Monday, April 16, 2007

Civility Abused

I am labeling last week "The Week of the Dichotomy". What are the dichotomies so far?

  1. Imus vs. Nifong
  2. Rutgers vs. Duke
  3. "Free" speech vs. bought speech
  4. Free markets vs. controlled litigation
I now have a fifth to add to the list: civility appropriated vs. civility abused. Since my blogging life began last June - has it really been nine months already? And no evil post-partum - I've attempted to broaden my horizons by commenting or contributing at sites that are vastly out of my comfort zone from the political and religious perspective, all in the name of enlightenment. Which means, in all cases, I've attempted to converse politely with people having left-leaning political ideals and with liberal "theologians". I have left each venue frustrated, upset at myself for expending the intellectual and emotional capital.

My previous attempt (not Patriots & Tyrants), to which I have essentially pulled all my support, taught me the fifth dichotomy. I have never seen civility so skillfully used as a way to stop people from making well-founded points. I have seen right-leaning commentors use facts and true events to poke holes in left-leaning contributors' arguments, only to be told that those examples don't serve the intended purpose of the post. I have seen people use sarcasm and satire to prove a point - myself included - only to be lambasted for being outside the bounds of good taste. I've seen good people so thoroughly convinced that their points were wrong because they were not made "civilly", that they ended up apologizing for speaking the truth.

Don't get me wrong, more civility is needed in everyday life. Civility may have stopped the Imus situation from occurring, it would stop a lot of false political grandstanding, it would remove a lot of bad music from the airwaves and the internet, and it would lead to heightened respect for each other. However, when it is used as a tool for censorship, it is dangerous.

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