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Can We Talk?

[caption id="attachment_1781" align="alignright" width="200"]Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP[/caption]

Who Talks Like That?

Given the appallingly debased level of public discourse taking place during this presidential campaign, some days I wonder if some public figures will ever remember how to talk in a civilized manner ever again. It is just not normal conversation. Who talks like that? Locker room... Really? It insults men as much as it insults women. It seems to me that we readily tolerate the ranting, personal attacks and inability to answer a simple question about policy or critical issues facing our nation. How come? Can we do anything about it? How do we register any objection to negative ad campaigns, lying and personal attacks? How do we convey the message that our national political leaders need to do better than Jerry Springer style conversations?

What the Sisters Said

Back in August, more than 5,650 Catholic Sisters signed a letter asking the US presidential candidates "to engage in political dialogue that reflects the principles and values upon which this nation was founded." Written by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the letter asks that the candidates refrain from rhetoric that stokes the fires of fear and engage in constructive dialogue during this campaign season. LCWR, an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States, has about 1,350 members, who represent nearly 80 percent of the approximately 49,000 women religious in the United States. The 5,671 signers of the letter are Catholic Sisters from across the country who serve persons in need through education, healthcare, and other pastoral and social services.

children-1217246_1920What do we Teach Our Children?

So if the Sisters are asking to raise the level of public conversation, will they be heard at all? I am not so sure given the events of the last few weeks. I wonder if some public figures will ever remember how to speak to each other in a dignified way after this is all over. After all, isn’t this what we teach our children: be respectful and kind?

7 Ground Rules for Talking to One Another

Recently, I heard Sr. Toni Harris, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, speak about the mission of the Dominican Order and its preaching mandate. She offered a directive from the 2013 Chapter of the Dominican Friars as an example. The document offers excellent advice for how Dominicans should preach and at the same time offers everyone some good ground rules for civil conversation. Here are the ground rules:
  1. Demonstrate compassion for those who suffer
  2. Bear witness to our solidarity with the socially rejected and those on the fringes
  3. Speak prophetically to denounce whatever is dehumanizing
  4. Call for a change of mind and heart
  5. Be on the lookout for any kind of possible dialogue
  6. Promote respectful listening and ways of speaking that are not confrontational but that humbly seek the truth along with others
  7. Show how faith gives meaning to life, integrates the person and puts us in relation to God and to others. [Source: (par 48) General Chapter of Croatia 2013]
These are good reminders to us all about civil conversation. We could at the very least expect it of ourselves. Don't forget to vote, it is the one way to expect something good from our elected leaders.

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