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Don't let politics get in the way of civility

People of sound mind and etiquette experts everywhere counsel against talking about religion, sex, money and politics.

Company is coming to the Tampa Bay area in a few weeks — a lot of company. And with more than 50,000 guests pouring into town for the Republican National Convention, the focus will be on at least one of those subjects, if not all.

Presumably, many of our visitors will side with the GOP. But what if you happen not to? Must one be civil to those with whom one disagrees?

"As hosts and hostesses, we should be gracious to any visitors coming to our area," says Suzanne Fisher, Pinellas County director of the National League of Junior Cotillions, which teaches courteous behavior to youngsters in grades 6 through 8. "You just need to be very careful about how you present your ideas.

"You can't assume anything. Not all Republicans think the same thing. Be open to other people's ideas, and do not be too forceful."

Persons who do find themselves in awkward conversations should have an exit strategy, she advises.

Say something along the lines of "I guess we're just not going to see eye to eye. Thank you," Fisher says. "Try not to instigate a situation. Try to be gracious, because we want them to come back."

"It's a fascinating time for everybody," says Mel Sembler, a staunch Republican who also knows something about protocol, having served as the U.S. ambassador to Italy, Australia and Nauru.

From 1997 to 2000, he was finance chairman for the national party, which convened in Philadelphia to nominate George W. Bush for president. The mayor, Ed Rendell, was a Democrat, as is Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

"He was most cooperative," Sembler said of Rendell. "Why? Because it was a major event for the city."

As ambassador, Sembler hewed to diplomatic conventions and was host to persons of varying political persuasions, but partisan gatherings operate differently.

"It's democracy in action," Sembler said. "It's not like diplomacy. It's a big national push for your candidate and your party and all the different things that go along with that."


Our nation's first president, George Washington,
had no party affiliation. Long before he became commander in chief of the Continental Army, he
hand-copied a list of "rules of civility."

Using modern punctuation and spelling, they include
these guidelines:

• Shake not the head, feet or legs; roll not the eyes; lift not one eyebrow higher than the other; wry not the mouth; and bedew no man's face with your spittle by approaching too near him when you speak.

• Use no reproachful language against anyone; neither curse nor revile.

• Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.

• Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for 'tis a sign of a tractable and commendable nature, and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern.

Don't let politics get in the way of civility 08/03/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 3, 2012 7:45am]
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