Sunday, April 18, 2021
America’s greatness comes from the common bond and tradition that every American is free to his or her on belief and can express it in a civil manner to fellow Americans. Many Americans forget or ignore the fact that our flounders envisioned an America where all Americans had the right to freely voice their own opinion in public in a civil manner. But as Chief Justice Neil Gorsuch of the Supreme Court puts it:
“My worry is that in our country today we sometimes overlook the importance of these kinds of bonds and traditions, and of the appreciation for civility and civics they instill. The problem can be summed up in a few numbers. According to polling by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 60 percent of Americans would flunk the U.S. citizenship test. In fact, it seems only one state—Vermont—has a majority of people who could pass it (and even then, many only with a D). Polling by the Annenberg Public Policy Center suggests that half of Americans don’t know that freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment. And, yes, according to a survey by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, it seems about 10 percent believe Judith Sheindlin serves on the Supreme Court. You may know her better as Judge Judy. Meanwhile, a recent study, Civility in America, indicates that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe the country is suffering from a crisis in civility. A quarter have reported enduring cyberbullying or incivility online. About the same percentage have transferred children to different schools because of incivility. At the same time, other people are actually calling for an end to civility. They say that civility is a coward’s virtue and that more anger is needed—that the stakes are too high and the ends justify the means.
But a government of and by the people rests on the belief that the people should and can govern themselves—and do so in peace, with mutual respect. For all that to work, the people must have some idea how their own government operates—its essential structure and promises, what it was intended to do and prohibited from doing. We must, as well, be able to talk to one another respectfully; debate and compromise; and strive to live together tolerantly. As Lincoln put it in far more trying times, “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” History teaches what happens when societies fail to pass on civic understandings and come to disdain civility: Civilization crumbles. Europe in the twentieth century had people, too, who, seeking to remake the social order in the vision of their ideology, thought the stakes of the day were too high to tolerate discourse and dissent. They also believed the ends justified the means, and it didn’t end well.”
Gorsuch, Neil M. . A Republic, If You Can Keep It (pp. 19-20). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Also Gorsuch wrote favorably of the following famous dissent by Justice John Marshall Harlan, who was born in Kentucky in 1833, and had own slaves. In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson which decision was a strain in our history, where the Supreme Court upheld state-imposed racial segregation. Only Justice Harlan dissented writing that “in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens….'The humblest is the peer of the most powerful'.”
It was remarkable that Harlan, a Supreme Court judge who had once owned slaves, was the only judge to dissent in Plessy V. Ferguson.
I also believe that sometimes the greatest achievements of civics can be derived from actions of the least of us, not solely from the most educated of us. Therefore, I respect all Americans, from all faiths, from all ethnicities, from all walks of life, regardless of their education or status. We must all honor our common bond as Americans to which Judge Harlan reasoned..
Far too many on the Left, and even a few on the Right, are not tolerant and respectful of others who hold beliefs that conflict with their own. We must return to the America envisioned by its founders where all Americans are free to, in a civil manner, express their personal opinions without having to worry about bodily harm, or forceful insult seeking to spitefully silence them . Let us all be civil, live in peace and respect the right of others to hold and express their own opinions in a civil manner. The greatness of America is at stake. Let not our society, as our founders envision it, end simply because too many show hate for others who hold and/or express views different from theirs.
With love and respect, Bob
PS - I agree with LSANDY7 that both history and civics should be mandatory subjects in high school.