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?
Affordable healthcare is here
The Republican Party’s angst against the colloquially named “Obamacare” is probably due to the millions of dollars they have wasted demeaning it. Whether they like it or not, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) can only be reversed if voters become lazy and allow Republicans to gain control of all three branches of our federal government. What both parties should do is look ahead to when the PPACA is fully implemented. Then, evaluate the final results when affordable healthcare for everyone is completed. A negative critique of a project at its inception is a wasteful effort in futility, politically and financially.
Ruling is in the hand of God
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby, the landmark lawsuit addressing the constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their company without violating their religious convictions. No date has been set for the case to be heard, but it is expected to be decided by June.
Decades later, shock remains
The memory is still vivid. Nov. 22, 1963. Shortly after 1 p.m. A Friday. Sophomore year in high school. Walking down the second floor hallway to an English class.
Over the public address system came a familiar voice, that of the principal. The announcement was shocking. President John Kennedy had been shot, possibly killed.
Laughter stopped. Jokes subsided. Conversations ended. Girls cried. Disbelief reigned.
Last week, visiting Dallas, I relived the horror and the feeling was much like that I recall 18 years ago. I was limp.
At least there’s a music soundtrack for Black Friday
When I started to spoon out some dressing from the Thanksgiving turkey, what came out was a dollop of the sticky notes that serve as my memory. Talk about dry — but they were well-seasoned:
Count me among the folks who would rather be tossed naked into a briar patch than spend one nano-second in the Black Friday mosh pit that has eliminated “thanks” from the Thanksgiving holiday. (OK, I’ll pause a moment to let you erase the vision of me naked from your mind’s eye!)
Anyway, I’m not much of a shopper to begin with, and the thought of participating in the Black Friday is less appealing than drinking gasoline to cure strep throat. But I did find one thing that was kinda cool about this shopping insanity. It was a list called the Top 20 Songs for Black Friday, which was compiled by Michael Saltsman for the Wolfgang’s Vault website.
Filing opportunity opens for leaders
The opportunity is here. The window of time is brief. The importance of consideration is critical. And the decisions are important.
It is filing time for political offices, time for current leaders to re-commit, time for people with a vision to emerge, time for citizens to pay their civic rent.
The process begins tomorrow.
Bennett’s example a model for teachers
While there are a number of teachers within the Duncan Public Schools System worthy of attention for their work in the classroom, the selection of Tammy Bennett as teacher of the year for 2013-14 is no surprise.
Nominated by her peers and selected from a group of nine quality candidates, Bennett may well be a mold for teachers in the future.
Blessings surround us all daily
It’s hard to believe, but Thanksgiving Day is less than a week away. It seems like only yesterday we were all planning summer vacations, getting ready for a new school year or marking down key football games on a fresh, clean schedule.
Now, you’re looking forward to a nice visit with your family or relatives you don’t often see. Visions of that traditional, bountiful meal, stimulating conversations and a day far from the pressures of work are on your mind.
Giving thanks for things I ‘don’t’ have
Thursday, we’ll gather once again around the turkey, ham, clove-spiked chunk of Spam or whatever dish is the traditional family entree in your tribe.
It’s good we set aside at least one day each year to pause and draw strength from one another, and to give thanks for what we have.
However, on Thanksgiving Day 2003, I’ll be breaking with the tradition of acknowledging what I have and instead, I’ll be giving thanks for what I do not have. See, in the universal scope of have-ness, it’s the things I do not have that make me most thankful.
Special thoughts for Thanksgiving
As we enjoy the splendor of a beautiful holiday season, one that can’t be spoiled by recent dreary weather, let us all find peace, joy and comfort in the holiest of words taken from The Reformation Study Bible.
New owners offer stability, optimism
The acquisition of automobile dealerships for Chrysler-Dodge-Ram-Jeep and Chevrolet-Buick-GMC by Randy Byford and David LeNorman is good news for Duncan, Stephens County and southwest Oklahoma.
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- Affordable healthcare is here