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Like civility, the latter term speaks to propriety of conduct.
Unlike civility, it carries an element of essential soulcraft to it: It goes deeper, into character more than manners.
Believe what you want to, the thinking goes, but be polite about how you express it in public; advocate separating children from parents at the border or argue for the virtues of the Confederacy with all your might, but mind your manners as you do so and you will have satisfied the all-too-frequently heard plea for civil behavior, no matter how ugly the message.
One can have heart and mind full of venom and still be civil; decency need not enter the picture.
Lose a job here, gain a pardon there: In this swirl of flying invective and free-floating rage, we’re barely talking to one another except to shout.
All this speaks to a crisis of civility, which is to say, a species of etiquette: As a civil person, I may despise the beliefs you hold, but I won’t shout, “You lie! I may not like the way you look, but I’ll reserve my comments for interior monologue.
A civil person may be a scoundrel, a decent person never so; a civil person may be a racist, a decent person not; and so forth.
Decency gauges the inherent rightness or wrongness of a thought or action, while civility is largely agnostic on such matters.
Nonetheless this enduring sense of good or appropriate and measured responses has always been constitutive of civility.
For civility brings rational method and style to contemporary discourse.