Philosophy Stories

Why aren’t we Civil? (Pt. 2)

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful; but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

I remember it to be a cold winter day. My legs were shivering and I could see my breath on the window of my mom’s car. I looked down at my screen and in bold it read, “Article posted.” I arrived at school, wished my mother good-bye, and stepped on the school grounds of political activists. The day was normal. I went to my first period, then second, and so forth. When the lunch bell rang, my friends and I gathered under the big oak tree to eat our homemade meals. Among the many conversations, my friend and I started to converse on the nuances of my latest published article. When it was time to go to 5th period, I was suddenly bombarded by insults from a female crowd. They hurled acrimonious insults and started to berate my personal life. I tried to counter their short phrases with a civil tone, but the volume of their shouts drowned my plea. I raised my voice, but found it was futile. Their pontifications were becoming so aggravating that I yelled in retaliation. My face grew hot red as I shouted with increasing anger. Wrath consumed me as I transformed into the very people that stood in front of me. Eventually, a teacher broke up our yelling match and told us to go to their respective classes. I grunted a “fine” and walked to my classroom, shaking.

As I sat down in my fifth period seat, I contemplated what just happened. Civility is something I strive for because it is mutually beneficial for both parties. If one thinks about it, the very aspect of civility is taught to us at such a young age. My parents taught me a sense of politeness and civility when I was five years old. They told me when to say “please” and “thank you.” My father always got annoyed when I talked to him in a certain tone and mother scolded me when I cursed. We are taught basic societal norms because it helps us in the long run. However, we have lost that civility when we are faced with juxtaposing viewpoints.

Last year, when I was trying out for the debate team, I was extremely nervous. The democratically elected debate officers sat at a table and explained to us what we had to do get on the team. We had to give a two minute speech on why we should be on the team and what our extracurriculars would be the following year. I was so nervous that I started to accumulate a pool of sweat under my seat. Then, I remembered the heated argument in a previous debate practice. Both parties were debating about politics and they were furiously yelling. Initially, they were saying logical arguments, but then they lost all rationale. They resorted to calling each other “stupid” and acted like children half their age. Therefore, because I thought it was a growing problem, I decided to bring it up in my speech in front of the officers. When it was my turn, I went to the front of the classroom and faced everyone. I began my speech with what I can contribute and why I love debate. Then, I spoke of political civility. I said that especially with the coming of the 2020 election, civility is something we need to stress within the team in order to stand united. I mentioned there were certain people among the team that were dividing our team. When I finished, there was silence. Not a single person said a word. Then there was laughter. Not everyone laughed because not a lot of people were paying attention or really cared, but many people were smiling. At the time, I was confused and wondered why everyone was laughing at a serious matter. Later, my friend and officer, said that was the most idiotic thing he has ever heard.

The problem with incivility is it’s not just a one sided story. Both major political parties are at fault for being incivil. When either political party demonizes the opposing party, hypocrisy is said. It’s not just politics, the entire nation is guilty of this because we are passionate and confident we are right.

Last year, the heart beat bill was passed by state legislation. The bill was very controversial and, as a result, many people retaliated. They posted horrible things and impulsive assumptions about the legislators on social media. Because of this, I posted on my social media, “If anyone wants to have a civil discussion about abortion, then contact me.” Apparently that was ill mannered to say because specific people stated I don’t have a place to talk about abortion. Being my introverted and shy self, I didn’t respond and took the post down. News cycles went on and so did people in their day to day life. However, this occasion is not rare. Hundreds of stories published everyday get this same response and people who try to engage in civility are shut down.

On my website, I stress political civility. Even though I am politically biased, I respect the opposing argument because my opponent has every prerogative to say what he or she wishes to say. The beauty of civility is that in the end, we can come to some moral consensus on the topic. The point of debate is not to win, but to move forward. The whole reason politicians debate on current events is because they want to find the best possible solution. In my article, “The Necessity of Political Civility,” I write, “Civility is vital. The fundamental infrastructure of debate is civility. Without it, debate becomes nothing more than a petty yelling match. In times when political discord is becoming a norm, we must be insightful and respect all perspectives. In becoming civil, we become productive. In becoming productive, we become compatible. In becoming compatible, we become united. In becoming united, we become a better nation. Not just for us, but for future generations to come.” We have every opportunity to rise up from pettiness and idiocy, and create a dialogue where everyone benefits. We have every opportunity to create a community built on social tolerance and acceptance. It all starts with civility.  

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful; but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

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