During these times in America, a display of positive bipartisan interaction between members of both major political parties provides an opportunity to demonstrate a unified enjoyment during the annual House of Representatives baseball game. I am a blinded U.S. military veteran who depends on observations of others for such events. During the game earlier this month, news media reported use of an obscene hand gesture by a congresswoman of one political party during the game toward the opposing party’s dugout. Regardless of any possible inciting issues, such gesturing sets a terrible example for our children and grandchildren when watching efforts at congressional collegiality during one of America’s favorite pastimes. I submitted my concerns about this to the House Committee on Ethics. Hopefully an appropriate response by this committee would keep such behaviors absent among members of Congress.
As a former chief learning officer for one of the Veterans Administration’s largest health care systems, my fellow managers and I were required to implement action plans to assure civility among our 5,000 employees. The VA selected a research-based publication from Johns Hopkins University, “Choosing Civility,” an outcome of JHU’s Civility Project. VA-wide distribution of this book was intended to provide managers a real-life tool to help implement the study’s 25 rules of considerate conduct.
As a result of this extensive look at civility, JHU researchers describe civility as simply “RESPECT IN ACTION.” Whatever civility is, JHU researchers in writing about their 25 rules for civil behavior found four guiding points in summarizing each of the rules: 1) courtesy, 2) politeness, 3) good manners, and 4) elements in the realm of ethics. Clearly, ethical behaviors (e.g., morality) arise from our life and/or faith-based experiences.
Whether in a baseball game, productive political debate (so badly needed), or in interactions among all Americans, choosing civility is a necessary ingredient for preserving America’s cherished values and history. JHU’s 25 rules could prove useful today for politicians and all Americans as we navigate the troubled waters of political rancor. Civility does matter!