On the EDge: Have we lost our sense of decency?

OPINION – Over the years, I have known a lot of people from all walks of life with myriad cultural, religious, and political points of view.

I have had friends who barely clung to the edge on both the left and right, which can make for some very interesting discussions.

Some are up to the strenuous give and take of passionate discussion. Others are not and usually check out when the going gets particularly tough, which it often does.

Those who stick around realize that real friendship can endure stark differences of opinion.

I’ve got friends, in fact, who are passionate in their dislike of the current administration, who lean very heavily to the right, who are adamant that America got it wrong in the last two presidential elections. It’s only fair that I hear them out, considering the opinions I have expressed for George W. Bush and others from the far right over the years.

The thing is, no matter how heated the discussion, decency remains at the root of our discussions.

Unfortunately, not everybody has this sense of decency.

Late last week the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a Christian-based conservative group that has helped put a number of politicians into office, had a conference in Washington, D.C. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the marquee speaker. He was joined by a group of conservative stalwarts including senators Rand Paul, Kentucky, Marco Rubio, Florida, and Ted Cruz, Texas; representatives Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania, and Kevin McCarthy, California; and former Arkansas governor and one-time presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. This was no lightweight gathering, and, as you would expect, they took the President to task on a number of issues.

What wasn’t expected, however, was a crude attack that took place away from the conference floor when somebody placed a urinal cake with President Barack Obama’s likeness in one of the urinals.

To their credit, representatives from the Faith & Freedom Coalition told MSNBC:

We doubt this was done by any of our attendees, we strongly condemn these actions.  No matter how anyone may feel about the president’s policies, the man and the office deserves to be treated with respect.  We are outraged by this disgusting act.

Despite the fact that there is a lot of venom spewing from the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party and that a fair number of this group’s members were present, I’ll take them at their word.

Besides, it doesn’t matter who the person who dropped the disgusting piece of commentary into the urinal aligns themselves with, it is still evidence of the depths we have arrived at as we continue to tear each other apart as a nation.

Just because this statement is protected under the First Amendment doesn’t mean it is beyond contempt. It was an outrageous act, totally lacking in human decency and respect.

You have problems with Obama? Don’t like what happened in Benghazi? Opposed to the Affordable Care Act? Disagree with the five-for-one prisoner exchange? Fine. State your case and I’ll state mine, but know that I’m out of the discussion the moment you lose touch with your humanity.

The United States is losing much of its stature around the globe because of the crude, arrogant manner in which we treat each other and the complete disdain we have for our system and leaders.

This has tarnished our image in many corners of the world that look upon the United States as a laughingstock for its hypocritical posturing, aggression, and arrogance. We bewilder our neighbors to the north and south, and frustrate those in Europe who look at us as a violent bunch mired in racism and pseudo-religious fanaticism.

Of course our image in the world has been a wild roller coaster ride for many years now, dipping and soaring from the lofty heights achieved during the Kennedy administration.

Much of this is based on uneven – even failed – economic and foreign policy over the years, the racism that lies just below the surface of this nation’s skin, and the greed that has overtaken our desire for equality, which are also at the heart of the bitter differences that divide us. We don’t like each other very much and seem willing to allow the greater good of the nation to suffer so long as we can prove the other side wrong, or so it seems to those who study us from afar. If it wasn’t for military might and a checkbook opened widely to foreign aid, our stature in the world would plummet even further.


Because to earn the respect of others, we must first respect ourselves, despite our differences, and we are not doing that.

There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned political donnybrook. It’s part of the American fabric.

But, let’s also keep the fight within the bounds of decency.

No bad days!

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • Billy June 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you sir. Very well written.

  • LOL'd June 24, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    uhm, really was there any decency to begin with??? it’s just more noticeable mostly because of the media and pop culture…

    • Super Grover June 24, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Not so long ago, Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neal, two political opponents with tremendous weight, could have a beer, compromise and actually get something done for the American people. Tip O’Neal even spoke to the freshman GOP Congressmen and reminded them they owed their political success to Reagan and they owed him their support.
      Yes, there was some decency and an actual sense of service to the public.

  • D Hodja June 24, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    This is great. With the LDS Church’s intolerance of women seeking equal rights and gays, and recent efforts to excommunicate Kate Kelly and others shedding light on real LDS history perhaps the LDS people themselves will smarten up and pressure their leaders to change a bit and get on the right side of history so us believing and non believing cultural Mormons won’t look as ignorant and arrogant and prejudiced as we all did in the 70’s when the US had embraced black rights but the “only true church” adamantly denied those rights, being one of the last stands against it. The change for blacks came only with social and economic pressures on the religion…and I personally recall the racism to well to pretend this isn’t a repeat. People who claim they are the worlds happiest, and smartest beating down anything that doesn’t agree with their leaders is really not positive and excommunicating those who speak out is barbaric, and the denial of responsibility from SLC is a total failure of leadership similar to what we all saw in the 70’s. We can all do better Southern Utah

    • MrSmith June 25, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Someone with this point of view is naive to the ways of God. Man ways are not God’s ways. Member’s cannot force the leadership to change the mind of God even if every member was protesting on Temple Square. Kelly was not excommunicated because she took a stand against the leadership. Kelly was excommunicated for her non-belief in the fundamental truths of the LDS faith. There is no point in her being a member of something that she doesn’t believe in.

      • Rachel June 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

        Actually, Ms. Kelly was excommunicated by default. She purposefully did not attend her disciplinary hearing in which she could have stated her case and possibly saved her membership. When you fail to answer (as in the arena of law), you default.

        • MrSmith June 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm

          Actually, if it was by default, they would have given her an answer immediately after she missed her first disciplinary counsel. This isn’t the legal system we’re talking about here. This is clergy prayerfully deciding the fate of a persons eternal welfare. Even if she had been present to make her case, the outcome would have been no different. The only way she can re-gain membership and ultimately her salvation is to give up her quest which she has adamantly stated that she will not do. It will be up to her to have a change of heart, not the other way around.

  • Brian June 24, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    I mostly agree. But just out of curiosity, did you write a similar article when Bush was hung and burned in effigy by the left in the US, repeatedly, and very publicly? Like at the 2009 inauguration after-party, or when Ben Cohen (co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s) did it over and over on tour? Or when protesters routinely held up signs saying “Kill Bush”? Or when Sarah Palin was hung and burned in effigy? Just curious, since generally speaking selective decency is hypocrisy. There are limits, however, since showing hitler respect while he murdered your neighbors would be cowardice, not decency.

  • Bdub June 24, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Great piece. This is happening in so many areas, not just with politics, bulling for being different. See bullying in general. There is a huge lack of decency in the world today and it’s sad. We’re all running this rat race can’t we do it in peace without our fellow man picking on us because we’re different?

  • JAR June 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks for the commentary on decency Ed. Good points. But perhaps next time your could expand your examples to include both sides of the discussion. Just saying that on both sides of canyon, idiots have rocks in their arsenal that are being thrown. Being a Independent American voter, it’s hard to keep track. Have to go Ed, time to watch some Bill Marr HBO reruns.

  • Anne Coble June 24, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Very well said! I have experienced several occasions where I have felt attacked because of the fact that I voted for and stand behind our current president. I have almost completely stopped posting my political views for this reason, and I even had to unfriend a FB friend because of his attacks on my very character on my FB profile. I feel that I, myself, have always paid respect to our presidents over the years even though I disagreed with much if their politics. I’d love to see the same respect paid towards my views and beliefs. After all, isn’t that what our country was built on? The rights of each individual to have their own beliefs and not be persecuted for them.

    • LOL'd June 24, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      The only place with more conservative religious nutbags than utah would be in the deep south or Muslims in other countries. You can’t get decency out of people that have lost their ability to reason… that’s a fact.

  • S Steed June 24, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    So it’s cool if we hold detainees indefinatly, and it’s fine that we destroyed the country of Iraq based on a load of crap story about WMDs, it’s ok that everyone is forced into an insurance contract even though the constitution attempted to prevent that, and it’s alright that the president broke pretty much every promise he made to get into office; but putting his face on a urinal cake is really crossing the line.

  • Deke June 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    before things turned so nasty, I used to enjoy indepth political discussions with friends who did not agree with my POV … sometimes we even managed to alter the other’s POV … imagine that! for me, those days died in 2000, and it’s getting worse. rudeness is only part of the problem … intransigence & misinformation are impossible to debate.

  • Dana June 24, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    What did you have to say about Jon Favreau, Obama’s former speech writer when he was photographed groping the Hilary Clinton cutout? What did you have to say about Harry Reid calling Romney a tax dodger, or calling American citizens who lost their healthcare plan liars? C’mon Ed…do a decency article that calls out the left.

    • Jen Lindley June 26, 2014 at 11:16 am

      3 points:
      1.) I don’t recall Romney ever producing any sort of document proving that he didn’t dodge the IRS. I do seem to recall him saying that he doesn’t care about 47% of Americans though.

      2. ) More then a few Republican PACS admitted to paying people to lie about being denied coverage under the ACA.

      3.) regarding the decency article you asked for, why don’t you write it yourself?

  • Maggie June 24, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Almost agreed with you Ed, and do with most of what you said . Really bad behavior on all sides of the political spectrum .However ,you had to get the racism remark in and that our neighbors to the north and south are bewildered by our actions. Perfect we are not, our neighbors to the north I love but they too are overcome with some of the same problems we are having and our neighbors to the south just think they are part of our welfare system and whatever we have they should have too, but not the bills of course. I always think our southern neighbors have MUCH to do before they should criticize us. What more could they possibly want from the USA?
    I never apologize to other countries, for almost all of them we have helped financially and some we have lost sons and daughters trying to give them the opportunity for some of the opportunities we have. So no worry there.
    Respect for our Presidents , I pretty much say yes when they deserve it. I very much am a person who loves her country but right now has little respect left for my government who is treating her citizens who pay the bills have no voice and little respect is shown for us.

  • Dixielambs June 24, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    I find it interesting that you attribute the loss of status and respect in the world that our country has suffered as being because of the incivility within our country. I have always thought it was because of the leadership void and lack of dependability we have demonstrated for more than a half decade. Thanks. Ed, for setting me straight on the cause of all our problems…

  • Jen C June 25, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Just read some of the above comments. Have we lost our decency? Absolutely.

    • Jen Lindley June 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

      Totally agreed. Btw, cool name 😛

  • McMurphy June 25, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Indecency has been a part of American politics from the very beginning. For instance study the 1860 campaign won by Abraham Lincoln. The editorials, columns and cartoons were far more outrageous that what we see today.

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