Daily Archives: January 10, 2011

When reason fails, let ridicule carry the day…?

Last week, I shared a post about a bipartisan effort in Utah to increase civility, especially in political discourse, but also in every aspect of every day life. It’s the Utah Civility and Community 2011 campaign.

Do we always need to be civil, though? Is there a time and place for rudeness? Today, a contact of mine in the Twitter-sphere suggested there is a time and place for acting without civility.

Be that as it may, I’m not convinced we have to surrender civility in very many situations. Today, I might have found one. At least, I might have found a couple people that truly merit public ridicule and have, by their actions, earned it.

As reported at Lowering the Bar, a judge overseeing a divorce case explained that the couple before him had reached that point in his court room. “The parties repeatedly have shown they are immune to reason,” Judge Joseph Quinn wrote. “Consequently, in my decision, I have tried ridicule as a last resort.”

Judge Joseph Quinn wrote that the problem in the case before him was simple: hatred. “[A] hardened, harmful, high-octane hatred. . . . Here, a husband and wife have been marinating in a mutual hatred so intense as to surely amount to a personality order requiring treatment.” As just a couple of examples, Larry seems to have enjoyed driving by Catherine’s house and giving her the finger, and Catherine once tried to run Larry over with a van, “always a telltale sign that a husband and wife are drifting apart.”

I hope you’re picking up the sarcasm, because the judge is laying it down pretty thick. And he was just getting started:

Sadly, these people had children, who they seem to have freely manipulated as part of their ongoing battles. Larry is described as having a “near-empty parenting toolbox,” while Catherine provided the kids with “advanced animosity tutoring.” Also charming: an incident in which Catherine texted her daughter while she was visiting her father and asked, “Is Dickhead there?”

Dickhead’s penchant for the middle-finger drive-by also resulted in a good quote: “A finger is worth a thousand words,” the judge wrote, “and therefore is particularly useful should one have a vocabulary of less than a thousand words.”

However glad he was to see them out of his court room, Judge Quinn was equitable: custody went to mom, and dad was ordered to pay child support of $1 a month.

What do you think? Was the judge lacking in civility, or, perhaps, was he exercising some well articulated criticism of a couple people who need it?

Rather than a partisan attempt to silence dissent, the Utah Civility and Community 2011 is an authentic effort to raise the level of intelligent discussion and debate by promotion of principles of civility in how we articulate our opinions and interact with each other. We could all learn the lesson to be civil when pressure increases and stakes are high (and even when stakes are not). It’s not easy, but I do think it will improve our politics, our relationships, and our society.

Many thanks to Lowering the Bar for noting the case. For the whole opinion, and the nuggets of snark therein, click here.