Paradigms don’t shift overnight, they occur very gradually, like growing old. One day you look in the mirror and realize you are looking at an old man or an old woman. How did this happen, we ask? I don’t remember growing old.
Without our realizing it, civility, a paradigm of our American way of life, has shifted radically. Key elements of that paradigm are respect of self and others, how we are governed, the quality of our private and public discourse and demeanor.
A general lack of respect for self and others is reflected by the acceptance of the ever increasing use of vulgarity and obscenity in the media and public discourse. Many in our government no longer seek to serve the common good or general welfare, but only the good of the party which places retaining or regaining power over truly serving the country. Those seeking public office seldom address issues that are endangering our country but seek only to demonize and destroy their opponents.
Those disagreeing with us no longer are seen as good people holding different opinions but as ill-informed people whose ideas are unworthy of consideration that don’t deserve to be heard. Peaceful protests, a hallmark of democracy, are all too frequently commandeered and misappropriated by those with nefarious intent.
We appear to be on a self-destructive path that disparages common courtesy and compromise. If we do not act to change that, I fear that the words of Samuel Johnson will be prophetic.
When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency.
Image credit: Jamelle Bouie on Flickr
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