Civil Discourse

A Facebook friend posted the other day about trying to watch Better Call Saul, the AMC prequel to Breaking Bad. He mentioned that he was trying, but found it pretty slow.

I started watching BB from the beginning, or maybe a couple of episodes in, so I’m pretty comfortable with the pace, the slow, Southwestern crawl under blue skies and stunning scenery. It feels normal, and I’m not sure if that’s just style or a reflection of New Mexico lifestyle; it just feels right to this Southwest émigré.

I watched the first season, 10 episodes, of Saul when it premiered, although it fell into the pit of downtime that we should be used to with cable and premium channel series. I like this format, the short seasons and the long wait for the next one, but sometimes outta sight, outta mind, y’know?

I’m all caught up on Saul now, and I’ve noticed something. There’s a fair amount of conversation in this series about civilians, just ordinary people who aren’t connected to a drug cartel or involved in any criminal activities. “Civilian” isn’t an unusual construct (I’m thinking it’s used in The Godfather, but I’m not interested in that particular rabbit hole at the moment), but it struck me as a great synonym. I want to use it more often.

I want to use civilian mostly because it helps tamp down my annoyance with people who aren’t interested in the same things I am. People who consistently misspell “you’re” or scatter stray apostrophes willy-nilly don’t jump out so much, and why should they? A lot of us grew up in a world where reading something meant that somebody wrote it, someone interested in making sure his or her point was taken and so took care (or someone took care) that it was grammatically correct and hopefully without much in the way of spelling errors.

Everyone writes these days, though, and labeling someone as illiterate or unschooled makes about as much sense as scanning their shopping lists for typos. It’s a different animal, and those folks who seem confused by contractions are just busy, I suspect, and casual about the whole thing. Civilians, in my words. Move on, people.

Same for politics. I listen to a Pod Save America, a political podcast by some former Obama people, young guys who came onboard in their 20s, and I noticed a while back that one of the guys is fond of saying, “D-trip.” As in, “Go to the D-trip site,” or “Over at the D-trip…” It took me a while to notice it because I got it.

“D-trip” is shorthand for “D triple C,” which is shorthand for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Not a mystery to me, because I’m not a civilian. I like this stuff. I wouldn’t expect random people to like it also, even if I think we’d be better off as a people to brush up a bit on our civics. This is inside baseball stuff and has nothing to do with intelligence or awareness or responsibility.

The more I think along these lines, the more I like civilian. Don’t care about baseball? Civilian. Don’t know anything about the canon of Joss Whedon? Civilian. Don’t like Stephen Sondheim? Civilian. Maybe uncivilized, but civilian.

I’m pretty sure it’s in The Godfather. The sensibility is, anyway. Don’t let civilians become collateral damage; that’s a line not to be crossed, and when it’s inevitably crossed it won’t end well. I take this seriously, then. Don’t get me started on baseball.

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