I attended a colloquium this fall for rhetoricians about civility in the public sphere. The conclusion wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was enough: we use appeals to civility like any other trope. Sometimes it’s necessary and useful; sometimes it’s restrictive and problematic. We can be no more prescriptive than that. It’s a function of wisdom. Of timing. Of kairos.
I’m a Burkean. I resist side-taking. I trumpet the strategic use of ambiguity. I want to avoid plummeting over the precipice of tragedy and death at all costs. Dance. Empathize. Taunt. Tease. Correct. Laugh. Just don’t kill. Whatever you do, you must. not. kill.
It’s time though. No more live-and-let-live. No more ambiguity. It’s time to push the abuse over the precipice in order to save people’s souls. It’s time to take sides. It’s time to speak Truth to power.