Sunday, September 27, 2009

Incivility Abounds

Some of you may have noticed that my blogging frequency--particularly with respect to political blogging--has gone down considerably over the past six months. That trend is no doubt partly related to the ebb and flow of business as a solo practitioner. Things are busy at the office, so blogging goes down. But some of it is because of a disturbing trend I've noticed, both here and elsewhere: it seems impossible to have a civil disagreement here--or anywhere.

One of the things that initially attracted me to blogging was the great discussions that can (and should) ensue among the blog's readers. Those used to take place regularly here. Lately, though, any political post devolves pretty quickly into name-calling and nonsense. In particular, we have a couple commenters who routinely refer to poor people as "pig filth" or "human trash." I'm not interesting in trying to engage in a serious discussion with such people.

If this were only happening here, I'd wonder if Griff or I were doing something to foment the incivility. But it seems to happen everywhere. The summer town halls about health care are an example: people were literally shouting down their elected representatives rather than engaging in any attempt to actually have a civil discourse with them. And I don't want to suggest it's just the right. The left, too, is becomingly increasingly shrill. During the Bush regime, anyone who dissented was unpatriotic. Now anyone who does so is a racist. Neither label is true, but both are (or were) bandied about with a great deal of frequency. And I'll admit: Griff and I sometimes feed our trolls, too. Some of my posts may have been more inflammatory then they needed to be, and Griff has lately been as guilty as name-calling as anyone.

But it's not just the political arena where people no longer feel the need to be civil. Last week, Julie posted a mildly critical review of Local 127. Some of the comments it generated were appalling. I can understand and respect being passionate about food. (Heck, earlier this year, when liz posted only a lukewarm review of Adriatico's, I briefly considering calling an IT-oriented friend and seeing what would go into a denial-of-service attack on get in mah belly. (I'm kidding, of course. That's illegal. Don't do that.)) But passion aside, really? People are engaging in pretty vile name-calling because Julie wasn't as effusive with her praise as others would have preferred?

I don't know what the answer is, and I won't pretend to. I don't know how we get back to disagreeing without name-calling, to expressing strong beliefs without raising our voices and questioning each other's motives. I don't know who's to blame and I don't care.

I just know that somehow, we have to get back to a place where we can discuss difficult issues with civility and grace. Climbing that hill isn't nearly so easy as it was to fall down it, but we must strive to find a way.

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