Thursday, September 10, 2009

We Ain't Got No Civil

You may have heard that the President of the United States addressed a joint session of Congress yesterday. You may also have heard that the Congressman from South Carolina (and it wasn’t Jesse Helms, may he rest in peace as long as he rests no where near me), called him a liar and then apologized by saying "This evening I let my emotions get the best of me. While I disagree with the President's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility." The Congressman, Joe Wilson, (not related to the great Senator Charlie Wilson), and whose legal name is, Addison Graves Wilson, Sr.-- lost me right after “the best in me”, because clearly, there is no best in him. In addition, and only because it is so offensive, if I didn’t know better I would say this “good old boy” is more than likely a racist and he didn’t feel like he needed to respect the Black guy, regardless of position.

What has happened to civility and decorum in the Congress. Or for that matter, in the world today. David says we don’t know how to be civil because civics is no longer taught in school. But I disagree. I think it’s because bad behavior has become acceptable, almost everywhere in this country including the forums where our elected officials gather to have bipartisan discourse. And, not surprisingly, just like there is no civility, there is also no bipartisanship anymore. There seems not to be any “let’s make it work for the good of the country.” Nope, there is only, “Let’s defeat anything the President wants to do for the benefit of the Republican party.”

Back to being civil. People no longer speak in hushed tones in a movie or the theater. They put their cell phones on vibrate and if they get a call during a performance, they answer and carry on a conversation – who cares that it may interfere with their neighbors enjoyment of a performance. Parents no longer insist that their children have good manners. The children are entitled to act any way they want, regardless of venue. So kiss an expensive meal in a nice restaurant goodbye if you happen to be sitting next to a six year old – who will not sit at any table for longer than a minute. Drivers don’t yield the right of way. They feel wherever they are, the right of way is theirs. Television shows promote the worst of human nature on hour after hour of reality show. There is a lack of respect for life, or at least consequences, which is why there are magnetometers at elementary schools. Children bring knives and guns and all kinds of weapons to school. And forget giving up a seat to an elderly person on the subway or a bus.

None of this may have anything to do with Joe Wilson’s unacceptable behavior last night, or maybe it did. An elected federal official does not just blurt at a joint session of Congress. They may not stand, or cheer, or agree, and they may snicker or smirk, but they don’t shout out things like “You lie,” in the middle of a Presidential speech. So what am I saying? Addison Graves Wilson Sr. made a calculated decision to disrupt the President’s speech. Addison didn’t want people to listen intently to what the President had to say. The interruption was not emotional, it was intentional. Addison didn’t want the headline to be “Obama Makes Sense”. He wanted people to hear that the President was a liar – at prime time.

There is no question that there was a need for the White House to be clearer and more forthcoming about their plans for “health insurance reform” – which the President finally did last night. And maybe it wasn’t all we wanted it to be, but it was certainly more on target than what has been said in the past. I’d say, a good start and some movement in the right direction. Positive constructive conversation is always preferable to shouting and disruption, unless your motive is just to interrupt or choreograph a scenario where you imply that the President of the United States is so devious that he will not tell the truth. Regardless of venue or audience.

There is no way that Addison’s Mama didn’t insist on civility. And I know that’s a double negative, but there is still no way. And if his Mama had been in the Capital last night she would have smacked him soundly on his Southern Republican bottom. We’re just sayin’…. Iris


Ryan Marr said...

I hate to say it but your description of a lack of civility really only applies to the good ol USA. I think in most parts of Europe and south america, people have respect for each other, art and culture, and most importantly themselves (which includes their bodies).

Anonymous said...

You can add texting to the list.
I could not believe my eyes, watching those who were texting during that very important speech. Very disrespectful.

Iris and Clay said...

I totally agree with both of you.