Where has Civility gone?

By John J. Tassoni, Jr.

Not long ago, we were a nation that proudly stood together, accepted change and each other, and agreed to disagree. Speech and deed were polite and courteous even in times of turmoil.

There was a time when people could disagree without being disrespectful, seek common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listen to past individual preconceptions, all while teaching others to do the same.

Somewhere along the line, all of that changed. It suddenly became acceptable to hurl insults at one another, to criticize and bully, be racist, sexist and abusive.

This current condition of society is not the image of America that Norman Rockwell painted.

Some say that social media is to blame for this abhorrent behavior, because it gives people a platform to admonish while hiding behind a veil of technology. Others say it is because we are a country divided. Yet others say it is because no one gives a damn anymore.

Whatever the reason(s), it has taken civility with it.

As a nation, we have made great strides in technology, education, human rights and a higher standard of living, but we seem to have become desensitized to bad behavior and cruel language.

How do we bring civility back to society?

We start with ourselves. We lead by example. We should debate openly, honestly, politely and without malice.

Then we teach our children to do the same, in the home and especially in the classroom. I am of the opinion that civility should be a mandatory part of curriculum and practiced regularly in all aspects of the academic and extra-curricular experience.

Students need to be exposed early to the idea that we all have an obligation to a larger society and a greater good. Being civil to each other not only helps the individual, but also fellow students, the school, and ultimately, fellow citizens.

We live in a society that increasingly looks for ways to drive us apart, and teaching civility is one way to change that.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summed up the need to return to civility best:“ We must learn to live as brothers or perish as fools.”