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What happened to “Civil” in “Civil Discourse”?


Last week, the San Jose City Council  voted 10 to 1 to move forward with an $82 million investment in Mineta San Jose International Airport, supporting Signature Flight Support’s winning proposal to enhance private jet service from globally-leading companies like Google.

In a Democracy, it is both common and appropriate to have differing points of view.

What is less appropriate is when a thoughtful debate on issues takes a back seat to ugly attacks on individuals.

At the hearing, a colleague took photos of hand-printed signs – held up high in the council chambers – with scrawled curse words disparaging and intimidating those who supported the winning bid by Signature Flight Support.

The First Amendment to our Constitution protects free speech, which is vital and valued.  It is a shame when the first amendment is abused by those who are short on factual arguments and long on individual attacks.

Years ago, I spoke in favor of a proposed affordable home development in San Jose.  As I departed the council chambers, a man who opposed my point of view followed me out to my car – in the dark of night – hurling insults in my direction.  Free speech? Perhaps. Hateful speech? Absolutely.

While we cannot control the tone and temper of others, it can serve as a reminder how we should behave.  A civil society operates best when we are engaged in our democracy, while treating others, even those with opposing points of view, with respect and dignity.

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This Post Has One Comment
  1. That is true. Many Americans cannot differentiate free speech from hateful speech. Free speech ends when you step on the rights of others. This is another demon of democracy.

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