Dr. Roxane Gaye On ‘Incivility’

Dr. Roxane Gaye at the New York Times writes, Don’t Talk to Me About ‘Civility.’ On Tuesday Morning Those Children Were Alive.

There is a cultural obsession nowadays with civility, with the idea that if everyone is mannered enough, any impasse or difference of opinion can be bridged. But these are desperately uncivil times.

And there is nothing more uncivilized than the political establishment’s inurement to the constancy of mass shootings in the United States: 60 deaths in Las Vegas, 49 deaths in Orlando, 26 deaths at Sandy Hook, 13 deaths in Columbine, 10 deaths in Buffalo. Adults, schoolchildren, concertgoers, nightclub revelers, grocery shoppers, teachers.

The scale of death in Uvalde, Texas, is unfathomable. At least 19 children and two teachers are dead. These staggering numbers will not change one single thing.

Time and again we are told, both implicitly and explicitly, that all we can do is endure this constancy of violence. All we can do is hope these bullets don’t hit our children or us. Or our families. Or our friends and neighbors. And if we dare to protest, if we dare to express our rage, if we dare to say enough, we are lectured about the importance of civility. We are told to stay calm and vote as an outlet for our anger.

Incivility runs through the history of this country, founded on stolen land, built with the labor of stolen lives. The document that governs our lives effectively denied more than half of the population the right to vote. It counted only three-fifths of the enslaved population when determining representation. If you want to talk about incivility, let us be clear about how deep those roots reach.

The United States has become ungovernable not because of political differences or protest or a lack of civility but because this is a country unwilling to protect and care for its citizens — its women, its racial minorities and especially its children.

When politicians [and pundits] talk about civility and public discourse, what they’re really saying is that they would prefer for people to remain silent in the face of injustice. They want marginalized people to accept that the conditions of oppression are unalterable facts of life. They want to luxuriate in the power they hold, where they never have to compromise, never have to confront their consciences or lack thereof, never have to face the consequences of their inaction.

Gun violence is one of the problems with which they need not concern themselves because they believe these calamities will never affect them or their families. Instead, these politicians talk about protecting our Second Amendment rights — and they have reimagined the Second Amendment as something that will accommodate whatever the gun lobby wants, rather than what the Constitution actually says. With a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, the continued reinvention of the Second Amendment will likely flourish, unchecked.

When asked for solutions, Republicans talk about arming teachers and training them to defend their classrooms. We hear about how good guys with guns will valiantly stop mass shootings, even though there have been good guys with guns at several mass shootings and they have not prevented these tragedies.

See, Philip Bump, Mass killings keep happening despite good guys with guns (excerpt):

Even when law enforcement is able to respond quickly and forcefully to a mass shooting, that doesn’t mean that many people won’t die. A shooter in Dayton, Ohio in 2019 was shot to death by police within 30 seconds of the first bullet he fired. But in that half-minute, the shooter was able to kill nine people and injure more than two dozen others. Earlier this month, the shooter at a grocery store in Buffalo was confronted by the store’s security guard. But the guard, Aaron Salter Jr., was in combat with a better-armed and batter-armored opponent. He died at the scene.

The mass killing at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 occurred despite there being an armed guard on campus. The challenge at that point was different: The guard is accused of hiding instead of engaging the shooter.

These politicians offer platitudes and prayers and Bible verses. But they do not care to do what must be done to stop the next gun massacre or the average of 321 people shot a day in the United States — including 42 murders and 65 suicides. It is critical that we state this truth clearly and repeatedly and loudly. That we don’t let them hide behind empty rhetoric. That they know we see through their lies. They must know that we know who they truly are.

They called for civility again and again, as they did during protests after Black people were shot or killed by the police in Ferguson and Kenosha and Minneapolis and Louisville. They called for civility when a draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade leaked this month. The draft decision tells people of childbearing age that they have no bodily autonomy. It is barbaric.

In the wake of the leak, there were lawful, peaceful protests outside some of the justices’ homes. Journalists and politicians proceeded to fall all over themselves to condemn these protests as incivility — as if the protests were the problem. The Washington Post editorial board wrote that justices have a right to private lives, that public protests should never breach certain boundaries.

They call for civility, but the definition of civility is malleable and ever-changing. Civility is whatever enables them to wield power without question or challenge.

In March of last year, Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut reintroduced the Background Check Expansion Act. The bill is common-sense legislation mandating federal background checks for all firearm purchases, including private sales and transfers. Nothing has happened with this bill. The vast majority of voters support background checks, but Republicans in Congress are preventing the bare minimum of gun legislation.

Their obstruction is vile malfeasance. These are not people who value life, no matter what they say. They value power and control. This too we must state clearly and loudly and repeatedly.

There have been at least 213 mass shootings in the first 145 days of 2022. The politicians on both sides of the aisle who have enabled this convey no real sense of understanding or caring about the incivility of children practicing active-shooter drills and wearing bulletproof backpacks to school. They care nothing, it seems, about children being instructed to throw things at a gunman who might enter their classroom. They care about nothing but their own political interests.

On Tuesday morning, at least 19 children’s parents woke them up and helped them brush their teeth, fed them breakfast, made sure they had their little backpacks packed. They held their children’s small hands as they walked or drove them to school. Those children were alive when their parents waved to them and handed them their lunches and kissed their cheeks. Their lives were precious, and they mattered.

The greatest of American disgraces is knowing that no amount of rage or protest or devastation or loss will change anything about this country’s relationship to guns or life. Nothing will change about a craven political system where policy is sold to the highest bidder. Language is inadequate for expressing this lack of civility.

What she said.

5 thoughts on “Dr. Roxane Gaye On ‘Incivility’”

  1. Best summation of the week…

    Seth Abramson

    The anger feels almost constant now.

    This country is in a state of collapse because 75% of us are being ruled by a 25% with no scruples or shame whatsoever.

    This cannot go on much longer. I don’t—quite honestly—know what that means. I just know that it cannot go on much longer.

    3:35 PM · May 27, 2022·Twitter for Android

  2. I saw this on the TV this morning. A kid who survived the Uvalde massacre said, “The people who were killed were good people.”

    Another kid said, “Most of my friends have been killed.” He also said he doesn’t want to go back to school anymore.

    So much for childhood for these kids. They’ll spend the rest of it dealing with PTSD.

    • Millions of school age kids go to school every day wondering if this will happen to them.

      They writes notes to their parents on their cell phone cases with messages like “If I don’t come home today I love you”.

      Voting and money are not working. I’m going to try to get to this:

      htt ps:/ / secure. everyaction. com/8AURB8lLMUCtlNe-fP9Bmg2

      It’s a link to the MarchForOurLives sign up with a few spaces to remove.

      There is blood on Sinema’s hands and since she rep’s me, she has to go.

      Oh, FFS, I’m just now hearing Greg Abbott on the radio saying “gosh golly, I was given wrong info and I’m super mad about it” because he is realizing this time the GOP is going to pay a price for dead children.

      He went to a fundraiser instead of going to the shooting site to show leadership.

      I really have to log out for a few days, I don’t think this much anger is healthy.

  3. Paul Krugman adds, “The G.O.P. War on Civil Virtue”, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/opinion/republicans-guns-uvalde.html

    OK, I think everyone realizes that none of what Republicans are saying about how to respond to mass shootings will translate into actual policy proposals. They’re barely even trying to make sense. Instead, they’re just making noise to drown out rational discussion until the latest atrocity fades from the news cycle. The truth is that conservatives consider mass shootings, and for that matter America’s astonishingly high overall rate of gun deaths, as an acceptable price for pursuing their ideology.

    But what is that ideology? I’d argue that while talk about America’s unique gun culture isn’t exactly wrong, it’s too narrow. What we’re really looking at here is a broad assault on the very idea of civic duty — on the idea that people should follow certain rules, accept some restrictions on their behavior, to protect the lives of their fellow citizens.

    In other words, we should think of vehement opposition to gun regulations as a phenomenon closely linked to vehement (and highly partisan) opposition to mask mandates and vaccination in the face of a deadly pandemic, vehement opposition to environmental rules like the ban on phosphates in detergent, and more.

    Where does this hatred of the idea of civic duty come from? No doubt some of it, like almost everything in U.S. politics, is related to race.

    One thing it doesn’t reflect, however, is our national tradition. When you hear talk of home-schooling, remember that the United States basically invented universal public education. Environmental protection used to be a nonpartisan issue: The Clean Air Act of 1970 passed the Senate without a single nay. And Hollywood mythology aside, most towns in the Old West had stricter limits on the carrying of firearms than Gov. Greg Abbott’s Texas.

    As I suggested, I don’t fully understand where this aversion to the basic rules of a civilized society is coming from. What’s clear, however, is that the very people who shout most about “freedom” are doing their best to turn America into a “Hunger Games”-type dystopian nightmare, with checkpoints everywhere, loomed over by men with guns.

    • Roxanne Gaye is correct.

      Paul Krugman, who is almost always right, is overthinking this one.

      Forest. Trees.

      Right wing ideology is whatever will get people scared and angry and keep that way so they go to the polls and vote so rich people can get tax breaks.

      That’s it. That’s the whole ideology. And it changes minute by minute because keeping people scared is hard when those people have the attention span of an ear of corn.

      Republicans are not civil because being civil doesn’t get people to the polls.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of having money, but at some point you’re hoarding money, and hoarding is a mental illness, and when your sickness requires you to buy politicians and prop up right wing media to get people scared to feed your sickness then your sickness is hurting America.

      The cure is money out of politics but that requires…. money.

      Democracy needs it’s own Al-Anon group.

      Paul Krugman would read this comment and then ask to sign up for my newsletter.

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