Uncivil Discourse

The other day I was called a “Godless Liberal” during a political debate; I pondered this before I responded. I understood my opponent was rather angry, furious if truth were told. If we had been speaking face-to-face, I suspect the ‘Godless Liberal’ would have been accompanied with finger pointing and looked something like this:



That said and his point made, he viewed me as ‘outside’ and thus not worthy of anything approaching civil discourse.

This entire exchange got me thinking about the state of our nation, not from a political standpoint, not from what we see in media but, from how we speak to one another. It got me thinking, outside of what boundary was I that this complete faceless stranger felt comfortable denigrating me in the most sexist terms all the while holding himself up as Christian, intellectually and morally superior?

Before I go on, by the way my response was “Yes, but you will never understand the nuance.”

Morals, Ethics, Principles, Values, Scruples, Integrity

Do these words have real meanings anymore? Can we say with certainty all societies have something akin to moral structures all members willingly agree with and abide by? When my little friend called me a Godless Liberal, what did he really mean? Did he understand what he meant or was he just parroting others mindlessly, just to have something to say because he was unable to debate the issue.

The first half of this year has been one of change for me; some of this change has been intentional and thus far challenging. Without going into detail, I have changed my mode of employment, at least for now. I have of course begun to expose deeply buried secrets. Finally, it is a Presidential election year; I admit it I love this season. I am a bit of wonk with a passion for a good debate especially if I can also dig into some research and history. This exchange though, this Godless Liberal along with other name calling got me thinking about how we have changed in our interpersonal relationships, how we have changed in our communication manners.

The question of Godliness and Godlessness, religious affiliation, worship both what and how, whether we recognize them or not, have been taking center stage in our public life for decades now. Though we are enjoined from doing so by our laws, even by our Constitution and by implication by our Bill of Rights, we judge each other by a set of Principles. Do we truly all agree to and apply the same rigorousness to our Morals, Ethics and Principles? Do we all truly walk the walk each and every day? One key to answering these questions is, are they all one and the same thing, different aspects but in fact the same thing. Personally, I look at that list and think they are not the same; they are instead building blocks.

I have been thinking about this all week.  This is what I have ultimately come up with, tell me what you think and how you would respond to the scenarios, I have posed.

Morals: Primarily derived from religious thinking, all societies have basic frameworks that seem to be consistent though some are more deranged than others in their application of the rules.

  • Don’t be dishonest (Lie, Cheat, Steal)
  • Don’t be promiscuous and be faithful in your marriage (don’t covet either)
  • Don’t murder (killing might be okay for the right reason)
  • Be compassionate to those weaker than yourself (feed the hungry, care for the sick and aged)

Ethics: Primarily defined for businesses to operate in the marketplace, organizations establish these to clarify the rules and ensure everyone knows them. Personally, I think in many cases Business Ethics are the organizations smoke screen but that is just me. I have seen these few from past employers they have rarely been adhered to when they got in the way of profit.

  • Don’t pay bribes (Influence peddling)
  • Respect for individuals (Civil and Human Rights)
  • Respect for local culture
  • Respect for environment
  • Deliver profit to shareholders

Principles, Values, Scruples & Integrity: I have combined these because they are all personal in my mind. We develop personal and interpersonal relationships within society and with individuals, how we interact is based on our own evolution. Despite what some would have us believe we are not born Principled or with Integrity. When we come into the world, we are nothing more than empty vessels waiting to be filled.

So what are these amorphous ideals some of us develop over time and where do they come from?

Scenario 1:

Gladys has been part of a workplace Lottery pool for five-years.   Each week she and ten others put $1 into the pool and purchase a PowerBall ticket with the intent of splitting the proceeds should they win. Gladys collects the money and buys ten tickets for the pool, this week she also buys a ticket for herself with $1. Well, well one of the tickets wins the PowerBall, if Gladys is principled what will she do?

Scenario 2:

Pontdre is a company with well-documented business ethics that all new employees are required to read and sign their agreement too. George developed a new product with the potential of huge profits but it will require that Pontdre actively petition for a change to current government policies affecting the livelihood of another industry or group and could also cause significant negative ecological effects on nearby towns. How does Pontdre resolve this?

I am not going to provide a scenario for Morals; we can all come up with these. I will leave you with this though; I essentially filtered the 10 Commandments down to three (similar to George Carlin) and then added one of my own. Most religions agree with these as foundational notwithstanding the simpler language I used. I find myself in a quandary as I consider the issue of Morals, Ethics, Principles, Values, Scruples and Integrity –

Circling back to the idea of GODLESS LIBERAL and my answer of YES

If I read my 4 Commandments, I walk the walk every day. Thus, I have Morals.

If I read my Ethics, as a businessperson who has worked in a variety of roles for Fortune 100 companies and as an Independent Business Owner; I walk the walk and talk the talk. In fact, I have been trouble for doing so in the past.

If I read my definitions and scenarios for the last group, I know my answers and believe I am a person of Integrity, a Principled person.

Godless, perhaps if I apply the definition as society defines it this is true; I am not religious only spiritual.

Liberal, indeed I have been and am now a Progressive to the Left of Center Liberal in most things.

I wonder though, does this mean there is something wrong that makes me deserving of the other name-calling? I wonder how we get the name-calling toned down.

Stoning, burning at the stake, dunking have all been outlawed in the US of A for many years now; with Godless Liberal and very public Slut Walking making a comeback, I have to wonder what is next?

Warning: George Carlin can be a bit offensive. Don’t watch if you are easily offended by language or for that matter by his view of religion.


  1. Respect and protocol are disappearing. Not good.

  2. That’s the problem: civil discourse has become like compromise – a dirty word. Name-calling and shouting have replaced logic and thoughtful commentary – at least on the national stage. I watched President Obama’s announcement about his new immigration executive order this afternoon. He was in the midst of speaking when a reporter from the “Daily Caller” started shouting a question at him. Obama actually had to stop and practically shout back at the man to stop talking. I’d never seen that happen before in the Rose Garden. It’s like the time Joe Wilson shouted at Obama, “You lie!” No one could recall a time when a member of Congress yelled at the president while the latter gave his state of the union address. If a Democrat had shouted the same thing at GW Bush during his 2003 state of the union address, Republicans would have had him or her removed from the building right then and there. And, the fact is that Bush was lying when he spoke of Iraq supposedly having WMD’s!

    • There have been times in our history when Congress has been tumultuous, even violent. But not in recent history this is certainly the worst. The lack of respect shown to this President is certainly telling, unfortunate and pervasive. We are all guilty though –

      President Obama (I try to always remember) not simply Obama

      Just as it was always

      President Bush not simply Bush

      The above is one of the simple but telling identifiers. Congressmen, Senators and the press do this all the time. We, the people follow suit.

  3. I’ve encountered these types – quick to say I’ll be damned in hell. My calm reply: I’ll be waiting for you at the gates – with a pitch fork 🙂

    • I am inclined to give these pithy answers myself (except I don’t believe in Hell). My problem though is the idea that so many people believe it is fine to ‘brand’ others, to drag them to the town square and pelt them with rotten food for not falling in line.

  4. I absolute love George Carlin! It doesn’t matter how he puts its, it’s right on the money!…and with humor, always!

  5. I have listened to George before and he makes me smile..And hits his nail on the head with many things he says..
    A great post Val… Many times we feel justisfied in airing our points of views.. Some however do not even want to listen to another point of view.. For their View is always the Correct one.. And mainly they wag their fingers in your direction too driving their points home..
    I have nothing against anothers view point.. So long as they understand that we ALL are not of the same opinion.. And some times I have to graciously disagree ..
    Its sad how many drive home their own opinions and do not respect others theirs.. It would make the world a very Dull place if we were to all agree. 😉 xxx Hugs to you My GODESS!!… Let him explain GOD.. and Godliness… as he is judging yet another with finger a wagging.. as he says in the next breath~ All is forgiven! 🙂 xxx

    • I am all for different points of view, in truth I love a good debate framed on well defined points. My father (rest peacefully) loved to debate and taught me well, I have even been known to play devils advocate at times simply to force others to really think through the argument.

      I am a political wonk, I love how our nation is supposed to work. That we are not all of the same mind, the same opinion, the same faith even. That we are supposed to find the middle ground and work as one to strengthen our nation as one despite our differences, that is how it is supposed to work. We have failed in this grand experiment though and it saddens me terribly.

      I do not believe for an instant anyone can explain God or Godliness, not when they are calling names or wagging fingers. Not when they are attempting to drag you by the hair to the town square. Ah well, such is the state of our nation today. Perhaps we will find our way out of the quagmire and back to the path once set for us.

      Me, I will continue to seek opportunities to ‘debate’ and when those fingers come up and the name calling begins I will simply bow out gracefully and move on.

      Much love


  6. Love, adore, cherish George Carlin. Gone far before his time. Frankly, I think he arrived before his time.

    Meanwhile, you have hit it squarely. The fact is there is nothing which is out of bounds in this society. We have taken to not hurting one another’s sensibilities (PC), but felt no compunction about hurting one another. The name calling is nothing more than a complete lack of coping mechanism, command of the language or defensive response when faced with a plausible difference of opinion.

    As to you, no, there is nothing wrong with your views or opinions or the platforms on which you choose to air them. The fact remains, those not inclined to agree or appropriately engage are welcome to surf away. Lunacy leaves them to dunk you in hopes you will either drown or come to your senses (which is political rhetoric for “agree with me”).

    I say continue.

    • George’s take on the big 10 has always cracked me up. I think he might have narrowed it down slightly to far, thus my own take, but he does have a way of making us think, doesn’t he. I agree completely he was both before his time and taken much to soon.

      I find the inability or unwillingness to have a civil debate quite disconcerting. Beating me with arrogance or name calling seems to be the only two options these days, neither are very tasteful. It isn’t that I am not without a touch of arrogance, but I do try to catch myself and have even been known to apologize and admit my errors. Politics and Religion, the two most difficult subjects there are to remain pragmatic about, but really in the grand scheme of things we should be able to talk about them without sinking into the mud, shouldn’t we?

      • We should, but, in order to do so, we must be willing to admit there is a possibility what we hold dear may indeed be false or unreasonable. The threat to our tenet system causes a visceral reaction the majority can neither subconsciously nor consciously curb. In the absence of seeing civilized debate, unlike the rhetoric spewing which is commonplace, very few have seen examples of adults discussing much of anything.

        I find it truly sad the intellect level has dipped to such a low tide, which I fear continues to recede. What we have now is a regression where we use names and epithets to club one another in place of sticks or mallets, yet without the minimal protection of a gherkin or chain mail.


  7. Reblogged this on unsocialite.


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