When I think of civility, I think of the efficient, gloved female cashier whose eyes and hands waltz in rhythm as she begins the task of scanning my grocery items. Always, even if her feet hurt from standing four consecutive hours, she greets me with a smile. Always, we chat a little, as she invokes the machine to approve my charge.
Civility, in retail and in much of life—takes patience and appreciation that the person with whom you are engaged is deserving of respect.
Post the first presidential debate, civility is on my mind. Trump’s total lack of civility, his petulant, insistent, whatever-is-in-my-mind-I-am-entitled-to-say tic-like behavior made me squirm. At the halfway mark, I began to pace back and forth from the living room to the kitchen. I needed something sweet to get me through his mean spirited grunts and invectives. I came away empty handed. In truth, nothing I could ingest could calm my disgust and annoyance until Hillary spelled out how she has proved her metal in the stamina department.
“As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” Hillary said.
I am grateful for Hillary’s spirited civility. It took discipline to stand before 84 million viewers, to think on her feet, speak out, and continue on as if she were not being interrupted 51 times with words such as “Wrong, Not True and Where Did You Find This?
According to the on-line McMillan Dictionary, a debate is defined as “an informal and spirited but generally civil discussion of opposing views.” Wikipedia tells us that the word civility comes from the word civilis, which in Latin means “citizen” and that “Civility is the action of working together productively to reach a common goal.”
Since the time of our nation’s beginning, the question of civility in political discourse has been discussed. Wikipedia cites a letter written by John Adams, our second president, to his wife about his “fear that in every assembly, members will obtain influence by noise, not sense.” Is that not what we witnessed during the debate— Trump’s effort to distract with noise— sniffling, grunting, single words, all manner of rudeness—to gain attention, cause confusion, detract from the words of his opponent.
But Trump is more than a serial detractor. His inability to contain inappropriate responses was on full display. In psychological terms, he lacks “Executive Functioning,” the ability to step back, discern and contain the effect of what he is saying.
I close with respect and gratitude for Hillary, whose executive ability assures the option of a disciplined and discerning presidential candidate.