One member of the Arlington County Board is making a concerted effort to remind residents of the need for civility in public discourse.
“I hope we continue to be respectful,” board member Libby Garvey said at a recent meeting. “Everybody is of goodwill and trying hard.”
Her comments weren’t in response to any particular incident – the meeting in question was well-attended but not particularly rancorous. But Garvey said she has noted that, on contentious issues, those with an opinion frequently are digging in their heels.
Perhaps the current poster child for contentious issue-du-jour in Arlington is the battle over open space, where proponents of additional fields square off against those who think field space already is excessive. Each side has trotted out enough reams of statistics in recent months to confound the average resident.
And that’s just one.
“On every issue, not only are there two sides, but two sets of facts . . . battling facts, dueling studies and warring experts,” Garvey said. “There are a lot of accusations that get thrown around, back and forth.”
Garvey recently got her hands on a copy of “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” by none other than George Washington. While some of the rules are obscure, outdated or simply self-evident, others continue to have relevance to the modern day, including “Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.”
(The complete list of 110 rules can be found at www.foundationsmag.com/civility.html.)