Civility

by Steven M. Smith, Ph.D.
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, April 12, 2019

Person at rally holding sign that reads, "Respect existence or expect resistance"
“Respect” by Tyler Merbler is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

Well, when you run for, or are elected to, political office you must realize that incivility goes with the territory.  The arena of politics is fraught with harassment, belligerence and crap.  A good example is Senator Ted Cruz and his wife having dinner at a Washington, D.C. restaurant and being harassed by a group of chanting activists that hounded the Senator to such a degree that he and his wife left.  Public life requires a thick skin for sure.  Such disruptions of a politician’s free time have become as common as the online rhetorical abuse heard daily on talk radio and repeated on news shows where people like to yell at one another for no apparent legitimate reason.  However, there has always been in our society an underwritten protocol that all people deserve dignity, respect and a right to their respective opinions.  Such a protocol no longer seems valid given the epidemic of violent rhetoric and actual violence that has been reported and witnessed in the last three years, especially pertaining to victims.

It is difficult to fathom how a victim of a crime or tragedy could be treated with so much cruelty and disdain that one would think that they were the perpetrator.  Yet today this is very much the case.  Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified against the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh because of alleged sexual harassment, faced an onslaught of threats of murder and other vicious acts within hours of her testimony, to the extent that she and her family fled their home and relocated.  In Alabama several women accused Roy Moore of sexual assaults during his failed run for the Senate.  Supporters of Moore disparaged them and then two weeks later the home of one of the women, Tina Johnson, burned to the ground.  Arson was suspected but no arrests were made.  A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, Dana Loesch, claimed last year death threats from supporters of gun control forced her to move from her home.  In Saint Louis a conservative talk show commentator was forced off a television show in April after he threatened to sexually attack David Hogg, a Parkland student survivor who favors gun control, with a “hot poker” in an unmentionable part of his anatomy.  Mr. Hogg’s mother has reported death threats as have many others at the school.  What has happened to our nation and what is the cause of this epidemic?

It is apparent that America’s body-politic has become infected with hatred by uncivil hands.  The campaign of President Donald Trump has given tacit approval and permission to those who wish to strike out at victims of tragedy and crime to have a voice in the public discourse.  Trump encourages violence.  In a rally in Iowa he called for his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protestors.  As our President he repeated allegations of ‘fake news’ in order to whip up the conspiracy theorists.  Trump appears to encourage pond scum such as Alex Jones’ talk show which stated that a murder massacre at a school was staged for political gun control propaganda purposes.  Moreover, the technology which we all enjoy and take for granted is making threatening others even easier.  There was a time when we could ‘turn off the TV screen’ to not become enraged.  Today the threats come from a darker side of multimedia and it is so sinister it will make a normal (if such exists anymore) person nauseous.  A favorite activity is ‘doxxing’– publishing information such as addresses and  phone numbers of individuals, which can lead to subsequent threats.  Even worse, today internet users encourage each other to connect targets and issue threats from the even darker corners of the online world.  The hate-filled right utilizes anonymous message boards such as 4chan.org and 8chan.com to spread the Trumpian agenda.  But surely this is not in our town and county?  No!  Not the case!

The websites listed are doing well and flourishing in south Texas.  Log into either and you can purchase illegal firearms, sex-traffic women, purchase narcotics and sign up to harass others.  Better yet, check out our own home grown far-right Christian Evangelical movement: The Texas Rebel Knights.  Their hatred will turn your stomach. Civility is built upon a foundation of respect and dignity for all people. Such incivility has no place in our society much less by someone who is our leader.  Dump Trump!

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