The internet and social media sites provide numerous platforms for disseminating a variety of opinions. In response, a sleazy group of intimidating bullies and trolls have crept out of the shadows to find opportunities for flinging their dung with little chance of recompense. The experience reminds me of the children’s story Billy Goats Gruff. The troll is threatening until the big goat comes along. On the bridge of our social and political discourse I believe that largest ram is civility.

Civility is a set of rules and behaviors which assure equal and respectful treatment of everyone involved, even or especially when they disagree with us. Civility is not weakness, it is strength. People resort to demeaning others when their ideas cannot stand on their own. They hurl insults and threats when they are unable to justify their point with discussion and/or debate. The principles of respect and civility are often dismissed with a disdain for political correctness.

People are civil when they do not feel threatened, and accordingly standing by ideals is easy. Civility is actually a learned skill. Our hunter/gatherer self is all about protecting our tribe, the people most like us. We must learn that looking or talking the same are not the only things which make us alike. Science uses DNA to prove we have far more in common than we have different. Religion simplifies it to the Golden Rule; we are civil when we treat others the way we want to be treated. 

The sad truth is that tolls and bullies are telling us they don’t expect respect, the expressions emerge from their diminished self worth. Responding to them in kind will only encourage and validate their actions. 

I am drawn to the Coffee Party primarily because of their civility pledge. It goes, “I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.” I am willing to plant my feet on the bridge with that pledge and stand against the trolls. If more of us took that stance the bullies would soon crawl back under their bridge.

Civility and respect have been near to my heart for many years. Here ia a poem from my book Sensual Spirit.


Who Did It

Milk of human kindness

with lactose intolerance:

lack of social tolerance


It may be hard

to accept and digest,

but don’t blame them

for your internal rumbling.

There are those that dine

and delight on difference.

If you can’t stomach it

it is not their problem

until you release

loud rudeness in response

to their natural nature.

Please don’t do it here.

People will look at you

with twisted faces

and turn away their noses

because it smells atrocious

and they all know

who did it.