Civility: What it is – and what it isn’t
say-please

Civility: What it is – and what it isn’t

Posted June 19, 2017 10:12 AM by Steve Deace say-please
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We’re starting to hear more calls – including from yours truly – for our country to return to civility in our political discourse. Especially in light of last week’s mass attempted assassination of Republican congressmen at a suburban D.C. ball field.

Of course, in this postmodern age of constant conflation of terms and the defamation of their definitions, there is a never-ending need for us to define what our words actually mean. We are all Inigo Montoya, constantly uttering, “I do not think it means what you think it means” in response to the deconstruction of our cultural nomenclature.

So before deciding whether or not to return to something, best to define what that something actually is. Here goes:

What civility is
Pointing out when someone is lying, as in an intentional attempt to deceive, is needed to maintain civility. As is exposing hackery, hypocrisy, and partisan idolatry.
What civility isn’t
Ignoring dishonesty and dissembling isn’t civility but faux politeness that makes us uncivilized. Just as law and order must be maintained to have a civilized society, so must fecklessness be exposed and confronted to pave the way for civil discourse.

What civility is
Disagreement, even vehement disagreement, over values and beliefs does not make us uncivil. In fact, letting these existential arguments out into the open, among real people in person and not just on social media, usually produces civil (and substantive) debate. See last winter’s health-care debate between Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz as a recent example.
What civility isn’t
Dehumanizing those we disagree with to make our points. Likewise, more speech codes and political correctness will produce even more incivility. When people feel they can’t say what they really believe for fear of being demeaned, this usually causes them to respond by demeaning those who wish to silence them. Thus, a vicious cycle of incivility ensues.

What civility is
Believing, even passionately so, that the other side’s beliefs are bad for the present and/or future of the country. So you desire to persuade them to reconsider and then defeat them in the arena of ideas and at the ballot box if they don’t.
What civility isn’t
Assuming anyone who disagrees with me must automatically be a subhuman miscreant (i.e. racist, misogynist, xenophobe, homophobe, hate America, etc.). Are there people who meet these unfortunate criteria? I don’t know; does a bear relieve his bowels in the woods? But to instantly label everybody (or even most) with opposing views as one of these villains also makes it much harder to identify who the real villains are.

What civility is
Passionate, maybe even bombastic, arguing over values, beliefs, and public policy.
What civility isn’t
Passionate, maybe even bombastic, ridiculing of the opposition that doesn’t advance anything of merit when it comes to values, beliefs, and public policy.

What civility is
Satire and/or parody, even of the biting variety, that is used to make a meaningful point.
What civility isn’t
Satire and/or parody, of any variety, that is nihilistic in nature and thus pointless.

What civility is
Saying you don’t believe a judge will rule in your favor because of his partisan ideological leanings.
What civility isn’t
Saying you think a judge will rule against you because his parents were Mexican.

What civility is
Mocking the credibility of a reporter known to be ideologically biased against you.
What civility isn’t
Mocking a reporter’s disability as a means of undermining his credibility.

What civility is
Senator Sanders asking a Christian like Russ Vought to explain how the public can be assured his worldview will permit him to treat everyone equally, including those who don’t believe Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven.
What civility isn’t
Senator Sanders flat-out saying that because Russ Vought believes Christ alone atones for our sins, he can’t serve in government, regardless of what his resume and public service record say about his capability and qualifications.

So what do you think of my (hopefully) handy little guide to civility? I’d definitely like to know, so hit me up on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow or drop me a line at steve@stevedeace.com.

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Steve Deace is broadcast nationally each weeknight on CRTV. He is the author of the book “A Nefarious Plot.”