I know a little bit about Civil Discourse. Or uncivil discourse in my case.
Although I had written four books for young lawyers, three of those for women lawyers, and countless media articles, including as a monthly columnist for the ABA Journal, last summer I wrote something in one of those columns that some readers did not like. They would not accept that my advice was to protect them and advance them. All they could see was “red” because I had suggested that they protect themselves from the pitfalls that continue to exist on their career paths in a business still controlled by men. They did not want to be told one more thing to do — even if it was for their own good and their future successes. They just wanted to complain about the unfairness of the system and to be mad.
And mad they were. They took to social media in a big way and unleashed their venom. They tweeted and retweeted and hid behind anonymity. Some also took to LinkedIn. They made a mess of things for women lawyers by allowing others to call it a “cat fight.” Even though major media like Bloomberg Law and The American Lawyer pointed out that my advice was correct and warranted, they did not stop.
I admit that I was shocked at first and more than a little bit hurt. I had advocated for women lawyers for more than 40 years, including hundreds of blogs and scores of speeches and media articles after I founded Best Friends at the Bar, and the people I had tried to help were turning on me.
However, in retrospect, I realize that it was a sign of the times. Civil discourse had disappeared, and anger, name calling, character and career assassination, and age shaming had replaced it. When the sentiments of the Tweeters was also taken up by the leadership of our country’s largest law organization, over social media threats, I knew it was serious. And infectious. And dangerous.
It is why you only can read my blogs on this website today. No longer on Twitter. No longer on Facebook. No longer on LinkedIn. They are only available to those who care enough to come on the Best Friends at the Bar website and read them. And comments are no longer allowed. Because they were uncivil. Because they were destructive — not because they did not agree with me but because they attacked the messenger and distorted the message.
Here is the link to an article that gives me hope — hope that we can regain some of what has been lost. Hope that the younger generation understands the power and value of civil discourse. Hope that it will open up important discussions and that it will be safe again to express a variety of opinions. Below is an excerpt from the article to whet your appetite and support for civil discourse.
“Before she took the civil dialogue seminar, Lowenkron might have been content to let everybody scream. “I don’t think I would have seen much value in conversation,” she says. Now she sees a practical benefit. “It sometimes helps to see if people are on the same page,” she says. “Because if they are, fundamentally, we can work with that.”
I have advocated for young people, especially young women, all of my life. I hope that what I am seeing is yet another way that young people will help save our society. I pray.