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Civility in American Government

I wrote the following in response to Peggy Noonan's op-ed piece in the September 23 Wall Street Journal, entitled: "The Senator's Shorts and America's Decline").

Really, Peggy, do you actually believe Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman's shorts and sweatshirts are at the heart of the problem in American government? If the attire of politicians was all that important, then Donald Trump (who always looked sharp in his crisp blue suit, starched white shirt, and neatly knotted red silk tie) would have been counted among our greatest presidents. Clearly, clothes do NOT make the man.

The problem in Congress is not how America's statesmen dress, but rather how they speak and behave.

Whatever happened to the theory of the "loyal opposition"? Name calling and innuendo is the stuff of children, not of adults, and certainly not of those select few elected to govern our nation. Are they unaware of what American's greatest statesman, Ben Franklin, said? "I will speak ill of no man and speak good of everybody."

Or, to quote our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln: "Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

Ms Noonan was on to something good, when she began writing about how important certain "political figures--JFK, Reagan--walked through the world with a natural but also careful dignity." And further where she wrote, "You have to present yourself with dignity. You have to comport yourself with class."

Try telling that to the current class of Republican Congressmen, who seem to have forgotten the basics of simple human decency, as well as forgotten the rules of political behavior, to wit, treating one's political opponents not as the enemy, but as what they truly are, fellow citizens and loyal Americans, or, if you will, as the "loyal opposition."

And I have always appreciated Alexander Hamilton's political dictum: "I believe my opponent is as honorable as I am, and may be right." Wasn't it Hamilton who influenced the vote in Congress to elect his political enemy -- Thomas Jefferson -- as president?

Our nation's fractious Congress will remain fractious still, until it adopts the better behavior of all that is good and honorable about our fabled experiment in self governance, which is to have respect for those across the isle. It would be wonderful if Congress remembered that the most quoted book at the Constitutional Convention was The King James Bible, and to honor these noble words from the New Testament: "(F)ollow after righteousness, godliness, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith . . . wherein thou art called, and has professed a good life before many witnesses." (I Timothy 6: 11, 12).


In closing, I wish to quote Lincoln's healing words to the rebellious South on the verge of Civil War: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystics chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."


- END -


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