Civility is in you

In his Sidebars column, Bill Trudell laments the deteriorating adherence to the Mark Twain adage: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Civility is in you
U.S. President Donald Trump
Bill Trudell

Recently, while driving home through the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania, I saw a huge sign at the side of the highway featuring a message from Abraham Lincoln:

“A HOUSE DIVIDED CANNOT STAND… CIVILITY IS IN YOU.”

Over the previous couple of days on an annual baseball trip with one of my sons, I had indeed experienced American civility, at toll booths, ball parks, hotels, restaurants, open markets, on buses and at heritage sites. It seemed Abraham Lincoln’s “better angels” were well represented.

In Baltimore, I stayed in a bed-and-breakfast built in 1798, in which George Washington had once rested. Washington once said: “I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”

During my trip, Donald Trump (shockingly, also president of the same nation) was spewing racist and incredibly rude personal attacks on four congresswomen, inviting them to go back to their countries of origin, if they didn’t like the United States.

Actually, when I think about it, that’s exactly what I was doing, with some sense of wistful regret for the lost potential of the country I was leaving.

The lack of civility from this president is beyond disgraceful. Yet even in Congress, he seems to be getting a pass, along partisan lines.

Moreover, at a subsequent rally in North Carolina, many in his crowd began chanting, “send her back!” reminiscent of the “lock her up” mantra of the 2016 election.

In the Globe and Mail newspaper July 18 opinion piece by Omar El Akkad, he dishearteningly opines that this crowd represented a communal expression of deep-seated hatred.

He suggests:

“A base that did not abandon Mr. Trump when he mocked a disabled reporter, when he bragged about sexual assault, when he championed a system of immigrant detention that locks up children in cages, is not about to abandon him now.”

Oh my God, someone needs to make America civil again.

Civility is defined as including courtesy, politeness, graciousness and respect. One wants to believe, that at its core, the United States is a civil society. Disagreeing, without disrespect in politics is civility at work.

I think that many people in the United States just ignore the negativism, racism and rudeness coming out of the White House. They just want to enjoy their individual families, ball games, their entertainment, perhaps their Marines and try to move ahead in their daily struggle to get or stay ahead and accumulate the ever-changing extravagancies available. They don’t seem to register what is happening to the fabric and reputation of their democracy.

A day of reckoning surely awaits.

There were hundreds of citizens lined up in the sweltering heat of Philadelphia to witness, perhaps stand beside the Liberty Bell. If they listened carefully once there, they might sense that it was tolling for their nation.

I think it is fair to suggest that Canadians are civil at their core. Nevertheless, as we approach a federal election, we should recognize and remind ourselves that while policy debates are healthy in a democracy, incivility is a disease once unleashed, embraced or even ignored, can be terminal. Personal attacks must not be acceptable in this country.

A recent political advertisement shows the face of Donald Trump and a voice over listing various allegations of scandals and cover ups. As the camera moves along ever so slowly, the face of Justin Trudeau appears. It is effective in a sickening way, but clearly uncivil.

This kind of political media advertising is misleading and demeans us, no matter what party promotes it. We are not immune in this country to negative, tribal, political contagion.

As I continued my journey along the highway, about 52 seconds later, I came upon another sign with a different slogan,

“PRESIDENT TRUMP, MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”.

For every citizen journeying through our world, I hope that sign comes down and the previous one survives. Indeed, there is another message that perhaps should find itself on every roadside sign in both of our Countries. 

Mark Twain offered this, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Civility is in all of us.

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