Charm vs. civility
In his March 5 Upfront column, "Can debate get heated with no loss of cool?," Clay Collins cited Monocle's idea that "charm" might begin to reclaim ground for civility in "international politics and business," and considers the idea promising. I wonder.
The language of assault and conquer certainly dominates today. Like a series of body punches, it may produce submission or retaliation, but probably not assuagement or compromise. By appealing to the lowest emotional denominators, uncivil speech hardens any process it is part of even when, in its raw candor, it hits on the truth. It can make unpalatable the very truth it contains.
Charm sounds appealing, but might it be just the other end of the decorum spectrum? It has its limitations and drawbacks, too. Charm is so rare now in public speech that the majority of Americans might mistake it for superficiality, affectation, or even ironic cynicism, and laugh it off.
Americans give short shrift to elegance and wit; nowadays we're accustomed to the rough and sarcastic, even when it's vulgar. If charm ruled public discourse, I worry that truth might become confused with stylistic mannerisms and incite even more scorn.
Incivility and charm are extremes. In my view, we would be best served by a plain speech that is modest and respectful, yet emphatic and candid.
The March 5 cover story, "The civility gap," examines the lack of common courtesy among Americans.
This has been caused in large part by one key factor: Partisan reporters on TV news channels and radio talk shows have convinced many Americans that their opinions are 100 percent correct and that people who disagree with them are "evil, idiots, and stupid."
Somehow Americans must understand that people can disagree without being disagreeable.
Gun rights and gun wrongs
Regarding the March 12 cover story, "Inside America's Gun Culture": I have no quarrel with gun rights. I do, though, with gun wrongs. Guns are an accident or an intention waiting to happen. In the wrong hands they are a threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
News accounts rehearse daily the unintended, often brutal, consequences of our return to the Guns-R-Us culture of our formative, "Manifest Destinied" years. The Second Amendment right we honor (and should continue to), which few exercise (for purposes such as self-protection, hunting, and sport) cannot threaten the rights of the rest of us.
How can we ensure the safety of the many without destroying a Second Amendment right only some choose to use? Where's the national dialogue? It's overdue.
Ron W. Smith