Sunday, November 25, 2012

Restoring Civility

Okay, the election is over. The people who won are the people who won, agree or disagree.

In an earlier post, I bemoaned the loss of civil discourse in our political debates. It seems to be the fashion now, instead of exchanging ideas in vigorous discussion, we resort to belittling those who would disagree with us. After all, it's much easier to paint your opponent as a blithering idiot than it is to formulate a well-thought counterpoint.

It seems thinking for oneself has gone the way of the dodo, with everyone spouting the latest talking points from or Rush Limbaugh. That just makes it all the more rankling when one is called upon to actually respond on one's own, and has no good argument formulated on thought. So the mud starts flying: "You only say that because you want to leave women and children on their own. You just want dirty air and water! You don't care!!!I" Or even, "You bleeding heart liberals are all socialists. You just want to take from those who've earned it to give to some lazy slob who hasn't worked a day in his life! Bunch of tree-hugging freaks!!!"

Seriously, don't you see where all this name-calling and these generalities are damaging our culture? America is the greatest nation on Earth. One of the things that made it great was the reputation we've earned as "The Great Melting Pot." It doesn't mean everyone who comes here has to give up their individuality. On the contrary, America was founded on the power of the individual to carve his own destiny, and in his own style.

Sure, we have the right to say whatever we want. It's carved in stone, in our constitution (the rulebook of The United States, for those who aren't aware. Seriously, have you read your own rulebook? If not, why not?). Anyway, the constitution says we have the right to say whatever we want to, with no political repercussions. But with every right comes the responsibility to use it in a way that furthers civility. Read the part that says, "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility..." That "domestic tranquility" thing? You signed on to that by becoming a citizen of this nation, either by birth or by process.

I'll admit, our leaders haven't been doing a very good job of furthering that civility. Just one memory from the recent campaign should remind you how visceral and irresponsible it was, on both sides. It seems when one has nothing positive to say about oneself, the only remaining option is to paint one's opponent as the second coming of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Attila the Hun, all rolled into one, with an appetite for human blood on top for good measure. The press certainly didn't rise above the mud either, as truth always gives way to sensationalism for the sake of higher ratings. I mean, why let the facts get in the way of a perfectly good smear story? Am I the only one who thinks this way?

So where does civility, or domestic tranquility, come from? Is it the responsibility of our leaders? Surely, for this is a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." It is, isn't it? One may hope. But that responsibility also extends to "we the people" as in US. WE the people are responsible for insuring domestic tranquility. You and me.

It has to start somewhere, too. Now, I'm not going to be one who points a finger at everyone else without taking my own example, as my close friends all can attest. We get along, even though I'm a conservative and some of them are liberals. I'm a straight man who loves his gay friends as much as everyone else. Just because we don't agree on some things doesn't mean we can't get along in the same country.

So I am going to start a movement. Let's call it The Civility Movement. That means we agree to stop calling each other names and start getting along in spite of our differences. It means we read our own rulebook, and agree to abide by it. It means we take it upon ourselves to "insure domestic tranquility" by actually offering thoughtful discussion instead of hateful labels and vitriol.

Can we do this? Who's in?


  1. Well said.

    I love the accountability. US, WE.

    Our issues stem not from the fact that there are not enough rules to keep people in check, but from the fact that there are more and more people who need others to keep them in check (the banking fallout).

    Moral bankruptcy just might lead to literal bankruptcy.

  2. Eventually, Neal, it all comes together. Well said, my friend.

  3. I'm in, Toots. It wouldn't hurt any of us to practice some good manners. Let's make our mothers proud.

  4. Thanks, Heather and Sara! I'm just wondering how we can spread the word. :-)

  5. Count me in on that, Cyrus.

    Rick Ellrod