The death of civility in America
Civility has died in America. It has been a long time coming. The veneer has always been thin. This time the assault on civility culminated during the last political campaign leaving in its trail the vulgarity, disrespect and coarseness which our society has become. Let’s not be so myopic as to shift the blame onto Donald Trump’s persona and his obscene utterances. Collectively, we all bear some responsibility in producing this phenomenon called Trump. Oh sure, we can blame the media, the politicians, Wall Street, Hollywood, the FBI, the drug lobby and various societal problems which have not yet been remedied. But for all of us, the buck stops here.
I am a depression baby of the ’30s – family of seven. They are all gone now except for my younger sister who is now 80. We were never financially well off. I served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean conflict and thereafter. College was virtually free at UC, Berkeley. I then went to night law school and worked during the day, passing the State Bar in 1966.
What’s my point? We were never raised to be coarse in our language or to be disrespectful toward others. Otherwise, Dad and Mom would lower the boom, so to speak. As children, Dad and Mom kept our butts busy with school, chores and part time employment as we grew into our teens. Computer games and television didn’t exist. However, with all my worldliness, during the Vietnam era I started to witness deterioration in our social fabric. In 1968, with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and with riots in every major city, I believed that America as we knew it was ending. However, some recovery was achieved and, for many people, normalcy was restored except in our coarse language. In the 1990’s a judge friend of mine lamented, among other things, that the young lawyers appearing before him were more and more lacking in civility in their discourse. They weren’t of the old school brought up to show respect and consideration towards others. That was an early warning sign.
It’s also been noted that, in a political sense, Truth is dead, Facts are passé. A relatively new term has just been adopted as the “Word of the Year” for 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries. It’s called “post-truth.” This dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Post-truths were widely used by the Trump campaign and, to a lesser extent by the Clinton people during our recent presidential election, and before that in Great Britain during the Brexit vote. Actually, it’s a technique that has been politically used for many years. People vote their emotions rather than on objective facts. It is high time voters should start to be “critical thinkers.”
65 years ago, my Mom gave me a book by a doctor entitled “Love or Perish” and, not to be preachy, that is precisely what all of us should also be practicing today. Our little communities of Minden-Gardnerville have demonstrated its kindness, volunteerism and willingness to help others probably long before we moved here 17 years ago. God bless you all. In the future I can only hope that the same will apply as to your political hearts and minds.
John Garvin is a Minden resident.