Can we all get along?
There’s nothing to indicate Rodney King wanted to become a celebrity, any more than he wanted to be beaten by Los Angeles police in an incident that became a national news story in 1991.
When the four policemen involved were acquitted in a criminal trial (two would later be sentenced to prison for civil rights violations), it touched off a firestorm of outrage that led to riots and another moment when our country had to face the race issue.
But this isn’t a column about race, it’s a piece about the “Age of Angst” and the growing lack of civility in American society. Rodney King came to mind because April was the 20th anniversary of the chain of events that led to King’s simple-yet-profound statement made while trying to calm the vitriol that followed the verdict in the criminal trial.
Can we all get along?
Over the years, as our society’s become more polarized and its general mood is more cynical and jaundiced, King’s five-word plea has become fodder for sarcasm.
Still, if we’re going to restore a mood of civility in the public forum and in our private lives, Can we all get along? is a fundamental question. Learning to get along on a person-to-person level — showing civility to one another — is how civilized societies came to be.
The anniversary of King’s statement also recalled my discovery of a book called Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. It was a paperback I found in the “Politics” section of a bookstore, written in 2002 by Dr. P.M. Forni, a literature professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Since then, Forni has become a crusader for returning civility to American society, and in 2009 he released a follow-up book called The Civility Solution.
Although I’m just as guilty of being sharp-tongued (or sharp-penned) as the next person, I share Forni’s belief that reestablishing civility is a great way for a great people to revive their eroding greatness.
Learning to get along is basic and it’s something we should embrace, not belittle.
See, getting along and being civil with one another at the individual and public forum levels, doesn’t mean you don’t have strong beliefs and convictions; doesn’t mean you shouldn’t defend a position; doesn’t mean you’re a meek, mindless sheep.
But what I’ve found increasingly distressful is that so many people in the public forum don’t want to just debate a subject or offer a conflicting opinion; they want to inflict a wound.
What bothers me about modern media pundits and politicians is that few can make a point without twisting the knife. The intent is not to discuss, it’s to crush a counter argument or individual or to replace reason with angst and hyperbole.
Still, what goes on in the public forum is nothing more than a reflection of what’s going on in private lives. When individuals can’t engage in civil discourse at a person-to-person level, without resorting to being snide, sarcastic, belittling and profane, why should we expect civility on TV and radio talk shows, in print or in the political arena?
And certainly, the anonymity of the Internet has opened whole new avenues for “dissing” one another, allowing people to become uncivil hit-and-run artists.
Somewhere along the way, a growing number of Americans seem to have given up on the notion of respecting other people’s opinions; speaking kindly to one another, even though we may disagree on the topic; and considering that our opinion or our interpretation of a situation might be, gulp, wrong.
If you placed modern American society on a psychiatrist’s couch, the growing trend toward disrespect and incivility would be diagnosed as a lack of self-confidence at best, neurotic insecurity at worst.
Or maybe we’re just “dumbing-up” so much as individuals and as a society that we’re losing the self-discipline and intellect it takes to “get along.”
Whichever it is, where is the road of incivility taking us? Where does it end? And how do we get off it?
Some suggestions, the next time we gather.
580-255-5354, Ext. 172
Can we all get along?
An impressive ranking that could be better
That Duncan was named one of the best 15 communities in Oklahoma by Movoto, a national Real Estate company, is news worth celebrating.
Of 43 places with population of 10,000 or more, as determined by the U.S. Census data, Duncan finished 15th. Norman was first, Edmond second, Yukon and Moore tied for third and Bethany was fifth.
Kids shouldn’t have to pay for having punster parents
Friends and neighbors, I’ve been cloistered in my Thought Chamber for the past few days, contemplating many high-brow philosophies and haughty hypothesis that we who think on a different level use to exercise our finely-tuned minds and remain intellectually superior to the Great Unwashed.
As you see, the time alone has been intellectually beneficial. I just composed an opening sentence (what we in the journalism dodge call a “lead”) that’s 46 words long.
The blissful serenity of No-TV Land
Life without TV is possible. Maybe you should try it. I did. It’s a do-able thing, I tell you. I’m still here, no worse the wear, no oozing wounds, no serious loss of brainwave activity except for the slow, inexorable downhill decline that already started when TV viewing was a daily occurrence.
Granted, two months without the tube is quite likely not a scientifically acceptable sample from which is to hold forth. But it’s the best I can do, so deal with it.
Cooper’s message is to remain active
Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Dallas physician who coined the phrase “aerobics” more than four decades ago, who has become a world leader in physical fitness and who has saved, literally, thousands of lives by promoting the value of an active lifestyle, shared his philosophy of life here last week.
Time to take the “B” out of the “Three R’s”
Our young folks are hitting the stretch drive toward the end of another school year, during which they’ve been taught “Three R’s”, which are not really “r’s” at all.
In case you missed it, reading is the only one of the “Three R’s” that actually begins with the letter “r.” Writing starts with a “w” and arithmetic begins with the letter “a.” There are two reasons we drop the “w” from “writing” and the “a” from “arithmetic”: 1. For poetic flow in the age-old saying; and, 2. many people have a secret yen to talk like the Beverly Hillbillies.
Thank you for lettin’ me be myself again
Friends and neighbors, hope I don’t sound like the biggest egomaniac since Donald Trump, but you know, I am the most interesting person I’ve ever known.
Forgive me if — on first blush — that sounds like the most totally self-aggrandizing statement you’ve ever heard. And if you’ve headed to the restroom to express an editorial opinion about the statement above, I’ll stop for a couple minutes.
Buzz misfired in Vanity Fair body slam of Duncan
As the new kid in town, I’m reluctant to leap atop the ramparts to defend the honor of Duncan, Okla., my new adopted hometown.
But to heck with that. When an out-of-towner comes into your house and soils your rug, it’s on.
I speak, of course, about the article in Vanity Fair magazine about Duncan and the killing last year of Chris Lane, the Australian who was gunned down in August.
Boys can still be boys
You know, the past was seldom as blissful as viewing it through the eyewear of nostalgia makes us believe.
That said, though, I do believe being a young boy in the 1950s and ‘60s — and probably further back than that — was more fun than it is today.
Local film festival deserves applause
A highlight of the January calendar will take center stage Jan. 24 and Jan. 25 when the Trail Dance Film Festival showcases up-and-coming filmmakers and their work.
Nearly 100 features will be shown on screens at the L.B. and Ola Simmons Community Activities Center and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center.
Fair & Expo work a sound decision
The alarm seems positive. Duncan’s Stephens County Fair & Expo Center, host to a full schedule of activities year round as one of the state’s most active and successful agri-tourism facilities, appears to be a victim of its own success.
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- An impressive ranking that could be better