Civility: Try it, you might like it

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By Sara Robinson, Truthout

There’s something missing in our society — civility. Of course, civil people didn’t destroy civility in this country, but we certainly fell into the trap of the destructive and vile spewing of such creatures as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill Gibson, and Bill O’Reilly.

Mind, it’s easy to equate “civil” with “wimpy,” but when done correctly — not like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — civility can have a profound effect on the course of society and humanity.

A few excerpts from Robinson’s article on Truthout:

I live in a nice place.

I mean that literally. It took some getting used to. After 20 years in Silicon Valley, where people put a premium on being direct and to the point, have no time to waste on small talk or personal sharing, and will call a stupid idea stupid to your face, moving to Canada required a whole lot of gearing back on that brusque American aggressive-in-your-face thing. The humbling fact was: We had to learn to mind our manners.

Much of the adjustment work that first year involved re-learning the art of Being Nice. We had to get used to meetings that started with 10 or 15 minutes of personal chit-chat. We had to train ourselves to stop interrupting people, and to be more careful to say “please” and “thank you.” We had to discover (sometimes, the hard way) that losing your temper with Canadians means that you will invariably lose the conflict. The more terse and irritated you get, the more determinedly calm and polite Canadians become, until you’re standing there looking like a raving idiot and they’re still firmly in control (though they’re very sorry you’re having such a bad day).

Civility is, in a very real sense, the glue that holds this big, diverse nation together. Name-calling, othering, and losing one’s temper is, quite simply, un-Canadian and unpatriotic. Failure to be civil in public is the fastest way (perhaps the only way) to get Canadians genuinely peeved at you. In the land where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is supplanted by “peace, order, and good government” as the organizing values, there is simply no excuse at all for that kind of behavior, ever.

Our essential reliance on civil discourse – and the big trouble that awaits us when we try to function without it – is the same idea that Jeffrey Feldman explores, far more pointedly, in his new book, Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy [1]. Feldman, whose indispensable Frameshop [2] blog has done a lot of the heavy lifting in deconstructing the way the American right uses and abuses language, briskly and thoughtfully deconstructs seven specific ways 30 years of us-versus-them rhetoric [3] has polarized the country, forced us into unnecessary conflicts against each other and everyone else, and virtually destroyed our ability to govern ourselves.

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Hurl

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By Jill Rachel Jacobs, CommonDreams

Oh.  My.  God.

While some are warning of a hunger tsunami, others are wetting their appetites for a new reality television program combining competitive food eating with intense physical challenges (No, I am not making this stuff up) in this latest installment of what I like to call “Why They Hate Us.”

The premise goes a little like this: In each episode, five contestants attempt to inhale the largest quantity of food as quickly as possible. They are then immediately subjected to a series of “challenges designed to “shake them up,” such as carnival rides, belly flops off a high dive, mechanical bull-riding. The contestant to hold their food down the longest is the victor winning cash prizes and the coveted Iron Stomach Award.

Hey! It gets better! Guess what the name of the show is called. (No, it’s not called “Barf.” That’s like soooo juvenile.) It’s called “Hurl.” (No, I am not making this stuff up. Sheesh!) Set your Tivos as “Hurl” is scheduled to premiere this summer on the G4 Network.

I wonder how this all works. Like some wanna-be TV exec or bulimic has an idea and they’re like, “Hey! Let’s get some people to eat ginormous amounts of food until they puke and then we can film it and we’ll give them some money and we can be rich and famous! That’s the ticket.”

I’m still having a little trouble wrapping my fragile brain around this whole food for fodder concept during a time when half the world is seriously starving while the other halves’ (guess who?) waistlines are expanding almost as fast as George’s Bush’s plummeting approval ratings.

Why wouldn’t they hate us?  Go read the whole article — it’ll make you sick.  Literally.

Bush is “as dumb as a stump”

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By Al Meyerhoff, Huffington Post:

Did John McCain vote for George w. Bush in 2000 — after the horrendous Rovian smear tactics of the primary season?  I guess we’ll never really know.  The following story shows that McCain had all his marbles in one box — at least in 1999.  Now?  Not so much.

Over the Fourth of July weekend of 1999, I had the good fortune to accompany my then fiancée (and now happily my wife) to the McCain vacation home in Sedona where she was interviewing them for a Home and Garden Television show. The interview itself was entirely apolitical, focusing on fabrics and furnishing in their lovely Oak Creek abode, topics about which I do recall the senator was less than comfortable discussing.

Always the goods hosts, the McCains also invited us to spend the day with them, including for barbeque, a favorite of John’s. And as McCain flipped burgers, I could not help but ask his views about then candidate George W. Bush.

“He’s as dumb as a stump,” McCain offered. We then went on to discuss other matters (including Vietnam) but that quote remains seared in my memory.

So how the McCains actually voted that November is between them and their voting booth. But if John McCain did end up voting for Bush, then by his own admission he voted for a stump.

McCain has become the stump.