What happened to simple civility?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke have drawn much ire from those who oppose his viewpoint and even from those who generally see eye-to-eye with the conservative pundit.

Many have decried his actions as a symptom of the deterioration of civility in American politics. While L’Observateur does not condone his comments, they are not really out of line when one considers the history of American politics in general. After all, Alexander Hamilton was killed in a politically motivated duel. So at least politicians aren’t killing each other any more.

What it is perhaps a symptom of, however, is the deterioration of civility in American society in general. While some may argue the state of civility in America has been on the downslide for decades, it seems to have accelerated in recent years. It is as if everyone has accepted the notion of “truth” put forward by former “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell.

He hid behind the flag of truth while spewing invectives usually reserved for one’s worst enemies. If you call every singer the “worst you’ve ever heard,” that, by reason of logic, cannot be true unless every succeeding singer is worse than the last — a highly unlikely scenario. Nonetheless, people seem to believe that one can say whatever they want to another human being as long as they finish the statement with “I’m just being truthful.”

Whether one truly feels they are being truthful or not, it must be acknowledged that speaking in the lowest possible terms is not the only way to voice one’s opinion. In fact, one would probably be taken more seriously if he or she spoke in more measured and less offensive terms.

Truth and civility are not mutually exclusive, and American society would probably be better off if it remembered this simple fact.