The Maine Incivility Project

Thank goodness for the Maine Incivility Project.

With all the talk about incivility sparked by the media’s determination to blame a madman’s shooting rampage on Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party, it rapidly became evident that civility is a somewhat elusive concept. For example, while shouting “You lie!” at the President while he is speaking is definitely uncivil, arguing that the President was really foreign born isn’t—it’s stupid, but not uncivil. Calling Rush Limbaugh “a Big, Fat, Idiot” in the title of your book, as Sen. Al Franken did, is uncivil, as is calling Nancy Pelosi “the Wicked Witch of the West,” as Rush Limbaugh did. Using cross-hairs to designate Democratic House seats that Republicans are “gunning for'”, “targeting” or “taking aim at”, on the other hand, is not uncivil…just unsettling if one is metaphor-challenged or hoplophobic (having a pathological fear of guns.)

Never fear, however. Before the echoes  of President Obama’s call for Americans to come together had barely faded, the public got a handy lesson from the Governor of Maine about what incivility sounds like, as his term launches the new Maine Incivility Project. Newly-elected Governor Paul LePage—yes, a Tea Party-supported candidate—declined N.A.A.C.P. invitations to attend a dinner on Sunday night and a breakfast in on Monday to honor Martin Luthor King Day, saying, charmingly, “I’m not gonna’ be held hostage by any special interest. And if they want, they can look at my family pictures. My son happens to be black [LePage’s son is adopted from Jamaica]. The fact of the matter is, there are only so many hours in the day, so many hours in the week and so much that you can do.”

The N.A.A.C.P.’s state director said the organization felt it was being neglected by the new governor, and LePage responded: “Tell them to kiss my butt.”

That, class, is incivility.

Governor LePage is evidently not a practitioner of civility; he made news in his campaign last fall when he told a group of fishermen that if he were elected, “you’re going to be seeing a lot of me on the front page, saying ‘Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell.'” The problem with leaders who do comprehend the need for civility is that it usually is linked to a deficit in related ethical values, like fairness, decorum, patience, respect, dignity, empathy, and kindness. The advantage of the new Maine Incivility Project is that Governor LePage will not only periodically clarify what real incivility is, he will also show Americans what the tendency to be uncivil leads to, and why civility is considered one of the cornerstones of ethics.

This is not going to be pleasant for Maine, I suspect, and it will end badly for Governor LePage. It will be educational, however.

Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “The Maine Incivility Project

  1. I thought we had this when Frank Caprio told Obama to “shove it” when he wouldn’t endorse him for governor of Rhode Island over his former co-senator Lincoln Chafee.

  2. Oooh—I had forgotten about that! Of course, I also sympathized a bit with Caprio, who had cause to feel genuinely betrayed by the President. “Shove it!” is, however, always uncivil no matter what. A President refusing to endorse a fellow Democrat while pushing his Independent opponent is just disloyal.

    • Even if they were formerly working together? It seemed a bit of a rock-hard-place sort of thing, and I can see why Obama didn’t want to stick his neck out for the governorship of RI.

      • It’s a good example of a no-win situation. Both Chafee and Caprio would have had a justification to be angry if Obama didn’t endorse him. Obama’s best move would have been neutrality–both would be ticked off, but it would be fair.

  3. You present two abstract entitiies as real and authentic. They are ideas and concepts without concrete form.

    There is no Maine Incvility Project. To even declare the perceived presence is perhaps, dare I say, uncivil to the citizens of the Great State of Maine.

    Also, to grammatically capitalize Tea Party is inaccurate and disingenuous, the concept exists without a defined entity, and implies undeserved existential affirmation. As such, tea party is the more appropriate presentation.

    Thank you for your perspective and the opportunity to add my own thoughts to this collaborative dialogue.

    • The first part of your criticism shows a stunning, or perhaps intentional, unawareness of the techniques of satire and irony. Obviously there is no real “Maine Incivility Project,” and every previous resident of Maine whom I met, and as a New Englander, that is many, have the wit and perspective to recognize it. The state managed to elect a man as Governor who does not respect or comprehend civility, and his term will be an extended exercise in discovering what happens under these conditions. If you really think referring, tongue in cheek, to this as a “project” is uncivil, you don’t know what civility means any more than he does. Your second criticism is both silly and misrepresents your own eccentric opinion as fact. A tea party is a party with actual tea.
      I don’t need snarky and pompous comments like this on a Sunday morning, thank you. And if you think I’m going to include a link to whatever you wrote on the topic after that, you are deluded.

  4. I know Paul LePage. You could not be more wrong about him “not respecting or comprehending civility”, and you’re uncivil to make that accusation.

    • Really! Then this must mean, then, that..1)He intended to be uncivil, since that what “kiss my butt is” and “go to hell” both are, and 2) respects and comprehends it but can’t help himself and is uncivil anyway, or, in the alternative, 3) YOU don’t comprehend it.
      How do you square his respect for civility with his public statements, and just how is it uncivil of me to make reasonable conclusions from his own words? I’d love to hear a coherent answer to that, because I can’t imagine what it would be.

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