Grasshopper Soup: My two cents on civility
My colorful Civility Project card came in the mail last week. Immediately, a big bluish green ear, an upward pointing thumb and a wide open mouth, dark gullet, dangling tonsils, tongue and hearty teeth jumped out at me.
There was also an olive branch and a heart that looked wooden. It was early in the morning and I hadn’t had my coffee yet, so it took awhile for the beauty of all the various body parts and positive ideas to sink in.
In separate boxes on the card were 18 commands, nine of them in bold print and nine in smaller print. I was reminded of the fact that I was forced to sign up for the military draft when I was 18, so you can understand why I have a slight problem with commands. I was also quite relieved to find that and#8220;Be Perfectand#8221; was not among them, but I could hear it lurking in there somewhere.
The fine print revealed more enlightened ideas than the commands in large print after my eyes became adjusted and I could see the biological dissection was not real. I decided to view them as suggestions. The eighth one said, and#8220;Give constructive criticism,and#8221; so I figured I’d chime in with my own two cents worth.
Civility is linked in some studies to child bullying in schools. Allegedly, bullying is on the rise, especially among the very young. Teachers and parents need to crack down real hard. Some form of controlled corporal punishment may be necessary. High Schools and colleges need to become less political and demand more from their students when it comes to honoring different opinions, which is one of the suggestions on the Civility Project card.
Coincidentally, so is the command, and#8220;Don’t Gossipand#8221;. Ironically, who is and who is not signing on to the nine tools of civility is now a matter of public discussion. No one should be under any pressure, and using civility slogans to point the finger at people violates the true spirit of the entire civility project. I doubt anyone intended this, but recent letters to the editor indicate it is in fact happening. What’s up with that?
The proposals of the Speak Your Peace initiative are highly commendable and will clearly help bring some people together, but they are also dividing others. We run the risk of this whole thing becoming like a new religion of code enforcers all dressed in red Snuggies.
For thousands of years, mankind has been developing codes of conduct to live by. Do we really need to institute more? It’s OK to dance to the beat of a different drummer.
The card also says, and#8220;It’s not what you say. It’s how you say itand#8221;. Maybe. If I give someone the benefit of the doubt and assume their intentions are good, I will have no problem with how they say something. It will be obvious when they are being rude, out of line and disruptive. I ignore them or leave. If it’s my house, I throw then out or call the cops.
In public I try to be a little creative and ask them if they are feeling OK, or if their parents and grandparents raised them to act like that. Appealing to the integrity of an uncivil person’s family heritage can be a very effective technique.
But you can’t get blood out of a turnip, and you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. There is a group of people locally who refuse to understand other points of view. I know some of them personally. They forget that no one is perfect and we all make dumb mistakes. Maybe someday they will come around.
The truth to some will sound uncivil, and being agreeable can lead to gossip.
On the back of the card there is a black finger pointing to the command, and#8220;Do it!and#8221;, meaning commit to the project by signing your name to the web site. With all due respect (and there is much due), and with sincere kindness and respect to all involved, I’m not doing it unless we all get to wear red Snuggies.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.