The American Bar Association‘s ABA House of Delegates on August 8, 2011 unanimously adopted Resolution 108 which underscores civility as a core foundational component of democracy and the rule of law.
The Resolution was motivated by the current state of negative public discourse:
“Public discourse has turned increasingly sour and contentious, and is getting worse. Reason and orderly debate all too often is giving way to invective, distortion, and gamesmanship. Once the art of compromise and statesmanship, political debate is now too commonly a battle between extremes, where power, not reason, prevails, and where closed minds simply seek to impose a point of view rather than listen respectfully to others and work with the legitimate issues they raise….
Such destructive discourse has negative consequences for society. It fosters polarization rather than community, enmity and contempt rather than understanding and tolerance, alienation instead of involvement. It limits the potential for problem-solving, as fewer voices and ideas are heard and factored into decision-making….
It is well-established that democracy cannot function effectively under these conditions. Without a social structure that supports tolerance, a basic level of trust, and a spirit of community, political institutions become hollow. Government becomes less efficient, effective, and responsive. And where government is less responsive, citizens are more likely to respond to conflict with violence rather than rely on civil institutions and the rule of law…
Words matter. How we treat each other matters. In our public discourse, it is time to begin talking to each other with mutual respect, no matter how much we disagree.“
Download and read the entire PDF here.