In retrospect, Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2006 has been grievously unworthy of such a tribute.
That was the year the editors at Time honored largely anonymous online denizens and social media users for their contributions to the public dialogue and culture.
Wow. Big miscalculation.
The truth is, purveyors of websites and social media have their hands full babysitting the childish, brutish occupants of cyberspace – the global chat room of a mournfully uncivil people.
The latest poster child for incivility is militant liberal fanatic Rosie O’Donnell – strangely acceptable enough to a civility-touting left that she was once a co-host of ABC-TV’s The View, but whose recent tweets against conservatives have been so filled with venom and vulgarity that Twitter was shamed into deleting one on her behalf.
She had tweeted that young conservative personality Ben Shapiro should – well, perform a particular act on her that one would think would be impossible.
It was interesting that Twitter hesitated to delete the tweet. The site’s odd equivocation over whether O’Donnell’s obscene rant was “a violation of the Twitter Rules against abusive behavior” gives credence to Shapiro’s skepticism over whether Twitter would delete a liberal’s tweet.
“Everyone knows if Rosie were conservative, Twitter would suspend her in a hot second,” Shapiro wrote.
More recently, O’Donnell wrote to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan that he “will go straight to hell” for the recent passage of tax cuts. “U screwed up fake altar boy.”
Ryan’s office took the high road – responding only that “We wish everyone a Merry Christmas!” But the truth is, the high road has become the road less traveled in today’s wired world.
We should, as a nation and a people, resolve in 2018 to be more civil.
And that New Year’s resolution should start with our president.
While this newspaper endorsed Mr. Trump and continues to enthusiastically support his policies – which this year have quickly begun reviving our economy and restoring American preeminence – his own comportment on Twitter has hardly been inspirational. Fact is, his tweets this year have at times not only added to society’s coarseness, but have served to obscure his own administration’s accomplishments.
With social media sites and smart phones, we’ve all become pundits and wiseacres. We are all one click away from the wrong kind of stardom.
But while we are all potential celebrities due to our ability to momentarily mount the public stage, our real luminaries in entertainment and politics carry an even greater responsibility to be responsible.
Every time those with a famous name make even more of a name for themselves with rank incivility and world-class crassness, they drag our culture further down into a sewer from which no one arises unsullied.
In short, it’s time that Time’s 2006 Person of the Year grew up.
Our society is depending on it.
You don’t think our children mimic what they see us say and do? Why do you think advertisers market to kids so much? Why were Joe Camel and Bud Light’s Spuds MacKenzie retired? Why do you think celebrities get paid billions for touting razors and deodorants?
The incivility we see in media, sports, politics and on the streets trickles down assuredly. Consider the case of 45 Philadelphia teachers who recently resigned due to student violence stretching all the way down to first grade.
“I have been kicked, punched, hit, scratched. I’ve had a student physically restraining me in front of my other students,” one first-grade teacher told the Harrisburg board of education.
It’s become hazardous for conservative speakers to speak on some college campuses: A professor was injured, a speaker was silenced and their car pounded on and blocked at an event at Middlebury College last March.
Like Twitter, it’s sometimes difficult for law enforcement to take the side of conservatives, even when they’re the victims: Conservative Lucian Wintrich was actually arrested this fall for grabbing a female protester who stole a copy of his speech. Upon further review, authorities dropped the charges against him and, instead, charged the woman, Catherine Gregory, with attempted larceny and disorderly conduct.
Conservatives – who increasingly are unwelcome on college campuses – will not be surprised to learn that Gregory was listed as an adviser at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson, Conn.
Incivility on the left, as exemplified by Gregory and O’Donnell, has reached fever pitch. But incivility is an affliction of the body politic regardless of one’s ideology.
Unless this is the kind of country we want to live in, it’s up to us – and all of us – to resolve to be more civil in 2018.
It’s not that complicated, but neither does it come naturally; civility comes from proper breeding and refinement, which isn’t so much in fashion these days. It has become some kind of twisted virtue to be in someone else’s face.
Let’s resolve not only to be civil in the New Year, but to shun the incivility of others.
Decide that it has no place in your world.