November 6, 2013 —
In last week’s op-ed section of The River Reporter, Edward Kraus offered his opinion in a My View essay called “Our town, your town, whose town?” in which he suggested that “The air of division that is felt here [in the Town of Tusten] needs to end. Narrowsburg is too small to be fighting and bickering all the time. We need to get past it and move on for the good of all of us….”
Once Kraus’s opinion went online (www.riverreporter.com), however, and readers began posting comments, the fighting and bickering was off to the races. It was as if Kraus had stepped up to the starting line and fired the starting pistol. And from there the whole thread devolved into a virtual brawl. This is probably not surprising to those who spend time on the Internet, where rudeness is not only acceptable, but often a badge of honor.
Call us naïve, but we had hoped for the kind of comment thread that would elevate the conversation Ed Kraus hoped to start, and so we were disappointed that his thoughtful words about the value of building community were so quickly drowned out by name-calling and finger-pointing, by rehashing past hostilities and throwing a few new ones into the mix.
It’s okay to have strong opinions and to share them, of course, even to offer polite, constructive criticism, but wouldn’t it be a grand idea if everyone who posts a comment would approach it with the idea of elevating the conversation and contributing something constructive?
According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, writing in Psychology Today, “The foundational virtue of citizenship, civility is behavior that recognizes the humanity of others, allowing us to live peacefully together in neighborhoods and communities. The psychological elements of civility include awareness, self-control, empathy and respect. If we believe that all human beings ‘are created equal’ and have worth, then civility is an obligation to act in ways that honor that belief. It requires us to treat others with decency, regardless of our differences. It demands restraint and an ability to put the interests of the common good above self-interests.” (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moment-youth/201206/teaching-civility-i....)