Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 11:53 AM ET, 01/14/2011

David Brooks is right -- on civility

By Jonathan Capehart

If you read only one column today, please read David Brooks's piece in the New York Times. In the wake of the tragedy in Tucson and the wonderful self-reflection the nation is undertaking, "Tree of Failure" gets at the root of why civility matters and why we've lost it.

"The problem is that over the past 40 years or so we have gone from a culture that reminds people of their own limitations to a culture that encourages people to think highly of themselves," Brooks writes. As a result, he continues, "Children are raised amid a chorus of applause. Politics has become less about institutional restraint and more about giving voters whatever they want at that second. Joe DiMaggio didn't ostentatiously admire his own home runs, but now athletes routinely celebrate themselves as part of the self-branding process."

What Brooks gets at is something Peggy Noonan was getting at in her column on leadership last week about Capt. Owen Honors's videos on the USS Enterprise. As a society, we don't think beyond ourselves, and many of us don't think or realize that we have a higher purpose that demands we think beyond ourselves.

Brooks writes:

So, of course, you get narcissists who believe they or members of their party possess direct access to the truth. Of course you get people who prefer monologue to dialogue. Of course you get people who detest politics because it frustrates their ability to get 100 percent of what they want. Of course you get people who gravitate toward the like-minded and loathe their political opponents. They feel no need for balance and correction.

Meanwhile, Noonan's words last week on Honors, written before Tucson stormed the national consciousness, have particular resonance now. "Your job is to be better, and to set standards that those below you have to reach to meet," she wrote in decrying Honors's desire to be like everyone else. "And you have to do this even when it's hard, even when you know you yourself don't quite meet the standards you represent."

Who knows how long the calls for civility will last? Who knows how long it will take for some modicum of civility to take hold? Civility is more than talking nicely with one another and about one another. It's a standard that requires listening to, respecting and maybe even understanding other points of view. And it's about leading others in that direction when their better angels are pushed aside by anger, fear or frustration. Even when it's hard, even when you know you yourself don't quite meet the standard you hold dear.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 14, 2011; 11:53 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Friday p-Op quiz: 'Rain puddles in Heaven' Edition
Next: Attacking Mukasey, Ridge, Townsend and Giuliani

Comments

It seems pretty clear that the ideals expressed in this column are those expressed by President Obama in his speech the other day. It seems equally clear that the idea of people being unable to listen to arguments from the other side refer to the hard left and hard right. I think that it is telling that Obama's approval rating has risen after the lame duck session of congress, particularly with we independents. I find it telling that some in the liberal media downplay the fact that Obama basically had to do it himself by listening to the other side. Let's face it, if Obama hadn't negotiated with the republicans sans Nancy and the gang none of the bills would have passed.
And yes, I voted for my democratic congressman but he is not a flamethrower.

Excellent column.

Posted by: Fergie303 | January 14, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Rather than give the public the facts and only the facts of the matter being reported, our media chooses to ramp up the anger and disturbed sensibilities of the public that they are supposed to be serving. Rather than just inform they chose to inflame or otherwise influence the population, depending on what "their" (the media's) agenda happens to be.

Posted by: dinkydu | January 14, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

The media is sometimes complicit in the polarization of views because they constantly seek out the most strident, partisan guests to feature on their programs.

Besides contributing to the downward spiral of our civil discourse, this practice also frequently sets up false equivalencies.

Someone will take a position on global warming, for example, which is supported by the vast majority of the world's scientists, and be pitted in a debate with a climate change denier, for which there is virtually no scientific support. Yet, when these two are presented together on a program, some people are persuaded that their respective positions have roughly the same weight and support; not the case.

Posted by: MidwaySailor76 | January 14, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Capehart just spent the last week cheerleading for Leftist hate-venom against Mrs. Palin.

And Capehart got his wish in the form of "unprecedented" death threats against Mrs. Palin.
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/blood-libel-sarah-palins-controversial-reference-riled-emotions/story?id=12601352&page=1

Death threats: how progressive!

And now he suddenly wants the unwashed plebes to embrace civility?

*hypocrisy on stilts*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 14, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capeheart:


I might respect you a little more if you had demonstrated a little bit of that civility in your reactions to the carnage in Tucson. Till I see an apology from you on that front I can't take you seriously or believe anything you may say on civility.

Posted by: werehawk | January 14, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

We heard this stuff when Carter was president. And Kennedy. And Clinton. We did not hear it when Reagan, Bush, and Nixon were in office. "Who knows how long the calls for civility will last?" I do. It will last until the next Republican president is elected.

Posted by: mah243 | January 14, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Posted at 11:53 AM ET, 01/14/2011
David Brooks is right -- on civility
By Jonathan Capehart

Well there y'all go again, the Crapehart and Brokes, Song and Dance Team (kind of the Brokes & Done of the OpEd world of spin and fall back*ssward down the slick as snot slippery slope above 1600 Tent City Ave., below the defiled halls of law and justice made, that way by jerkwads from illiberaland like you two. No disrespect, but, butts don't count in the grand scheme of things.

Guess you think that makes you both Wright, and probably does.

Posted by: RichNomore | January 14, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

...and can you even wait for the kinder gentler, less devisive, more civil, more inclusive Merchant of Mayhem-in-Chief @ the Slant of My Onion (I just won again, as the ME-morializer-in-Chief of Mecca West)?

Posted by: RichNomore | January 14, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

...and, didn't it have to be worth the effort, and the trip just looking out over all that sea of Me tea-shirts with flowers...and oh the clapping and cheering (must have cheered the survivors, their families, and friends), and booing when The Honorable Jan Brewer made an anticipated (and no doubt planned for) appearance, had to have warmed every cockle in your cold, civil, clenched keisters.

Brought to you by the civility and kind spirited committee for kind civil written posts with anger, fear and frustration pushed aside. (you should have seen it before it was censored, oh the vitriol, the violent words, stirring up the pot (and pot\pin-heads) of hate. We could just feel the daggers, personal protection devices, pitch forks, coming at US, figuratively, contextually speaking, of course.

Posted by: RichNomore | January 14, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

When one dons his thinking cap, he can trace the essence of uncivility.

When Politicians run out of lies, they use their forked tongues to bash one another. Opinions instead of facts dominate a discussion.

By disecting the prior paragraph, a reader can see uncivility's ugly head surfaces only when the truth found in facts is ignored.

My point is that personal integrity to speak the truth is far more important than speaking gently.

Adam of CA.

Posted by: AdamYoung2 | January 14, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

It's very disheartening to see a smart man like you praise David Brooks. I will admit that a cursory reading of his latest spewing of vagaries would leave the impression that he's actually making a valid point.

But he's not. He is, as he always does, wafting in a magical alternate reality where everyone is equally to blame for everything.

Note that he specifically centers his "what's gone wrong" on the last few decades.

Who has spent that time period telling kids that 'mericans are by nature exceptional? Who has been shouting from the rooftops that compromise with the filthy hippies and sodomites and tree huggers and all the other fake Americans for any reason is unacceptable? Who has, over and over, been the source of vitriol and shameless placating to the point that an honest compliment, if ever given, sounds like a lie?

I don't even have to say who. You already know.

The better question is: Why is this group which any reasonable person could, by that list of characteristics, identify immediately, not mentioned once in his so-called brilliant column?

Because then he might have to own up for his own part in digging up that civility tree and using it as kindling. Because he's one of them.

Posted by: jamesalmos | January 14, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

"Someone will take a position on global warming, for example, which is supported by the vast majority of the world's scientists, and be pitted in a debate with a climate change denier, for which there is virtually no scientific support. Yet, when these two are presented together on a program, some people are persuaded that their respective positions have roughly the same weight and support; not the case."

Your post is a perfect illustration of why there can be no civility. You do not deserve civility

Posted by: MrMeaner | January 14, 2011 8:31 PM | Report abuse

[@ 8:31 PM on January 14, 2011 MrMeaner Posted: "Someone(eles's post..."]
= = = = = = =
This is a perfect illustration of why people who say they all want civility just get meaner and more uncivil when they don't get their way, boo hoo, oops sorry, did that hurt your feeelings? OUR feelings are already hurt before you hit the keyboard. So what?

Posted by: RichNomore | January 14, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company