If behavior of audiences at debates and political events is any indication of America's civility this year, then both Utah and the nation have lost something important.

Take for example a recent debate about the tax initiatives at Woods Cross High School. Obviously there weren't many in the crowd who didn't have their minds made up about the initiatives, but for those who didn't it was an exercise in concentration. People jeered, booed, applauded, and were generally disruptive when they felt their side had scored a point.At several points, the moderator argued with members of the audience to abide by the ground rules of the debate and asked them repeatedly to stop making out-of-place remarks.

The debate would have been more fitting in a gymnasium, where one of the presidential debates was held. Even there the crowd showed little respect. The moderator soon learned that saying, "When you clap you take away time from your own candidate," meant nothing to emotional supporters.

Have we as a nation, and particularly Utahns, brought forums of public expression to the level of sporting contests? It is sad when important debates of public policy get drowned out by insolent shouts and personal attacks on those debating the issues. Have people forgotten common courtesy and respect?

Perhaps these verbal forays reveal a larger problem about the inability to separate issues from emotions. People ought to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. Name-calling doesn't accomplish anything.

It also points out the disappearing value and respect Americans once had for others' rights.

Some who are drawing election-year battle lines have forgotten to leave a few bridges behind. After the hoopla dies and the debates cease, it will be on those bridges where we must meet to build the future.