(This is an edited reprint of a post from several years ago—back when I referred to myself in the third person. My youngest son is getting married this week and I’ve done everything in my power to make certain I volunteered for too much. This is a secret weapon for making my family think I’m indispensable. I’ll share more tips in this in a future post.)
I have a dream.
A dream in which thousands of people from all walks of life, sporting skin tones from freckly pink to glorious midnight, join for the next big March on Washington.
We won’t come together because we agree on everything. As a matter of fact, we agree on very little.
A bevy of priggish types who propound the glories of modesty meet up with the ‘America Gets Nekkid’ folks, who arrive clad only in sturdy walking shoes and an admirable set of goosebumps.
Grammar Anarchists trickle in. Known best by their slogan ‘For all intensive purposes; we could care less’ they champion for, among other linguistic improprieties, a participle’s right to dangle.
Various other assemblages join us, like a small, unnamed but vocal group who hold etiquette responsible for the world’s inequities.
What, in my dream, could bind such a disparate groups? What do they have in common?
A desire for civility.
So we come together, holding firmly to individual convictions, but demonstrating jointly for a fundamental cause.
This is the Civility Rights March.
It has its own platform.
CIVILITY STATEMENT OF RIGHTS
1) We will not mock, scorn, or call those with opposing viewpoints nasty names.
2) Interruptions, speaking out of turn and out-shouting others is not tolerated. We all have a chance to express opinions, but only while holding the Stick of Civility.
3) We do not make our opponent appear foolish, or take remarks out of context.
4) Under no circumstances, no matter how major our differences, do we engage in fisticuffs.
5) We vow to use the proper facilities for dealing with bodily functions, leave said facilities looking better than when we came in, and inform management if facilities require attention.
6) We will not litter.
7) We promise to guard the above rights of civility via the use of civility against any and all who might come and try to undermine the rights of civility.
Demonstrators will come together to actually demonstrate what civility looks like…Ahhhhh. What a dream!
A Grammar Anarchist says: “Ain’t nobody going to tell me apostrophes aren’t for plural nouns.” Instead of mocking the extensive overuse of negatives (“So someone IS going to tell you how to use apostrophes?”) we tell them we are charmed bytheir use of the vernacular ‘ain’t’ and any time the language subversive wants to discuss punctuation more fully we are ready and willing. They thank us and admit to occasional appreciation of subject/verb agreement.
The most rabid of full-body coverage zealots realizes that even anti-clothing extremists get cold. While looking the au natural directly in the eye (and only in the eye) the super-modest type won’t say, “Serves you right.” Instead she offers a blanket for the birthday-suit clad nonconformist to ward off the chill. (“No, I don’t need it back when the temps warm up. Really, you keep it.”) The person in the all-together, recognizing the prudish-types’ sensibilities, willingly covers public seating areas with newspapers or napkins before settling down.
And even though the throw-off-the-yoke-of-etiquette people believe salad greens stuck in the teeth or dangling dried nasal secretions are symbols of liberation, they know they haven’t won over the entire world to their perspective. Therefore, upon seeing a dab of marinara sauce on the chin of a dainty etiquette-lover, our napkin-hater refrains from outward rejoicing and tactfully points it out.
Protests seldom go well. The 60’s antiwar demonstrations always drew a crowd who defended America’s policies. Bitter recriminations erupted from both camps. Those who picket abortion clinics in turn are picketed by their polar opposites and the Occupy Anything people are met by vocally indignant Go Home Now and Get a Job groups.
They all employ their constitutional right to protest. Sadly, many assume this assures the right to scream and belittle and deface what isn’t theirs.
But at our Civility Rights March, any misguided prudes who come planning to humiliate our opposition will find themselves politely shushed. We won’t tolerate name calling, finger pointing, or twisted words.
Disagree with us, or disagree with those we disagree with.
Do so in an uncivil manner and we will inform you how we plan to defend the rights of civility. And then we will courteously point out the little piece of spinach in your teeth.