Kathy Griffin, Jokes & a Post-Civil America

NOTE TO READERS (New and Old): What would it take to finally end my self-imposed writing sabbatical at From Law to Grace? Two things. One, a nice conversation this morning with a blogging friend, Hariette Petersen (aka, SelahV), who encouraged me to write again, even if it was just a few paragraphs. The other thing: Kathy Griffin. So, here goes. After almost 1 1/2 years without a post, I may be a little rusty, so please forgive me for any errors. Unlike Kathy Griffin, I take full responsibility for my errors without “ifs, ands, & buts.”

Well, that didn’t take long. From edgy on Tuesday morning, when she stood “bravely” with head in hand, to “apologetic” later that night once her liberal “friends” publicly (although probably not privately) abandoned her, to combative,  “victimized,” and lawyered-up on Friday, Kathy Griffin is, in many ways, the perfect symbol of a post-civil America. I asked in two blog posts in 2013 (here and here) the simple question, “Is Civility Dead?” Four years later, following eight years of President Obama and the election of President Trump, the answer to that question would have to be a resounding — and sad — YES!

Civility is defined as “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech; good manners, graciousness, consideration, respect.” Using a more well-known — albeit religious — definition, civility is encapsulated in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Even if one is not a religious person, living by its principle would certainly enhance the civility of our nation’s discourse.

However, I can hear the inner John McEnroes in some readers, “You cannot be serious!” For some, there can be no respect or civility for President Trump or any of his supporters because his very existence, much less his policies, are exempted from the norms of civility. How else to explain Kathy Griffin and her unhinged press conference on Friday, in which she found her voice to speak out against bullies (which, coming from her, is both priceless and blissfully lacking in self-awareness) and, in the process, confirmed what many already suspected, namely that her “abject apology” on Tuesday night was all an act meant to salvage whatever “career” she might still have. There is a reason why she is on the “D-List.” She is not a very good actress or comedienne, her Seinfeld appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

Of course, there were some on the right during the eight years of the Obama Presidency who likewise believed that President Obama and his family were exempt from common courtesy and graciousness. And, before that, the same could be said of the lack of civility shown to George W. Bush. It would be easy to point fingers and cast blame on who is most responsible for the downward spiral of civility in America. However, before we start pointing fingers or throwing stones, it might benefit each of us to look in the mirror and ask the question, “What have I done to contribute to the enhancement or the deterioration of civility in my circle of influence?” In other words, how well are each of us following the Golden Rule without caveats, loopholes, and exceptions? I suspect that each of us has plenty  of room for improvement.

If you “hate” President Trump, it’s much easier to justify the actions of Kathy Griffin, if not in public, at least behind closed doors. And, before too long, it becomes much easier to excuse the rampant incivility that we are now a part of, either directly or indirectly. When you find yourself not caring if an eleven-year-old child just might have been traumatized by seeing the severed head of his father just because of your own blind hatred or, you start using words like “allegedly” to defend the indefensible (thanks, Lisa Bloom, for further tarnishing the reputation of lawyers), you might be one of the reasons that we are living in a post-civil America. That is no joking matter, regardless of what unfunny comediennes like Kathy Griffin have to say.

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