Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Three reasons the left should learn from the civil rights movement and reclaim civility

Opponents of civility do not understand it. Civility is not niceness or etiquette or deference or loving your enemies. It is only the most formal form of politeness. It calls for treating others as your equals when you think they are not. It is loved by diplomats and hated by people who love war. Its purpose is not to prevent hard discussions—it’s to enable them.

Historically, the left and right embraced civility for one reason: it's effective. The civil rights workers of the '50s and '60s were always civil when they engaged in civil disobedience because they knew three things the modern left has forgotten:

1. Civility lets you speak with the people you need to convince. Martin Luther King said, "We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade."

2. Civility makes your side look good and the other bad. The heroes of the civil rights movement did workshops before engaging in civil disobedience to help protesters stay civil under the worst provocation:
The key to the sit-in is non-violence, but it takes a tough inner fiber neither to flinch nor retaliate when, occasionally, hooligans pick on the sitters-in to discourage them or provoke them into some violent act. Fearing the stress on sensibilities and temper to which a sit-in could be subjected, the high school and college students of Petersburg, Va. studied at a unique but punishing extracurricular school before they attempted sitting-in.

In the course, which they ironically call "social drama," student are subjected to a full repertory of humiliation and minor abuse. These include smoke-blowing, hair-pulling, chair-jostling, coffee-spilling, hitting with wadded newspaper, along with such epithets as "dirty nigger" and "black bitch." Anyone who gets mad flunks.
3. Civility is popular. In the recent example of a business owner expelling a Republican, "72 percent say it is wrong to eject someone from a restaurant for their political views."

Defending incivility, angry leftists say, “But Trump's not civil!” That's true. It's part of the reason he was the most unpopular candidate ever run by a major party, and he only managed to squeak through the Electoral College because the Democrats chose to run the second most unpopular candidate. His incivility is an excellent reason not to emulate him.

Bernie Sanders is the country's most popular politician. This principle is one reason why:
"Let's treat each other civilly. Let's treat each other respectfully and let's not try to demonize people who may have disagreements with us." —Bernie Sanders
If you have to vent, vent in private with friends. In public, keep your eyes on the prize.


More:

Niceness versus civility

Afterthoughts:

Here's Malcolm X pointing out that you can respect people and oppose them too:

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X

The American Heritage Dictionary makes a useful distinction:
Civil often suggests the barest observance of accepted social usages, as in the avoidance of rudeness: "Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly civil in his answer, and forced his younger sister to be civil also, and say what the occasion required" (Jane Austen)
An example of feminists doing more damage to their cause than any antifeminist could: Feminist Cringe.

Considering Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'Beyond Vietnam' - The Institute for Civility in Goverment: "Beyond Vietnam: A time to Break the Silence" is not the speech by Martin Luther King Jr. we remember. But if we're interested in civility, we should."