What Happened to Civility?

FoundingFathers

My gosh has our country gone off the rails.

This political go around has brought out the worst in people. In fact, the people we are supposed to admire, respect and look up to are some of the most uncivil people of this era. Insulting and incendiary, politicians are ruining civil society. They are vilifying political opponents with vile character assassination, insult, insinuation, accusation and denigration. Both sides are guilty of this.

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The founding fathers would be spinning in their graves with the lies, maliciousness, cheating and corruption. They might be wondering why they even wrote a Constitution!

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Having watched a lot of historical films on our countries beginnings, if historically correct, our forefathers were pretty ardent debaters, favoring one side or the other with feverish, intellectual passion. I suppose they were not immune to name calling either. But, it was always portrayed on the History Channel in a more gentlemanly manner. You can see the founders here in Philadelphia at Constitution Center.

Even one war was called the Civil War, a particularly rancorous time in our history. Now we live in a time of legislative gridlock, political polarization and pervasive cynicism about our government.

Regardless of our political affiliation, politicians are tearing down the principles for what our country stands, both parties civilly ripping us as a nation apart. The rhetoric has been damaging.  I cannot support either side the way this election is going.

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You can’t get away from the rancor of politics on Facebook either. Friends battle with words they would never say face to face. I am so glad to be traveling during this particularly ill-natured period of reelection.

The conversations on Facebook have really made some people far less than friendly. I am waiting to see if some gardening friends mow down each others’ flowers it is getting so vicious.  I refuse to participate in their discussions and have blocked some articles. I wish I was abroad in November!

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If we were back in 1804, they might have settled their differences with a duel, like Vice President Aaron Burr did, fatally shooting his political antagonist, Alexander Hamilton.

Button Gwinnett, who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, challenged political opponent, Lachlan McIntosh to a duel in 1777. Gwinnett died three days later.

Andrew Jackson dueled Charles Dickinson on May 30, 1806. Jackson won the duel.  Wounded,  Jackson was the only president to kill another in a duel.

Can you imagine if we still had duels? Would your money be on Hillary or Donald? Maybe a duel is just what we need!

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No need to get political here, just my observations and thoughts on the  way this country is headed. I hope it is not too late to right the upturned boat.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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45 Responses to What Happened to Civility?

  1. David says:

    Yes, a dual is what we need. Where they both loose. Oops, now I’ve become one of those self-righteous, maliciousness, and rancorous Facebook posters who who seem to share the ugliest hack jobs they can find.

    It is a sad situation with regard to how campaigns are run. I think part of the problem comes from the super packs that put out campaign messages and no one really knows the message is coming from so you don’t know their agenda. Unfortunately (actually fortunately) the Supreme Court has ruled the money can’t be restricted because that infringes upon free speech. Another problem is that it has been shown that tearing down your opponent is the most effective political campaign strategy.

    • Ha, I wonder how many duels ended in both combatants feet up! I do agree on the super packs. So much of what we see in ads and on TV is false or very distorted. What happened to honesty too. Character assassination is the norm, even if the person deserves criticism or not. I remember some of the candidates saying they would not stoop to that level, but it did not take long before the claws came out.

  2. It’s not just politicians. We have lost politeness in our society. We can and should discuss matters that are important, but we should do it politely. For starters, don’t call people names. That shuts down discussion. As soon as you label someone as “stupid” or use any other pejorative label, you have dismissed that person. We don’t have to respect that person. That person doesn’t matter. Conversation is over.

    I think this all started a couple decades ago. We had shock jocks on the radio saying outrageous things. We had TV shows where friends and family members would discuss paternity and other personal issues, shouting, screaming and sometimes throwing punches. We still have these shows, but people don’t find them shocking anymore. This kind of thing is now commonplace. People model their behavior after what they see and hear.

    We have venues for an exchange of ideas that are wasted. For example, I never leave an online comment on the Buffalo News. The commenters on that site use screen names that give them anonymity. The comments they leave tend to be snarky rather than thoughtful. The commenters are aggressive and combative with other commenters. It’s not a discussion of an important issue; it’s a replication of one of those TV talk shows where whoever shouts the loudest wins.

    We need to bring politeness and respect back.

    • Søren says:

      A Danish philosopher from the 1960’s and 70’s (Johannes Sløk) coined a term he called “language games”. Essentially his point was that communication was impossible unless both parties agreed to an implicit set of rules and expected the other party to speak and listen in good faith, trying to understand each other while trying to make oneself understandable.

      I like that concept a lot. It requires recognition of one’s “samtalepartner” – a Danish word that literally means “partner-in-conversation” and kind of shows that a conversation is team work. If you’re not willing to listen to and trust the other person, you can’t have a conversation. Or a debate. It just becomes throwing words at one another.

    • Oh the pundits!!! The 24 hour TV news is no longer news, it is editorial. You are so right on polite discussion. While I am sure the founding fathers were not always polite, at least their name calling was very creative and witty. I read some and had no clue what was the insult! I guess that is far better than the short, cut-to-the-bone, Twitter-like insults we see now. You are right too how we have become desensitized due to the TV shows catering to a segment of the population prone to raucous behavior.

  3. glebehouse says:

    Hi, Things are not much better in Great Britain. We have just had a referendum on staying part of the European Union. Regrettably the ones wanting out won by a small majority following a campaign based mostly on lies and racism. Since then they have admitted the lies but the level of hate directed at the immigrants from all over the world has gone sky high. Have been watching the republican party conference with some dismay and wait to hear the democrats
    Steve at Glebe House

    • Søren says:

      In many ways i think the internal division is probably more damaging to the UK than the actual referendum result. A truly united United Kingdom might combat some of the international reactions to the Leave vote, but with a divided government, a divided opposition and in general a divided collection of countries… Well, interesting times lie ahead!

      (As an Anglophile Dane who once lived 3 years in London, obviously I have a certain opinion about the result, but never mind. What is done is done. We all just need to get on with it. And the UK remains part of Europe regardless of the terms negotiated, at least in my head.)

      • glebehouse says:

        I agree with you but would prefer we had stayed in the EU and worked to improve it from within.

        • Søren says:

          Brexit may or may not turn out to have a personal financial effect on me, but either way I just have an emotional response to having one of my links with the UK severed… I LIKE being “in it together” – and yes, the EU is flawed. So is the Danish constitution – and most other countries, if not all. It will be interesting to see how many of the regulations the UK has voted for in the EU and subsequently turned into national legislation will actually be repealed; countries like the UK (and Denmark, for that matter) have had a disproportionate influence on EU regulations, with our opt-outs and special treaties and what-nots.

          Seriously, I’m almost surprised the rest of the EU hasn’t held a referendum about whether to keep you and us…

    • I am going to be in the UK in a week and see I can’t get away from politics there either. In PA now, I am originally from the city next to Philadelphia and know that area and history well. Flying in and out of Philadelphia right now is crazy with the security due to the Democratic convention. I too watched the RNC convention and will be watching the DNC too. Thank you Steve for adding a perspective from the UK. I kinda suspect there will be quite a few discussions on American politics when I visit. Some of my UK FB friends have posted and re-posted political articles. I have watched some on Brexit too. It makes me wonder how this world will go on facing so much change. At first I thought Brexit was a bad idea, then I thought they need to have some control of their national security, now I have no clue due to what you mentioned on lies and hate. I suppose I will learn a lot over there.

      • glebehouse says:

        Hope you have a good trip despite the politics. generally National Security would be better if we work together with Europe rather than leaving it. Any terrorist would either be resident in our country (they all have so far) or would enter in a normal way as we all travel around the world.

        • So true, we have the home grown terrorists too, and we were not as generous letting in refugees. We in the US, like in your country are further breeding this problem in certain places around the country, then exporting them to places where they either learn more on being an effective terrorist, or going somewhere to commit their atrocities.

  4. Søren says:

    I’ve sort of withdrawn from having public political opinions. At present I think it’s much more vital to express a will to co-exist, because at the end of the day that’s what we all have to do, regardless of the outcome of a Brexit referendum or a US presidential election.

    It’s not just the US that’s splitting a bit at the seams, but the world in general. -And as we get more and more international, it’s perhaps natural that I have opinions on elections in the US and the Philippines and so on, but while I might voice them in private conversations over a bottle of rosé I don’t really see what good it would do to voice them on-line.

    Eventually we’ll all calm down and work with the world we’re living in.

    • I am ready to put my head in a hole until it is all over, but the sad thing is it will never be over. We will have to deal with either choice. Yes, that is democracy, but I fear either outcome. One TV commentator said, “It is like picking between cancer and a heart attack.” I laughed, but thought he hit the nail on the head.

      It seems we will have a party ripping the country apart from the inside or the other ripping us away from the world. You are so right on the world “splitting at the seams”. I have been saying the world is spinning out of control in so many ways, from environment, population explosion, loss of wildlife habitat, you name it, no facet of how and where we live is unaffected. I too have been interested in world politics and never was before. That may be good to become better informed, but do question the information we are being fed. Yes, “pervasive cynicism about our government.” But add world information to that big pile of misinformation too. It is getting hard to form and informed position on anything.

      • Søren says:

        I have family in the Philippines, friends in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Spain, Italy – and the list goes on… It’s suddenly very hard not to have an opinion on world politics. I currently have three friends (gay refugees) who are imprisoned in Denmark and set for deportation to Uganda – where there mere existence is illegal. How can I not have opinions about the world? It all becomes so personal…

        And yes, the quality of information is a huge challenge, when most of us no longer trust politicians. To be honest, I trust the Washington Post a lot more than my own Prime Minister. That’s a bit sad… A LOT sad, actually. I try to use left-wing and right-wing media in equal measure, because if they agree? Well, then they might be unto something. If Al-Jazeera, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, and CNN (not to mention all the Danish media) agree on something, then I start believing it. One article doth not a truth make…

        • It is true, but with our media, often the news is slanted. I guess that happens everywhere since I have watched world news whenever I travel, but I find out more when I listen to people that live there. I too watch TV stations from both sides, but always find myself shaking my head thinking the views are so biased – and polarized from those on the opposite side. They all do agree there is terrorism hitting our shores, but one side gives pitying excuses for the terrorists and the other side wants to annihilate the whole region. Where is the middle ground? Where is the civil solution to problems? The real problem with this issue, is there can be no talking to an agreement. The ideology wants all infidels exterminated. No middle ground.

          • Søren says:

            But the fact is, that talk of killing infidels is the talk of such a small group of people. So there IS a middle ground that says “we don’t care if people are Muslims; we care about whether they are religious or political extremists”, and when you look at every terrorist attack in the US apart from 9/11 – which I think we can all agree was something absolutely unique in US history – there basically has been very few murders in the US by Muslims when you compare it with, say, white Christian terrorism, police murders, the general level of gun crime or whatever you want to measure it up against.

            Here in Europe people are afraid as well. The fact remains, though, that the UK has seen a drastic fall in terrorist attacks and deaths since the Good Friday Agreement in 1999. And even the attack in Paris doesn’t change the fact that France suffered a lot more attacks and deaths in the 1990’s than after 9/11. Even counting the Bataclan horror.

            And I’ve heard a car-bomb go off in London. “The Real IRA”, they called themselves. I call them something less polite. I was several hundred metres away, though, so out of harms way – but it was right in front of a crowded pub, so it could have been awful. As it turned out there were a few minor scratches from flying shards of glass, but the main injury was a broken ankle because a woman in high heels had lost her balance during the blast. I know what it’s like throwing yourself to the ground in fear for your life – and I feel privileged that this experience was gained in a situation where nobody was seriously hurt.

  5. Wow! I really enjoyed your post!!! Something I’ve been thinking about writing in my blog post as well. It’s such a discouraging time in our Country’s history. Did social media create this problem? I have no idea where all the hate came from. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • I was a bit leery on posting this. I wrote a post when the early primaries were going on – entitled the same. It really was critical of FB. I trashed it, but the FB fervor never died down. I had one FB friend calling Trump an “Asshat”, another a “Neanderthal”. I won’t even print what a few called Hillary. It was obscene. I do think social media makes this problem far worse. Like Connie said, it seems to have started with TV shows that pit people against one another, but you had to think some of that was an act. On social media platforms, people puff out their chests and spout anything that they would never say in person. Why they don’t regret it astounds me.

  6. Karen says:

    I agree, Donna, the political situation is absolutely ridiculous. The entire race for the presidency resembles a Springer episode with all the name-calling and hysteria. No wonder I spend so much time in the garden, at least the weeds are easy to identify.

    • Jerry Springer would be proud. I made that comment on my last post that people are retreating to the garden. “I can understand why some retreat to gardens. Very zen-like and can tune it all out. ” At least it is a calming retreat. This world is all tied up in knots right now. So much is happening both internal and external to various nations. It would be great if someone would come along that helped to fix it for pure altruistic reasons, not more personal fame, fortune or power. Politicians may start out as bettering the country and world, but political power corrupts. God, the All Mighty and most powerful, must look down and be very sad.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful blog. I don’t know where it will end, but know where I don’t want it to end. May the Universe protect us all.

    • I agree 100%. I am very afraid when all this world turmoil bubbling like a volcano will explode. No one but the terrorists wants that. For some reason, they think their end results in paradise. They are missing the whole point. What if this earth was PARADISE. Talk about a grave mistake wanting to blow it to smithereens.

  8. lucindalines says:

    Sorry I have not taken the time to read every comment, but I agree that the behavior is deplorable. I also believe the choice of VP might be some major factor this time around.

    • VPs? I have not heard of either until the big hoopla for announcement. It makes me think both egotistical POTUS candidates wanted most of America to not know them, even though both seem very accomplished and experienced. I cannot believe poor Bernie basically cheated out of a chance. He at least seemed very sincere in his concern for the populus. I really think this election cycle could not have been written for movies as “entertaining” as it has been in life.

  9. debsgarden says:

    I agree. It is hard to find the good guys this year. Imagine what the media would do with a Trump/Hillary duel! We may not be far from it when the debates occur.

    • I think there were good guys along the way, but strange as it seems, America has been watching too much reality TV in advancing these candidates. Both have huge faults and damaging baggage. I never paid much attention to politics before, but these campaigns are hard to ignore, just like passing a car wreck. The DNC should be wildly entertaining too. And that is one thing they should not be.

  10. rose says:

    I’ve always hated campaigns that relied on mud-slinging and avoided voting for those candidates. But this year we don’t have much choice, do we? I stay away from politics on my Facebook page, preferring to post pictures of my garden and my grandkids. But I have commented–politely–on others’ posts, and I am shocked and dismayed by the level of hostility in some comments. It really scares me about the future of this country. However, I am reading “Hamilton” at the moment, and I’ve been surprised by some of the information I’ve learned about the founding fathers. I’m not sure much has changed in American politics. My daughter visited Philadelphia last year for a conference and loved it! I’ve always wanted to go, and your photos make me want to plan a trip there even more.

    • I should read that book, but I really do enjoy the documentaries, mini-series and films on the founding fathers on HBO and The History Channel. One of my favorites was the HBO mini series, John Adams. Another was History’s mini series, Sons of Liberty. I am glued to the TV when TV has shows like this.

      I do think politics changed. The founding fathers and people like Sam Adams wanted change and FOUGHT hard to get it, losing many good patriot heroes like Joseph Warren, along the way. But they still kept fighting with a whole lot less than the English troops, but did have determination, tenacity, spirit, dedication and a will of the people. I think today, politicians look to personal gain as something deserved and owed. I know from the film, John Hancock wanted personal gain from the revolution, but losing everything to the British, he fought with the rag-tag group both for patriotism and also to get his wealth back. I know this was only film, but I would hope he was as righteous and generous in his thinking.

      You will love Philadelphia, so much history and they are proud of it. Make sure to go to City Tavern, 138 South 2nd Street at Walnut St Philadelphia, PA . George Washington and all the delegates of the 1st Continental Congress ate there. Martha Washington and Abigail Adams stayed there with their husbands. Paul Revere visited telling about the Boston Tea Party. Thomas Jefferson ate many of his meals there. Fire led to the demolishing of the Tavern in 1854, but was faithfully restored. A candle lit drapes on fire, yet candles are still lighting the rooms and windows, just not a real flame if I remember correctly. Every time I go to Philadelphia with people visiting from elsewhere, I take them there for lunch. It is a real treat. Enjoy that trip if you go Rose, wish I could take you to City Tavern.

  11. Good points! Can it get any worse? I’m hoping we’ve hit bottom and the next election will yield a president we can all be proud of. I’m not optimistic about the next four years, but at least it’s only four years. Maybe I’ll be surprised…

    • I am sure it can get worse, but boy is it terrible now. I think only a major overhaul of our two political parties will make the general populous happy. Clean up the corruption, lying, and hateful speech. Make our country safer, productive and respected. Who would do that? The only surprise I suspect will come out of this election is if it keeps us out of a major war and does not destroy American in the world’s eye. It really is hard to be optimistic. Usually I like to believe we have hope, but the way this world is headed, hope for a prosperous and safe future is almost a dream.

  12. Brian Comeau says:

    As an outsider I don’t totally understand your political system but you don’t have to watch much to be confused and perhaps concerned for my American friends. Then again we have our own issues up here in Canada.

  13. Lula says:

    It’s sad to say that it looks like it’s a problem in many countries. Spain’s politicians still debate if it would be good idea to come to an understanding, forget differences and agree on a government. 8 months after first elections, one month after second and possibility to go to a third round because of their opposing positions!

    • I suppose politics is frustrating in every country. It is not hard to see why revolutions occur. Turkey is a prime example. Soon it will be a country we cannot visit the way it seems to be headed. I wish I would have went in 2014 when I had the chance.

  14. gauchoman2002 says:

    Some sadly appropriate words in our current environment Donna. That’s why the garden is the perfect place while we let this gale pass by. I’ve never met a flower that didn’t grow because I was too conservative, or a tomato that didn’t set fruit because it thought I was too liberal. Now is the time that I engage my neighbors (and even strangers) who stop in front of my house, so that we can find the common ground of a mass of Summer Sun Heliopsis and forget all this animosity that’s consuming and contaminating everything.

    • Good points on the garden. Do you think if flowers grew all the time in the desert it would make a difference? Maybe the conventions need to be filled with flowers rather than balloons. A world of flowers, what a nice thought.

  15. Sarah says:

    I would love to hear George Washington’s thoughts on our country now.

    • It certainly would be interesting. My belief is they might be a bit embarrassed by how this country’s politicians turned out. With all that is wonderful about this country, the current crop of candidates is leaving a stain on our lasting legacy and our place in this world.

      • Sarah says:

        I’m pretty sure they would have some strong words for us. They were eloquent, wise, and were literally willing to die for their country.

  16. Indie says:

    I’ve found I just have to stop watching the news and just skim lightly through Facebook feeds in order to keep some faith in humanity nowadays. I can’t wait until this whole election is over!

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