Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 17, 2020

The Death of Civility

Over the span of the past few months, life in America has deteriorated into something nightmarish. With tensions already running high because of the pandemic, the death of George Floyd earlier this year ignited off-the-charts outrage. The ripples of that outrage continue to trouble the waters to this day.

What started as peaceful protests in the wake of Floyd’s death quickly morphed into something less than peaceful or civil. Rioters and looters destroyed private property and robbed businesses with impunity — and continue to do so. Worse than the property damage are the number of people who have been injured or lost their lives.

The latest victims of the current cultural unrest are two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies who were ambushed while sitting in their patrol vehicle outside the MLK Transit Center in Compton. Video surveillance footage shows a man approaching the police car, firing his gun multiple times at close range, and then running away.

Both deputies suffered multiple gunshots. Deputy Claudia Apolinar, a 31 year-old mother who was shot in the face and upper torso several times, was able to call for help while assisting her 24 year-old partner. Amazing! Sadly, not a single onlooker stepped forward to help the critically wounded officers.

Thankfully, help arrived and the injured deputies were taken to St. Francis Medical Center where they underwent emergency surgery. Apolinar and her partner miraculously survived and now face a long road to recovery.

Later, demonstrators assembled outside the hospital, blocking the entrance to the emergency room. Referring to the wounded officers, one protestor yelled “I hope they (expletive) die.” Another brazenly told police: “Y’all gonna die one by one. This ain’t gonna stop.” Others were yelling, “We hope they die.”

The ambush of the deputies and hateful rhetoric of protesters outside the hospital are among the latest expressions of cowardice, hatred, and violence — essentially of depravity on display. These senseless acts, regardless of who commits them, reveal the desperately sick condition the human heart and the death of civility.

If a society is to function for the benefit of all, then civility must be safeguarded.

The earliest use of the word civility denoted the state of being a citizen and hence good citizenship or orderly behavior — or as Mr. Rogers would say, being a good neighbor. Recent months have given us frightening glimpses into what disorderly behavior looks like and how such conduct hurts others.

One thing is certain, the solution to the madness goes much deeper than anything legislation or laws can reach. The late President Ronald Reagan understood that. In a speech he gave on March 8, 1983, Reagan observed:

“But we must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man. We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin. There is sin and evil in the world, and we’re enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might.”

We must all do our part to oppose evil and to safeguard civility. Civility is the guardian of kindness, selflessness, and the capacity to give greater consideration to the welfare of others. If we allow civility to die then we will lose much more as a consequence, including the capacity to engage in the kind of dialogue that can lead to meaningful change.

The madness has got to stop.

Each of us must aspire to something greater than the anger that divides us and destroys decency. We must intentionally and purposefully practice civility toward one another. We must regain the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. The health of our democracy depends on our ability to disagree about important things while remaining friends.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his final sermon on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. His message was entitled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” He challenged his listeners to “develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness” — like that demonstrated by the Good Samaritan.

In this parable told by Jesus, the despised Samaritan demonstrated what civility looks like — what it means to be a good neighbor. King observed that the Levite in the story worried, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ That’s the question before you tonight.”

And that is the question before us today. It becomes easier to ignore others, walk past people in need, speak ill of others, wish others harm, or treat others badly when we don’t consider them people or we demonize them in some way. How sad to even utter the words, “We hope they die.” Dr. King, and Mr. Rogers, would have found such rhetoric repulsive.

May each of us do our part to safeguard what it means to be a good citizen and a good neighbor. Like Jesus, may we move in the direction of others in order to help them rather than harm them. If we fall short, as we likely will from time to time, then let’s adjust our behavior toward the better while keeping the standard high. The health of our society depends on it.


Responses

  1. Thank you Omar! My heart heavy with everything that is going on right now. You expressed it in a beautiful way my friend!

    • Thanks, Alex. Praying much for our nation.

  2. If the great Ronald Reagan gave that quote in 2009 then we’ve got ourselves a story. He passed away in 2004. 🙂🙃

    • Ha! Good catch, JC. It was actually March 8, 1983. Had too many quotes and dates scribbled on my notepad. Thanks for your good eyes 🙂

  3. Omar, very well written, and thanks for it. I agree with you. However, I keep thinking what we learn from the Book of Revelation. Societies around the world will continue to decline as people turn to sin and evil and refuse to accept Jesus. When God has had enough, HE pulls the people who have been born again and the 7 years of tribulation begins. Then Jesus returns, defeats Satan and his followers, cast them out, and Jesus rules for 1000 years. In other words, it will get worse before it gets better. Our jobs as Christians is to tell this story, and to help as many people as possible accept Jesus.
    The thing is, how would any of us have approached this gunman filled with hate, or others so filled with hate, and explain the love of Jesus. I wouldn’t begin to know how to do it.
    Gerry

    • Thanks, Gerry. These days are frightening indeed. We must work hard to safeguard civility or we will lose any hope of being able to converse with others about Jesus — or anything else for that matter.


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