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Mad as Heck

by NJJN Editorial | Published on November 3, 2010

Let’s hear it for civility — and partisanship.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has called on Jewish and pro-Israel groups to pledge that they will resist the coars­ening trend in poli­tics and public debate. “Community events and public discus­sions are often inter­rupted by raised voices, personal insults, and outra­geous charges,” reads the state­ment. “Such inci­vility serves no purpose but to cheapen our democ­racy.” Signers must pledge to “uphold the basic norms of civil discus­sion and debate at our public events. We do this not to stifle free expres­sion of views, but rather to protect it.”

In the age of the attack ad and the cable-news shout­fest, a little civility can go a long way.

But civil discourse should not signal the end of impas­sioned debate. We all need to listen more, but we also need to stand up for our prin­ci­ples, and speak truth to power.

For all the hoopla over Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” there was a sense that civility won out over the sharp distinc­tions that make poli­tics, and voting, mean­ingful. On the eve of Election Day, Stewart treated our degraded public discourse as a creation of the media and down­played the real and deep differ­ences Americans have over policy and ideology. As Marc Tracy put it in Tablet, “Moderation is neither good nor bad: Certain people are right about things, and certain other people are wrong about those things, and how moderate they are has zero bearing on how right or wrong they are.”

Immoderate people are having a real influ­ence on society today, whether the subject is the economy, health care, or Israel. The counter-voices must be heard.

Civility is a value, but so is polit­ical passion. Responsible citi­zen­ship demands that we exhibit both.

© Copyright 2010 | The New Jersey Jewish News | All Rights Reserved.

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