Service of the Revival of Decorum–It’s Got My Vote

October 4th, 2018

Categories: Behavior, Control, Decorum, Discipline, Frenzy, Politics

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The country has been through previous periods in which decorum went by the wayside for both irrational and worthy reasons—and it always recovered. Among obvious examples are Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist hunts combined with his vicious interviews seven decades ago and during the 1960s, citizens found a range of ways to protest, some unruly and alarming. [I didn’t mention wars and murders as the word decorum doesn’t apply.]

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Today many accept—even endorse–disruptive behavior by people at the highest levels, such as the president and the applicant for a spot on the highest court in the land. Plenty of citizens and Senators dismissed, excused and supported the frenzied conduct of the prospective judge last week in a performance that lacked judgment and dignity. Did they notice or is this standard behavior.

There was no excuse for it–life isn’t fair. Deal with it especially if you want to be a judge.

Benjamin Wittes, Editor in chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution wrote in The Atlantic : “If I were a senator, I would not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.

“These are words I write with no pleasure, but with deep sadness.

“I would do it both because of Ford’s testimony and because of Kavanaugh’s. For reasons I will describe, I find her account more believable than his.

“I would also do it because whatever the truth of what happened in the summer of 1982, Thursday’s hearing left Kavanaugh nonviable as a justice.

“….. he delivered on Thursday, by way of defense, a howl of rage. He went on the attack not against Ford—for that we can be grateful—but against Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and beyond. His opening statement was an unprecedentedly partisan outburst of emotion from a would-be justice……. His performance was wholly inconsistent with the conduct we should expect from a member of the judiciary.”

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“Kavanaugh blew across lines that I believe a justice still needs to hold.”

There seem to be as many voices accepting disorderly, inappropriate behavior as those who disapprove. Does this mean it’s OK to act similarly at all levels of our society? Is there a green light for job applicants to be snarky during interviews or is this a benefit of being in office and becoming a Supreme Court Judge? Will ordinary candidates for jobs big and small be selected if:

 

 

  • they smash back responses that mimic the interviewer’s question?
  • they fly off the handle if asked about a sensitive subject?
  • they make up information that is easily disproved for fear of what the truth might imply?

 

I’m a control freak. Rowdy, disorderly conduct by our leaders frightens me. I squirm watching the yelling and screaming that routinely takes place in the British Parliament.

I have every hope that sane and respectful conduct and moderate solutions will once again prevail here. I suspect that a majority of citizens agree. We’ve seen what chaos and disrespect is like. In future we will pick a president, Congressmen and women and Supreme Court judges who conduct themselves with decorum–in public at least. Do you agree?

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14 Responses to “Service of the Revival of Decorum–It’s Got My Vote”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    It’s a sad, sad time in our country… Just after President Obama was lifting us up, this fool and his moronic following cronies are bringing us to the lowest levels of absurdity that I have seen in my lifetime. Sad, sad days. I get so furious at the current events, that I find it difficult to even follow them anymore! The deck is stacked!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    Your choice of the word sad is apt. I feel as though I am in mourning. I am fighting not to lose respect for jobs I used to revere, such as Senator. I am baffled at how easily some ignore what’s in front of them. I suspect that if their children and grandchildren conducted themselves in ways they accept on the political stage, they’d punish them.

    Doing “the right thing” for the good of the country no longer exists but I won’t give up hoping that we will see examples very soon.

  3. David Reich Said:

    I agree with Hank … it’s very sad.

    During the McCarthy era, we were still basically one nation, with national media that supported our core values.

    Today, there are so many niche media — from FOX to MSNBC, and Facebook and other social media — that it’s easy to live in a bubble reflecting only our own views. This is true for both Red and Blue.

    But a strong leader can and should work to try to bridge the gap. Obama tried, although I fear racism stood in the way for some. George W Bush tried to heal as well.

    But this idiot in office now goes out of his way to make the gap even wider by playing to his shrinking base, to the peril of the rest of the country… a much bigger majority than his base of perhaps 25% of all voters.

    The only way to bring back decorum and respect for law and tradition is to have the Democrats take back the House and even the Senate. At this time, it’s more about respect for the law than about party politics.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    Good point about media in the 1950s when McCarthy rode high.

    The population was also better educated then. Today, when a politician or talk show host throws out a theory–the one I heard yesterday was that Dr. Frank works for the CIA fomented by a conservative radio person–many take it as fact without questioning or checking, and repeat it. How many still believe that President Obama was born in Africa?

    Distraction is the word of the day. As I am beating my breast over nasty rhetoric and disrespectful repartee, the administration is figuring out how to cut irritating expenses such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. All of this must stop.

  5. Protius Said:

    When I was a little boy, we had a Scottie bitch, Floodle, who had been the runt of her litter in her native Scotland, but that didn’t stop her from travelling to the United States in 1940, where in quick succession over the next three years, she mothered three litters of healthy mongrel pups by who knows what assortment of American studs imbued with free flowing Don Juanian instincts. As a consequence of her efforts, and an endless assortment of others like her, the dog world evolved to became irreversibly confusing and unique.

    I’ve often thought that one of this country’s most appealing attributes was the extreme complexity of its human characteristics in no small part due to the way, Floodle like, it acquired its population. We have a magnificently jumbled array of values and ideals often in inevitable conflict with one another, and how we sort the mess out is not always pretty or comfortable to watch. I, too, would have preferred more decorum.

    What frightens me more this time, though, is how the battle lines between the sides are evolving along racial and gender lines. On one side there are the xenophobic, ignorant, or amoral, conscience-lacking white males, motivated by greed or ungenerous self-interest, and religious bigots; and on the other, women seeking power, diverse peoples of color, the poor, miscellaneous do-gooders and the better educated. Neither side has much use for the other, nor does there seem to be much hope for compromise between them. A collision may be inevitable.

    Things could get very rough, especially if events collude to enable Trump to seize dictatorial power which is obviously what he would very much like to do.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Protius,

    I’ve said umpteen times that two kids living next door to one another who go to the same schools and share the same religion, should they get married, will still clash at some time over traditions, approaches to life and so forth. God help the products of Floodle alliances and neighborhoods of Floodles. Courtesy has been one of the lubricants in the past.

    There have always been outrageous congressmen or mayors or governors who break rules of etiquette and who cheat. But on the whole, with a bit of diplomacy and decorum, the different parties have arrived at solutions before. The attitude of ONE WAY MY WAY, I want 100 percent and you get nothing and I’ll scream and shriek and play every dirty trick I can muster until I get it is downright un-American. And scary.

    I can’t imagine the shape of the stomachs of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary committee. They must feel frustrated and quite ill.

    As for your battle lines, I saw plenty of women clapping and cheering when DJT tore Dr. Ford apart at a recent rally. I see women responding just as nastily and often as men to posts that criticize Kavanaugh on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think the battle lines are as clear as you depict them but there are battle lines. Hoping for a turnaround that will dampen the anger in our land.

  7. Martin Johnson Said:

    This is a well-reasoned essay confronting ethics in addition to decorum. You begin with the McCarthy era. Remember, “Have you no shame?” This could be asked of the judge, Lindsey Graham and certainly of the president. Have they no shame? Shame on them.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martin,

    I can’t believe grownups with the title of Senator can hold a mic, stare into a TV camera and repeat statements like “There already have been five FBI investigations….” as though that has a thing to do with the world of Kavanaugh after Dr. Ford’s allegations and the way he conducted himself at the hearing last Thursday. Goodness.

    The answer to your question, I am afraid, is NO, they have no shame. I wonder if Kavanaugh shudders when he thinks of his performance. Perhaps he is counting on the public’s memory, usually a news cycle long. He may be mistaken.

  9. CG Said:

    I interviewed lots of male job applicants during my career. If any of them had behaved during his interview the way Kavanaugh did during last week’s hearing, I probably would have had him escorted out of the building by security.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    CG,

    Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and the Washington Post editorial staff agree with you. I am both fascinated and appalled by those who shrug off Kavanaugh’s performance as no biggie. I can’t think of one job for which flying off the handle and responding in a snarky manner are acceptable characteristics. And I didn’t even mention the partisanship of his rant which is what also tipped the scales against him with thousands of law school instructors around the country and other thought leaders.

    What’s shocking is that this doesn’t matter.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    I have little use for either soon to be judge K or his accuser. Indulging in a public tantrum is not reassuring behavior for any judge. I am equally unimpressed by public whimpers occasioned by a distasteful incident 36 years ago. Worse yet, Senator Feinstein (D-California) had to take heat for “leaking” a damaging letter, when in fact, Dr. Ford, apparently unable to keep her mouth shut, admitted “telling friends.” I did not start out by being crazy about the proposed justice, but now, I don’t know who to mistrust most.

    It doesn’t pay to be a control freak: A) Few, if any will listen. B) Humans are interesting and often, creative creatures — there are presently more than enough efforts to control them, and such attempts are bound to produce negative results……thank goodness!!

  12. Anonymous Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I totally trust Dr. Ford. It wasn’t D. Feinstein who leaked her story. She had a lot of guts to speak out. As for Kavanaugh, what a sorry excuse for an addition to the Supreme Court. He sold his dignity and his soul to get the job. I hope that he cringes when he is among colleagues who may once have admired him.

    I don’t like chaos. I admit it. I’ve got plenty of creative friends and relatives. They don’t carry on the way Kavanaugh did. Going lockstep with DJT in a way that mimics his style showed zero creativity. And the Senators who, like lemmings, followed the dangerous call of hysteria and game-playing are doing no good for the country. But then, most forgot that this is what they were hired to do a long time ago. Frightening and sad.

  13. Martha Takayama Said:

    I long for any degree of revival of decorum, politesse, manners that might be on the horizon. We seem to be in a moment of record-breaking anti-social revolting interaction. Any and all niceties that help make daily living function with realtive ease have disappeared leaving no traces. Our President revels in sinking to the lowest levels of vulgarity and inappropriateness possible, rivaling any infants. He is surrounded and buoyed by groupies who strive to emulate or outdo him. I find these behavior patterns depressing and exhausting and long for restraint, consideration for others and order.

    Perhaps not since World War II has there been such a panoply of anti-heroes, villains, n’eer do wells, and bullies monopolizing our thoughts and time.

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I practically weep when one person shows the tiniest bit of kindness to another person. There’s a movement on Facebook, “The Kindness Challenge,” where people post uplifting stories. A NYC bus driver who re-opens his door for someone running to get in makes me happy. More and more are doing this.

    And then there’s the attitude you describe. I was with a friend last night. A local bus came and she asked if the Limited/Express was still running. The driver barked “YES” so we waved goodbye as I needed a local. She later learned he was wrong and ended up on the next bus, a local. So few care. It’s exhausting.

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