Letters to the Editor

Enforcing civility

October 21, 2011

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To the editor:

It’s not about being nice; it is about understanding social obligations.

A man constructs a story about his past to make himself appear heroic. The story is untrue. So we pass laws that make the lie a crime, and send the man to jail. A football coach wins a close game and backslaps his opposite, who then chases him across the field. Now we hear voices calling for codes of conduct. The idea is that people who act badly must be punished.

But if we want to punish, then we’ll have to define standards, behavior and levels and degrees of misconduct and intent and motive and all sorts of other things. We end up with statutes and codes and investigators and prosecutors, lawyers, judges, and eventually prisons. The idea, of course, is that these are the things that make people behave.

But we are a democratic people, and what democracy needs is educated participants. It must be self-executing and cannot survive coercion. Democracy cannot live in the same house with a big brother.

We must teach our children the duties of freedom. They must learn the lessons of civility in our homes, our schools, our churches and in our public squares. The man who lies to children about medals he did not earn should be punished by being shunned. The bad sport must be discouraged by our scorn and pity. Let’s resist the temptation to invite big brother into our house.

William Skepnek, Lawrence

Comments

Roland Gunslinger 3 years, 7 months ago

"But we are a democratic people, and what democracy needs is educated participants. It must be self-executing and cannot survive coercion. Democracy cannot live in the same house with a big brother."

Actually we're a Republic.

boltzmann 3 years, 7 months ago

Being a republic or a democracy are not mutually exclusive. The US is both a republic and a representative democracy.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 7 months ago

"The man who lies to children about medals he did not earn should be punished by being shunned."

Tell that to the adult children of Connecticut who voted for and elected Richard Blumenthal as their newest U.S. Senator in 2010.

Brock Masters 3 years, 7 months ago

I think the LTE is suggesting that we need civility in this country but the answer to achieving it is not depending on the government to pass laws to enforce it but instead, we the people, must demand it. Demand it through peer pressure, education and compassion.

Could be wrong, but that is what I got out of it.

tomatogrower 3 years, 7 months ago

It would probably be more civil if we felt free to use our own names.

voevoda 3 years, 7 months ago

Because we value personal freedom in our society, we punish offenders by jailing them, thus depriving them of personal freedom. We do this even a) when the offender is not a danger to others; and b) when there are other, cheaper, ways to forestall whatever threat to society the offender might pose. In societies where shunning is practiced as a means of punishment, the highest value is not on personal freedom, but rather on membership in the community. A lot of Americans are quite happy to be off on their own or associating only with the people who will excuse their faults, thinking that the rest of the community doesn't matter. That's why shunning doesn't work here.

devobrun 3 years, 7 months ago

Searching for a bumper sticker?.....

Show Up. Do the Job.

The underlying narrative includes: Define "do the job". And define the limits to "show up".

Both statements invoke responsibility. You gotta be there, and you gotta perform. Anything less is, well, not good enough and subject to sanction.

Show up. No excuses. You promised and you must show up. Shut the... up and just be there. There really isn't anything else to say. There isn't any philosophy, creed, rationality to explain anything less than show up.....

Do the job. What, you can't do the job? Leave. You don't wanna do the job? Leave. If you are there.....perform. Skin color, ethnic identity, gender, sex, handicap.....on and on and on...........................................................If you can't show up and do the job......................go away.

But I need help?.......The heck you do! Show up and do the job..........or die, you worthless piece of humanity.
Oh my mother was a quadraplegic, and was a cub scout leader. She ran a business by telephone....in 1957. It wasn't easy. She showed up every day. And she did everything she could in the 19 years between the onset of polio and her death.

Lose weight you sloppy fool. Learn a skill, you lazy bum. Lose you ethnicity. Lose your gender. Lose your excuse and.....Show Up. Do a Job.

roadwarrior 3 years, 7 months ago

civility is just another word for "not selfish".

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