Yesterday, I penned a brief missive on my Facebook page regarding pleas for civility in the political world. I’m not sure I said everything I wanted to in that initial post, so I’m going to spit out a quick follow-up. I hope this makes some degree of sense…


Less than two years ago, a famously vulgar man managed to eke out an electoral college win in the US Presidential election, despite frequently uttering crass language, owning a long history of racism and misogyny, and frequently calling for violence against his opponents. Oh yeah, and that whole… whaddyacallit… constant lying thing.

And believe it or not, despite this, I have previously found myself agreeing with those on the left (and some of the more genteel pundits on the right) who argued that Trump opponents would be best to avoid sinking to his level. Michelle Obama famously exhorted the Democratic Convention to “go high, when they go low.”

Nearly two years after that convention, Donald Trump is president. And to list the failures and harmful acts of his administration in a comprehensive manner would now take many thousands of words. Hell, it took me almost 6,000 words just to list his faults and failures BEFORE he became president.  If one has been paying attention (and has avoided trapping themselves in a self-sustaining media bubble), they likely already comprehend the disaster that has been the Trump presidency.

Suffice to say, while a lack of civility has been a good way to describe the atmosphere of this administration – it isn’t even close the root of the problem.

Yes, Donald Trump frequently tweets insults about people he feels have wronged him – usually celebrities, politicians, and members of the media. Yes, he famously bragged about sexually assaulting women with impunity. And he certainly implored his supporters to physically harm those who opposed him.

Donald Trump is an uncivil man (to be extremely generous). And doing the same things he does back to him would be a pointless and unfortunate endeavor. I personally don’t recommend it.

But lately, something else has been happening, thrown under the larger umbrella of “uncivil” behavior. Citizens opposing the words and actions of the President have been pushing back with more than just scathing thinkpieces, or participation in the occasional subuded march down their local Main Street.

The White House press secretary was asked (politely and discreetly) to leave a restaurant. A senior policy advisor and the head of Homeland Security were both heckled at other restaurants. The Florida attorney general – a prominent Trump supporter – was heckled at a movie theater. A comedian called the press secretary a liar to her face. A Democratic congresswoman expressed support for the aforementioned shenanigans.

Naturally, politicians and pundits on the right have had a field day with this. “So much for liberal tolerance” is basically a reflex statement for many American conservatives. Yet, those snowflakes have been blowing up at every perceived transgression against them for ages now, so it’s not like there’s any surprise recent events have, um… triggered them.

But now, prominent centrists, and even liberals have also been aghast at the perceived poor manners of those opposing Donald Trump. There seems to be a reflexive urge among some to treat “civility” as an overarching principle that must never be compromised.

But this definition of civility has such a narrow scope.

When I mentioned near the beginning of this piece that I agree it’s best not to behave like Trump in opposing him – that’s not the same as saying “confrontation should always be avoided.” Telling a liar to their face that they are indeed a liar isn’t what I would call uncivil. Allowing a harmful lie to spread and be accepted by the populace as fact – well, I think that’s far more harmful to civil society.

Being polite and attempting to stick to the old norms clearly isn’t working. The Trump Administration doesn’t care about facts and rational debate.

I’m not saying we have to act as though norms are meaningless. But we do need to understand that only one side cares about them anymore, and if we ever want them to exist again, we may have to stop pretending that David Brooks and Thomas Friedman represent the modern conservative consensus.

Sarah Sanders is the propaganda spreader. She parrots the lies of her boss – and the rest of this corrupt and incompetent administration.

Kirstjen Nielsen is in charge of an already highly problematic law enforcement organization that exists primarily as a massive overreach against supposed threats to national security. Much of the blame for the manufactured humanitarian crisis of forcibly separated refugee children lies at her feet.

Stephen Miller is an avowed white nationalist, and is the primary architect behind explicitly bigoted policies like the anti-Muslim travel ban.

Pam Bondi, as Florida Attorney General, solicited and (then received) a bribe from Donald Trump in order to back away from prosecuting his tax fraud.

All of them have supported and defended (and in 3 cases, worked for) a man who has averaged more than 6 public lies a day for the past five hundred plus days, who is a confessed sexual predator, and whose administration is guilty of providing aid and comfort to dictators, disrupting global trade, badly crippling the chances of slowing climate change, worsening economic inequality, rapidly increasing the national debt, and disenfranchising millions of voters (to name but a few misdeeds).

Why are we allowing the conversation to shift to civility?

Let’s look at it another way:

Have you ever pointed at something in front of a dog? Generally, the dog doesn’t look where you’re pointing. They usually look at your finger. They miss the… um, point.

That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Worrying about civility is completely missing the point. If protesters physically harmed Nielsen or Miller, or the restaurant owner gave other customers Sanders’ home address – or if something equally wrong had occurred – THEN we could talk about the need for civility.

That’s not what happened. But what did happen isn’t what’s important here.

People who have been entrusted with running the American government are committing long-lasting harm against this country, and its people. They’ve managed to cause harm to people who aren’t even citizens.

For months, they’ve been HOLDING CHILDREN HOSTAGE for the sake of scoring a potential legislative victory.

Why should we allow them to be comfortable about this? Why should we, as citizens – THEIR BOSSES – allow them to cause the harm they’ve caused without some pushback? Sarah Sanders, Kirstjen Nielsen, Stephen Miller, and Pam Bondi are supposed to be accountable to the citizens of this land. Americans exercising their right to protest is something that only strengthens our democracy.

Protest isn’t always “civil.” So what? Why is that suddenly the point? Why is the party of “Grab them by the pussy” so worried about people playing nice? And why is the opposition so worried about offending the pussy grabber?

Why the hell are we looking at the finger, and not the problem that its pointing to?

I do my best to be civil in my personal affairs. I say please and thank you, and do my best not to interrupt. I try to avoid using personal insults. When all things are equal, I think this is the best way to operate on a daily basis.

However, things are not equal, and have not been equal for some time.

Push aside talk of civility. Don’t let them distract you. There are serious problems we need to talk about. If it takes making the causes of these problems a bit uncomfortable from time to time, so be it. Sometimes that’s what it takes to force change. Being nice certainly hasn’t helped.

Sarah Sanders had to take her dinner to go. Her boss instituted a policy of taking children from their parents as they came to the border to seek asylum, then held them in detention in order to force a vote on his pipedream of a border wall.

Why are we focusing on Sarah’s dinner?

About hbreck

Writer, debater, contrarian, storyteller, occasional troublemaker. I'm mostly just making things up as I go.
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10 Responses to Civility

  1. fibonachobizfoo says:

    I can vouch for your civility in personal affairs. This is a good piece, eh H.

  2. tommy galbreath says:

    Shit post. Lol. Typical snowflake. Blocks people when their comments don’t align with his narrow minded agenda.

    • hbreck says:

      Yo, Tommy… you just proved my point when I said one side doesn’t care about operating by the same rules. I specifically said I welcome debate and discussion – particularly from those with different perspectives. But this was your lone contribution to debate and discussion:

      “Hunter Breckenridge is a moron. Your page is shit. SHIT! I have read your response to Derrick Lutz. He broke you. Reduced you to a name calling child. SHIT PAGE.”

      That was funny especially after I pretty much embarrassed Lutz and sent him packing. But more importantly, do you really think what you did was simply present a rational viewpoint that didn’t align with my supposed agenda?

      Because from this perspective, it kind of looked like you just threw out a string of insults with no basis in reality. Doesn’t seem like something to be reasoned with. Are you interested in trying again? Maybe behaving like an adult? Possibly even contributing to dialogue in good faith?

      • tommy galbreath says:

        Okay. Let me start by saying I am niether a Trump supporter nor a Clinton supporter. Not Left or Right. I believe less government is a better government. However, a president was elected and as an honest observer I have seen nothing that indicates he won’t, at a minimum, serve at least one term.
        I have listened to every “news” program and read every publication that I could get my hands on. Some say “impeach” while others say “best President ever.” Somewhere in between all the rhetoric ( your piece included) exists the truth. The best I can tell using the same evidence as you have, he’s here to stay. As far as civility is concerned I have witnessed none from the “Left”.
        I have paid close attention. I have seen marches (read acts of uncivil behavior) over and over across this country since 11/16. Blocked highways, city streets and places of business. I have seen regular citizens inconvenienced and downright terrorized by these “well meaning” protesters. There has been a general consensus among Trump haters that not liking the outcome of an election gives you the right to create anarchy. That’s not how this works. Even the media can’t sit it out and wait for 2020.
        Every piece of anti-Trump angled stories they get they exploit it in every possible way. The separation of parents and children at the border is Bush administration laws.
        Trump was elected, like every president before him. Good or bad, presidential candidates spew promises. If they are elected they have promises to keep. That’s what they ran on. Like it or not he has a job to do. Just like Sarah Sanders.
        The division among Americans is ridiculous. I do not applaud nor do I disapprove of the owner of the Red Hen for booting Sarah Sanders. I think that it was a bad business decision. That’s the kind of over zealous behavior that worries me. People are too willing to throw caution and civility to the wind over an elected official. Worse case scenario he’s stays until 2024. He has no more power than previous presidents.
        On one side people are saying that he has done nothing. Then those same people say that he has stripped away the rights of woman, gays, blacks and every other group that doesn’t like him.
        While everyone fights over this and that 2020 is fast approaching. If you don’t like the President, cast a vote against him in 2020. That’s how it works in America.

  3. tommy galbreath says:

    Oh yeah. I forgot to mention. People who come to border check stations seeking asylum are not seperated from their children. Only people who cross our borders illegally are treated, well, like criminals. That’s my problem with your biased, lopsided article. It’s filled with that same kind of misinformation (ahem, lies) being repeated over and over. Use the truth. Using lies is what demeans your opinion. That’s why I described your post as I did. Tommy

  4. hbreck says:

    Two things…
    1. I appreciate you actually trying again and engaging in good faith. Starting off with pointless insults doesn’t make for much an argument. So, thank you there.
    2. However, you threw a lot out here, and you definitely are coming from the right end of the spectrum, regardless of your claims to being somewhere in between. But that’s fine. It’s a stance to have. However, I actually covered what’s happened on the border in an earlier piece from just a week(ish) ago. You can see it on this very site.

    Separating children at the border is happening, and both for families requesting asylum, as well as for people not. It was designed to be a universal policy. And while the act of doing so happened intermittently in years past, the policy of making it THE go-to policy was a Trump decision. It did not happen on this scale under Obama or Bush. This was a choice, primarily engineered by Sessions and Miller.

    Meanwhile, while you started out with an attempt to debate in good faith – accusing me of lying without demonstrating a shred of evidence is essentially a termination of that good faith.

    Accusing protesters of fomenting anarchy is certainly not truthful or speaking in good faith. Because despite a tiny percentage of protest occasionally getting rowdy, 99% are peaceful, I’ve been to a half dozen in the last 18 months. Not a single person broke any laws or caused any trouble.

    People don’t like Trump for a large number of reasons. And yes, I have no doubt most will vote against him. But in a democratic system (don’t start that shit about republics vs democracy – a republic is a form of democracy), there are more tools than just voting. Protest and speech is part of it. And telling someone they’re wrong isn’t the same as terrorizing them. Afflicting the comfortable is important in protest. As a witness to tea party protests from 2009-2011 – I can say the right is plenty comfortable using threats of violence – and sometimes actually getting violent.

    Meanwhile, Representative Waters advocated peaceful protest. Using words, using boycotts – using the tools of democracy.

    You claim to be on neither side – but everything you wrote after is simply parroting the hard-right talking points.

    • tommy galbreath says:

      Okay. I see what you did there. You are absolutely intent on putting people in boxes. Boxes on the left and boxes on the right. I am not going to attempt to change your mind about where I fit.
      If you would like to broach the subject of parroting, just about every point you touched on in your post has been repeated over and over. On every news program, social media site and left wing meme for the last year and a half.
      As far as accusing you of lying; not true. I said that you were using lies to bolster your opinions. Let’s be honest here, most, if not all of this is a matter of opinion. I have stated some of mine. Let’s hear more of yours.
      What do you think should be done with people who sneak across our borders? Not the ones legitimately seeking asylum.
      Here’s another one of my opinions. You seem to fancy yourself in some position slightly above me. It is evident in your “teacher/student” way of responding to me. It’s called condescending. That’s how you come off. What do you think allows you such a position? I put my pants on just like you.
      I know where I stand and my position is a result of observation. Maybe your perspective wouldn’t be skewed if you took a few steps back and looked at the bigger picture. From a safer distance.

      • hbreck says:

        I haven’t put anyone in a box. However, it is a pet peeve of mine to see someone swear up and down they’re entirely impartial/not part of a team/just calling balls and strikes/etc… and then proceed to stake ground 100% claimed by one side. Feels a bit disingenuous to me.

        But by all means, identify in whatever way you see fit. Who am I to argue?

        But when you are only defending the administration, after claiming not to be a supporter – it comes off less than honest.

        …which leads into the next point. What does it matter if you directly accuse me of lying, or merely “using lies to support my opinions?” That’s still lying. Using lies is still lying. Semantics.

        As far as what you’ve seen on what you call left-wing media – I can’t speak for that. I consume a wide range of media, including primarily nonpartisan analysis, as well as as much good opinion stuff as I can find on the right. Conclusions are useless unless they’re tested. Hence why I actually welcome engagement.

        Funny enough, it’s this sort of dialogue where civility matters most to me.

        But I digress again.

        I’m really not sure what to make of your condescension remarks. Other than being sorry if you feel offended by me, I don’t know what else to say. You give me your position, I give you mine, and we repeat… y’know, like a debate. How I feel about you (a person I know little about) is largely irrelevant here. I will say it is kind of interesting to see the guy who started off with insults and the phrase “snowflake” tell me that I’m being mean to him. On my own site, no less.

        Finally, as far as immigration goes… despite the Chicken Little proclamations I’ve seen from the right about the collapse of everything due to immigration (legal and otherwise), the US Southern border has seen negative net immigration numbers for several years now. And the most reliable stats that I’ve seen indicate that most people who are caught, given a court date, and then released into the United States actually *do* end up making their court appearances. From a law enforcement perspective, I don’t see much reason to change what we had been doing.

        The issue isn’t punishing those terrible people who have the audacity to want a better life. What we need to do is start making it easier and more attractive to go through the system properly. Which means annual limits need to go up, and all the paperwork needs to be streamlined so it doesn’t take as long. And oh my God, I can’t believe I actually agree with Ted Cruz on something, but more judges and legal professionals should be hired and sent to the border for this processing. And yes, the path to citizenship itself needs to be eased. It’s not actually easy to get in as a legal immigrant without money and connections. I’ve seen this issue firsthand with people from Germany, Canada, Mexico, India, and the Philippines. These were all people with jobs and money and an interest in becoming citizens. And all of them ended up having to be sent backbecause of waitlists and inefficiencies.

  5. tommy galbreath says:

    Hunter, I think you hit the nail on the head with your Chicken Little analogy. That’s what has me sick of hearing all of this. The sky is falling on everyone and it’s (insert party name here) fault. Nothing is really any worse or better than it’s ever been. S.S.D.D. Are you familier with that acronym? We the people will continue to be exploited by whatever party is running things. If they could plug us into a computer and drain our souls they would all line up with their pals. I am an autonomous creature. I do not require the guidence of others to survive and I do not believe that anyone requires my guidence. I do not support the current president any further than to accept the decision of the voters. I support our system. We have the best country in the world. That’s why people flood our borders everyday. Looking for the American dream.

    • hbreck says:

      We may have the best governmental model… and there are certainly things America does well. But I’m skeptical of nationalism. I’m skeptical of the assumption that anyone has about their own country being the best.

      And I think it’s important to also acknowledge the things that could be done better.

      That’s my main goal, trying to make things better than they are.

      On the whole, the sky is indeed not falling. As a reader of Steven Pinker, I have come to the conclusion that the world is indeed becoming a better place for most. But on the smaller scales, injustice still abounds, and it’s imperative to fight it whenever possible.

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