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A Question for America: What’s the Problem With Civility?

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“We need some civility,” Wisconsin resident George Semrad recently told his congressman, Republican James Sensenbrenner, at a town hall meeting in the small town of Sussex. “We need people to solve (the public’s) problems and….stand up for us.”

Indeed, civility is exactly what is necessary in the American political realm, perhaps now more than at any other time in modern history. I wrote about this at length in my new book The American Thinker: Realistic Solutions That We Need Now to Revitalize the American Dream, which is a compilation of many of the articles I have written here at Blogcritics containing centrist ideas for building a saner, more sustainable political environment, as well as crafting effective public policy measures relating to fiscal, social, and national security matters.

One of the biggest impetuses for me to write the book was that painfully few in our nation’s punditocracy or public offices seem to care about actually searching for legitimate fixes to the multitude of problems which are plaguing her, the responsibility for which cannot be pinned on either the left or the right alone. All anyone seems to want these days is a shouting match — so long as their side gets the final word. This has crippled us socially and, in many ways, economically as no progress can be made while the lions share of attention is given to marginal issues designed to divide and conquer the electorate and endless volleys of hyper-partisan sniping.

The biggest question currently facing the United States as a whole is not whether we can make it through this period of prolonged fiscal malaise. No, eventually — so long as nothing catastrophic occurs — the economy will rebound as it has in the past. It is this; can we set aside our philosophical differences to do what is right? Why is it considered to be a contemporary curse for a bipartisan group of legislators to conspire in creating a piece of legislation which will prove to be beneficial for their respective constituents? Why do so many rely on obscene entertainers masquerading as legitimate commentators as their daily news sources? Why is compromise thought of as a dirty word or something which is the last refuge of the weak?

While the diatribe most certainly has been heated to a great degree during years past, I cannot recall a period which even comes close to rivaling the levels of sheer insanity which have been put forth since the conclusion of the 2008 presidential election. Perhaps if many were to take an objective look at our present sociopolitical situation and notice that things have become considerably worse across the fruited plains as the rhetoric and absolutism have increased, then they would understand what a far too small number already do; that the path to prosperity can only be travelled on when both sides are walking down it in a calm, cool, and collected manner — not trying to push each other off in a mad dash to reach what Ronald Reagan once described as the shining city on a hill.

For all of our sakes, I hope that Mr. Semrad’s call does not go unanswered.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • jASON

    The left is always the first to go violent in thought word and deed. The American left was born of violence. Democrats never play fair and are seldom civil. The left is not liberal in any sense of the term. Totalitarianism is not liberal. The are extreemist. Any disagreement is answered with violence. I used to be a leftist type but now I consider the left is evil.

  • http://rationalista.com Jerald Cumbus

    Some wonderful words of civility from State Rep. Sally Kern (R-OKC) from an interview given yesterday: “Minorities earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative” … From comments like this to the constant racist dog whistle concerning Obama’s birth certificate, the Republican party abandoned civility many moons ago.

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    Part of this Civility Deficit Disorder (CDD) is the cultured lack of self-respect that can be so easily and instantly posted. It is easier to pitch tirades of less than 140 characters with ones thumbs than it is to use a pen to create and edit first and second drafts of an opinion. As a result, the 2010 campaign became an extended anger venting match, openly hostile and aggressive, bigoted and disrespectful. It put cross-hairs on civil discourse.

    From a marketing point of view, of course, we know that consumption increases when consumers feel agitation. Next to lust and envy, anger is a great emotion to make people see red and buy something. It frequently strikes me that many folks must practice their angry-face in a mirror before going into public, like putting on cologne. Such denigrations of civility sell something, to be sure. I am just not sure what.

    The CDD you describe is the natural result of crude self-absorption. In this country self-expression is protected equally under law. Whether we like it or not is only interesting. Your hero Ronald Reagan exuded self-respect. His quips would have gone viral on Twitter, although I doubt if he would have used it. The lack of self-respect incubates bigotry and its cousin demagoguery. Our challenge must be to rise above it.

    Tommy

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Fuck civility. Fuck the American Dream. Fuck Ronald Reagan’s shining city on the hill. For that matter, fuck Ronald Reagan. May liberals and conservatives become so shrill and ridiculous that no one will any longer take seriously participation in either side of this insane indoctrinated play.

    Just say no to politicians. Have a nice day! :-)

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Do we feel better now, Cindy, with that out of our system? LOL

    I do find comment #1 [‘they always start it, Mom!’] comical and ridiculous. You can find nasty examples on both sides, but at some point during the last 25 years [starting with Lee Atwater?], the GOP decided that anything goes.

    It’s not about verbal violence per se. It’s just this: anything that will get them short-term political advantage, no matter how corrosive and untruthful, is worth it and should be done, and said, over and over, a mantra of ugly nonsense. And it has worked more often than not.

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I rest my case.

    Tommy

  • Clavos

    Hey, Tommy, what’s a “pen?”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Jason,

    Neither the left or the right holds a monopoly on promoting violence, hatred or irrationality in politics. All parties, both literally and figuratively, are to blame for getting us where we currently are as a nation.

    Jerald,

    While Rep. Kern’s statements are nothing more than a vulgar stereotype, let us not forget that the left has said things of a similar nature, if not far, far worse, about Republicans in the not-too-distant past. Quite frankly, everybody has been losing their sanity lately, and this has taken a horrid toll on the political process.

    Tommy,

    I could not agree with you more. So much of the vitriol being spread is done by pundits and politicians for no other reason than it is in their best economical interest. For instance, if Ed Schultz did not work his easily excitable viewer base up into a tizzy every night about their supposed coming doom at the hands of the GOP, he would be out of a job due to a lack of ratings. Likewise, if Jim DeMint did not go into fact-free screeds about the often heard of but little seen threat of an impending militant social-commun-fascist revolution, his books would not sell as he would not be featured in the media as a lightning rod. Nobody wants to tell it like it is because there is no profit motive to do so, and that is a terrible shame, but, nonetheless, a fact of life. Also, the declining level of political discourse is indeed indicative of corresponding rates of self esteem amongst many portions of the electorate. What this spells for the future is something which I would rather not think about.

    Cindy,

    Though I would have used more, shall we say, tame verbiage, I strongly agree with your overall point.

  • Baronius

    Here’s a clip you’ll appreciate.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Baronius,

    Thank you for the link. Smith was absolutely on target in what he said, as was Williams. The insanity simply has to stop, but the chances of us seeing a federal budget surplus within the next fifty years are far more likely, sad as that is to say.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Neither the left or the right holds a monopoly on promoting violence, hatred or irrationality in politics. All parties, both literally and figuratively, are to blame for getting us where we currently are as a nation.

    The clouds part and a sunbeam shines down on earth to the sound of angel voices…Mr. Cotto and I agree on something.

  • http://rationalista.com Jerald Cumbus

    Love how most are missing the point. To have civility, you must have a culture of civility. How that happens is when people like Rep. Kerns, Donald Trump, or whoever says something that is reprehensible they should be called on it. They have to be called-out hard by the leadership of whatever community.

    It’s the difference between living in a culture where it is okay to burn the Koran and a culture that thinks twice and recognizes there are consequences for every choice we make and that sometime we might just want to think through our position.

    It’s time to give America’s meist, Randian culture a big kick in the whooshcan.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I’m just kind of curious as to why liberals like to scream about republicans and conservatives calling their own people out, but never have anything to say to muslims and other groups about calling their own people out…

    LIke Jerald likes to point out in comment #13…some fucking moron burns a koran and every conservative on the planet is responsible for it, but when a bunch of muslims bring down the two tallest buildings in NYC, they have nothing to say to muslims…but they’ll tell the world that we can’t blame all muslims!

    Or the spoiled children rioting in Seattle during a WTO event…nobody got called out on that one either…

    Of course there are plenty more examples…

    Kind of a double standard, dontcha think?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    If Andy actually thinks his first two paragraphs [in #13] are an accurate description of people’s opinions, he is seriously misguided. How can he expect to have a conversation about anything if he’s always yelling absurd, hyperbolic misrepresentations? Bring it down five or six notches, and you might find you have something worthwhile to say.

  • troll

    …have to agree with Andy though – the Seattle police did behave rather like spoiled children

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I do actually think…I also think it’s an accurate description. I’ve heard liberals defend muslims a million times for the actions of a few and without taking a breath, scream at conservatives for shit like koran burnings and whatever comes out of some fat slobs mouth on the radio.
    Nancy Pelosi crying on camera, because she’s seen it all before…it was fucking liberals she saw doing it all before!
    I’m just curious, you liberals seem so up on what conservatives are saying…have you ever listened to half the clowns on MSNBC?
    You do realize that the only reason I know what comes out of limbaugh or beck’s mouth’s is because you liberals whine so loudly about it?

    Here’s the difference…when Obama says shit about people clinging to god and religion, you liberals see that as a factual statement…although I don’t believe in god, I do like my guns and I have to say that people like me find that statement offensive and maybe even racist.

    I guess it’s a perspective kinda thing…

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Or an obnoxiousness kinda thing.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    That’s typically liberal too! Anyone that disagrees with you is either a racist, or obnoxious, or intolerant, or whatever…

    …but you didn’t dispute that liberals take statements like Obamas and see them as fact…’cause you do.

  • Boeke

    13-Andy just flails away in all directions without regard to facts, scattering red herrings wherever he goes.

    The 1999 Seattle WTO event was actually a police riot: the chief had to resign afterwards and the city paid damages to falsely arrested protestors.

  • Boeke

    16-it’s a paranoia kinda thing. Andy has a persecution problem.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Like they say, just ’cause you’re paranoid, don’t mean they ain’t after you!!!

    But you may be right. I am paranoid…that’s why I use my real name here and everywhere else. If you wanna find me it should be no problem.

    Wouldn’t paranoia be beter demonstrated by not using your real name or linking to anything of your own on the net?

    Those things that make you go hmmmmmm……

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I do indeed take factual statements by the president as fact. I realize this is an extreme position, but I am sticking to it.

    There also seem to be plenty of people who second attacks on their political enemies, quite independently of whether these attacks are fact-based or not. It’s an attack on someone they dislike, so their tendency is to happily cheer the attacker on and ignore counter-evidence. If you can find an example where I have done this, let me know.