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The end of civil discourse?

Marty's Musings

I remember a few years ago interviewing my former State Senator Barry Goldwater, Jr. He had some great stories regarding his dad, Senator Barry Goldwater and his friend President John F. Kennedy.

They both had similar back problems and shared the same doctor. Goldwater would come by the White House late at night and the two would see the doctor and then sip a little Whiskey and discuss the upcoming Presidential Race. They knew they would be facing each other in 1964 and decided they were going to do Lincoln-Douglas style debates traveling from city to city, debating the issues in an open forum. But alas Dallas ended that dream. What a boom to civil discourse that would have been! An open discussion of the issues.

Years ago, I would moderate and, in some cases, set up debates on the issues. I always considered it a success when both sides were irritated with me. It meant the debate was fair and each side got to express their opinions in an open forum. The point for me was always to let the issue speak for itself without the twisted rhetoric that sometimes accompanies canned speeches and answers.

We've come a long way from those days when civil discourse was encouraged. Rather than hear other points of view, Colleges and Universities are bending to pressure and cancelling speakers, or watching as students shout down anyone conveying a point of view they disagree with. Nobody wins in that environment, we all lose.

In my Public Speaking and Critical Thinking classes I make students argue the other point of view on issues important to them, just so they can see the other side of an issue. Unless we do creative things to encourage civil discourse, we will lose one of the pillars of our Democracy, the ability to express ones opinion whether or not it's in the majority!.

Marty Pay is a contributing writer for The Loop newspaper. He can be reached at Marty Pay Farmers Insurance (661) 822-3737.