Seamans: Civility Wars

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(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans would like to see more respectful public discourse in the New Year.

(SEAMANS)  Again we have made those New Year promises about how to better ourselves and most already are fading away into that "well, at least we thought about it" fog.  Anyway, it’s sort of fun and I threw my Resolution into the New Year Pledge Pool to strive as a public scribe doing with greater effort whatever I can to help restore civility to our public dialogue.  Yes, CIVILITY, remember that?  I’m helped by Pete Wehner who wrote in the Washington Post, "We can possess civility while at the same time holding deep moral and philosophical commitments.  In fact civility, properly understood, advances vigorous arguments, for a simple reason that it forecloses ad homenem attacks, which are the refuge of sloppy, undisciplined minds."

I question, however, that a congressman calling President Obama a liar during his State of the Union speech, or the former Vice President uttering the "F-word" on the Senate floor were examples of uncivil acts committed by "sloppy, undisciplined minds"!  It is regrettable that the perpetrators were among the articulate celebrities in public life who should be exemplars of civility but instead are some of its worst offenders.

We the people complain about the extremely irresponsible erosion of public debate and the loss of good manners and courtesy we owe others as fellow citizens and human beings.  But the public is so overwhelmed by the smearmeisters that it has lost its will to fight to restore the respectful open exchange of ideas.  We complain but will not push ourselves to write those  letters to the editor or to call  the radio talk show host to challenge the stream of vulgarisms and outright lies.

The attack on civility in public discourse has become a billion dollar industry and its leaders, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and others at all points on the political specturm, have earned fortunes slaying civility.  The public is so smothered by toxic media and talk shows that it feels that complaining has become useless and has fallen back into lethargy under the banner "Let the other guy do it."

Therefore I propose that we declare a new CIVIL WAR – this one against those who are reducing an honorable argument to the level of crass street fighting and teaching our youngsters to do the same.  Thus I enlist in what I hope will become a national legion of civility, which will fight to recapture the nations Bully Pulpit from the rudeness raptors who pray on we the people.

And thinking about about those "good old days of civility" I might also propose a return to the colonial custom that answered an insult with a white glove invitation to meet at dawn under the old oak tree for a very civil duel with pistols.  I wonder whether Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck would show up?

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