civil discourse

“Of our thinking it is but the upper surface that we shape into articulate thought;
underneath the region of argument and conscious discourse lies the region of meditation.”

Thomas Carlyle


(big sister Alice with her boy friend Sonny / Julie Cook / 2018)

Civil discourse…
two words…
the first-word meaning—courteous and polite
the other word meaning—a conversation

Put them together and you have a ‘courteous polite conversation.’

Yet that is not exactly what we are witnessing taking place across this society of ours.

Firstly let’s take a look at our current protests emanating from within our schools.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it’s a good thing that our kids are upset over the escalating violence
taking place from within our schools—of which are, in actuality, their schools.

But let us be specific here…this violence we’re speaking of would be gun violence
and gun violence only.

It has nothing to do with the fighting, the rampant profanity, the disrespect,
the brawls, the knives, the unwanted sexual advances, the thefts or the bullying
that continues taking place…
all of which continues to happen on a daily basis in many of our schools across this nation…
nor does it really address the fact that many of these kids who are coming to school with
these guns are known to and by other kids…that no one necessarily sees the coming storm or
acknowledges a hand in the making of the storm is both problematic and disconcerting.

And granted that is not always the case, as we have sadly seen at schools such as Sandy Hook…
that these are not necessarily known kids on anyone’s particular radar.
In the case of Sandy Hook, we had an older teenager coming into an unsuspecting elementary school…

So not each shoe obviously fits every foot.

We are on a case by case basis.

We are also talking about frustrated minors..aka adolescents.

Adolescents, as we all know, is a time of an emotional roller coaster full of angst
and hormones.
Emotions run high, deep and quick.

When I was a student in high school, Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement had just hit
their zenith.
Protests, sit-ins, love-ins, demonstrations had all become standard words within the
vocabulary of our Nation.
We had witnessed college kids “expressing” themselves…
so naturally, high school kids felt equally as strongly yet were perhaps frustrated by the
inability to truly take part in the sweeping discontent as seen on many college campuses.

At the turn of the decade from the 60’s to the 70’s, I was in the 8th grade—
which was a part of our 8-12 high school.
A beloved teacher was fired for supposedly moonlighting as a bartender.

There was a walkout.

The principal came out of the school with a bullhorn—he told the disgruntled student body
that if they, the students, didn’t immediately return to class, there would be
disciplinary actions against those students insisting on continuing with the walkout.

Naturally, I went right back inside.

I didn’t want to get in trouble—not with the school nor with my parents who would be livid
if I decided to show my “butt” by being defiant and disrespectful to the rules and authority
of our principal and the school.

A couple of years later, during my senior year, I remember very clearly when the senior
class had prepared for some sort of no-show day…
The principal had gotten word of the senior class opting for a massive skip day so
he called in the class officers—of which I just happened to be vice president.
He told us, in no uncertain terms, that if we participated in the skip day—
there would be serious repercussions.

Now if this sort of thing happened today…the idea of a principal “threatening” a
group of students with repercussions for participating in a skip day…
well, there would be undoubtedly parents up in arms as lawyers would be circling
the wagons salivating to get involved…
Least of which would be the ACLU, who mind you, would be jumping on the bandwagon
sputtering nonsense about the civil liberties of students and threats against minors.

Our principal explained that we were the leaders of our class and that we were to set
an example of doing what wasn’t necessarily the popular thing but doing that which was
the right thing…
There were rules about skipping school and if we opted to skip…
well, there’d be penalties for our poor choices.

Needless to say, the four of us were in school that day,
along with a handful of other mindful students.

In the end, did I simply miss a good time or had I learned an important life lesson?
I would say that latter.

As a former high school teacher, I can honestly say that I appreciate the passion
many of our kids are displaying for wanting to take a stand against the gun
violence happening in their close-knit worlds.

But…

at the same time, our schools have rules about things such as disobedience,
defiance and rule-breaking…
where things such as walkouts and or demonstrations fall directly under said headings.

Schools should not be “punished” for maintaining a standard level of discipline.
If one system supports a national walkout—that’s fine…
Such being a school system’s prerogative.
Yet no one should punish or shame those schools or districts who decide to hold onto their
standards, rules, and approach to discipline versus participating in a walkout.

I was more than slightly incensed last evening when I heard an Atlanta lawyer interviewed
on the local news using his legal language insinuating that students had been
“pressured, intimidated and bullied” by school officials over their wanting to walk
out when the school had issued a ban on doing such.

If your school was one to opt out…well then…that’s that is it not?

We live with rules…whether we like it or not.
A civil society.

And our kids are just that…they are kids.
While we, in turn, are the adults.
Sometimes the responsibility of the care entrusted to us over our kids comes in the
form of rules, discipline and even tough love.
Adults are entrusted to make the rules…rules which are in place to help govern
a civil society.
And as adults, we are charged with the care of our students and children and the fact
that they must understand that we set rules for a reason.

Obviously, our legislators need to act…
And as adults, it is our responsibility to see to it that they do act—
and if we don’t like how they act…we therefore voice our objection and vote
them out of office.

Is it not our responsibility to support our school administrators who
need to be allowed to do their jobs—
of which…is to keep our kids safe, orderly and educated.

These moments, which we have been witnessing around this Nation of ours regarding the
disgruntlement our kids, are what we call “teachable moments”…
moments when its ok to deviate from the curriculum and lessons at hand as we address
a bigger issue.

But allowing the protests and defiance to take on a larger than life momentum,
as well as a life of its own, in turn, creates a disservice to each and every victim…

so…do we do our best to work toward a means of civil discourse
or do we simply allow our children to begin living as we adults are…
living by throwing civility, laws, and rules totally out the window as
the end means…
getting what it is we think we need and want by any raising the loudest and
most disruptive clamor—
Becoming a society that gets what it thinks it wants by making demands and
strong-arming any and all sense of order or civility…

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Standards of conduct

“Since the dawn of the Christian era a certain way of life has slowly been shaping itself among the Western peoples, and certain standards of conduct and government have com to be esteemed”
Winston Churchill, radio brodcast to American and London, October 16, 1938

DSCN0153
(griffin / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015

There is a fine line that separates man from beast.
That ever narrowing thread between the human being of intelligence and the animal of wildness.

Oh there are multiple layers of separation that one might argue.
Physical, emotional, psychological, physiological….
As those more lofty scientific minded and behavior specialists among us will no doubt argue and bicker back and forth disputing this fact and that…

But when all is said and done…when the dust has settled and a close inspection has been taken…
we see that thin and narrowing line of true separation is to be found narrowly in man’s ability to manage him or herself with a certain standard of conduct.

The beasts of the land, the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air each seem to act and react with little to no thought toward any sort of standard of conduct…
For theirs is more or less action verses reaction motivated by the need, want and defense of hunger, provocation and mating.

It is true that they may be trained to demonstrate some level of restraint, some sort of rational sorting between this and that, but the bottom line is that training and reward does not equate to the innate ability for rational thinking.

Humans have a wealth of motives, actions and reactions all met and matched by pondering, thinking, discerning, sorting, rationalizing, defending, and determined restraint.

Yet with with an exponentially growing and frightening degree of alarm we should note that the line of man’s standard of conduct, over the past 80 years, dare we say since his very inception, has diminished at a rapid rate.

The actions and reactions of man…the corruption, the lying, the killing, the justification, the murderous terrorism is quickly overtaking the established determined level of civility of conduct found in what was once a deeply rooted foundation to the Judaeo Christian pillars of Western Civilization.

Kingdoms and other forms of human government exist because humanity has fallen away from God.
In human society, the default is always towards anarchy and chaos—as the history of the twentieth centruy in particular amply illustrates. Something must resist and restrain the downward spiral into disorder.
Therefore, God institutes and permits governments.

Excerpt: God and Churchill
Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley

Kings and their kingdoms, for the most part, have given way to parliaments, councils and republics.
Today’s Governments have each been birthed out of the early ancient ruling tribes as man has needed to be reigned in, from more or less…himself.

Rules, laws, standards of conduct have had to be implemented in order to afford man the ability to live in a state of order verses the chaos, anarchy, civil unrest and the destructive every man for himself.

Order had to be established.

Yet in that order we are finding a certain level of complacency.
A desire to not have a single boat rocked.
We like our certain standard of living, our freedom, our choices, our self absorption…
We therefore do not wish to acknowledge the decent of various peoples into the more savage behavior that the world is currently witnessing…
We want to ignore the rise of the wild beasts around us lest we perhaps follow suit…

Be it…
Daesh (ISIS)
Hezbollah
Al-Qaeda
The Taliban
Boko Haram
Hamas
Al-shabaab
The Muslim Brotherhood
or any local mafia, militant or terror group…rearing its ugly head.

From groups to actual nations and Governments who eerily morph or have reverted to a form and time when life and death were easily confused.

The following Washington Post excerpt is based on an interview with CIA Director John Brennan

“More recently, he had to confront his Russian counterparts over evidence that their intelligence operatives have been systematically harassing U.S. diplomats both in Moscow and Europe. According to a Washington Post report, Russian agents have paid journalists to write negative stories about Americans, have followed their kids home from school and, in one case, have even broken into a U.S. defense attache’s home and killed his dog. Brennan says he told his counterparts “in direct terms,” that the behavior was “unacceptable” and “destructive” to the relationship.”

There was a reason why, Winston Churchill, who was not an overtly religious man, was compelled to hold strongly and vowed to fight to the death for the Mosaic laws as issued from the Sovereign Creator…

He knew the importance of the standard of conduct issued by God himself….

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:…
Deuteronomy 28:1…