[a reprise of this seemed timely]

Civility embraces the manners used among citizens. Civility is not urbanity, those suave manners with a touch of world-weariness and often some cynicism that some denizens of the great conurbations use or affect. Civility is not courtesy, those subtle and sophisticated manners of the courtly, which allow delicate power conflicts to appear as an abundance of compliments.

Civility is an expression of the fundamental aspects of citizenship, equality and dignity.

The dignity of citizens is not earned. To be a citizen is to have a certain dignity simply by virtue of being a citizen. The explanation of that dignity may be purely secular, like Rawls' veil of ignorance, deistic, like our founders' or theistic (as in "being made in God's image"), but it is not earned, like the respect that one individual may earn from another through particular acts. Civility is the outward expression accorded to that dignity.

The equality of citizens needs less explanation for Americans. Citizens are equal before the law. One citizen accepts another citizen as an equal for civic interactions.

Civility is quick to give credit and to accept responsibility. Civil interactions offer thanks and recognition easily. A civil person will readily apologize when an error is made or inadvertent harm is done.

Civility is as a consequence engaging: it is pleasant to be part of a civil exchange. It is safe to offer ideas because the merits will be received with recognition and any faults will be corrected gently.

Civility focuses on ideas and policies but does not criticize persons. As a consequence civil exchanges do not include insults. A forteriori, it is never civil to refer to someone else as an animal or a pathogen. It may be necessary to refer to behavior in a civil exchange but the focus remains on the specific incident.

One natural fruit of civility is more effective argumentation. Looking at the pyramid of arguments below it is clear that civil discussions begin half-way up.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

When people fall short of civility, they are not engaged as citizens in those exchanges. They make it more difficult for the others in those exchanges to continue to be civil or to treat them as citizens in return.

It has been suggested by some (including several front pagers in a rather visible diary post) that people should not be concerned about uncivil behavior. There are several reasons why people should extend and expect civility.

While it is possible to filter out what is noise in a policy exchange, such filtering takes energy and can lead to missing important points. The analog is a dirty window, through which we can see but must make an effort to ignore the dirt. There is a reason we have windshield washers and wipers; clear vision is too important to leave it to the struggles to see through mud and rain.

A second reason is that the effects of rude, aggressive or flagrant language do not fall equally on all people. Verbal violence has a disparate effect on people who are marginal in various ways. It has been said many times before here that sexist, racist, homophobic, or antisemitic language is disruptive and tends to exclude people from the community. Speaking as a woman after years of observing  here, I can say that it is not a coincidence that women are under-represented here.

For these reasons and others civility is as essential to a community of citizens as air is to our bodies. But what does that have to do with siglines?

In real life we see each others' faces and can tune our responses to how our words are being received. We have a continuous reminder that we are talking to a breathing, real human being. The actuality of a conversation helps remind us to be civil.

We don't have those vivid reminders online. But I have found it helpful to have a sigline that serves the same purpose. There have definitely been times that I have written a comment full speed ahead, all barrels blazing, only to discard it when I read my sigline. This is a strategy I can warmly recommend to others. My sigline is only one of many here at Daily Kos that can have a moderating effect. I've given a small selection below; feel free to add others in the comments.

...We have many more issues that bind us together than separate us!
by ThisIsMyTime
"Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien
by Sybil Liberty
"The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain
by Brooke In Seattle
I'm an ass, my father was an ass as was his father before him. This has no bearing on the fact that I am correct.
by LaEscapee
It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. -- Thomas Jefferson
by AtlantaJan
Do not let your passion cloud your reason. Let cooler heads prevail.
by arpear
"We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important
by Diogenes2008
“The only thing that happens in an instant is destruction … everything else requires time.” ~ First Lady, Michelle Obama
by ParkRanger
Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.
by Happy Days
Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.
by Nowhere Man
Intelligent, passionate, perceptive people will always disagree, but we should not let that disagreement, however heartfelt, lead us to become deaf to those better angels of our nature.
by Mindful Nature
What helps you be civil in the fray?

Originally posted to Wee Thoughts on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 10:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by Courtesy Kos.

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