About 30 people gathered Thursday night in Belleville to discuss whether there could be civility in political discourse.
It was a civil discourse complete with pizza, cookies and lots of opinions.
The discussion was sponsored by the Center for Racial Harmony. Racial Harmony is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote understanding, cooperation and communication among all races and ethnic groups.
The discussion, held in the board room of Belleville School District 201 on the campus of Lindenwood University-Belleville, lasted about 90 minutes.
Moderator Lynn Clapp, assistant superintendent of Belleville School District 118, was helped out by an expert panel of five: Laurie Rice, political science professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; Ken Kinsella, Belleville 1st ward alderman; Clay Thornhill, Walmart regional human relations manager; Jay Tebbe, publisher Belleville News-Democrat; and Frankie Seaberry, former mayor of Centreville.
Speakers in turn assailed apathy, complacency, lack of knowledge and frustration among people about politics. They were concerned with information overload and the dearth of structure for young people.
Clapp talked about interest groups which have become more prominent, offering monetary support for unlimited loyalty and about the expansion of media productions which stress conflict over substance.
Small groups discussed various topics and Clapp asked the groups to formulate their own guidelines for political parties.
Rice talked about a survey in which participants were asked what should be in a rule book for politicians.
Among the suggestions which had strong, although not unanimous support, were not insulting someone's beliefs, race, patriotism or sexual orientation, no personal attacks, no shouting over someone and no manipulating facts for personal gain.
Jerril Jones, president of Racial Harmony, presented some ambitious aims for the forum.
"We hope you will take away something that will benefit you, spread it across the community, then the state, the nation and then the world," he said.
After the program, many people stood around for a while to informally keep the discussion going.
At the very worst, they took away some good pizza.
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