You Can Take Your Civility Pledge And Shove it

Come to think of it, that headline’s not very civil, is it? My very, very sincere and civil apologies! Wonder if that would be good enough for Lanny Davis & Mark DeMoss?

It’s only 32 words. Yet, only two sitting members of Congress or governors have signed the civility pledge.

So what was it about civility that all the other 537 elected officials couldn’t agree to? Read it and decide for yourself.

I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
I will stand against incivility when I see it.
In May, Lanny Davis, my friend and co-founder of the Civility Project, and I sent a letter to all 535 members of Congress and 50 sitting governors inviting them to sign a civility pledge.

We made it easy, enclosing a response form, return envelope and fax number. I’m sorry to report, six months later, that only two responded: Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

…I (Mark DeMoss) am a conservative Republican and an evangelical Christian. I launched the Civility Project on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration. I asked Davis, who is a liberal Democrat and Jewish, to join me in the effort.

Would it be nice if our national discourse were more civil? Oh, absolutely. Would we better off if American society were more civil? Without a doubt.

But, civility pledges have nothing to do with that. Know why? Because creating a more civil society would require us to change our culture and “shape the path” by finding better ways to punish people for bad behavior.

How can any civility pledge be meaningful in a world where people spit the nastiest invective imaginable at each other on the Internet and in politics every day of the week? For example, here’s an email I received last night,

Alan K to johnhawkins

John,

Your website looks like it is circa 1995 – and the content should be in the National Enquirer. Go F*ck yourself you dumb f*ck. Now.

F*ck You.

Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Barney Frank, Michael Moore, etc. may not use that vulgar language, but they’re regularly just as nasty. Of course, conservatives — like me — don’t hesitate to give as good as we get either.

So, what good is a civility pledge in an environment like that? When someone’s trying to smash your face in, you don’t play pattycake with ’em. That’s the real world and no civility pledge is going to change it.

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