My friend Dori Maynard over at the Maynard Institute, who’s a pretty smart cookie and also a total grownup, penned a little sumthin-sumthin’ over on her blog re: the hot mess in AZ and in our nation at large. I’d recommend reading the whole thing, but here’s my favorite part on how we can all DIY — do it yourself — in terms of dialing down the hateration. This especially means you in the mainstream media…

While we may never know if Jared Lee Loughner was influenced by what some have dubbed the language of hate, we do know the national conversation has become so corrosive that it is as if it became a suspected accomplice within hours of the shootings.

Yet, even as we talked about the effects uncivil discourse plays in our country, in most cases we had no more of a discussion than what passed for political conversation prior to Saturday.

Even more depressing, except in a few instances, very few people seem to be talking about where we go from here. How do we talk to each other? How do we conduct our national debate? What, if anything, is considered outside the bounds of constructive conversation?

One rare exception was a brief exchange on The Today Show when Ann Curry broke into the co-host chat near the end of the show’s second hour on Monday to remind us all that each of us has a responsibility to nurture a constructive dialogue.

“You know the only thing that stops loss of civility is us…It’s our own sense of outrage over what is acceptable and not acceptable,” she said.

Matt Lauer chimed in, noting that journalists also need to look in the mirror when he said: “And when you say ‘us’ there are no saints in the media either. Often times, not only do we parrot these things that are said, we incite them and we like to spur on these types of ferocious debates between people, and maybe that has to stop as well.”

Both are right.

As citizens it is each of our responsibilities to ratchet down the rhetoric in our own conversations, not so we self-censor but so that we enable ourselves to be heard and to hear.

Obviously, we all have the First Amendment right  to use whatever word we choose. However, as Laura Schlessinger discovered, your choice of words can often overshadow your point. After listening to her N-word-riddled rant several times, I have to admit I still heard the N-word more than I heard any point she may have been trying to make. In other words, do you want your word to be your point or do you want your word to bolster your point? This is all the more important because in this time of polarization we are often talking across the fault lines of race, class, gender, generation and geography where words and phrases have different meanings and nuances depending on our perspective. [snip]

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