There is much talk today about civility and the lack thereof in America, as if this is a plague suddenly sweeping the nation.

The fact is Americans have been notable for their lack of manners for some time and there’s a reason for the phrase “The Ugly American.” Taken from the book of the same name, it’s a pejorative used to highlight our lack of civility abroad. It now seems we’ve become rather notorious at home as well.

There’s nothing sudden about it.

Defined as formal politeness and courtesy in speech, respect and gentlemanliness, Americans have been less than courteous almost since the day they arrived. From the moment they settled in — that first Thanksgiving aside — they disrespected the indigenous, other colonial powers including their own — the Boston Tea Party was no civil discourse — other races and those of different religious beliefs. According to Colonial Williamsburg Journal, the Quakers were targeted with particularly uncivil treatment, banished from their fellow colonists with any return likely to cost them their ears, among other things.

Our early statesmen, admirable as they were in their philosophy of government, were less than cordial to one another. Despite Thomas Jefferson’s warning that, “The more compromise we can find, and the more civility and harmony between us, the likelier we are to prevail as a great nation,” fellow politicians Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton went at it in a duel over a perceived insult.

Nor did it end there. Eventually Americans became so completely uncivil, the two halves of the country took up arms against each other for several years.

That’s why we call it the Civil War.


Patricia Gannon covers society for The Acadiana Advocate.  She can be reached at Fete@theadvocate.com.

Les Vues

Filmmaker-lawyer Alan Durand presented his film “Willie Francis Must Die Again” to a select audience at the Vermilionville Performance Center. Part of Les Vues, a series of features, documentaries, student films and shorts with cultural themes, “Willie Francis” documents the ordeal of the 16-year-old African-American from St. Martinville forced to undergo execution a second time when the first attempt was unsuccessful. It has won numerous film festival awards including a Social Justice Documentary award at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. Among the art house audience was United Way’s Elsa Dimitriadis and Nary Smith Sr., currently petitioning the St. Martinville City Council to change the name of Randolph Street to Willie Francis. Durand’s other film credits include “The Cajun Navy.” He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

All the Presidents Men

University of Louisiana at Lafayette Alumni Association past presidents gathered at City Club for a hail and farewell. ‘We’re welcoming Kyle Bacon into the ranks of past presidents, as well as incoming President Chantelle Aaron,” said Marty Audiffred. “Also offering wisdom and advice, it’s interesting.” Walking through the door was ranking man David Fisher, Gene Lognion, UL-Lafayette alumni executive director Jennifer LeMeunier and banker John Bordelon. “This is year eight for me on the board,” said Aaron, clearly ready to assume her new position. There was a moment of silence for the three past gentlemen no longer present, and then a good time was had by all.

Ici on parle français

Marylander Gregory Wood has been inducted as a Living Legend into Erath's Acadian Museum. Of Acadian and Québécois heritage on his maternal side, Wood has documented the French and Acadian experience in Maryland since 1973 and spent 40 years in foreign language instruction. He has contributed substantially to the mission of the Acadian Museum, including attending a presentation made in Washington, D.C., participating in many Acadian festivals and contributing an article for the book "Acadie Then and Now."

Une Place à la Table

And they were afraid no one would come. Guests packed the lobby at Vermilionville and spilled onto the porch for a toast to the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana's accomplishments and the opening of its Acadiana exhibition. Over 50 artists and craftsmen paid tribute to the French language, culture and Louisiana environs while the Champagne flowed along with the français. "I speak French every day of my life," said former schools superintendent and avid art collector Burnell Lemoine. The event was one of three planned for Alexandria, Baton Rouge and Lafayette to celebrate CODOFIL's 50th anniversary. A few of our favorite things — Annie Perret, model for the painting "La Femme de la Nouvelle Acadie," Claire Caffery's "Portrait de Lastie Broussard" and CODOFIL's Matt Mick, who challenged us to find French speakers "in the wild." You're on.

Murder, She Wrote

Big Brothers Big Sisters staged their Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. A two-night run of this year's theatrical, "Murder at the Pocono Royale Casino," spoofed "Casablanca" and, well, casinos. The cast of characters included a two-faced lawyer and a gold-digging ex-wife — what are the chances — and, in addition, guests gambled on silent auction items and hoped to get lucky. "Murder Mystery is one of our longest running fundraisers," said Executive Director Kalli Christ. "The proceeds go toward mentoring programs serving at-risk youth in Acadiana." Let it be noted that Brian Campbell procured the Saints helmet autographed by Drew Brees. "I'm an excellent stalker," he said. Every murder mystery needs one.