The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines civility as “polite, reasonable, and respectful behavior.” Many people do not accept that the yardstick of a person’s worth should be the content of his character, which includes his behavior. Part of a great character is to exhibit good manners. Those people do not push others down in order to look better themselves. And we should raise our children to exhibit right values. I’ve seen newsclips of even small children taunting police. It seems that civility is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity these days.
One barometer of civility is road rage. According to the AAA, drivers between the ages of 25 and 39 years old are more likely to exhibit road rage than other age groups. Road rage is a factor in over one half of all fatal crashes. In the 10 years between 2006 and 2015 fatal crashes linked to road rage increased 500% from 80 to 467. When someone cuts off a driver in traffic the tendency for many aggressive people is to retaliate. This often leads to road rage. Recently I saw a TV report of an enraged woman shooting a handgun at occupants of another car. Two passengers were injured in this road rage incident.
Incivility is also increasing in politics. In September 2009 Joe Wilson, the Republican Congressman from South Carolina, interrupted a speech by President Obama on health care by shouting: “You lie!” He was rightly criticized by members of both parties. Then in 2018 Representative Maxine Waters told an audience that “if you see anyone from (Trump’s) cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gas station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back at them, and you tell them that they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere!” Next year the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, in a very public display at the State of the Union presentation, tore up her copy of Trump’s speech while both houses, the judiciary, and a large TV audience watched in disgust. More recently Maxine Waters has shown incivility following the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion. She shouted: “To hell with the Supreme Court, we will defy them!”
Although I agree with most of President Trump’s policies and actions, he too lacked civility on several occasions. During the second Presidential debate in 2020 with then Vice President Joe Biden, Trump constantly interrupted Biden. This incivility may well have been the deciding factor for many in Trump’s very close loss of the November 2020 election. All the disruptions of the January 6 invasion of the Capitol would then have been avoided.
In an act of incivility following the Supreme Court’s recent leaked decision on abortion, some Democrats disclosed the locations of the residencies of conservative Supreme Court justices. Protestors to the court’s decision paraded in front of the justices’ houses. One protestor was arrested for carrying a weapon in a presumed assassination attempt. Others were not detained. Protesting outside judges’ homes is a Code Title 18 section 1507 offense. That law says: “whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, or witness or court officer in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judges, jurors, witness, or court officer…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year or both.” Those protestors paraded in front of the justices’ residences in an attempt to influence or intimidate the judges’ decision in the final published ruling. No one, apart from the man carrying the weapon, has been charged under this law, although it is clear that the intent of the protestors was to interfere with, or intimidate the judges. Their actions were an egregious example of incivility.
Later still, further information of the judges’ whereabouts was published–where they went to eat, or even their churches. When Elizabeth Warren was questioned on the dissemination of this information she ducked into her car, and quickly drove away. Obviously, those buildings (restaurants or churches) were occupied by those justices, and therefore any protestors who showed up were in clear violation of the Code Title 18 section 1507 law.
Whatever our position in life our actions should be respectful, courteous, and considerate. In our everyday lives we should strive to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. This is a continual challenge for us all.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15 v 1.
Peter Gilderson, Madison.