U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson’s spontaneous eruption during the president’s address to Congress last night left me shaking my head, wondering where our sense of community, of common purpose, of dignity, respect and courtesy have gone.
His shouted two words: “You lie!” were so reflective of our disappearing civility toward those with whom we disagree. We see it 24/7/365 on talk radio, on editorial pages, cable and network news, at town hall meetings and on street corners.
When I peruse the extensive archives of written correspondence that has been received by Crane & Co. over more than 200 years, I see plenty of disagreement: “Dear Messrs. Crane & Co. We are in receipt of your samples of the 25th inst. and find them to be lacking……” The sender might be quite put out, but he is civil, courteous and respectful. The same is true of the letter written by Crane to the aggrieved party.
Sitting down, composing your thoughts, and taking up pen and paper almost unfailingly creates an aura of civility. There’s nothing spontaneous about writing someone. One gives thought and weight to their words. And they expect thought and weight to be returned by the recipient.
So, imagine if Joe Wilson had listened respectfully and civilly and gone back to his office and pulled out a piece of his personalized House stationery and instead of shouting two words, he starts by writing three: