There is a distinctly uncivil, heartless trend these days of certain businesses refusing to do business with particular types of people. As of late and most noteworthy is “Chick fil A” and their aggressive, refusenik attitude towards the LGBT community. This goes far and beyond the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” warnings we’ve all seen. It’s blatant discrimination.
Not only is discrimination not being condemned, some states have enshrined it in law. Texas has an alarming new statute signed by Governor Greg Abbott. The so-called “Save Chick-fil-A Law” prohibits “adverse action” against companies or individuals for “religiously motivated” discriminatory practices. The law was fast-tracked through the legislative process after the fast food chain was denied vendor’s space at the San Antonio airport due to the restaurant’s contentious stance against LGBT people.
The so-called “Religious Liberty” issue has been a hot-button topic for some time. Basically, it is a dispute between people wanting to have the right to deny service to people they do not like versus basic human dignity. In a nutshell, we could say we’re dealing with a clash that pits beliefs ahead of human beings.
The new religious liberty law in Texas sets a dangerous precedent that erodes hard-won civil rights of an historically oppressed minority. Who is to say that the right to discriminate will be limited to harming the LGBT community? Could this be a back-door ploy to bring back Jim Crow? In a sense, the LGBT community is like the canary in the mineshaft.
I mention the disturbing legal scenarios because they brought to my mind the topic of civility. The ongoing degradation of civility bothers me, so it is something I write about from time to time. Incivility is akin to throwing a monkey wrench into the mechanism of civilization. Civility keeps chaos and violence at bay. Civility enables civilization.
Civility is an easy concept to grasp. That is, civility is the virtuous practice that is engendered by knowing every person has inherent dignity simply due to the fact that we are all human beings. Such dignity is present regardless of ancestry, religious choice, gender, sexual orientation, or race. Civility is the logical extension of the ideal of treating others as we wish to be treated.
It is in the best interests of society and of business to practice civility. Politician, entrepreneur, and co-founder of a circus company, P.T. Barnum gave us excellent advice:
“Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly. The truth is, the more kind and liberal a man is, the more generous will be the patronage bestowed upon him.”
Since the aim of running a business generally entails serving the general public by providing goods and/or services and turning a reasonable profit, the way to maximize this worthy goal is to encourage everyone’s patronage. When a potential customer understands that she will be treated as fairly as everybody else, she will feel more welcome. So civility is a good, practical matter that encourages the growth of business customer base. Mr. Barnum was merely repeating obvious wisdom.
There is a generalized view that good business practices can be extended into society at large. So, to extrapolate the fact that civility in business is an important asset, civility in non-business matters is also the way to go.
We need more dialogue in this country and less incivility. Of course we can have strong differences of opinions; but that shouldn’t mean we must resort to radicals marching in the streets, running roughshod over public safety and welfare. There is no need for anybody to take liberties over other peoples’ basic freedoms. The public square should be a level playing field with civility as its foundation.
Civility is the mortar that binds a nation together. In the absence of civility we feel less secure. There’s an unwholesome dirtiness inherent in incivility. There is an underlying feeling of dishonesty, one-upsmanship, and psychological abuse regarding incivility.
It’s easy to cross the boundary from civil society into the no-man’s land of gain at the expense and harming of others. We see the division of our nation for political, religious, and economic gain. It is time to once again seek out common ground in America.
One statement has been important to our society since pre-Revolutionary War days, “United we stand, divided we fall”. Civility is an advocate’s tool for unity and peace. Incivility is a tool for disunity and violence. It’s good to remember the old slogan again.
Thoughtful citizens can resurrect thoughtfulness, acceptance, equality, kindness, and civility. Regardless of political and religious opinions. There are many serious problems facing the nation and the world. Civility will play a key role in facing them.