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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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From the editor
Let's return to civility
Sunday, December 2, 2012
By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Editor
It is time for a return to civility in public debates and discussions, starting with letters to the editor of the Martinsville Bulletin.
Even before the November election, the tone of public conversation on politics, public affairs and leadership had deteriorated, and it has gotten worse since then. This is true not only locally, but also nationally. Just turn on a television talk show or read the blogs that fill the Internet to confirm that.
Too many people have forgotten how to discuss without demeaning and how to criticize without insulting those they disagree with. They have become so intolerant of other’s ideas that they label those they disagree with as stupid, or worse. Respect for another person’s ideas has become a rarity.
At the Martinsville Bulletin, we have seen this in our letters to the editor. Many are thoughtful opinions on issues of public concern, and we are pleased to provide a forum for them. But some have turned ugly, going far beyond of a thought-provoking discussion of the topics of the day.
Since the November election, some letter writers whose candidate did not win have been almost vicious in their attacks and rants, especially on the president, the political party they do not support and others. It is fine to disagree with a president, his policies and actions; that is as American as apple pie.
But hate should have no place in that discussion. It simply is not right to hate a person because his or her viewpoints, on political issues or anything else, are different from yours.
The Bulletin publishes all letters to the editor that are signed, accurate and not libelous. Sometimes those are judgment calls, and writers often disagree when we reject a letter because of its content. But we take our role as an impartial forum seriously, and we try to publish all letters, often working with writers to help them find the right word or a better phrase to express their opinions.
Recently, several readers have urged us to weed out letters that are offensive. You can read some on this page. Yet what may be offensive to one person may be a valid opinion to another. The newspaper might say one letter goes too far, while others might feel it does not go far enough.
The solution, we believe, lies with the letter writers. They can raise the level of the public discussion by commenting on issues, not innuendo and rumors; by offering constructive criticism and suggestions, not tearing down people and their ideas; and by thinking for just a moment, “How would I feel if this was being written about me?” Research your subject beyond the last radio talk show and base your opinions on facts that can be proven.
Then, maybe, we can get back to a point where people can disagree without being disagreeable, where there is respect for each other, regardless of political persuasion, and where public discussion seeks positive solutions that make life better for all of us.