“Civility in War-Time”
By Elizabeth Corey
JMC fellow Elizabeth Corey has recently written a piece for Law & Liberty on the need for civility as a democratic virtue:
“What a strange moment this is for mounting a defense of civility! The United States has just weathered its most significant violent protest activity in decades, and Americans are in the midst of bitter fights about nearly everything else: politics, sex, religion, law, face masks. Present conditions seem to militate against civil behavior, and many people are eager to point this out…
The ‘virtue of civility,’ as Edward Shils once designated it, appears to be decidedly out of fashion. From one point of view, civility is no virtue at all, but something that the powerful classes use to dominate others. It implies manners, politeness, good breeding, hierarchy, privilege, restraint, inauthenticity, and perhaps dishonesty. Civility does not serve the good of society but oppresses those who are less fortunate, less wealthy, less well-positioned. It is manipulative condescension…
Despite all these transformations of recent years, certain fundamental human characteristics have not changed. Notwithstanding our increasing anonymity on digital platforms, we are still embodied creatures who require social contact and friendship. Though we are politically polarized, we still need education and conversation to help us understand what we really think, and where and how we might moderate our views. All of us crave the love and respect of certain others, even if we present a bold and unflinching persona in the face of attack. Civility plays a crucial part in obtaining all these human goods, and we must recognize and cultivate it especially in times, like our own, of deep disagreement and political warfare…”
Elizabeth Corey is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Honors Program at Baylor University. She has served as Director of the program since 2015. Professor Corey has taught courses at Baylor on political science, great texts and in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core. She has earned several awards for research and teaching, and was a 2016-2017 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. Her book, Michael Oakeshott on Religion, Aesthetics, and Politics, was published by the University of Missouri Press in 2006. She writes for First Things and serves on the board of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. She has also published in The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, National Affairs and in a variety of scholarly journals.
Professor Corey is a JMC fellow.
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