These days when I see the shouting and harassment on certain television, "talk," shows and all over in the political arena I often ask myself what has happened to the respect that once ruled our lives, actions, and more importantly our mouths? The art of civility, or being courteous has truly become a lost art.
One example of that loss exhibits itself daily in many young people I see who seem to revel in using all sorts of sarcasm in their daily verbal interactions. They seldom see any reason to be civil with those in authority or with each other. Even the politicians - our leaders, are continually acting discourteously and showing their personal displeasure with opponents by shouting out their dislike for the opposition in public forums. One example of those embarrassing actions occurred in January when a few people attending the inauguration of President Obama loudly booed President Bush. This shows not only a deep disrespect for the man, but sadly also for the Presidency itself.
There is little civility being shown for those with opposing views on any contentious issues. This kind of attitude often ends up inciting tempers and can also create a deep resentment and disrespect for other people's views.
In our early history respect and civility were considered extremely important even down to the most obscure parts of daily life. In fact civility was so valued that during the early days of our country there were 110 rules that students thoroughly learned and that were based on regulations developed by French Jesuits in 1595. These were taught, and written by those students to implant and grow the idea of respect for others in the minds of the young. These were taught and encouraged to declare to the world our respect for those we worked with, or came in contact with daily and in turn it was thought to give us that precious gift of self-respect, an essential part of a healthy life.
Civil discourse is an important part of living in any community successfully and can have one other important result - it can grow that ability to really listen respectfully when dealing with people in many difficult situations. The most important of these skills in my opinion is one ability we do value, diplomacy. Without it there would be little give and take, compromise or understanding in any situation, especially in negotiating a peaceful resolution for problems in places like Northern Ireland, and of course Iran and Afghanistan.
Personally I think we need to find a way back to incorporating those little used skill of holding one's tongue or taking that proverbial high road instead of smearing a reputation, or using innuendo to persuade others of one position or another.
We need to start teaching the real value of constructive disagreement and discussion with an emphasis on a respect for the views of others - now. When good moderate legislators like Evan Bayh quit Congress because of bitter partisan divides that have dominated the House for over a decade our country has really lost our way. We need to find our way back to creating in our young that ability to communicate with a respect toward all peoples views and beliefs again. We do not have to agree with everything that would be lying, but we need to care enough to again have civilized conduct in all our conversations.