Washington State Magazine

Winter 2010 cover

Winter 2010

In This Issue...


Civility in Politics and Campaigns :: Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed '63, '68 is recognized by his smile and civility as well as his nonpartisan statesmanship. Fortunately, he is not entirely alone. by Larry Clark

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed's Office Photographs by Robert Hubner }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: Opinions: Sam Reed and Sam Hunt in the 1966 Daily Evergreen }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Washington's First Women in Government An exhibit from the Washington State Heritage Center in the Secretary of State's office }

First We Eat :: She studies appetite. He studies satiation. Together, Sue and Bob Ritter have plumbed the mysteries of what happens when we eat. by Eric Sorensen

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: WSU appetite specialists Bob and Sue Ritter at the Black Cypress restaurant Photographs by Zach Mazur '06 }

Where Land and Water Meet :: For Todd Mitchell '97, the purchase of Kiket Island near Deception Pass meant the return of a cultural resource to his people. For the other myriad residents of the Puget Sound area, it is another decisive step toward restoring a priceless resource. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Kiket Island Photographs by Ingrid Barrentine }


Understanding the "Civility Crisis" :: There is a reason why rude and loutish political talk shows dominate the airwaves—they attract huge audience ratings and advertising dollars. But is rude behavior good for democracy? by Cornell Clayton


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: WSU arboretum and wildlife conservation center groundbreaking ceremony }


:: FIRST WORDS: Common cause


:: SHORT SUBJECT: A new land

:: SPORTS: Living for a cure

:: IN SEASON: Chickpeas

:: LAST WORDS: Betty and Peggy Lee in 1936

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Chickpea research at WSU }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Recipes: Chickpea recipes from Chef Mike Hayton '91 at Pullman's Paradise Creek Brewery, editor Tim Steury, and assistant editor Larry Clark }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Mount St. Helens: A new land Photographs by Bill Wagner }


Cover illustration: State Rep. Sam Hunt '67, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed '63, '68, and State Sen. Linda Evans Parlette '68 by Joe Ciardiello

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: About the cover: Civility in Politics by Joe Ciardiello }

First Words

Common cause

by | © Washington State University

For reasons explained later in this issue, I was walking down Pike Street on a beautiful day in July with Rafi Khalil Nasar, an Afghan lawyer. We were just discussing the difference between civil and Shariah law when we came upon a couple of young protesters. They were both holding large posters of President Obama with a Hitler mustache. The male of the pair came up to me and insisted, “Wouldn’t you like to get rid of this jerk?”

Perhaps my reaction was exacerbated by having just listened to a group of idealistic scholars from Afghanistan discuss their efforts to build a society out of ideological and economic chaos; regardless, something inside me snapped, and I responded with a declarative sentence even less civil than the protestor’s taunt.

Unable to contain my anger even in my ensuing embarrassment, I tried to explain my reaction to my companion. Nonplussed, Rafi shrugged. “You have a good democracy,” he said.

Increasingly troubled by the seemingly rampant incivility in our culture, I had gathered some comfort in not having succumbed myself to public, or even digital, displays of vitriol. But now, I had met the enemy, and apparently he was I. At least I was no longer merely a spectator.

Anyone who believes in a Golden Age for anything, be it politeness or any other virtue, probably deserves to be sent back to that mythical time to see how he or she fares. And certainly, we are reminded later in this issue that incivility is hardly novel to our milieu.

Still, canings and purges, even civil wars aside, there is something particularly vicious and distressing about our current behavior. I’m not referring to surly teenagers or the simple lack of manners. Simple boorish behavior is not necessarily incivility. Rather, it is our discourse, whether it be in the House of Representatives or the streets of Seattle.

“Civility,” writes Adam McClellan in one of a fine collection of essays (Civility, University of Notre Dame Press, 2000) that grapple with the problem of civility, “is a disposition that one individual may have towards another or, increasing the scope, a mood that obtains in a group of individuals or a society, when the following three criteria are met by both or all sides in a human relationship: the individual acknowledges the full humanity of both him- or herself and the other, recognizes his or her interdependence with the other, and desires to make common cause with the other.”

We do not seem to be at this place, at least if our politics and the Internet are any indication. The promise of civility seems dim when everyone has an electronic pulpit and truth seems increasingly based on the loudness of one’s assertion. So it lends a special satisfaction to find later in this issue that some of the remaining civil good guys are our own.

Tim Steury, Editor

Categories: Public affairs, Political science | Tags: Civility, Public service

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