Brenda Looper
Brenda Looper

Civility seems to be the word of the moment, but I can't blame some for being skeptical of calls from certain quarters to be kind in light of current criminal charges. I mean, it's not like that person who does not need to be named was ever civil in his interactions with those who didn't share his beliefs.

Some of the commenters on the newspaper's website even pledged recently to be civil. Not that it lasted long, as one of the self-proclaimed saner and more broad-minded of the bunch almost immediately started name-calling everyone he didn't like. Anonymous trolls will be anonymous trolls. Sigh.

Still, we should be civil to the uncivil, hard as that can be. That does not mean, however, that wrongs should be overlooked, or even excused. It does mean, that when calling out those wrongs, you don't sink to their level of playground bullying and lying about what the other side has done. Respond firmly but civilly with facts rather than firing off all cannons. Someone unwilling to stand behind their words using their real name while also doing what a troll does, i.e., intentionally antagonize others by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content, has earned the title of anonymous troll, so it isn't name-calling to point that out.

Alexandra Hudson on Civic Renaissance in May 2022 defined civility as "the basic respect we are owed by virtue of our shared dignity and equal moral worth as human beings. We owe this to others regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they are from, whether or not we like them, and whether or not they can do anything for us."

In a business deal she dealt with someone who, she noted, was operating on different moral and ethical levels than she was, bringing out her baser instinct to go "scorched earth"; still, she resisted and they managed an agreement.

"I was able to rise above the pettiness and the vindictiveness that I wanted to respond with--a facet of the human personality that we all share when we feel we are under threat. But it wasn't an experience I particularly enjoyed. I was left with feelings of frustration and exhaustion. I felt like I had been disrespected and degraded. I also felt disappointed in myself."

That's generally how I feel when I lash out despite my better judgment; it's exhausting to deal with the name-calling and false victimhood, and frustrating because it's nearly pointless to respond since it will just spawn more such discourse.

Hudson wrote, and I agree: "We contribute to this trust-corroding ripple effect when we are uncivil. Others do, too, with their incivility. The incivility of others often tempts us to relinquish the shackles of decency in order to 'win.' But we must resist--for our own sake, for others, and for society.

"We cannot control the conduct of others. We can only control ourselves."

Speaking of civility, a reminder as covid cases have started to tick upward again: You will see more people wearing masks again when they're out and about. Don't harass them about wearing masks, and they're unlikely to harass you about not wearing a mask. Live and let live.

A few days ago, a close friend tested positive for covid. The last time she had it was around the time of Jan. 6, 2021, and she awoke in confusion to the scene at the Capitol, wondering what movie she was watching. This time she has Pavloxid, so she's much more lucid, much quicker, thanks to medical science.

I spent a bit of time this weekend in the dark with a migraine, dizziness and nausea, and hoping that my symptoms were only migraine. My first covid bout this January (in my birthday week; how rude) was relatively minor thanks to being fully vaccinated and boosted, but it took all of my energy. I'm fairly sure I don't have it now, but you never know, and I've gotten out of the habit of being as careful as I was two years ago at this time, just a few months before I would lose my brother Corey to covid.

I wore a mask to his memorial service (rightly so, as there were at least a couple of full-blown cases there, one of whom died not long after) and any time I was out in public. Over the past year or so, though, I've forgotten my mask more often than I've remembered it.

But for the time being, the mask is going back on; either a high-quality multi-layer washable cloth one with a replaceable filter, or an N95 or KN95 mask. Nothing will protect a person from everything, but being masked makes it less likely that I'll give my cooties to others, and vice versa.

And why be civil when someone is wearing a mask? Dr. Waleed Javaid, epidemiologist and director of Infection Prevention and Control at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York City, told NPR that we need to to be empathetic to the needs of others. "We don't know other people's risks. Some people may have serious illnesses, immunocompromising conditions, cancers, or transplants--and not share this information with their friends or loved ones."

So if you feel the need, when seeing someone in a mask, to ask why they're wearing a diaper on their face or some other equally "witty" retort, just don't. We'll return the kindness.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.

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