Stay Passionate. Just don’t forget the manners.

Politics is built upon passionate beliefs.  Nothing wrong with that.

Too often, politics also comes with ugliness.  Call it personal attacks, mudslinging, whatever.  These days, it’s taken for granted that the poor behavior is necessary.

Personally, I call it a lack of respect, a disappearance of basic manners.

I’m all for an intense discussion of ideas.  I’m all for debate.  I enjoy participating in such conversations.

Too often, though, the debate, the discussion, the business of government erodes into behavior that I do not allow from my pre-school boys.

A great example comes from last Tuesday’s Schenectady County Legislature meeting.  Overall, the meeting was fairly professional with occasional sniping and ugliness.  However, one incident is worth noting.

The Republican minority leader, Robert Farley, was speaking, and Susan Savage, the legislative chairperson, left her seat on the dais and proceeded to have a conversation with another legislator.  Farley paused his speech, waiting for Savage to return to her seat.  This resulted in barbs traded between Savage and Farley over the appropriateness of Savage’s actions. Savage responded to Farley saying that she would tell him what she often tells her children… that she can do more than one thing at a time.

Boy, I bristled at that comment.  I don’t doubt that could be the case.  But as chair of the legislature, she needs to be in her seat focused on the discussion.  So, too, should the other legislators, regardless of party affiliation.  There should not be peripheral discussions occurring during the meeting.

It’s called respect.

Is it possible to debate intensely, but respectfully?

Absolutely!  I experience it, and look forward to it in my grad school communications classes.  Before starting grad school, I was nervous that my opinionated characteristics would not be well-received by classmates and professors.  Instead, it was welcomed.  Many of my classmates share vastly different opinions than me on a wide variety of topics.  Yet, they listen carefully to my viewpoints, and I theirs.  I’ve learned a lot from them.  I may disagree with them, but I respect their opinions.

So, as I approach a political campaign, I will do my best to truly listen to the voters, as well as listen and be respectful to my opponents.  Even if they are not respectful to me.

Leave a comment


  1. Lee Abbott

     /  January 14, 2011

    Mom’s Rule: If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.

    If more politicians followed Mom’s Rule, there’d be a lot more peace and quiet in the world. Wouldn’t that be nice?

  2. Chuck Gerhard

     /  January 14, 2011

    Well said! The blog posting, I mean! People can express contrary opinions without being offensive. It just takes self-discipline. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.


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