Civic discourse can take a variety of forms from congressional representatives discussing policy on C-SPAN to your drunken uncle complaining about taxes at Thanksgiving dinner. These forms of discourse vary based on the speaker, audience, topic and level of importance. Cooper’s piece implies that civic discourse is born from issues and disagreements among a group of people. Ultimately, civic discourse is a natural result of democracy.
However, it can be argued that democracy is not the sole ingredient for civic discourse to be born. There needs to be a standard of intellect and interest in the people of a community for civic discourse to flourish. For example, the freedom of expression that is valued by the democratic United States does not result in prosperous civic discourse among the people.
In the United States, there is low governmental participation and voter apathy among its citizens. Those who are politically aware and active are few, and even among them they are limited in their civic discourse. The USA may have a relatively open policy on expression, but issues are still be censored or ignored by the news, government and civic platforms. Take for instance the death of Sandra Bland. Even entities like corporations have a major influence on American civic discourse.
In the United States, civic discourse is still alive, but not everyone takes part. Although finding forums to raise awareness and debate are easy to access, the dumbing down of America has allowed us to voluntarily quiet our voices. People use technology that they could do great things with, but many choose to voice opinions about the Khardashians instead of their health care issues. In the end, corporations and government benefit from people being distracted and the death of civic discourse.
Civic discourse does not exist as a binary, it is a spectrum that is affected by context like propaganda, government and freedoms. Americans often fall into the illusion that the nation is purely democratic and all people have a voice. A majority of people do not take part in meaningful civic discourse. There are many things that we should be debating on the main stage but do not. For example, the relevance of an electoral college, the obsolete voter registration system and ALEC.
Cooper’s question arises, “Where can citizens find good opportunities to practice civic discourses and conduct the work of reasoning together?” We are surrounded by the answer with easily accessible technologies and information sources, but we rarely put it to use. Living in a democratic state is not enough to keep civic discourse alive. Civic discourse cannot survive when people are passive and un-involved, not can it survive in a place ran by corporations that benefit from people being uneducated. Civic discourse needs transparency, apathy and empathy.