January had already begun and I hadn’t decided on a New Year’s resolution. After last week’s violence in Washington, D.C., I now know what it is: To conscientiously practice civility.
I believe the uncivil, nasty, screaming, name-calling, suspicion-building, “cancelling” devolution of our culture that has been on display for the past year is a large contributor in bringing us to this moment. We have lost the important ability to listen and treat others respectfully, when we don’t agree with them and even when we do. “I’m right, you’re not.” “I can’t win unless you lose,” is the new operating standard.
I think the little things we do personally every day add up to show a much bigger picture of who we are as a society. Our nation’s current incivility and intolerance is death by a thousand cuts because it validates and enables more of the same. This is evidenced not only by the behavior of politicians and anonymous people on social media, but in our everyday interactions with family, friends, and those in our communities.
Incivility is the check-out clerk who vigorously snarled when I absentmindedly got in the “10 items or less” grocery line with 13 things even though I was the only customer in the store. It is the aggressive driver who cuts you off in traffic waving a third-figure salute as she speeds away. It is people who leave litter in our parks and pubic places. It is the customer service representative who simply hung up on me when she didn’t know the answer to my question. It is the use of crude and demeaning language that has become ubiquitous, even among our leaders. When we engage in uncivil behavior, we contribute to eroding the foundational principles of our democracy.
I’m not suggesting that practicing civility is the magic answer to solving our serious national problems, but committing to being respectful of our fellow human beings would go a long way toward helping. We can’t make progress if we don’t or won’t listen to one another.
While I can’t control what happens on a national level, or what other people do, I can work to control myself. This year I resolve to practice civility.