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Social Advocacy and Politics: Ask Them to #BeCivil

Turn on the news nowadays and all you hear and see are stories and clips of bubbling violence at Donald Trump rallies and Trump egging them on, even quoting Mussolini on Twitter. Listen a little deeper and you hear that Bernie Sanders’ supporters are tempting that bubble to burst with “in your face” protestations at Trump rallies. Move online to social media and you'll also find a rising incivility among supporters of many of the top candidates, in particular among supporters of Trump, Sanders and Clinton.

This has to stop. We have to #BeCivil in our politicking.

Now I realize that dirty tricks have been part and parcel of our political system from the very beginning, but the tenor of this year’s campaign season has already slipped across the line at least once and there's much concern that it'll get worse. Senator Marco Rubio went so far as to express his fears that someone may end up dead at a political rally if the candidates - and he singled out Trump - do not unequivocally renounce violence among their supporters and at their events.

And Elizabeth Warren took to Facebook to say this:

"There's a history of demagogues calling those they disagree with "terrorists" and using that as justification for intimidation and violence – and that history is ugly and dangerous. There's also a history of people staying quiet for too long, hoping for the best but watching silently as the threat metastasizes. Donald Trump is a bigger, uglier threat every day that goes by – and it’s time for decent people everywhere – Republican, Democrat, Independent – to say No More Donald. There's no virtue in silence."

But we need to and can do more as citizens. While the candidates must step up, lead and set the tone for their supporters in rejecting violence (as Bernie Sanders did Sunday night at the CNN Democratic Townhall in Ohio), we all need to step up, too. We need to take to social media in large numbers, monitor it for people who feel the need to personally attack candidates and their supporters and ask them to please “BeCivil.

On this day, in particular, on the Ides of March - the day that marks the assassination of Julius Caesar - we should all rise up and celebrate one of the things that makes the United States of America such a great nation: our commitment to the peaceful transition of government. Whether you believe we need to “Make America Great Again” or that we have been, and continue to be, a great nation, introducing and condoning violence in our political process is a sure way to destroy that greatness.

So go to Facebook and join every candidate support group you can, especially for the candidate you support, and remind anyone who personally attacks other supporters and candidates to please “BeCivil.” Whenever you see people lashing out on Twitter, ask them to #BeCivil. Use the hashtag when you do, so the rest of us can find you and come to your side as we all ask each other to #BeCivil.

Being civil doesn't mean you can’t take issue with any candidate or their supporters. It means that when you do, focus on their policy positions, their solutions to the problems facing our nation. Use facts, use logic and, if you feel the urge to go further, do it with humor and a light heart.

Remember, even the candidates and voters with whom you disagree are all focused on making our country a better place. Even if you disagree with how they plan to do it, recognize that their intentions are the same as yours. If you start with what you share in common, your discussions about how to address the challenges our nation faces can be more productive and lead to better solutions. As I've written before, rational discourse is the surest route to good policy. If we want this election to be good for our country, we must eschew violence and personal attacks and focus on how to solve problems.

And while Donald Trump is bearing the media scrutiny for the violence and inciting rhetoric at his rallies, the problem goes deeper than that. The bubbling anger among supporters of the major candidates is palpable online. I've seen various reports of political conversations taking a turn for the worst online, declining into personal attacks and moving away from the issues at hand. This is not unexpected - we're all passionate about the future direction of our nation - but there's an increased sensitivity this time around, people seem more on edge, more ready and willing to accuse than discuss. 

I also know that my attempts to deescalate may end up inflaming the inconsolable and my advice for more people to join me as we all call on people to #BeCivil may be futile.

But we have to try.

We must show the country and the world that America is not run by angry people seeking to solve problems with violence. We already have enough of a challenge combatting that impression from our frequent use of force in our foreign policy.

Let us not convince everyone that we are a nation led by hooligans followed by hooligans.

Lets #BeCivil.

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Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D. is Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy at turner4D. His column appears here every other Tuesday.

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