WASHINGTON, D.C. — If the insurrection at the Capitol showed anything, it’s that we have a long way to go to get back to civil political dialogue. The ideal about America is that it is a place that has always been about more than what divides it, but getting back to that ideal is going to take some work.
“The voices of leaders matter,” said Lara Schwartz, who heads up The Project on Civil Discourse at American University.
Schwartz says civility in the public space starts with truth.
“We can have disagreements regarding policy, regarding ideology, regarding what the best thing for this country might be, but we should be agreeing on facts and respecting them,” Schwartz said.
But how do we get to the truth?
We are all the key to that, said David Wiley Campt of The Dialogue Company, which specializes in getting opposing and differing sides to communicate.
“We can strengthen our Democracy and strengthen our sense of civic connectivity, but we have to learn to talk to each other better,” Campt said.
He said doing that is not about sharing an opinion or trying to change someone’s mind about an issue. Instead, it’s about sharing your own personal experiences with someone else.
“Most people who study dialogue know that a conversation about experience is more connected than a conversation about opinions,” Campt said. “We can work back to having a culture where at events and in public spaces, there's a spirit of dialogue like we used to have.”
Schwartz believes that also includes something else.
“There needs to be some amount of accountability,” she said. “But then, I also think we have to be ready to accept apologies and then the healing can start.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., some of the security enhancements for the inauguration will be up through the end of the month, but the city’s mayor says it’s possible some of them, like those now around the Capitol, will remain in place for the foreseeable future, calling it a "new reality" we may all have to get used to.