Duane Smith | The Uncivil vs. the Civil

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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I often enjoy doing my work at a local coffee shop in Acton off Highway 14. The owner offers very comfortable seating on the sidewalk and in the parking lot, with social distancing, and wonderful coffee. During the morning, the seating is usually occupied by senior citizens enjoying each other’s company. 

On this particular day, the pleasant mood of the little community was abruptly interrupted by the screeching of car tires. Naturally, all conversations stopped, and attention was involuntarily directed to the car hastily entering the parking lot. As the car got closer, a young man, mid- to late-20s, was seen coughing and vomiting out the passenger window, and laughing! The car pulled into a space, not far from where we all sat. The sick man hopped out of the car, and boldly strutted into the coffee shop, as he sarcastically wrapped a mask around his face. A few moments later, he exited the coffee shop with a cup of water and clutching some napkins. When he reached the car, occupied by two other men, he proceeded to splash water on his vomit, and started scrubbing! As the napkins became soiled, he tossed them one by one to the ground for all to witness. 

At this point, the owner of the coffee shop was standing on the sidewalk, shaking her head in disbelief. Seeing the young man had no intent of cleaning up his mess, she angrily stood in the street as they were exiting. As the men in the car passed, the driver stopped, rolled down the window and smirked. The owner said, “Are you going to clean up your trash?” 

The driver responded, “What trash?” 

The shop owner pointed, and said, “That trash!” 

The driver said, with attitude, “That’s not from us!” 

A patron chimed in, saying, “It sure is!” 

The driver then flopped his large tattooed arm outside of his window for emphasis, as he motioned with his hand and eyes to the older man, as if to say, “Are you going to do something about it…?” 

The gentleman who dared to speak up, the other people present, and I, knew that, all things considered, it would not be wise to tangle with the men, in the recently vomit-stained car. Triumphantly, and with pride, they sped off laughing! 

Once upon a time, leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King argued that people should be judged by the content of their character. There were two very different characters present in the coffee shop parking lot: civil and uncivil! And, I’m certain Dr. King would argue that the character trait of civility is a choice! But sadly, not all people choose civility. Because of this, the reality of incivility demands that societal safeguards, while not perfect, be put in place to secure and promote civility. Recently, however, due to ongoing racial and political strife, there have been calls to “defund the police,” the front line of our community civil protections. The undeniable truth, that society requires the enforcement of law and order to ensure civility, is actually being seriously questioned. People are arguing for everything from partially cutting police funding, to abolishment. Truth be told, I don’t believe a majority of Americans want people like those mentioned above to be any more liberated to behave poorly than they already are. 

Currently, there is a progressive movement that seems to believe the removal of law and order enforcement will actually prevent lawlessness! On Oct. 10, CNN reported, “Colin Kaepernick calls for abolishing police.” Kaepernick, a cultural leader for many, argues, “Another world is possible, a world grounded in love, justice, and accountability, a world grounded in safety and good health, a world grounded in meeting the needs of the people,” he concluded. “Abolition now. Abolition for the people.” 

I wonder, if the police were abolished, what the chances are of uncivil people, like those at the coffee shop, suddenly being grounded in love, justice, and accountability, safety and good health, and, grounded in meeting the needs of other people? I also wonder, how emboldened uncivil people could become if those trusted with restraining them and protecting the rest of us, were abolished. One-percenters like Colin Kaepernick have high walls of wealth — currently — to ensure themselves civility in an uncivil world. 

But what about the rest of us? 

Duane Smith

Agua Dulce

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