Friday, January 14, 2011

A Conservative’s Poignant Case for Civility

I learned more about conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks during a stint when he taught at Duke University, here in Durham, North Carolina.

I enjoy his commentary weekly or more on NPR. But if you haven’t read his column today about civility and linked here, it rivals the eloquence of President Obama in a speech this week in Arizona after the shootings there.Brooks_New-articleInline

For those who don’t read or talk themselves into thinking they don’t have time, here are five quotes from the column that are particularly meaningful to me:

“Civility is a tree with deep roots, and without the roots, it can’t last. So what are those roots? They are failure, sin, weakness and ignorance….“

“We all get to live lives better than we deserve because our individual shortcomings are transmuted into communal improvement. We find meaning — and can only find meaning — in the role we play in that larger social enterprise...”

“Civility is the natural state for people who know how limited their own individual powers are and know, too, that they need the conversation. They are useless without the conversation...”

“Beneath all the other things that have contributed to polarization and the loss of civility, the most important is this: The roots of modesty have been carved away...”

“In a famous passage, Reinhold Niebuhr put it best: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. ... Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”

However as Mr. Brooks writes near the beginning of column:

“Speeches about civility will be taken to heart most by those people whose good character renders them unnecessary. Meanwhile, those who are inclined to intellectual thuggery and partisan one-sidedness will temporarily resolve to do better but then slip back to old habits the next time their pride feels threatened.”

No comments: