A call for civility

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When George H.W. Bush said he wanted America to be a “kinder and gentler nation” during his 1988 speech at the Republican National Convention, his words were widely mocked.

He was spoofed in editorial cartoons, and “Saturday Night Live” had a field day with him. (Remember Dana Carvey?)

But, boy, could we use that kind of message from our president now.

The level of vitriol is out of hand, particularly on social media and, frankly, in online comments. And it’s not just there — you can see it in public nearly everyday, with impatient drivers menacingly honking their horns, or worse, yelling obscenities at drivers. It seems like incivility has us surrounded.

We already had a rule of no name-calling in our online comments, but we’re being even more restrictive. We’ve eliminated, for example, allowing someone to call someone else a “snowflake,” because it was getting out of hand.

We’re doing this because we want to be part of the solution. It’s not to censor anyone’s comments, but instead to elevate them. We give great latitude to commenters on our site — even when they have negative comments about us — but we think it’s more productive and valuable to present comments in a way where the other side may actually reflect and listen.

If we feel as though a comment or part of a comment crosses the line, you’ll receive an email from us asking you to either to resubmit or allow us to edit it. It’s not something we want to take a lot of time with, because among the many other things we have to do in a day, moderating comments on our website should be a fairly quick exercise.

We’re asking you to help by policing your own language and avoiding the kind of polarizing rhetoric that’s become far too common.

We think there’s a thirst for civility.

In our daily newsletter, The Minute, we polled our readers about good deeds.

On Friday we asked if you had done, or had been the recipient of, something extra-courteous in the past week. A full 90.9 percent of you answered that you had done something extra-courteous (9.1 percent hadn’t), and 78 percent of you had been on the receiving end of an extra courtesy. Of those courtesies, “Small talk or gratitude to an Island worker” got the most votes, with 40 percent, followed by “Letting me/someone into a line of traffic” (34 percent), “a stranger thanked me for something” (14 percent), and “I/someone helped solve a problem” (12 percent).

And at least one reader sent us a comment to let us know what she has been doing to be courteous.

“I have a ‘rule’ that I have to try to do three nice things every day while I am out and about,” she wrote. “Usually it’s letting cars turn left or letting someone skip in line. But on occasion, there’s something better to add to my list. Think about how much nicer this Island would be if we all did that.”

Sounds like a plan. Who is willing to join us?

1 COMMENT

  1. Why isn’t this message targeted to the more cynical corners of our public officials, the ones who actually have a statutory responsibility to be professional, respectful and civil? Who can blame the public for flying off the handle at such irresponsibility? Your own pages are filled with pissed off citizens, taking their officials to task. I refer more specifically to the recent fiasco involving the TIsbury Police, who are just hoping it blows over and they get another stupid story printed of carrying groceries to trunks, for charity. How about being charitable to the citizens you entrusted to “serve and protect “? I would like to see our leaders, lead. Civility ought to start from the top down. But who has any expectation of that?

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