“Civility”

(As I was writing this, the SCOTUS decision upholding that fucking travel ban came through. We are monsters. We are monsters. We are monsters.)

There is an iconic scene in Vernor Vinge’s beautiful A Fire Upon The Deep, in which a resort town–a set of beaches and oceans suspended far above a planet’s surface–is destroyed. The first thing the beachgoers notice is the ocean in the distance, falling away as the artificial horizon begins to disappear, dropping back to the planet after the mechanisms supporting it from the surface have been sabotaged.

As horrified as they are, they all think they have time to escape. They don’t.

I think about that scene a lot these days. Because I think the sea is falling. And I think we’ve all been at the beach too long.

There was a belief, when That Person was elected president of the US, that his lack of adherence to norms wouldn’t have a lasting influence, that the inertia of how government worked would mean he could say absurd things but they wouldn’t really make a difference. That at worst, it’d be like the Bush years, where we had to grit our teeth and try to hold on to what civil rights and social protections we had until we could move forward again.

Looking back? He started eroding all of that from the very beginning. And our Congress, put in place to check the power of one individual, sat back and let him do it. Even supported him.

Even now, they’re allowing him to manufacture a nonexistent immigration crisis as a defense against actual crimes against humanity. There are a few, here and there, waving their fingers under his nose in fine John McCain fashion, but they’re not stopping him.

They could. Today. They could stop him today. Wouldn’t even have to impeach him or support the Mueller investigation or even give up all of their odious anti-anybody-but-religious-cis-white-males agenda. They could stop the crimes against humanity right now, and they don’t.

Political gerrymandering has been upheld by a Supreme Court assembled by a bunch of Congressspeople who flouted norms and rules before the election. On a forum I read, a conservative poster lectured Democrats about trying to change the rules instead of winning over voters.

This country has spent hundreds of years wrangling over rules and norms and laws. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve done horrible, horrible things. Sometimes, we’ve reached out to try to fix them, to try to paint a better future.

We’ve given all of that up. Rules are broken without consequences. Laws are broken without consequences. The rich are enriched, and that’s all that matters. The poor are fooled into thinking some manufactured “other” is making them poor, so they vote to funnel more money to the rich. All while the so-called president of our country defends, enables, glorifies fascism.

The sea is falling.

And we’re told to be “civil.”

And somehow we’re actually expending energy arguing about whether that’s a legitimate request.

I’m well aware that there’s a racial element to the outrage about this. People of color in this country have always been tone-policed. Sorry about the slavery and genocide, but you don’t have to be mean about it. Sorry we get freaked out when you have a barbecue, but you don’t have to call me a racist. Hey, if he didn’t want to get shot, he shouldn’t have driven his car/gone to the playground/had a vaguely similar skin tone as some other guy who I think maybe committed some crime but I can’t really remember because I was in the kitchen when they reported it on the news. 

Civility has always been a tool for enforcing social norms. This is one of the reasons why eschewing it can be so jarring and so powerful. A good old-fashioned shunning sends a very, very strong message: you don’t deserve these social norms. You are outside of the structures that we believe deserve civility. Your behavior is abhorrent, and we will not pretend it’s in any way acceptable.

If the people in our government won’t do the jobs they were elected to do, what are our alternatives? There’s voting–which may, at this point, be pointless–and there’s incivility.

And there’s violence. I don’t want it to get to violence. Fascists drew first blood, but I don’t want anyone drawing second blood.

The sea is falling.

Incivility doesn’t come naturally to me. I tweeted this last night, which is pretty much true.

There’s literally nothing else I can do at this point but shout. I’ll vote, for all the good it’ll do. Are the troops going to come over the hill? Are they going to be fighting for me, or against me? I don’t know.

The sea is falling. And we have nowhere to go.

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