By Donnabeth Leffler

Lessons from an Unknown Dentist, the Political Spectrum, & Rodney King

By Donnabeth Leffler Posted June 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Recently I chatted with an acquaintance I knew had been suffering from a painful tooth.  She replied to my query with a rueful overview of her experience and mentioned her dissatisfaction with her dentist.  She wasn’t happy with her care and she certainly wasn’t happy with her bill but the one aspect of the experience that seemed to be bugging her the most?  The dentist never called to see how she was doing after the anesthetic wore off following the long procedure.  She wanted it never to have happened, of course, but what she seemed to want next is some kindness.

In another recent chat with a different friendly acquaintance (yes, I talk a lot, ask anyone who knows me), she told of an off-putting exchange with someone on one end of the political spectrum.  The conversation wasn’t even about politics but somehow it went there and the description shared with me was of a cold gaze of disapproval- and in a social setting.  

A few weeks ago I bemoaned the lack of courtesy (and safety) in the lax approach many drivers take to using their turn signals.  But these two stories have made me think it’s a bigger problem than courtesy.  Where has all the “nice” gone?   I can barely listen to anything political anymore because of the ever-present sneering mockery that each side seems to lob at the other.  Even when I agree with a speaker/writer I find the accompanying dismissive derision to be unpleasant. I’ve even had to unfollow some very talented tweeters because their constant attacks, while clever, left me wondering if society is being poisoned by relentless incivility.

Now here comes the paragraph where I justify this content coming under the heading of Savvy Spending: Public spending.  It’s a cri de coeur I’ve made before in this space:  Our country is deeply troubled.  No one ideology has all the answers and nor will it ever have.  The spirit of compromise is the foundation of our nation and if our elected officials (of all stripes) can dismount from their collective high horse to find common ground, we may all win from their willingness to both listen to each other and to respect opposing viewpoints.

Our leaders are supposed to, well, lead.  But it’s clear the civility initiative is going to have to start as a grassroots campaign.  We will all have to lead by example to return civility to the occasional dentist, social gathering and, in theory, this will be contagious and will be caught by public servants.  

There’s a conservative activist named Grover Norquist who as I understand it asks politicians to sign a pledge against new taxes.  Do you think he’d mind if his formula was used to gather signatures for a No Disrespect: Keep it Civil pledge?   It would sure help someone get my vote.

The death this month of Rodney King reminded me of his 1992 quote, “Can we all get along?”.  King said that amid rioting that erupted following the acquittal of Los Angeles police in his beating trial.  I’d like to think the legacy of Rodney King’s life is that we recognize our society gets in trouble when can’t find a way to respect the multitude of differences among us.  A perfect way to celebrate America’s upcoming birthday!

Do you think my Keep it Civil Pledge could catch on?  It’s probably bad for ratings on cable news but maybe we can make it the choice of “the cool kids”.  Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or by writing to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com

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