On the Altar of Civility


A few words on the blinding hypocrisy of that phantasm of civility suddenly being summoned by a regime run by thugs and sociopaths. This is not a crisis of manners, it has been noted, but of democracy. Civility got us them, Gorsuch, that sick ghoul Miller, white supremacy and state-sponsored child abuse. With it all, Trump's "enforcers" long ago forfeited the right to expect politesse, or silence, or consent: "It makes little sense to prostrate oneself at the altar of civility while others are gleefully desecrating democracy itself. Historical precedents abound where people, in retrospect, feel they should have done more when they had the chance."

Amidst what many see as dark echoes of the Holocaust, one historian reminds us of Quaker Henry Cadbury, who in 1934 famously urged Jews to be more "civil" toward Nazis. It did not turn out well. Today, The Onion likewise offers helpful hints on civility for our perilous times: "Recall that violently rejecting a tyrannical government goes against everything our forefathers believed in," "Find common ground by recognizing that some kids are huge assholes," "Realize that every pressing social issue is solved through civil discourse if you ignore virtually all of human history," etc. And now more than ever, Howard Zinn is instructive: "Civil obedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience."


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