Civility reaches new low in America

America is filled with amazing people, good people, people who come together and help their friends, neighbors and even strangers when they are in need.

America is also filled with really sick puppies.

You can pick any example you like of someone relishing tragedy, showering themselves in ecstasy in the aftermath of cold-blooded murder, but the first example I present to you is in the letter that the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, published on Sunday.

Three days after five of their colleagues were gunned down by a depraved individual, the surviving staff members wrote about how they wouldn’t forget all the support they received from their community and many people outside Maryland. The letter didn’t stop there, though.

“Here’s what else we won’t forget: Death threats and emails from people we don’t know celebrating our loss, or the people who called for one of our reporters to get fired because she got angry and cursed on national television after witnessing her friends getting shot.

“We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people.

“No, we won’t forget that. Because exposing evil, shining light on wrongs and fighting injustice is what we do.”

What’s even more sad than the fact that these people had to write that is the fact that it happened in the first place. Civility is not completely dead, but it’s on life support with the power of attorney resting in the hands of a crackhead.

When you’ve got right-wing fringe elements like Milo Yiannopoulos sending messages like “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning down journalists,” it shows that America’s reputation for having respect for the dead is down for the count. Yiannopoulos later dismissed the message as a joke. But with the internet having a long memory, it’s only a matter of time before someone takes his words to heart and more members of the Fourth Estate end up in the obituary column.

I saw on a number of news websites that a recent Gallup poll showed only 47 percent of those surveyed felt “extremely proud” to be an American. In 2003, 70 percent of those polled said they were extremely proud. That’s quite a drop in 15 years.

It wasn’t because people had lost respect for the red, white and blue or no longer felt pride in our military. It was because civility in the United States has dropped to an all-time low.

When a Virginia restaurant told Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Donald Trump’s press secretary, to leave after the restaurant’s staff felt uncomfortable serving her, a California Congresswoman seized the opportunity to encourage more of the same when it came to Trump and his Cabinet.

Rep. Maxine Waters publicly stated that, when it comes to Trump and anyone who associates with him, “they’re not going to be able to go to a restaurant. They’re not going to be able to stop at a gas station. They’re not going to be able to shop at a department store. The people are going to turn on them. They’re going to protest. They’re going to absolutely harass them …”

Waters’ statement not only exposes the reality that anger and hatred are not limited to white Republicans, but that neither political party is interested in taking the high road when it comes to pursuing their agendas. We used to have people who reached across the aisle to the other side and develop compromises and who, even though they had ideological differences, still had respect for each other at the end of the day. Decency and decorum are as endangered as black rhinos and Bornean orangutans, and woe to anyone who gets in the way.

Of course, civility is not just an issue between people in different political parties. Vicious behavior akin to hyenas happens between people in the same party. U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is dealing with incurable brain cancer, but he still had criticism in May when it came to Trump’s recommendation for CIA director, Gina Haspel.

White House communications aide Kelly Sadler shrugged off the senator’s concerns by saying, “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

It’s certainly true that we enjoy freedom of speech in this country, but most of us used to be able to voice our disagreements with civility and a healthy dose of manners. We used to exhibit a little more creativity and think about our responses instead of just instantly opening our mouths and letting any bile on the tongue roll out. We didn’t wish ill on a group of people after a mass shooting. We didn’t incite people to chase elected officials out of restaurants, and we didn’t dismiss people with serious illnesses when they have a valid point.

Maybe one day we’ll be able to return to a society that respects life and respects each other. Until then, future generations are looking at us and what we’re doing. What are they going to see?

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for The Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at lpulaski@wolfrivermedia.com