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Nonetheless this enduring sense of good or appropriate and measured responses has always been constitutive of civility.
There was no warrant for the outbursts, the personal assaults, etc. As I listened to Ashcroft, I kept thinking how barbarous mob shaming was; without civility, barbarity can raise its ugly head, as it does with considerable frequency of late, becoming a political tool once again.
I learned from Guroian that though civility asks so little, so much is at stake. Civility is not fundamentally about politeness but about proportionality; it is not a virtue with fixity in its rules but rather about measured-ness in engagement. Protest in a variety of forms has had a legitimate expression in civil societies, even protest that was illegal, especially in societies where laws were known more for the censure of societies rather than for the promotion of the common good.
That president delights in dog-whistle insults that fall just short of outright ethnic slurs—usually.
A white woman calls the police on a black child selling water on a city street on a beastly hot day.
The host and those interviewed were clearly not disposed to the refrain, but for the duration of the program, no one on either side of the debate mentioned the necessity of civility in their replies.
Today, they seem everywhere to be in short supply and at the risk of seeming platitudinous, or worse, sanctimonious, I will proffer several virtues that might put a variety of events, including Brexit and the forthcoming US election, in a more socially responsible context. Throughout the forty-six minute program, there was a refrain from callers who roughly argued that there are no rules for tweeting or other postings on social media.
Believe what you want to, the thinking goes, but be polite about how you express it in public; advocate separating children from parents at the border or argue for the virtues of the Confederacy with all your might, but mind your manners as you do so and you will have satisfied the all-too-frequently heard plea for civil behavior, no matter how ugly the message.
One can have heart and mind full of venom and still be civil; decency need not enter the picture.
When Joseph Nye Welch beseeched Joseph Mc Carthy, in a famous moment in American political history, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency? If you’re looking for no one to be offended, then civility is a desideratum, to be sure.
” he was asking the Wisconsin senator for more than showing a little decorum. But, observes the philosopher Avishai Margalit, decency is really what we should be after: “A decent society,” he writes, “is one whose institutions do not humiliate people.” A decent society is fair and constructive, a civil one merely polite.