Friday, January 25, 2013

Challenged to Civility

As I said last year (when I basically made a New Year's resolution), I don't usually make New Year's resolutions.  I generally break them, just as I broke last year's resolution not to read comments on articles.  Instead, I repeatedly found myself looking at ignorant, ill-thought-out opinions about whatever topic had interested me on that day.  Usually, it was the presidential race (which has come awfully close to burning me out on politics) or sports (in which there was lots of conjecturing regarding my pro football team of choice, which typically found new and exciting ways to lose games at the final second) that sucked me in to reading the dreaded comments once again.

So, I am not making any resolutions this year.  I don't need to be reminded of my failures to live up to my own high standards for yet another year.

Instead, this year I just want to challenge myself to be a better person, online and offline.  Perhaps that is part of the reason that I have been blogging less, seeing as there are four other people in this household who would like to spend time with me, and vice versa.  And so, in that respect, being a better person means being offline more.

When I am online, though, I feel called to be more civil, especially toward those with whom I disagree (and obviously there are many such people).  I've kinda been moving in that direction already with my posts (see, for example, here and here).  And I have grown so tired, from having seen it from both sides over the past two years, of seeing so many people think that to make their point, they have to tear down whoever is on the other side of the issue.

(Aside:  it's somewhat sad that the spellchecker in my browser isn't flagging "kinda".)

Of course, as usual, I'm not the first, or the most eloquent, to point this sort of thing out.  Kathleen McKinley addressed it very well a few weeks ago, stating "we go after each other".  The best paragraph of the whole piece:

I know there is much frustration. One side believes something completely different than the other, but as a civil society we sit down and we talk it out. We don’t resort to Junior High meanness.

Or, at least, we shouldn't, but we certainly do.  And that's why the other way I am challenging myself is by trying not to immerse myself in media that is built around tearing down the other side.

Now, I suppose I'll need some sort of measure that will determine to whom I give my attention, and to whom I don't.  For example, I've really not paid much attention to Ann Coulter in recent months, since her use of the term "retard" to describe our president, as her shtick has generally tended toward the acerbic anyway, and this pushed me past my limits of tolerance.  By my new measure, Ann Coulter does not deserve my attention.  (I'm sure she'll be terribly broken up over this, but this is more for my benefit that I ignore her, not hers.)

Now, I was not quite as concerned when Sarah Palin made use of the phrase "shuck and jive"--partially because others, including his present press secretary, have done so, partially because some people, including a good portion of the mainstream media, are actively trying to twist anything anyone says in opposition to President Obama into a racist statement (something that has been going on for quite a while now), and partially because, having paid a fair amount of attention to the things that Governor Palin has said over the past four-and-a-half years, I don't believe her to be a racist.  And thus, by my measure, I believe that Sarah Palin is still worth my attention.

And, in this paragraph, I intended to talk about someone else not worth my attention, specifically, a long-time late-night talk-show host who hasn't been mentioned in this blog for almost four years, but anyone who has read this blog for very long already knows that I haven't watched him since then anyway, so I'll just move on.

I'll just say that I have set standards (There's that dreaded word again!  I can't get away from it even when I don't make resolutions.) to which I intend to hold myself when I deal with people with whom I disagree, but I would like others to hold themselves to that same standard.  When they don't, I limit contact with them.  It's happened on Facebook and Twitter a few times, but, thankfully, it hasn't happened in face-to-face relationships.

So what do I ask from you, gentle reader?  One, keep your comments civil, regardless of whether you agree with me or not.  And two, keep me honest here.  If I'm not being civil, call me out.  You may not agree with me, but you deserve to be treated like a human being.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

(1 Peter 2:1, Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.  Courtesy Biblica, Inc./ under Fair Use clause)

May we always do so.