Civility in Brutal Times

It was a delightful, sunny afternoon and we were having a cookout in the backyard.  Spring had finally arrived and we were looking forward to hanging out in the back yard and spending some family time together.  We even invited Kris’ girlfriend and her younger brother.

Without warning, a tempest blew in.  Not a weather tempest but an attitude and language tempest.  The air was suddenly punctuated by a stream of profanities, profanities spewing from the neighbor’s back porch and over the fence.  It seems the teen son was disrespectful to his mother and the mom’s boyfriend was going to straighten him out.  Here he was, mixing spittle with the f-bomb, three inches from the boy’s face, teaching him a lesson about being disrespectful to his mother.  The irony of the situation was not lost on me.  The tirade continued for several minutes and was so intense that the guy did not hear me from the back fence calling several times for him to stop.  When he came up for breath, I interjected again, informing him that he needed to “cool it” as we didn’t appreciate being forced to endure that kind of language and verbal abuse.  That seemed to break the cycle and the verbal abuse stopped.

Marko Javorac

Photo by Marko Javorac on flickr

We all lose our cool and say things we don’t mean during the heat of the moment but this was different.  This was a purposeful, disrespectful way of supposedly teaching a young man about being respectful to others.  That doesn’t work for me.  Not cool.

This made me think of the vitriol and disrespect we show one another in our society today.  I know – most people don’t behave like that but it seems that more and more people today think it is “okay” to use violence (verbal or physical) to settle disagreements.  More and more people have demonstrated an increased intolerance of differing views and opinions.

So why are people surprised that it shows up in our political scene? I’m not condoning it, not in the least.  It just seems to me that the political arena is a reflection of our society.  Perhaps politicians are intransigent because we have become intolerant of others’ viewpoints?  The politicians are merely reflecting the darker angels of our nature rather than the better angels like they should be doing.  Maybe that’s asking too much.  I don’t think so.

So where do we go from here?  Sliding ever lower into dis-ease and violence or do we turn it around and move closer to respectful discourse?  How do we do that? Wait for our leaders to show us the way? I don’t think that’s the answer.  We need to hold each other to a higher standard, one of mutual respect and dignity; but if we’re going to hold someone to a standard we have to ask ourselves this: “Where do fall on this civility spectrum?”

As Ghandi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we want a return to civility, respect and dignity we need to start living by those principles ourselves.  In other words, treat others as your would want to be treated. Still the best way to live even after all these years.

For more reading on the need for civility … I Am Second article

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