Bullying and Incivility Have Become an Epidemic

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By Randy Jurado Ertll

Pop stars Eminem and Lady Gaga recently admitted that they were victims of bullying and we applaud them for making this a relevant issue that should not just apply to youth, but to adults too. It is basically the adults who set the example in regards to bullying. Bullying does not just occur on school playgrounds but also in the workplace. Therefore, it is imperative that we also include the word civility in our national discourse.

Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy by Stephen L. Carter is a thought provoking book that focuses on why we have lost good manners and respect towards others, and what we need to do to recapture “civility” in our society.

Carter focuses on historical examples and real life scenarios that help illustrate how the United States has evolved from being a young democracy to one that has fallen into utter disregard for respect towards each other. Within the book, the author provides ideas how we can recapture civility, by focusing on our personal actions and treating others with dignity and respect. The key is to stop the vicious cycle of incivility and bullying by not condoning or participating in these types of negative activities.

Stephen L. Carter chose to write about the issue of civility since he has personally witnessed how respectful treatment of others has drastically decreased in our U.S. society. The author is trying to make a point that we have loss civility through real life, historical, and personal examples.

The book’s fundamental points are to be civil and respectful towards others, even when they are rude to us. Of course, it is easier said than done. But we must continually strive to be the opposite of negative, disrespectful, and uncivil role models or bosses. Of course, at times, we all fall short in practicing civility.

This book offers some guidance towards analyzing why incivility has become so common in our everyday life. Carter’s ultimate goal is for us to put into practice his message of respect and tolerance. The greater message is for us to begin to grasp what civility means and to begin to put it into practice, in our daily lives.

Civility is a topic often forgotten, ignored, and misunderstood in our society. Therefore, even though Carter’s book is now over a decade old, it is still relevant and valuable to read. The author’s main arguments are true since he uses historical facts and examples to reiterate his thesis that we have loss civility in our interactions with each other.

What I do disagree with him is that he states that various religions have not created or exasperate incivility. In some cases, yes, opposing religious views have created tensions and even violence. He misses an opportunity to mention the European one hundred year war between Protestants and Catholics and the continual conflict between Palestine and Israel.

Overall, it is a good book but it does lack in some areas. This book sublimely, and not directly, talks about social inequities that have led us to become a nation of intolerance and mistreatment of each other. This book does not necessarily make the direct correlation with historical facts that would help explain how we have evolved to become an intolerant nation. However, the truth of the matter is that this nation was established with principles of intolerance, and the author slightly brushes on this topic. He could have gone more in depth to further explore the topic of social, political, and economic inequities that have led to more incivility.

Fortunately, Carter does talk about slavery and how the owners of slaves may have practiced “civility” in their political and economic interactions, but the truth is that in the late 1700s, the United States adopted unjust and inhumane attitudes that African Americans, Native Americans, and other minorities were inherently inferior. Yes, the U.S. Constitution afforded us many rights, which we continue to cherish and value. But it took a Civil War to end slavery, and centuries for women, African Americans, and other minorities to be treated with dignity and respect. The U.S. Constitution had to be amended to allow African Americans and women the right to vote.

What is convincing regarding the book is that our society continues to be rude to one another and Carter successfully uses examples of political debates, campaigns, and the role television plays in denigrating and destroying the reputation of opponents.

The author successfully points out that the Catholic church and other religious entities have tried to provide some moderation or suggestions to television networks – to help focus on civility within their programming contents and visuals. But we know that the television industry is driven by viewer ratings and paid advertising, therefore, they have chosen to not censor themselves and they continue to promote topics and images that perpetuate incivility – through the obsessive promotion of violence and sex in our movies.

This book has now taken on more literary merit since we are in a time of economic crisis and everyone is looking to blame others for our social ills. We have also seen a rise in violent shootings throughout the United States, especially with the recent senseless shooting of a Congressional member and other innocent victims in Arizona. We also continue to see how campaigns purposely choose to use dirty and uncivil tactics to destroy the character of political candidates.

The topic within the civility book must take greater importance in our daily dialogue with others, in order to continue promoting better communication and respect among all. Ultimately, bullying must not be tolerated in our households, school, or workplace.

And yes, the workplace and schools must adopt policies of zero tolerance towards incivility and bullying.

By Randy Jurado Ertll, author of Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group). Web-site: www.randyjuradoertll.com and e-mail, randyertll@yahoo.com

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