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The Death of Civility

The Death of Civility in America” (Op ed. Daily Oklahoman 10-09)

 I remember as a boy of 12, my greatest social experience of the time was going to Mathews barber shop in Ada, Oklahoma, for my bi-weekly burr haircut. The barber chairs were lined up in a row, and you could get caught up on all the day’s stories from the best ‘60s version of blogging we had. I am reminded of one particularly memorable story just after President Kennedy was shot. A boisterous local rancher and one of the few vocal Republicans in town was blasting away when he made the mistake of saying we were all better off with Kennedy dead. Some little guy, who never said much, reportedly told him you just didn’t talk about the slain President of the United States like that, then took him outside and gave the bigger man (6-6 as I recall) a severe thrashing. All the furor of President Obama addressing the nation’s school children reminded me of this story and made me wonder how and why America has changed so much. My barber shop’s version of “country justice” notwithstanding, I remember a more civil time when Americans voted their choice and then, for the most part, accepted whoever was elected as our President as our President. It seems the number of extremists, like the rancher of my youth, has simply grown exponentially (both on the left and the right). These voters want to demonize nearly everything the “other” candidate does, and whether it’s George W. Bush or Barack Obama, they never seem to stop bashing away. I think the explanations are multi-faceted and deserve some thought by those of us who like consider ourselves as objective, free-thinking Americans. Perhaps one explanation is the sophistication of today’s media campaigns. We are bombarded by emotional images, good and bad, from all sides, tailored and focus-tested for effectiveness. Another piece of the puzzle is the virtual explosion of information bombarding our senses on a daily basis. We know everything about everyone who even considers running for office or is named to serve in an appointed capacity. It seems as though the imperfect need not apply. Thanks to the Internet, our knowledge (true or not) is only limited to the time we devote to opening our e-mail. I would really like to think that the President of the United States talking to school children about personal responsibility for their lives is a good thing. But in the age of sophisticated branding, where this President continues to use his big O (campaign logo) in lieu of the Presidential seal -- simply because it reiterates that he is “our future,” does give credibility to those concerned about mind manipulation of our children. I did not vote for President Obama. I don’t believe he is a bad man. I just think he is wrong in the direction he wants to take America. Isn’t that enough to mount an opposition to his policies? Perhaps not, but I would like to still believe the opposition can be mounted with civility. -- Mike Cantrell 2313 N Broadway, Ada, OK 74820 Phone: (not for publication, but for your use) 405-206-4444