Rita Papazian
Published: April 13, 2012

Comedienne Richard Lewis wants people to be more civil That’s right.
THEE Richard Lewis, most recently of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
television fame believes “Discourse should be more civil especially for you people
under 40.” Lewis was a recent headliner at a benefit performance for Boys and
Girls Village, a non-profit agency serving at risk children and families in

While his message was admirable, Lewis wrapped his statement in his
typical “woe-is-me” raw comedic style that audiences have come to love and hate
for over 40 years. As reviewers have noted, after leaving the theater following a
Lewis stand-up routine, audiences heave a collective sigh of relief that they do not
have his life.

However, I took notice of Lewis’ recent “civility” message that he threw out to
his audience in more of a off-handed comment. “My wife wants me to be more
civil. ‘You don’t have to curse,’ she says. It’s hard not to preach when you get
older,” Lewis, now 64 told his audience. He got that right. Amidst the crude jokes
and gestures literally below the belt, Lewis did have a point to make: this culture
– our society – should be more civil.

Lewis’ message echoed a theme of a recent community conversations program
featuring a distinguished panel of journalists which took place in the Fat Cat Pie
Company Wine Room on Wall Street here. The panel included Froma Harrop,
a nationally syndicated columnist and president of the Association of Opinion
Journalists; Jerrod Ferrari, co-managing editor of the Hour; and Thomas Mellana,
editorial writer for the Stamford Advocate. Tad Diesel, director of Business
Development for the city of Norwalk served as moderator.

Hosts and sponsors for the event included Norwalk 2.0, a community
development advocate, REd APPLES, a grassroots non-partisan community
coalition organized around improving Norwalk Public Schools, the Hour, Stamford
Advocate/Greenwich Time, Norwalk Education Foundation, Norwalk Public

Library and Fat Cat Pie Company.

The panelists addressed the dilemma facing the media, especially journalists
today with the Internet. Journalists want to encourage community involvement
and discourse without opening the floodgates to rude, crude, unwelcomed
anonymous commentary that occurs today online. There will always be a place
on the Web where people can speak anonymously, but not on media web sites,
say these journalists. Yet, this is exactly what is happening with editors making
decisions to allow anonymous comments, a practice that does not take place in
print journalism.

The anonymous comments, the emails, the blogging may well indeed have
their benefits, but these forms of commentary allow a freedom with no rules or
consequences. It is civility run amok.

Commenting privately John Reilly of the Hour said people who co9mment
anonymously online “pay no price. There are no consequences. “It’s running
wild.” Reilly summed p the issue when he noted, “When you have something to
say, you should attach your name to it.”

I couldn’t help but think about civility during a recent visit to Long Island where I
lived during my formative years. I take my car on the ferry to avoid some of the
incivility I know I will face once my car leaves the ferry. Sure enough. I have to put
myself into an entirely new mindset. These are not Connecticut roads and these
are not Connecticut drivers. I don’t know which drivers are worse: New York, New
Jersey or Massachusetts, but I am beginning to think all these years traveling from
one of these states to the other, that New York has the most uncivil drivers. I just
don’t understand the reason why they will not let a driver change from one lane
to another. They will fight you to the very last inch before vehicle contact. It’s
either give it up or have an accident.

The speed is another issue. When I merge onto one of the parkways or from one
parkway to the other I feel as if I am a Nascar driver whose car has just gone into
the pit for a tire change and is now returning to the speedway. I must quickly
pick up steam as I travel parallel to the pack and then quickly merge into the

lane before the end of the access lane. “Please God let me do this.” Once in the
right lane my next obstacle is merging from the Northern State Parkway to the
Meadowbrook and then the Grand Central without finding myself in the lane
heading onto the Long island Expressway which is not my goal.

As I’m driving, I’m thinking, how in the world did I ever drive these roads,
especially when I was nine months pregnant driving a MG sports car –
commuting between an apartment in Queens and my teaching job on Long Island.
Now a grandmother, I still wonder how will I continue to travel these roads to visit
family and friends. 

© Copyright 2012 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.