Can’t we all get along? The words of that great American philosopher Rodney King echo the theme of our local political leaders with their recent lamentations pleading for more civility in our public discourse. Which raises the interesting question, when were we ever more civil? The much-vaunted good old days of the 1950s and 60s perhaps.
Those were the days of “Father Knows Best” and separate but equal schools for the different races. Lots of folks in the south would say that Rosa Parks wasn’t being very civil when she refused to relinquish her seat on the bus to a white person. And Rosa would say the white person wasn’t being very civil when they asked her to do so.
It’s hard to be civil when something really matters to you. It’s hard to be civil when the proposed second story addition to your neighbor’s house will block all your view. It’s just as hard when your neighbor is contesting your proposed second story because they say it blocks their entire view and you know it only takes a little nibble.
It’s hard to be civil when you have to drive cross country instead of taking a plane because all the unvaccinated people have facilitated a measles outbreak and your baby is only 6 months old and can’t be vaccinated.
It’s hard to be civil when people are contesting cell phone towers because they claim the tower’s electronic emissions will make us glow in the dark, and you’re worried about phone service being reliable in a disaster.
It’s hard to be civil when the people in charge, seeing how many of you want to speak on an issue, cut your comment period from a brief three minutes to one, and then appear to be texting as you speak.
When we don’t like what somebody is saying, but we don’t have the facts to counter their argument, we often object to the way they are saying it. We object to their tone, language, or demeanor not being civil. Usually it is people in charge, trying to make folks do things that they don’t want to do, that encounter the most incivility.
That’s why we should all love the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
It doesn’t say a word about being civil.
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.