Incivility doesn't just threaten the etiquette of interchange, it threatens democracy.
We're all in a mess of trouble, though not for the reasons you may think.
Wendell: It's a mess, ain't it Sheriff?
Bell: If it ain't, it'll do til the mess gets here.
It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth?
The answer ... is No.
Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.
Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.
See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.
Quite a lot of what passes itself off as a dialogue about our society consists of people trying to justify their own choices as the only right or natural ones by denouncing others' as selfish or pathological or wrong.
I've come to the conclusion that you actually want shifty, dishonest politicians elected by an apathetic populace. This means that things are working. I'm confident that technology has improved the resources available to people if/when they choose to act. So far they don't need to, largely. Don't wish for times when they do.
There is a lot of bad speech in our democracy. I don't have a solution for the problem of bad taste. But in my experience the answer to bad speech has always been more speech. It isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.
Question: what is the only thing worse than un-civil discourse? Answer: no discourse at all.
It is sometimes said that literacy is the software of democracy. Let's be more accurate, and more demanding. The real software of democracy is not bare literacy, which permits and even enjoys all manner of rhetorical nonsense and short-sighted demagoguery. It is political literacy, the ability to engage in critical dialogue with ideas both agreeable and disagreeable, interests that align with ours and those that do not. We need to learn this skill, run it, and revise it constantly by repeated engagements. We must be prepared to sacrifice something we value, for the sake of the larger good.
On John McCain:
In all his speeches, John McCain urges Americans to make sacrifices for a country that is both "an idea and a cause".
He is not asking them to suffer anything he would not suffer himself.
But many voters would rather not suffer at all.
Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.