A lack of civility diminishes us all

Note: Although this blog focuses on technology and the law, with their occasional intermixing, there are times when I feel it appropriate to write on other topics of importance. 

The news item shocked me today. A little over a month after twenty young kids were gunned down in their school rooms, people had to act like jerks. Worse than jerks, actually.

The father of one of the victims, a little boy who died at the age of six, was testifying at a public hearing in Connecticut. After he let people see a little bit of his grief, he asked the legislators to do something, anything. While asking that something be done, hecklers in the audience shouted, “Second Amendment,” and “Our rights will not be infringed.”

What the hell is wrong with people?

I ask that question as a broad one, encompassing all of us. It’s not just “some people.”

I can only speak as to discourse in the U.S. Here in this country we have a real nastiness that flows through us. When we disagree with someone, we belittle them. We call them names. We attack them. We don’t debate the merits of that person’s ideas. We relish in gutter debates. We think that we have to win the argument—as these people in Connecticut apparently do—regardless of the pain others may feel at the moment. How hard would it have been for the gun rights advocates in the Connecticut crowd to have waited their turn to speak, politely offered sympathy to this father, and then calmly explain why his ideas might be wrong?

This current of nastiness doesn’t just show up in gun control debates. It shows up in the inevitable pro-life/pro-choice rallies and confrontations outside clinics that perform abortions. We must prove we are right, no matter what pain the pregnant woman may be feeling. The nastiness shows up in our humor. Jokes made at the expense of others because of their skin color, religion, or sexual orientation.

I will admit that I am guilty of this kind of nastiness at times. Sometimes I’ve said things I really shouldn’t have. Other times I’ve said things that I realize later were only a little insensitive.

I don’t know what the solution is. But I strongly believe that this nastiness—that we not only accept but that we embrace—is a source of decay, like the start of a cavity in a tooth. If we keep ignoring it, the decay will not heal itself.

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2 thoughts on “A lack of civility diminishes us all

    1. Thanks, Ann Carol. My essay was a little rough around the edges (in my view), but I’m glad to see the message is clear. I’ve received a number of nice comments via email. It’s encouraging to know others feel the same way.

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