Fresh from my Webster’s Third New International, published during our bicentennial, 1976, is the exact identity of what ails us all: Democrat, Republican, even the occasional independent,

“Anomie” says Noah, “from the Greek, a state of normlessness or lawlessness, (a) a state of society in which normative standards of conduct and belief have weakened or disappeared.” He goes on with “(b) a similar condition in an individual commonly characterized by personal disorientation, anxiety and social isolation.”

In my eighth decade I’m still grateful to my mother for enrolling me at what is now Good Will Hinckley, where the schooling began with manners, morals and a clean shirt, plus chapel (nondenominational/Protestant) twice on Sunday.

With civility gone from public speech, we can deduce the adjectives delivered in private. A diplomacy based on name-calling has no hope. Our nation’s founders disagreed many times, but they worked their way to our Constitution using civil speech, reasoning from the lessons of history. Our Constitution seems still to be in charge, but its agents appear not even in charge of themselves.

What can a private citizen do? Be civil. Think before you speak or write. Talk with your neighbor, not at him. Together we can re-create a society and government that works for all.

Anomie and its causes might even stop appearing on the front page and the nightly news. But first, one has to have hope — and reason.

John Willey


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