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The Decline of Civility and Why It Matters

What happens when a nation forgets its manners?

When Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouted out, “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech on health care to Congress and the nation last week, the frozen faces of his colleagues mirrored their shock at his behavior. By the next morning, the outburst was a major topic in the media—and at breakfast tables across the country. Republican leaders demanded that Wilson apologize to the president. He did. The apology was accepted. Yesterday, the House voted to censure Wilson. But that hasn’t quelled the stormy debate about the meaning of the insult. Has America abandoned civility and good manners? And if it has, should we care? AARP Bulletin Today asked P.M. Forni, a professor and cofounder of the Civility Project at Johns Hopkins University, to talk about the Wilson brouhaha. Forni studies and lectures on civility and is the author of two books on the subject—the latest,The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude.Back to Article

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