Civility Gone Missing


A Facebook "friend" posted the following:

"It's sad that you can't disagree with other adults without someone resorting to insults. How does that help progress or conclude the debate/argument? I don't think that has ever happened on my page. Probably because I try to surround myself with competent and well-mannered people. I don't care how wrong you think I am, you calling me stupid and saying you "don't care if my child dies" says a lot more about you than me."

The above commentary is not only accurate but says much about the rise in a lack of civility seen across the internet these days.

Whether she was recounting an actual experience or just offering a general opinion was not made clear by the posting. In times gone by such a response as she indicated would have been found not to be credible. Why? People didn't respond to differing opinions that way. Today, however, her statement is fully believable as an actual occurrence.

For years the warning labels on cigarettes have attempted to alert us to the dangers of smoking. The wordings of such warnings have changed over time. One used to read: "Warning: Smoking can be injurious to your health."

People who use such invective language as she recounted should consider the following:

"WARNING: Wishing harm to or finding glee in the death of someone's child can be severely, if not terminally, injurious to your health."

And, calling someone "stupid" for having a different opinion betrays the rampant ignorance of the person making the statement.

Using such words as stupid to attempt to make one's point rarely achieves success. What actually happens is that using such insulting language simply shuts off all further, meaningful dialog. The person on the receiving end of the insult, more often than not, relegates the other person into the category of the too ignorant. This point is implied in the Facebook post above.

Although generally a wrong reaction, a normal response to such postings of ignorance is to relegate future comments from the person as not worthy of further consideration.

Such instances of using insults to further one's point of view is most often seen in discussion of things political.

Here's a prime example:

Trump has advocated restricting entry into this country of people from terrorist-prone, Muslim-dominated nations for a time until such people can be properly vetted.

The immediate cry across the political spectrum and from many citizens was "He's a racist!". Such cries do nothing but identify the "criers" as ignorant.

Muslims come in all races. The word "racist" actually means believing that one race is superior to another. Since "Muslim" does not denote a race, people who use the invective "racist" are just wrong.

Disagreeing with the President (or, anyone) is fine. But, in stating such disagreement by using such derogatory words does nothing to further any logic one may have; it only makes one seem ignorant and not worthy of further consideration.

This same point is applicable to calling someone racist who wants to curb illegal immigration into this country. The word "Hispanic" does not denote a race. Hispanics are part of the Caucasian race, just as are "Anglo-Saxon whites".

Further, the word "stupid" is one of the most misused words in today's dialog. And, "stupid" is not the same as "ignorant".

The word "stupid" actually means: Having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.

By this definition everyone of us, at more times than we would like to admit, have done something stupid.

Performing a stupid act is not the same as being stupid in general. When people use the word stupid what they generally mean is that "you don't have the same level of information I do" or "my understanding of the available information is different (i.e., better) than yours". Although longer in verbiage, such statements as these would be more preferable than using the word stupid or other such. This would be even more true if such statements were backed up with actual facts.

I know. In today's world of attention spans that don't exceed 140 characters, this may be too hard to accomplish.

In such cases one person may, in fact, be correct and the other not so much. In many cases both parties may not be fully correct.

An example: "I say that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. You argue that I am wrong as ice melts into water at 32 degrees Fahrenheit." In this case, both parties are partially correct - and, partially wrong. Both statements are true; one does not negate the other. This is a case of two people having different sets of accurate information on the same subject. Neither is stupid - just a tad bit ignorant of all the information.

It would be wise and more civil it we all took the time to accurately state our opinions in a manner more accurate, less abusive, and in a manner that promotes ongoing, meaningful dialog.