Letters to the Blogger: “Be More Civil!”

Dear Baker,
          Some of your remarks are not in good taste even though they may be accurate.  I am a big fan, but some of your phrasing makes me uncomfortable.  
         Could you please be more civil?
Comfy Conservative

Dear Comfy,
      Out of curiosity, I explored the origins of the adjective “civil.”  It comes from a Latin word meaning “citizen” and carried a sense of the quiet of citizens as opposed to the rudeness and militant aggressive nature of soldiers.
      Going further back into the Indo-Euro roots, we find that the Latin version came from “kei-“  which originally meant “to lie down” and was associated with the comfortable couches or beds one finds when quietly passing the evening in a  night’s lodging or in one’s ordinary household – as opposed to the roughhewn bunks in a military barracks or the bare ground when campaigning.
      So today when someone urges us to be “civil,” he may be reverting to the oldest concept and means that we should “shut up, go home, and go to bed!“ 
     This concept directly conflicts with the later context in which the obligation of the citizen is to participate in the political process.
      Justice Clarence Thomas put everything in wonderful prospective in his famous 2001 Francis Boyer Lecture “Be Not Afraid” which may be found at www.aei.org/speech/15211 
      He tells of Gertrude Himmelfarb who discusses the “vigorous virtues” as opposed to the “caring virtues.”  She writes in One Nation, Two Cultures, “To reduce citizenship to the modern idea of civility, the good-neighbor idea, is to belittle not only the political role of the citizen but also the virtues of the citizen – the ‘civic virtues’ as they were known in antiquity and in early republican thought.”
       Justice Thomas points out “… by yielding to a false form of “civility,” we sometimes allow our critics to intimidate us. As I have said, active citizens are often subjected to truly vile attacks; they are branded as mean-spirited, racist, Uncle Tom, homophobic, sexist, etc. To this we often respond (if not succumb), so as not to be constantly fighting, by trying to be tolerant and nonjudgmental—i.e., we censor ourselves. This is not civility. It is cowardice, or well-intentioned self-deception at best.”
       His speech should be read aloud in total at every annual GOP convention.
       Finally, I would note philosopher and historian of science Karl Popper who correctly pointed out that the tolerant who are always civil and tolerate the intolerant eventually cease to exist. 
      Your discomfort may be a sign that you should reexamine your criteria.
      But thank you for being a loyal fan.
YT, Baker

This entry was posted in Letters to the Blogger, Politics - US. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *