Have we as a nation lost our civility?

I am sure most people have seen the YouTube video of Governor Christie belittling a an Ex-Navy Seal and current law student then having him removed from a town hall. William Brown, the Ex-Navy Seal, was there to address Governor Christie on the merger of two of New Jerseys colleges. Governor Christie later said he was right to call Mr. Brown and idiot and that he had let him go on about three minutes and he needed to shut up.  There was a “shouting match” between the two which is why the Governor said he was removed. Well two things , first it takes two people to have a shouting match. Secondly, I think an Ex-Navy Seal has earned the right to be heard on something he cares about for at least three minutes. Mr Brown later said “The one thing the Governor lacks is common courtesy,”.  I have seen meetings where the crowd does not act with much civility but yelling back at them then throwing them out without addressing the real concern is not the solution. On the other side when citizens start yelling people usually stop listening.

I think this is becoming more and more evident in all areas of our government. I know people go in upset about issues but they should address an elected official with respect because when you do so you are disrespecting not only their office but the citizens who elected them there in the first place. Recently Congressman Scott Rigel came to a town hall in Hampton at Fort Monroe. Now this is unusual in the first place because Hampton is a very small percentage of this voting constituency. However, he dragged himself through the tunnel during rush hour to come over here to talk to a small percentage of people that he represents. One of the things he said  was “you should address the President as  President Obama not Obama It’s a matter of respect for office even if you disagree with person.” He went on to say ” You should talk with civility . Talk to people like your mother taught you.”

I watched during his town hall and Congressman Rigel did just that.  When people asked him questions he did not agree with he would restate their question, so all could hear, then say why to him his opinion differed.  He spoke very cordially to people and addressed them with respect. In turn the people he addressed did the same thing . So I agree with the statement that an office automatically earns respect and that should always be honored. My hope would be that the elected officials try to live up to that same standard. When elected officials act as Governor Christie did toward the Ex-Navy Seal they tarnish not only their image but the image of the office. His constituency deserves better than that.


13 thoughts on “Have we as a nation lost our civility?

  1. I haven’t heard the story about Christie’s lack of civility and will watch the youtube video. I have seen Christie call out questioners, and I thought it appropriate for him to do so, so I will be saddened to see him act without civility.

    The better part of the story is your comment about Congressman Rigell. It makes me proud that he is a friend and my representative in DC. I know I won’t always agree with him, maybe not even usually. But I know he will do what he thinks is right for his constituents and I know he considers folks who can’t vote for him his constituents, too. He will do what is best, in his opinion, for all in the United States.

    1. Again, I am very impressed that he does show up to functions over here. Being from a district that is so gerrymandered that we are such a small percentage, voters usually expect to have to drive over to VB to see our representatives speak. I was sitting next to a lady that leaned over and told me “He talks to us like our opinion matters as much as the rest of his district”. It is sad that the people in the gerrymandered district feel that way. Thankfully Congressman Rigell is making sure they are also heard.

      In regards to the blog. I guess what I am trying to get across is it takes effort from both the questioner and the speaker. Lately at some meetings it seems to be out of control.

    2. watched one post, the one you have didn’t run the clip. I did appear as if Christie lost it, but there was a lot of editing that may have masked what actually happened. If someone has a complete post of the encounter, would like to watch it.

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Vivian. Respect for the office first and foremost. Respect when addressing the legislator goes a long way in promoting civil discourse. You state that Mr. brown, as an ex-Seal, has earned the right to speak about something he cares about for three minutes. Respectfully, Vivian, hasn’t every citizen the right to speak to their representative for three minutes on an issue that is important to them? Mr. Christie is confused that respect comes with the office. Respect for the representative of the people must be earned by the representative.

  3. Hi Robin, actually that way my post (Carole) not Vivians.

    I think that everyone that votes has a right to state their opinion. My point was that even with partisan politics some people that just don’t want to hear the other sides opinion. That should never be the case of an elected official by the way. But I strongly believe that the service men and women of this nation deserve the respect which they have earned and he should have had his 3 minutes. I am a big support of civic engagement for everyone though.

    1. Yes, Carole, I don’t disagree with you. There certainly is a significant lack of civilty going on both at Federal and State levels. My question is how do you get it back once it is lost? I see this as a huge problem facing this country as a whole.

      1. Yes, I don’t know if you can once it is lost. It will be very hard if it is even possible.

        This trend also seems to be making people withdraw from discussion of issues with even their friends for fear they will start an argument. When I go to lunch with one of my closest group of friends we have a rule no politics. Because two of the people have very strong and partisan feelings on different sides. It almost ruined their friendship and our whole group dynamics even though we have all been close friends for about ten years. I think a lot of people get the news of whats going on word of mouth. Many don’t follow politics. Then people are shocked when they hear about certain bills or laws after they are passed. People seem to be voting less because of voter apathy. It seems to be a viscous cycle which I don’t see any way of stopping.

  4. I think you’re blowing this event way out of proportion. First of all, being a native of New Jersey, that’s just how it is over there. Chris Christie is always saying that if you show him respect, he will show you respect. He listened to the guys comment, then tried to give his response and kept getting interrupted. What you fail to mention is that the ex-SEAL actually apologized for how he acted saying;

    “I’m not too thrilled about being known as an idiot, or being known as a jerk. That’s not what I want to be known for. I don’t want to be known as that guy,” 34-year-old William Brown told a local New York Fox affiliate. “I apologize if I came across disrespectful to the governor.”

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/73996.html#ixzz1pxb0JbwX

    You also didn’t mentioned he had previously run for state assembly, which means there was clearly a partisan bent to his interaction Governor Christie. I like the fact that Christie isn’t afraid of engaging in this way with his constituents. It’s not like he just has the guy kicked out right away, it was only after he kept interrupting him. You’re trying to infer that Christie doesn’t like opposing viewpoints to the point where he likes to throw people out who disagree and that is clearly not the case. He will allow heated back and forth and take all the nasty comments they can throw at him so long as they aren’t being disrespectful to the point of not letting him speak.

    1. First, I was referring to the one incident with Governor Christie. I don’t think I blew this out of proportion. I did say a shouting match takes two and I am glad you pointed out that at least the ex-SEAL apologized because Governor Christie refused to.

      I also have friends who grew up and lived in NJ most their lives. They always act with civility so I don’t think that it is “just how it is over there”. When we don’t call out people on thing they do (on both sides) then we as a group say what they are doing is acceptable behavior.

      Also I don’t think just because someone runs for office they are no longer allowed to have an opinion or care about an issue. I wish more people would run for more offices no matter what party they are affiliated with because then we as voters have more choices and are better off.

      1. Christie didn’t apologize because he didn’t do anything wrong in his opinion. The SEAL felt he was wrong to interrupt, so he did. Let’s let the people of New Jersey decide how much they like Governor straight talk. Maybe one day Virginia will be lucky enough to have someone like him, from either party.

        I never said that running for office means you can’t have an opinion, but once you run for office, you are no longer just an average citizen. Once you’re a partisan, you will be treated differently. If some random person were interrupting Christie, it would be different, but when you know that person is squarely not on your side and that no matter what you say, they are going to attack you anyway, you can’t just act the same as you would with a normal person. For better or for worse, that’s how the world works.

        I think the only loss of civility in our body politic is that people are too thin-skinned to deal with real inter-personal interaction on a political level. Not to be sexist, but for lack of a better phrase, everyone needs to man up. If we can get to a point where we can have heated arguments that my sometimes involve name calling and still proceed to work together at the end of the day, then maybe we can solve our problems, But so long as everyone is such a prude that they can’t take a little argument, then we are going to continue our downward spiral. Third graders on a playground have thicker skin and higher levels of cooperation after fights than our politicians today.

  5. I am a former democrat who left the party in the 90’s. I saw some incivility among a few dems back then but I cannot recall any exchange between any dem and their constituents any more rude that that displayed by Christie. He is unrepublicanlike and I find his conduct unbecoming for any elected official. We cannot condone any official on either side of the aisle being so rude regardless of reason.

    I am embarassed as a republican.

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