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Ben Voth Compares America’s Civility - Past and Present - in the Dallas Morning News

Meadows CCPA Chair Reviews the Civility of America’s Past and Present in the Dallas Morning News

The following is an excerpt from “Think America is uncivil today? Just look at our past,” by Ben Voth, from the July 23, 2010 edition of the Dallas Morning News. Read the complete article.

America appears to be caught in a dizzying"spiral of cynicism." At least, that's how communication scholarshave described the national frustration with the anger, hyperbole and personalattacks that substitute for authentic political debate. But before we resignourselves to an unparalleled breakdown in civility, we can let history be ourguide and see that this spiral has taken darker turns in America's past.

The early days of our nation saw politicianswilling to draw guns to defend their political honor – most famously, AaronBurr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Dueling was so pervasive that many statestried to outlaw it, but the practice continued in the South until the mid-19thcentury. (Fortunately for Chris Matthews in 2005, former Georgia Sen. ZellMiller could only appeal to a distant past when he angrily declared to thepolitical commentator: "I wish we lived in the day where you couldchallenge a person to a duel.")

Today, we lament the incivilities imposed uponwomen in politics. But in the 1830s in Philadelphia, while abolitionistAngelina Grimke spoke as part of the first public debate between a man and awoman at Pennsylvania Hall, an angry mob armed with bricks and rotten tomatoesgathered outside its doors. Hours later, the hall was burned to the ground.

Read the complete article.

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