Is it possible anymore for Americans to agree to disagree agreeably? In recent years cursing and name-calling have been displacing honorable discussions of honest differences.
Last year, for instance, U.S. Sen. "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., received very little criticism (except from his political opponents) for calling his GOP challenger, "a G-- d--- skunk."
Maybe this is why Dick Harpootlian, the Palmetto State's Democratic Party chairman, didn't believe there was anything particularly wrong last week in calling House Republicans, "those sons of b-----s."
Then when angry House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, took Harpootlian to task for his vile language, the Democrat chieftain semi-apologized for "distracting the debate" about education reform. But he couldn't resist unleashing another expletive, this time calling House Republicans "bastards."
School children, on a field trip to the state capital to study how their government works, were exposed to some of this foul language even as it was being deplored. What an educational experience that must have been.
The lesson for children, as well as adults, is that the coarsening of our language, culture and political discourse is a relatively recent phenomena that began with the "anything goes" '60s mindset during the Vietnam war.
We should not be surprised that people in their youth who carried profanity-laden placards denouncing the motives of two U.S. presidents while celebrating a vicious mass-murderer like Ho Chi Minh have grown into middle age with little concept of civility or tolerance for views counter to their own.
But future generations of young people can be taught that cursing, name-calling and intolerance have not always been the nation's norm. We are not so cynical as to think it's too late to restore to our culture a healthy measure of civility and respect for others.