On this page you'll find discussion of things that you can do as a private citizen.
1) INCREASING UNDERSTANDING, DECREASING HOSTILITY
A) Educate Yourself about moral psychology, and try to understand how each side, each party, is trying to make the country better in its own way. See our links and readings here.
B) Hold a small gathering of friends and acquaintances with differing ideologies. Don't just host a debate; host a social event at which people eat together, and at which people are connected to each other across parties via networks of social ties. Under these circumstances, people are much more likely to listen to each other than if they are simply brought together to discuss divisive issues with strangers. That usually backfires. Several groups have had great success hosting dinners that strengthen social ties first, and they offer advice and support if you want to try it yourself:
–LivingRoomConversations.org offers great materials and advice.
–The Village Square, in Florida, offers advice on running a "Sunday Night Supper Club."
–Host a Bowling for President party. (More specifics on that later, but just know that chances are the Republicans will win.)
C) Cross the aisle regularly in your personal life. Much of our difficulty nationally has begun with – and is worsened by – our increasing segregation into ideological camps in our social lives. Take an inventory of who you spend your time with. If it's lopsided, consider making some adjustments. As almost every family in America knows, you don't have to agree with each other to like each other.
–In Tallahassee, The Village Square gives away free dinner tickets to people who have Lunch Across the Aisle. Among the 99.9% who don't live in Tallahassee? Write about your lunch for The Village Square blog and they'll mail you two flag stickers. Be sure to read this moving article by Patricia Nelson Limerick.
–In this TEDtalk activist Elizabeth Lesser makes an earnest plea for taking the 'other' to lunch
–Do a volunteer job with people outside of your political circle. Working toward a goal together is one of the best ways to bond; it changes who your "team" is. Not a church-goer? Churches do incredible civic work inside their communities and they always need extra hands, whether you join them Sunday or not. Used to doing your volunteer work only inside your church? Find a civic organization not related to a church and share some of your time with them – you'll probably leave transformed.
D) Visit the other guy's campaign headquarters. Bring baked goods. Really, we did this and made it into a whole saga here, here and here. We're not really sure if the staffers at either the Obama or McCain headquarters felt it was truly safe to eat our muffins, but we're certain we set a high bar on civility – and perhaps reminded people of the bigger picture - for that day anyway.
2) BECOME A PART OF YOUR GEOGRAPHICAL COMMUNITY. Television and internet has made it easy to cluster into ideological virtual communities (right from your living room), leaving real neighbors increasingly disengaged from each other. Most communities have many opportunities to get off your couch and re-engage, often in entertaining and fulfilling ways. You'll find all flavors of political opinion right outside your front door.
A) Find a town hall meeting (or start one). Read this argument for the importance of the plain, old-fashioned town hall.
3) SUPPORTING LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS THAT MIGHT IMPROVE CIVILITY
[to come, as we find specific proposals we endorse]
This page is edited by: Liz Joyner
Got ideas you'd like us to add to do-it-yourself civility? Send them to us.