Resolved: The nation must move toward civility

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:33 p.m. CST, Monday, February 2, 2009

By now, we have announced our New Year’s resolutions, those individual resolves that most have neither the intent nor the willpower to keep. For example, the leading goals people set for themselves are to lose weight and to quit smoking.

Both are laudable aspirations. The honest effort to improve one's health, appearance and self esteem in shedding unwanted and unsightly pounds, along with kicking the habit that my grandmother once likened to "a cylinder with fire at one end and a fool at the other," benefit the individual and the community as well. Unfortunately, those goals are too soon abandoned — after about 10 days, the gyms return to hosting only those serious about fitness, and, judging by the littering of cigarette butts, there is little evidence of a declining number of smokers.

My resolve for the new year is also my recommendation for change, locally as well as nationwide. I pledge to treat President Barack Obama with the civility, respect and dignity due him by virtue of the office to which he was elected and as a human being – courtesies all but denied the current president by virtually the entire Democratic Party and the mainstream media. This will be an easy resolution to keep: It requires nothing more than objectivity, courtesy and the sense of justice and fair play, once the hallmark of the American people.

For those who wonder why I feel a need to broach this subject, I urge you to read the last two weeks of the offerings of syndicated columnists and letters to editors. The likes of Robert Scheer, Ellen Goodman, Rhonda Lokeman, Bob Herbert, Frank Rich and the authors of unadulterated hate mail have taken the opportunity to unload one last dose of venom against President Bush, none of which is new nor particularly relevant. Attacking communications surveillance, the decision to go to war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina response and all the real or imagined foibles of the administration are but repetitious examples of vitriol by those content to dwell on the dark side.

Continued repetition has a tendency, by intent or by chance, to cloud truth. As an example, while it is a fact that President Bush made the decision to attack Iraq, why do his detractors ignore the following: that the previous administration and every intelligence agency of the western world agreed that Iraq not only possessed WMDs but also constituted an immediate threat, and that a majority in both political parties voted in favor of the invasion?

And, while the federal response to Katrina could and should have been more timely and better organized, why does no one report the contribution to the disaster by those responsible as first respondents? It would appear that the total dereliction by the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana’s opting not to request federal assistance for two days should receive the lion's share of the blame.

The unmitigated, malicious satisfaction displayed by those in defending the Iraqi national who, in throwing his shoes at President Bush, somehow was representative of worldwide, anti-American attitude, is as embarrassing as it is ludicrous.

To his credit, the president has remained above the name calling. His continuing contribution to good manners has been the gracious offering of assistance to the incoming president, a courtesy not afforded him by the previous administration.

In a nutshell, our nation needs to return to a more forgiving time, one in which civility, common courtesy, character, honor and integrity are the norm rather than the exception. Perhaps President Obama will initiate a move to a more cooperative society in which reasonable people can once again agree to disagree — respectfully.

Finally, I am hopeful that the president-elect realizes that he is a mortal rather than an FDR, Elvis, Lincoln and Superman reincarnate as he has been painted by an adoring media. The lofty expectations so raised have done him no favors.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at



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