April 3, 2010 in Opinion

Fill discourse with civility

Daron Williams Special to The Spokesman-Review
 

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As a private citizen, I have taken part in the environmental event Earth Hour with my family for the last couple years, and I was planning on doing so again this time around. I heard that on March 27, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner was going to be supporting Earth Hour by turning the lights out at City Hall for an hour, which I thought was great.

Then I read on Facebook that the Spokane Patriots, a local tea party group, had decided to hold a protest at City Hall against the mayor’s decision to support Earth Hour.

I decided to attend the counter rally. This was not to protest the Spokane Patriots but to show my personal support for the mayor’s decision.

When I arrived just before 8:30 p.m., there were about 30 people split about equally between both sides. The Spokane Patriots had signs saying “Climate Change is a LIE” and such, while the pro-Earth Hour group had a flag with the Earth on it and signs expressing the need for us to address climate change.

Both sides tried to out-yell each other to ensure that their view was the one heard that night.

This resulted in a shouting match that reached a peak, with a very minor fight between two individuals. Luckily, both sides responded quickly and pulled them apart before it got serious. After that, things calmed down a little, but the yelling match continued through the rest of the hour.

None of this was very surprising, but there was one thing that got my attention. There were three younger guys at the rally who were each holding a sign that simply said “rabble.” They were moving around both groups with their signs saying “rabble, rabble, rabble.” People walking by began asking if they could get their pictures taken with the rabble boys, and over the course of the event the rabble boys managed to get interviewed by local media.

They got me thinking about the Coffee Party and why the message of civility in politics is needed so much in this country.

The protest and counter rally simply did no good for anyone. Neither side came out ahead or won the other side over, and to the people passing by the only message that got through was “rabble, rabble, rabble.” The political polarization that was present that night is the same polarization that we see every day in Washington, D.C.

The Coffee Party is a national movement based on the simple idea that when we sit down face to face over a cup of coffee (or tea) we can actually have a conversation. By having a conversation instead of a yelling match, we can start moving forward to solve the problems of our day. We can see each other not as conservative or liberal but as fellow Americans.

We have to start talking to each other again and ensure that all of our voices are heard.

Daron Williams, of Mead, is the founder of a local Coffee Party chapter.


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