In his latest EC from DC column, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. says it is time that we begin exercising some civility:
It would give me great pleasure to be able to report that things have changed since last Friday. In the days of following the Arizona shooting, we have all reflected on the senselessness of the tragedy, but also the power of the human spirit. We have experienced a tragic event. We may never understand the motives that would drive someone to wound many, and take the lives of six, including a Congressional staffer and a 9-year old girl. To be sure, I think the violent rampage in Tucson has given some pause. However, as we end a week of sorrow and sadness, shock and sympathy, it seems we are only returning to entertainment trumping enlightenment.
No thoughtful American can be satisfied with the tone of our debate on the great issues of our time. The rhetoric that radiates from the halls of Congress has provided a great deal of heat, but very little light. Many Members of Congress, in the past, have gone to the Floor only to hit the ceiling.
I mentioned last week that I would be on Meet the Press last Sunday. We were supposed to talk about the new Congress, the President’s agenda and the impact of Members elected under the Tea Party banner. A typical show for the first week of Congress.
Things changed on Saturday morning. So, our conversation on Meet the Press changed dramatically. As you know, since my election, I have often been a lonely voice for civility. On Sunday, the message of dialogue without demagoguery found a new audience. It is unfortunate it took a tragedy for people to hear. I wonder if we will listen.
As I told the panel on Meet the Press, all of us conduct those town hall meetings. Many of you have attended one of my Coffee with Cleaver. I've done one every month since I've been elected. These events are exactly like the event Congresswoman Giffords was holding Saturday morning. It is part of our jobs and part of an active and healthy democracy to have access to your Representative. Since my election, I have often said the tone of Congress is as bad as it has ever been. Some have referred to days of duels and Civil War as days when things were worse. I am just not sure it is productive to merely be better than when we literally settled conflicts with pistols at dawn, or when brother fought brother on the battlefield. My point is we should be better. We should not set the bar so low as to say we are better than our worst days as a nation. Shouldn’t we be further along in the way we talk to one another and conduct our civil discourse?
Let me be exceedingly clear. We have no idea what the specific motivation for the assassination attempt on my friend Representative Giffords. There will be a trial, and perhaps we will learn more during those proceedings.
Just because we don’t know what specifically motivated Jared Lee Loughner, does not mean we cannot seize this moment to reflect on the way we treat one another.
We are in a dark place in this country right now, and the atmospheric condition is toxic. Much of that toxicity originates in Washington, D.C., and is exported around the country. I have pleaded with members of Congress to turn down the volume, and begin to try to exercise some high level of civility, or this darkness will never ever be overcome with light.