Thursday, September 29, 2011


de·co·rum   [dih-kawr-uhm, -kohr-][1]  noun
1. dignified propriety of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
2. the quality or state of being decorous;  orderliness; regularity.
3. Usually, decorums. an observance or requirement of polite society.
Decorum is a word.
One found in any dictionary. For those unlike myself who know only of modern web based sources like the one I have made reference to below, that’s the big dusty tomb found at your local library or next to the desks of outmoded academics. Citing another one of the great monoliths of the digital age Wikipedia will inform you that decorum is word established in meaning by Lord Chesterfield. He was a statesman and man of letters who, at roughly the same time our country was being founded, was searching for a translation of the French les moeurs (‘Manners are to little, Morals are to much.’).[2]  
Decorum is just that, a word. It seems in our society that at present it has no greater context. It is seldom found in the sweat pant wearing masses of college students stumbling to and from class or the ranks of working class people shuffling back and forth irrespective of the hue of their collar. Its absence has for most of my adult life been only a minor annoyance. In till a Thursday night Republican debate when a active duty Marine serving in Afghanistan was publicly booed by a audience in response to raising an important question about the fate of himself and his fellow marines.
            The candidate on stage, Rick Santorum, gave a stumbling response about returning to the policies of ‘don’t ask don’t tell.’ But it is not the booing of the audience that was most defining it was the silence. Columnist Mel Mintz, The Baltimore Sun, has nailed it on the head in stating, “Here is the critical point: Not one of those contenders chose to act like a president and defend that Marine's question. Nor did they truly answer his question.”[3] Let us turn to another dusty old book next to my desk, Roberts Rules of Order.
In debate a member must confine himself to the question before the assembly, and avoid personalities… It is not allowable to arraign the motives of a member, but the nature or consequences of a measure may be condemned in strong terms. It is not the man, but the measure, that is the subject of debate.[4]
It is just that, the debate being held concerns the Constitution of the United States and the laws and offices it support. Not this Marine. Not this man who risks his life to defend those laws and protect the very freedom of public debate it self. Even the previous incidents where audiences applauded increasing numbers of executions or the out cries to allow individuals with out health insurance to be denied life saving care had so insulted public decorum.
            This is only one example of the absence of decorum in politics. It is not reasonable to assume that politicians such as Santorum, and others like Sarah Palin who studied communications and journalism in college, do not understand the importance or need for decorum. Then why do they allow such behavior to continue? Why do they continue to use and endorse violent and hateful rhetoric directed not towards the political measures before them but towards individuals they oppose? Perhaps if we did in the House of Commons and placed them a swords length from their advisories, drew a long red line between them, and forced them to confront their opponents face to face they would hold more dear their shared humanity. Although even the statement I just made is in itself a form of reactionary hyperbole, and it too is worthy of scorn.
            Lets take for example the use of the word treason.
treason   [tree-zuhn]  noun
1. the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign.
2. a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state.
3. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.
Rick Perry is quoted saying, “Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous — or treasonous in my opinion.” Is printing money an act of over throwing the government or the President? I doubt this; I even more seriously question the idea of putting a man to death for executing the laws of the United States of America. But treason is word not only found in political speeches, it is found on the signs held by and slogans shouted by thousands of Tea Party ‘Patriots.’ They call for any number of congressional leaders, or even the president, to be charged with the high crime of treason. More disturbing time and time again they use small children to carry those signs. Teaching grade school boys and girls to cry out for the execution of the men and women that you and I have elected. In fairness decorum is not only lacking here but also with the thousands of Union protestors like those who stormed the Wisconsin Capital building causing over $270 million in damages.[5]
            Let us return though to our Marine. He is just that ‘our’ Marine, he is as of right now fighting on some foreign field of battlefield. Their I feel we can be sure amongst the violence of war decorum is at most times meaningless. It should not be here. So let me take a strike at the issue at question, the one that those candidates where unable conjure the necessary composure to respond to from amongst their talking points. In Greece outside the city Thebes stands a stone lion. The lion is a monument to the 300 men of the lead division of the Thebes’ army, who in the Battle of Chaeronea 338 BC fought to the death defending their homeland. Every one of them fought and died with his male lover at his side. And when Philip the II of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great ventured across that dissolute battlefield they found the bodies of those 300 men heaped upon one another. Philip was so moved by their courage that he erected that monument in the honor of those men who had but moments before been his enemy.
            If decorum is no longer held sacred, and treason is to be found in the actions of all men then I will keep my own words of outrage to myself. Instead I direct those in the audience and the candidates on that stage to words of King Philip II,
‘Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.’
Hopefully, this to in itself, will not be too much a breech of decorum…

[4] Art. 5 Sect. 36

No comments:

DreamHost Coupons