Reflections: What is to Become of Civility?

Over the past two years, I have been writing posts generally devoted to my current book projects. In the months and years ahead, I would like to philosophically shift my commentary to observations of the world around me. There are several reasons for this shift, not the least of which is that most posts are answered with obscene SPAM. Oh yes, there are also mean-spirited people whose only passion is to demean any effort made to elevate, empower or honor those I write about including Jewish World War II aviators, basketball players, African American heros or those who tried to make a difference in this world. I will soon be working on a book about heirloom squash, I imagine that I’ll hear from someone allergic to squash!

Of course, I get messages from wonderful, decent people and I love you all, but often the good are drowned out by the uncivil, the jealous or those who fancy themselves as the gatekeepers of the past; i.e., that only their frame of reference is the correct frame of reference. I will keep going, of course, because I am a writer and I have a voice.

I have received so much support for my humble efforts. I have met wonderful people in all walks of life who have told me their stories and who believe, as do I, that what brings us together is infinitely stronger than what divides us.

A Trip to the Past

As late summer turned to fall, we took a round trip on the narrow gauge locomotive train between Durango and Silverton, Colorado. The trip itself isn’t all that far, perhaps 35 miles each way. It takes about three hours to travel the one-way trip.

Locomotives, especially vintage locomotives going up and down mountain passes are forced to move slowly. You can feel your body almost slow in rhythm to the train. Each glance out of the old wooden coach windows brings a more beautiful view such as the featured image of this post.

In addition, most of the trip is through an area devoid of cell phone service. I looked around and noticed that at first those ‘addicted’ to their phones seemed almost lost then, they had no choice but to actually talk to one another. Imagine that! Real communication!

On my car alone, there were Americans, a couple from The Netherlands, a family from Mexico, some folks from Canada, two women who were speaking Polish and several who simply rested or were reading thick books. Young people were talking to old, black to white and brown to yellow were laughing and sharing stories, and I don’t know about religion, but I’m pretty sure most all beliefs were represented. They got along famously, all of them. There were no agendas, no angry outbursts, no politics and no self-righteousness. It was a refreshing change, and a healthy change.

Lost in my own thoughts, I wondered what has become of civility? How is it that as a society we have become so narrative-driven, political, ‘offended’ and filled with outrage? Are we all burning ourselves out with that outrage? I believe so.

I do not long for the past. There was a lot wrong with the past including overt racism and Anti-Semitism, but there were also communication channels that were at least open. People could indeed come together and see each other as a reflection of themselves.

What will become of all of us if we choose division over understanding? We will continue to lose civility. I, for one, refuse to take that railroad.


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