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Decorum, civility lacking in 93rd General Assembly Session

by Maylon Rice | March 3, 2021 at 10:35 a.m.

I’ve had enough! Enough of all this wanton disrespect toward each other. Enough of all the constant ugliness, all of these threats and vicious rude behavior leveled from one Arkansan to another. And, especially, I’ve had enough of all the apparent lack of decorum and civility in the Upper and Lower Houses of the Arkansas General Assembly.

What I hear (and see) from the members of both of those chambers, received from you the voters on a daily, if not dosed out hourly, is a barrage of written vitriol, in an attempt to hew out your take on legislation, Mr. and Mrs. Voter.

Well, your very bad behavior should also be called out and called upon to stop.

Once, serving in political office at the state level was an honor, a position of respect and rank afforded for standing for elective office.

Now, it is more like just a low-level task of taking a barrage of incoming ugliness in every way imaginable, all day, every day from everyone with a computer and cell phone.

Tempers are raw and bare in this session. One veteran notes the physical changes in the chambers — both the House and Senate chambers have been altered for the pandemic. There are now plastic panels everywhere, facial masks are worn (or not worn) for the protection of others and often that in itself equates into misunderstood remarks or repeating remarks again and again.

And despite all the pandemic parameters, the 93rd General Assembly, though quiet and strange in comparison to other such sessions of recent years, appears to be one rife with labile members who have simply slid off into a deep and dark cavern away from respect and decorum of the fellow members.

Twice in the state Senate, a seemingly insignificant debate dissolved into ugly, profane shouting matches.

The use of the ceremonial gavel has gone from an occasional slight rap on the marble desk, often to cajole the often less attentive senators to order, to a down-right rat-a-tat-tat like on an anvil to tame and straighten a hot piece of metal.

We now have members asking that other members who are trying to stay engaged by remote access have their microphones cut off to end debate and questioning.

And on the flip side, we see members who can and will utter direct and vile curses, indignities and snide remarks from afar outside the chambers, rather than in close personal space face-to-face, if you will, to each other.

Again this has GOT TO STOP.

The public, led by a degeneration of respect by its national leaders on the non-stop medium of television and the internet, has not helped this vile suggestion to the public to simply disrespect its lawmakers.

This rudeness is more than just calling out legislators for not voting the way that the constituent perceives the elected solons should vote. The level of the ugliness escalated to the calling of individuals and use of emojis of flaming brown piles of poo, or a GIF on the worst taste possible, to downright tohubohu.

And for those a long way from the well-worn Merriam-Webster around your house — “tohubohu” — means a state of utter confusion.

Not only can those who want to criticize the solons hide their identity behind email monikers such as [email protected], but they will also lie, and I mean that in the strongest of terms in trying to get a representative or state senator to change their vote or be criticized for their vote on a particular bill.

Case in point: Last week two very controversial bills, SB24 and HB1112, passed out of the legislature and into the governor’s office.

Both bills on the Stand Your Ground and Voter Identification were sent to the Governor. Now, this particular person does not want either bill to become law even though it has passed both chambers by a significant margin of those elected to enact laws.

While one thinks it might be time to appeal to the Governor, in a reasonable manner, here is one example of what the Governor’s office and area solons receive from the internet and can be printed in a family newspaper:

“Arkansas has become a state of hate, voter suppression and misogamy. I am tired of the extreme forces controlling our House and Senate. Both these bills will harm people in our state — now filled with Trump-inspired racism and hate. Take action!”

Take action indeed. No wonder most of it is simply deleted. One quick keystroke at a time.

^

— Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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