Years ago, my wife and I went to a marriage seminar where one of the lessons was on fighting fair. That shocked me. I thought the reason we were going to that seminar was to learn not to fight at all. But the presenters explained that every couple fights. Disagreements are part of any relationship.
The Pollyanna idea of a couple that never fights was a dream we best give up right away. The key, they said, was to fight fair; to keep disagreement from degenerating into attack. Name-calling was off-limits. So was her mom.
There was a lot of wisdom in that lesson, some of which has strengthened our marital union. That same wisdom could strengthen our national union too. Name-calling and back-stabbing are all too common in our public discourse. Goodwill is rare and forgiveness nonexistent. Democracies, like marriages, are bound to include disagreements. Perhaps we should focus on disagreeing better rather than disagreeing less.
But there's another thing about fighting fair that's missing from the American conversation at the moment: a common code.