COMMENTARY

Decline of civility in America

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Is it just me, or are we witnessing a decline of civility in America at a pace unprecedented at least in the past decade?


If so, is there a chance that the decline in civility we are witnessing is the result of a nation which has chosen to abandon God?  If so, then we need to heed the words of Ronald Reagan when he said, “Without God, there is no virtue because there’s no prompting of the conscience. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be one nation gone under.”


Take just a moment to consider Ronald Reagan’s words for the premise as it relates to a few recent battles that are being waged in our nation’s capital, and in cities large and small across America.  Among today’s raging battles include attacks on the office of the president, abortion, alternative lifestyles, guns, immigration, and yes, even supreme court nominees. 


So, what happened? Where did we go wrong? Better yet, the real question we need to ask ourselves as a people and as a nation is whether there is still time to right this ship of civility or will the ship of civility sink to the depths of an unrecoverable ocean floor, sinking faster than the RMS Titanic after it hit the iceberg.  Sometimes, it appears that like the RMS Titanic, those at the helm of the ship of civility have failed to post lookouts to watch for the icebergs which lie ahead. 


For our illustration, let’s take a moment to consider the RMS Titanic as a starting point for an answer to the question of where we went wrong in America. For our illustration, let’s rename our ship the USS Civility.  Let’s also name the USS Civility’s maiden voyage and final port of call America’s Democracy.   Let’s also consider that our maiden voyage began in 1776 and was advertised with hundreds of major sights and ports of call.  Among the hundreds of cruise destinations and ports of call along the way to the destination for the USS Civility have been wars which have been fought to preserve our freedom and democracy; national elections which have defined our leadership; and, court battles which have defined America’s conscience. 


Next, on our voyage to our final port of call, let’s take a moment to consider the ship’s crew on the USS Civility. For our illustration let’s name the captain of the ship Captain Church.  For our illustration let’s also give the crew of ship the same names, let’s call all of them the Congregation.  Finally, and again, for our illustration, let’s also give the passengers on the ship the same name and call them the Searchers.


Now that we have manned the ship, set sail for our destination, our final port of call known as America’s Democracy, let’s consider what went wrong on the maiden voyage of the USS Civility.  What happened to cause the USS Civility to hit the iceberg named the Decline of Civility in America?  Was Captain Church asleep at the helm of the ship? Were the crew members of the USS Civility asleep, instead of on watch for dangers lurking ahead?  Or were the passengers on the USS Civility really interested in arriving at the destination, the final port of call named America’s Democracy, or were the passengers simply on board the maiden voyage of the USS Civility so one day they could brag to family and friends that they were along for the maiden voyage.


In the end, we know how the fateful maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic turned out.  The captain was asleep at the helm; the crew members on watch at the bow of the RMS Titanic did not see the iceberg which lied ahead in time to warn the captain; and, the passengers were literally unconcerned knowing that the RMS Titanic was advertised as being unsinkable.  When the RMS Titanic hit the iceberg, panic set in and the captain, the crew and the passengers sealed their fate.  Thousands of lives were lost long before the Titanic arrived at its destination, its final port of call, and the RMS Titanic now lies in the depths of the sea, the final resting place for those who failed to prepare for the unexpected end to the maiden voyage of the unsinkable RMS Titanic.


So, one is left to wonder if those on board our ship named the USS Civility are destined to repeat history.  Will Captain Church of the USS Civility continue to be asleep at the helm?  Will the crew named Congregation watch for the dangers which lie ahead on the USS Civility’s maiden voyage? Or better yet, will the passengers of the USS Civility named Searchers heed the warning signs which Captain Church and the crew named Congregation missed before the iceberg named the Decline of Civility tore a hole in the hull of the ship, causing it to sink the bottom of the ocean?


There is still time to turn the USS Civility around at sea.  There is still time to avoid the iceberg named the Decline of Civility.  But like the RMS Titanic, the USS Civility, its captain named Church, its crew named Congregation, and the passengers named Searchers, need to heed the call of history before the USS Civility, its captain, its crew and its passengers find themselves standing on the deck of the USS Civility searching for room on a lifeboat which is already filled to capacity with those fortunate enough to have prepared for the final destination, the final port of call named America’s Democracy.


So, as I often do, I will ask each of you to join me on my imaginary mountaintop as we consider the words of Ronald Reagan when he said, “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be one nation gone under.”  Only this time when you join me on my imaginary mountaintop, each of you will be asked to look into my imaginary mirror and ask yourself if you want to be the captain, a member of the crew or a passenger on the RMS Titanic, or whether you want to heed the warnings of history in order to arrive at the final destination of the USS Civility, the port of call known as America’s Democracy.


Mark Wohlander, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, practices law in Lexington, Kentucky.


Kentucky Today’s Perspectives section provides a public forum for our readers to express their views on issues of importance. The opinions expressed are those of the writer and should not be construed as an official position taken by this newspaper. We encourage you to join in the conversation by sending your essays to editor@kentuckytoday.com. We reserve the right to reject submissions deemed inappropriate.

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Norman Stillwell

Voting Republican is our only chance of being a nation under God.

Monday, October 1

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