de⋅co⋅rum [di-kawr-uhm, -kohr-]
1. dignified propriety of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
2. the quality or state of being decorous; orderliness; regularity.
3. Usually, decorums. an observance or requirement of polite society.
1560–70; < L decōrum, n. use of neut. of decōrus decorous
1. politeness, manners, dignity. See etiquette.
I am all for a healthy debate. You have the right (as I have said before) to espouse any opinion that strikes your fancy. The US Constitution guarantees you the right to spout any idea that pops into your head. Now, laws for public safety have been established to prevent you from creating a clear and present danger to others; you can't walk into a crowded theater and yell 'fire' because of the clear and present danger of causing a stampede where people could get hurt or killed. (But you're welcome to walk into a firehouse and yell 'movie' if you feel so inclined, but I digress…)
But this right to speak your mind does not relieve you of the obligation to practice a little decorum. Yes, I said "obligation!" Manners are an obligation, not an option. The only way a society can work is if the members of the society show some respect for each other or at least present their disagreement with or disapproval of the other members in a decorous manner. What would society degrade to if everyone felt the right to walk up to someone being anti-social and smack them around? Or if it were acceptable to walk up to whoever you wanted to and insult or degrade them with impunity?
The reason for this rant is the constant news coverage of the ongoing town hall debate on the proposed health care reform. Well, they are called in the media debates, when I was in debate classes we were taught that debate was formal, structured, and followed certain rules of decorum and ethics that are clearly lacking from what is going on at these meetings.
These are not debates, there is no structure of decorum or ethics involved. This is a pack of ill-mannered dissenters who feel the need to disrupt proceedings to voice their dissent. There is a difference between standing when called upon and clearly and succinctly stating your opposition, or asking questions to clarify the points you may or may not understand, and frothing at the mouth from shouting down your elected officials and disrupting the meeting so that those of us there to learn what the plan is can do so.
Granted there are questions to be asked and answers to be given, but disrupting the meetings to yell a specific set of opposition talking points is disruptive and not constructive. Everybody should be able to agree that the healthcare system we have now is fundamentally unfair and unworkable, but the boisterous bloviating of the opposition is disruptive not constructive.
Ah, well! That is enough of a screed for today. I suppose any more would be kicking a dead horse… or elephant… or donkey… All I can say as a parting word is please, people, if you have dissent, which is your right, please go to these meetings and voice your opinions but do so with some decorum. Let everybody have their say. These meetings are for the community, they are not your personal soapbox!
Wherever you are today, I hope you will have a good decorous day where you and everyone you interact with follows the rules of polite society.
Don Bergquist – August 09, 2009 – Lakewood, Colorado