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January 24, 2011
Democratic Party luminaries lately have made numerous calls for a return to civility in our political discourse (stories here and here). These have about as much probity and convincing depth as little Johnny's promise to Mom ‑‑ despite having given his younger brother as many extra whacks as he could right before she rounded the corner and put an end to it ‑‑ that he'd be really good from now on.
That is to say, Democrats have spent the last three years bruising and contusing language, logic and law. For example, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." (story here); "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." (story here); "We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us . . ." (story here); "Don't think we're not keeping score, brother." (story here). All quotes just of one Mr. B.H. Obama, as Uniter-in-Chief, in his pre-civility period. Yet, wary after the last election, if not chastened by it, Democrats now call for others to join them in salving the oozing wound they themselves have inflicted, aggravated, and rubbed raw. How snidely preempting, ignoble, crass, and hollow.
Merriam-Webster expands on the fundamental definition of the word, stating that "civil now implies adequate consideration of others and forbearance from rudeness or unpleasantness." In other words, civil is as civil does and does not do, says and does not say. Forbearance from invective, smear, aspersion, and innuendo is only the integument of civility. Its kernel is the temperate decorum of thought and action which embraces fundamental regard for the integrity ‑‑ here, the political integrity ‑‑ of others.
Consider several opportunities ‑‑ there are endless others ‑‑ through which Democrats might display their newfound virtue. One, a word-based civility, would be to elevate their language, desist from using ad hominem derisions like "teabaggers," "birthers," and "Nazis" (story here). A second civility, this one action-based, would be to convince Mr. Obama to stop bowing. That's not civil at all in the eyes of his countrymen. A third, administrative civility would be to release dispositive documentation about the status of the President's citizenship, to quell a growing nationwide unease which shows no signs of dissipating.
Finally, a procedural civility would be to ensure a Senate vote regarding the repeal of so-called ObamaCare. Why? Because, after all, it was with extreme incivility that the Democrats excluded the entire Republican legislative faction from the debate leading up to that momentous bill's passage (stories here and here). And it was with consummate incivility that, in so passing it, they legislated ‑‑ often late at night and on weekends ‑‑ against the manifest will of the people. And that they didn't read it (see here). That's really uncivil to the people they serve, and should never happen again. Are you listening, Civil Servant Reid?
Let's see if this President is genuine in his call for this noble quality, and capable of it. Or whether, by its invocation, he and his supporters are just hewing one more bludgeon to use against ‑‑ his word ‑‑ their "enemies." If the latter, it's just one more cynical feint, en route to more invidious blaming and flaming. Civility is the soul of decorum itself. And decorum, individual and collective, in word, deed, and bearing, is MIA from the national discourse. Civility ‑‑ or its opposite ‑‑ will limn that discourse straight through the sure-to-be-seismic election of 2012. It will assuredly be needed afterwards in any case. Does the party currently in charge of the executive branch and of the Senate have what it takes to achieve it? The campaign has begun, and we'll know very soon.
Richard Kantro may be contacted at email@example.com.