateful and vile statements, often under the cloak of anonymity — or at least from behind a screen and not in a face-to-face conversation.

In the worst cases, we see racism, sexism, bigotry and violence across America.

All of this can leave us asking: Where’s the civility?

While we can’t control what is said or done in Washington, D.C, or elsewhere, we can decide how to respond in our own community.

“This stuff doesn’t just start in Congress,” said Al Simpson of Cody, former U.S. senator. “It starts in the baseball field; it starts in the city council; it starts in the school board; ... it’s right down there in your home ground, at every level.”

Simpson spoke during the recent “Search for Civility” forum sponsored by Wyoming Rising — Northwest, which also included former Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown, former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan and former Cody school board chair Dossie Overfield.

Panelists talked about the importance of listening to both sides. That used to be a common concept, and a bedrock of bipartisanship, but it seems to have gone by the wayside. Today, Americans can watch news sources that align with their own viewpoints and surround themselves with people who share their beliefs.

For true progress, we need to learn to respect people who see things differently. Those who ardently supported Hillary Clinton for president should be willing to engage with those who proudly voted for Donald Trump — and vice versa.

During the discussion in Cody, Simpson brought up a comment he’d made about Trump in November 2015. In an interview with CNN, he’d asserted that the then-presidential candidate was “one big pile of bragging. I mean, here you could give him an enema and bury him in a shoe box.”

Simpson’s recounting of his remarks drew laughs from the audience at last month’s forum. But comments like that are part of the problem, especially when our country is so deeply divided. Civility is, after all, a two-way street.

We’re not saying everyone should join hands or that it’s possible for everyone to get along all the time. But if Americans can’t even engage in civil talk about politics or recognize the humanity in one another, how do we ever hope to move forward as a country?

Our president and other elected leaders often set the tone for the country and public dialogue. We continue to be concerned about the expressions of incivility and disrespect — the bullying and the insults — that come from President Trump.

If it’s not going to come from the top down, then let’s start from the ground level and hope to work our way up: By treating one another with respect, kindness and civility — beginning in our own community.