23 Sep 2010

Things We Take For Granted: Civility

Originally Uploaded to flickr by Nationaal Archief

Usually, everyone gets along here out on the streets and among the blocks and blogs and bustling listservs of the Hill; they merrily meet and contribute to school fundraising efforts, dress up together for Hill-o-ween, laugh at jokes in local shops, get spotted for a wallet left at home, are lucky enough to greet someone they know at almost every intersection on a mid-day weekend walk, get tips on the best thing to order from any one of the cornucopia of menus we now offer on our glorious  “boulevards,” have impromptu doggie meet and  greets  met with no blows, bites or blowback, receive great service and compliments at a nearby salon, get home-cooked meals from strangers through a listserv, sit down comfortably and confidently with strangers at a local bar, get help with a runaway stroller in a coffee  shop doorway, and otherwise share in the pleasures of civility lubricated by a shared love for the Hill neighborhood and one’s place in it.

But sometimes things just tank. Things go astray. Don’t pretend they don’t.  Feelings are injured.  Epic fights that would not happen over fences ensue on listservs among neighbors. The recent mayoral election has resulted in a lot of hastily arranged abrasive views spewed out on local blogs and listservs while  an open paean to the suburbs, sniping on Hill life, by one who left to those who stay behind has many people downright uncivil.

There have been similar disruptions in civility among us, from picayune personal issues  at nearby retailers to an epic 2004 post-election online scream fest to heated arguments about everything from hoagies to haircuts to Hill etiquette between dogs and strollers.

Are these breaks in civility actually good for the overall mood among us?  Do these tantrums, whether they happen in person or online, clear the air among us, such a disparate, eclectic, driven, intense group of city dweller or they are unfortunate and unsightly interruptions in our daily lives?

Do you embrace our occasional Hill fits of pique or turn the other cheek?

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  • http://freckledcitizen.com Maggie [The Freckled Citizen]

    I’ve had this post bookmarked since the day it was published, and I wanted to tell you how much it’s stuck with me. My husband and I have only lived in DC since February, and had to make a quick decision on where to rent during a quick move. We chose the U Street area, but as soon as we got here, we knew Capitol Hill was where we want to be for the long haul. Real estate is stressful (to say the least!), but the reasons we keep plugging away are summed up so well here – something in your neighborhood calls to us each time we’re there. We just know it’s where we should be. The disagreements you talk about here sound so much like family disagreements, if you think about it… and maybe that’s the crux of it: that we want to be in a neighborhood that feels like family, the good and the bad of it. Thanks for sharing this.