Editorial — Need for civility in political dialogue

Listening to those with a different view is not the same as agreeing with them. It is part of civil discourse, which is essential if a democracy is to function properly.

Summer weather is in short supply, and that may be a factor in the grumpiness that a few people are exhibiting.

The political discourse in Langley, and in B.C. in general, is at a very negative level. While some of the unhappiness is understandable, given  that a referendum on the HST is now underway, some people simply don’t seem to want to listen to what those with differing views have to say.

The anger over the HST is still palpable, and given the way it was hoisted on citizens, that anger is understandable. However, people now have the chance to have their say.

Listening to those with a different view is not the same as agreeing with them. It is part of civil discourse, which is essential if a democracy is to function properly.

The Times has particularly noticed this grumpiness on our website. Comments on some news stories or letters to the editor have, on occasion, gone far beyond what is reasonable. It seems that a few commenters delight in hiding behind anonymity so that they can say nasty things about others.

In recent weeks, our website managers have been forced to disable comments on several stories, and if the trend doesn’t improve, there may be many more such stories which will not allow comments in the future.

This would be unfortunate, as there may be a provincial election this fall, and there will definitely be a municipal election. There are also several tax increases under discussion, and amalgamation has again been raised.

People who wish to comment on all those topics, or others, are taking part in democracy. In a democratic society, hearing from a wide range of opinions is a key part of how decisions are made.

However, what a few commenters seem to forget is that opinions are just that — opinions. They aren’t facts. Those who hold them aren’t demons. And those who are willing to express them should have the ability to do so.

In the United States, political opinions are deeply divided on just about everything. This is acceptable, but the manipulation of opinions by political talk show hosts, TV networks, website commenters and party operatives has made many people deeply cynical about the entire political process.

We haven’t got that far in Canada yet, and let’s hope that we don’t. Democracy has its flaws, but as Winston Churchill said, it sure beats all the alternatives.

Langley Times

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