WASHINGTON — This is an appeal, plaintive and heartfelt, for couth behavior.
That does not sounds like much of a big deal, but, apparently, if you decide to run for president it is not uncommon to discard couth behavior as quickly as a sticky popsicle wrapper.
Being couth is described as having well mannered, cultured, refined behavior. It should have been learned in kindergarten. It is not in evidence on the campaign trail this year.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee likened the pending Iran anti-nuclear arms deal to the Holocaust, suggesting that it would send Israel to the doors of the ovens. This is uncouth. It is not even hyperbole. It is incendiary hooliganism. It is a strong indication that Huckabee is so desperate for media attention that anything goes. Even many Israelis would horrified at Huckabee’s rhetoric.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie likes to berate his constituents unmercifully in public forums, including schoolteachers. His aides used to follow him around to record on video his rantings or his “moments” to post on You Tube. This is supposed to be “telling it like it is.” This is being a bully.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has taken to calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a liar. He thinks this makes his seem “anti-Washington.” It reveals him to be uncouth. Not surprisingly, he is one of the most unpopular members of the Senate.
Donald Trump does not hesitate to call people “stupid.” He relishes demeaning other people and other nations. That’s what he does. And, speaking of kindergarten, where bad behavior can spread like lice, the other candidates in the race seem to be doing their best to compete with Trump at his level.
People, what is wrong with civility? Why are we encouraging this bad behavior? Why have a majority of the candidates decided that we like this name-calling and constant repudiation of thoughtful, reasoned, intelligent debate? Is it any wonder that Americans are seriously worried about the future of this nation?
The amazing thing is that any decent people are willing to run, risking humiliation and their souls for public office.
It used to be called the politics of personal destruction. It has escalated far beyond that so that it is destroying who we are. In this month of county fairs and family reunions, we shudder to think of how many encounters will turn ugly because that is the only kind of behavior we see from most of our political leaders.
How about this for a change? You listen to me. I listen to you. We agree that we disagree. We see if we can find room for compromise. We say we respect each other’s right to his/her own opinion. We smile. We shake hands. We remain friendly.
If the political debates turn ugly, if civility is trashed, let’s resolve not to stand for it. Let us demand that the candidates respect each other and, in consequence, the rest of us.
And now, let’s get to those reunions….
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Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected]