Civil Discourse

My chat with “Juan Percent” reminds me that I view all debate as an opportunity to share points of view to blow off the cloud of confusion. Here are some of my thoughts on this and some evidence:

All of us have a pretty wide latitude to say what we think. Even the Prince of Peace, in an era long before the First Amendment, could say alarming things like this: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 But that does not prevent me from biting my tongue when I find someone else’s ideas infuriating, stupid, or worse.

My preferred reply to such a statement would be something to make them reconsider their statement. There are at least three overlapping reasons why I would want to reply thoughtfully.

1st. A smartass reply by me would only close their mind to any counterarguments of mine and thus confirm their opinions.
2nd. I suspect most people who offer a smart ass comment know full well its not a satisfactory argument.
3rd. I always liked Will Roger’s maxim “I never me a man I didn’t like.” Just because someone says something I object to doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be prepared to like him despite it.

None of this means that I will curb a sharp tongue when I think something needs to be addressed plainly. Jesus didn’t hesitate to use the cult-like ridicule of family loyalty to make his point either.

I have in recent weeks attempted to confront objectionable Facebook comments with something other then smart ass replies. In a couple cases I’ve been rewarded with serious chats. But I understand. Undertaking serious chats with an unending number of people is not practical. In one case an old friend of mine greeted my comments with the line “I used to think you were smart Harry.”

I patiently explained myself further and then suggested that we just remember the good old days fondly. He let me know he thought that made sense to him too.

I’ve received hundreds of critical emails and letters in my 12 years as a member of the Duluth School Board and more when I fought the Red Plan for several years. I’ve tried to rely more on patience and evidence than spite to make my views clear if not palatable. I submit the following as proof:

First email exchanges.. I searched this blog for examples of email exchanges I’ve posted. First I searched for the word email in my blog and it showed up in about“>1,200 posts far more than I think actually contained actual email exchanges.

Then it occurred to me that I often post critical emails followed by“>”my reply” . There were about 140 of those. My eight loyal readers are welcome to mine these examples to see if I have maintained my composure and my rationality.

Even before the Trump era there have been calls (mostly by people who detest “Talk Radio”) for “civility” in public discourse. I don’t disagree but I’ve blogged about that too . I found“>about 80 emails that contained the word civility. In fact Duluth is the source of one of the most dedicated organizations promoting Civility. As a School Board member I was repeatedly asked to reaffirm the civility oath this organization presented to my School Board.

During the longest most controversial part of the Red Plan fight I heard a few people complain that my blog was an abomination or words to that effect. Attorney’s for the Duluth School District even submitted reams of printouts of my blog to the Court. The Court took no notice of them. Only one particularly disputatious local took me to task for anything I wrote in the 1000 plus emails I also submitted to the the School District’s attorneys in Discovery. These emails were never meant for public disclosure but I was a meticulously fair-minded in private as I was in public.

I also try to be fair minded in public settings as I was when I vociferously disparaged the attorney for the School Board who frankly viewed himself as the Superintendent’s protector rather than the defender of the elected officials for whom he was supposed to provide legal advice. I mention this because last night as I was picking out examples of my communications I ran across a column of Loren Martell’s that was mistakenly inserted in a collection of my columns for the Duluth Reader.
Loren was fastidious about quoting school board members relying on recordings to make sure our every tick was included in his quotes. My critique of Attorney Rupp begins in about the 13th paragraph of Mr. Martell’s coverage of our organizational meeting. I think I’m pretty eloquent off the cuff even as I roast our attorney.

My critique of the School District’s attorney begins on about Loren’s 15th paragraph and begins:

Mr. Welty was first to make the case against this attorney and his firm…

“I think before we ok a contract with this law firm, we…need to have the utmost confidence in their capacity for giving the district good advice. I have had a year’s experience with the leading member of the Rupp law firm–Mr. Rupp–and I have to say that I’ve found his legal advice to be wanting.”

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