Civility 

Professor Cornell Clayton’s article in the winter issue, “Understanding the Civility Crisis” is thought-provoking. However, he betrays the liberal bias common to the majority of today’s college professors. All of the examples he mentions depicting “incivility” in political discourse are attributed to conservative commentators or politicians, as if the right had a monopoly on it.

Hardly. He fails to mention, for example, the current king of media incivility, MSNBC’s character assassin Keith Olbermann, who regularly violently trashes anything conservative and has in the past called President Bush a liar and told him to shut up. The current climate of political discourse was created by President Obama himself, who disastrously misread his election as a mandate to change America’s social contract and take a center-right country far to the left.

Most Americans fear for America (with good reason), and are reacting accordingly. Clayton’s own words undermine his article when he states that “ those without power may often be excluded from making claims in a civil way.” The Republicans had no power in the first two years of Obama’s administration, and he did what he wanted, yet continues to blame them for obstructionism. This from a president who ran on a campaign of reaching across the aisle, yet when Republicans wanted to present their ideas during the first White House meeting told them that “elections have consequences, and I won.”

So let’s look at both sides of the current climate, and its causes.

Bill Scott ’68, Nipomo, CA

Situational ethics has given license to incivility in political debate, but it doesn’t validate character and ethnic assassination. We must come to agreement that Cain’s murderous behavior towards Abel was not justified. Politicians and individuals wounded from incivility battles have much to forgive before they can effectively serve the best interests of society. Civility in political discourse fueled by the media can set in motion how society collaborates in developing public policy.

On the night of the 2010 elections, while channel searching elections results, I stumbled upon the 1964 classic movie The Best Man, starring Henry Fonda. Several men seek their party’s presidential nomination. The race narrows to two men. One resorts to mudslinging, the other acts with civility. The movie ends with a clear picture that character in politicians matters.

Keith Baldwin ’80, Silverton, OR

Your story of loud opinions expressed on Pike [St.] in the winter magazine was thought-provoking. No one has minded streets blocked, parades, and megaphones for liberal causes in Seattle. They are regular occurrences day and night.

Your friend was correct. Verbal dialogue is our democracy. Your conservative experience in Seattle was not the norm, but rather a voice from a minority. Any Hitler reference is ridiculous. The Hitler Bush references were ridiculous.

Students of the WSU Republican group erected a fence on campus and opened discussion on the border with Mexico. They were taunted and jeered…by professors! Where was the civility? Where was the freedom of ideas and expression? My son was telling me of this complaining that Republicans had made a symbol and talked of this issue. He recognized the teacher and was telling of his vitriolic abuse of the kids.

By the way, I’m a teacher, member of the NEA and WEA, and I’d like to dump our President and elect one who stays home on Veteran’s Day. I’ll say it civilly and not as a comedian on TV. I’ll hold a sign, write a letter, and vote. It’s the American way! We have a fine Republic.

Laura Kornelis ’79, Poulsbo

It’s suffragist

In your winter issue, in both articles about civility, you mention “Suffragettes” in a reference to being seen as “uncivil” in the past. Please do your homework here. Unless you were referring to the British women involved in the movement for women’s rights, this wording is incorrect. The American women were Suffragists. They were generally more “civil” in their approach to making their principles heard, and did not chain themselves to Parliament gates such as their Suffragette sisters in England. It may be a minor point, but I see this error repeatedly in the print media, and it is discouraging.

Sharon Dietrich ’72

The cultivated landscape

The fall 2010 issue of Washington State Magazine was full of interesting and informative, even captivating and surprising, stories on Northwest agriculture. Everything from onions to apples to camelina to codling moths and integrated pest management. Plus how Tree Top got started, city farms, and even a nod at the literature of pastoral. I read the issue from cover to cover!

Actually, I was humbled by the magnitude and scope of the agricultural endeavors pursued in Washington state described in this issue. Recently I learned that just in southeastern Washington alone over 600,000 acres are under cultivation for wheat. All the rest of the agricultural activities in this corner of the state—including that devoted to the world-famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion—does not exceed 7,000 acres!

Thanks for publishing a print edition of Washington State Magazine. If it were an online mag only, I’d never get this much benefit from it.

Edwin A. Karlow, ’68 MS, ’71 PhD, Walla Walla

Correction:
I would like to clarify the status of the “Road to Cottonwood” in the North Cascades National Park mentioned in the “Civility in Politics” article in the last issue. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009 but stalled in the United States Senate in 2010. I will continue to work with environmental groups and others to get this “correction bill” passed in Congress so this rustic road can be reopened and access to the North Cascades National Park from Stehekin be restored. I truly now understand what the expression means when people say, “it will take an act of Congress!”

Linda (O’Neal) Evans Parlette ’68
State Senator, 12th District, Wenatchee