Civility. It’s a word that’s gotten a lot of use of late. Sadly, it took a horrible incident in Tucson, Ariz., to bring it back to our attention.
Most of us were in shock to hear the news that Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tucson during one of her “On Your Corner” meetings with constituents outside of a Safeway shopping center last month.
The shooter took the lives of six people, including a judge and a nine-year-old girl. Fourteen others were wounded.
The initial suspicion was that the shooter, Jared Loughner, acted on the heated political rhetoric that has come to personify our political culture today. As the investigation progressed, however, it became clear that his motive had less to do with politics and more to do with a twisted sense of reality.
We don’t know yet, and may never know, if all the bloviating had any impact.
Repelled by this tragedy, we began a reexamination of our political discourse—at least for a time.
“This is a time for the House to pull together as an institution—one body, unified in our common purpose of serving the American people and fighting for freedom and justice guaranteed to all by our Constitution,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner in a conference call with House members shortly after the shooting.
“What is critical is that we stand together at this dark time as one body,” he said.
At the memorial service for the victims of the Jan. 8 shooting, President Barack Obama expressed similar thoughts. At a time when “our discourse has become so sharply polarized—at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do—it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds,” the president said.
“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate—as it should—let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” he continued. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.”
In the coming months, independent insurance agents and others industry professionals will make annual sojourns to Washington, D.C. and to their state capitals to visit with elected representatives. At those meetings they will discuss important topics affecting the future of this industry. They will ask their representatives to work with them to implement some law or support a cause that is of special interest and importance to insurers and producers.
Many agents will gather afterward and socialize with one another in friendly surrounds. Indeed, while one may be out in the business world engaged in heavy competition with another agent down the street, producers have always managed to display amazing civility and camaraderie when brought together.
In light of the tragedy in Tucson, after they’ve sat down with their representative and discussed the pressing issues of the day, would it not be a great service to this industry, and the nation, to remind their representatives of the need for civility in our politics and culture today and invite those representatives to witness the civility displayed among independent agents?
Maybe this act by producers could somehow help tone down the rancor of politics today and remind representatives who they ultimately report to. Leading by example, independent agents and brokers may be able to teach our political elite a little something.