The civilitity of insulting the President

Politics | Familiarity
Some readers may wonder how a site which has a few sharp attacks can call itself Civilities. I started reading the book Civility: Manners, Morals and the Ettiquite of Democracy by Stephen L. Carter, Professor of Law at Yale (The Da Vinci Code is still difficult to get without a hold). On page 22, after considering a sharp retort from Maureen Dowd against President’s Clinton’s “call for a more civil Washington”, Carter recalls the argument of Charles P. Flynn’s Insults and Society:

Insults, he argues, “provide a check to those in power who may be tempted to think of themselves in grandiose terms, above the rest of humanity and hence not subject to insults.” His tantalizing example is Richard Nixon, who, when he did not like what the press was saying about him, simply stopped reading or listening. … Plainly, we neither want nor need such arrogant leaders, but we must not encourage gratuitous insult simply to drive the point home.

If I understand him correctly, Carter’s quest for civility is about a value system larger than a mere words. Civiltiy, in his definition “is the set of sacrifices we make for the sake of our common journey with others, and out of love and respect for the idea that there are others.” So thus it is more an insult to civility when a person ignores the “others” in society versus hurling an invective at a particular person.

Well, Carter’s book works other magic as well. Holding up the Civility book in the subway door seemed to quell the habit of transit riders in Boston who enter a train before everyone’s exited. I’ll continue the test tomorrow.