There is an unfortunate tendency to assume that civil discourse has occurred whenever two or more people are nice to each other, say something, and don’t get into an argument. That is misleading on all three counts.We must openly disagree if we are to discover what binds us together and what we can accomplish. We must talk to each other in order to disagree. We must speak honestly as well as decently, which means that we may sometimes need to say unpleasant things about each other. And about ourselves.
...civil discourse has not occurred if boundaries have not been crossed.
...civil discourse has not occurred if boundaries that define spaces of sound and spaces of silence have not been recognized and honored.
...Where there is no argument, there is no civil discourse.
UPDATE: In an odd flash of relevancy, our President has called for "civility" in the Supreme Court nomination process. He's called for Senators to "ignore interest groups", which makes no sense: why would you ignore the people with the greatest expertise and stake in the matter at hand, particularly when they represent substantial portions of the electorate which our, ahem, elected officials are pledged to represent as well? Oh, he means "the fringes," that neatly defined subset of interest groups which don't really have anything interesting to say....