WHY WE STARTED ‘SENSE OF DECENCY’
“… the only means of fighting a plague is — common decency.”
— Albert Camus, 1947
Sickness surrounds us. It’s more than the physical and emotional assault of the pandemic that afflicts us; we suffer daily under a spiritual assault of conflict with and rejection of those with whom we disagree. The onslaught coarsens us, wears us down, makes us reduce our enemies to something not human, but something to be ridiculed, crushed, and destroyed. And destruction begets destruction and in the end there are no winners.
We’d like to try to change that by offering here a free and respectful discussion of contemporary life, on any subject that shines a light on who we are. Common decency will be the common denominator. By decency, we mean taking the time to listen to others, seeing things through their eyes. We’ll still disagree. But we will listen to and hear those with whom we disagree and take a moment to think about their interests, their dreams, their desires. Why do they think like that? Why do we think like this? What is it we have in common with all people? How can we move forward?
If we can talk to one another rather than about one another, we may be able to look beyond our faults to find our common virtues and from there move toward a better world for all of us.
More than 65 years ago, Joseph Welch famously asked Senator Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” Should we ever be asked the same question, we hope to be able to answer in the affirmative.
— Dennis Harrod, May 2020
We’d like to help unite a divided nation
The journey to “Sense of Decency” has been an exciting one, filled with exchanges of ideas, discussions on the nature of discourse and, frankly, whether it is even worth the effort to launch this endeavor.
We think it is.
“Sense of Decency” pays tribute, of course, to the words of lawyer Joseph Welch, who 66 years ago asked Sen. Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”
Welch’s stinging rebuke of the senator (whose henchman was infamous attorney Roy Cohn) came during the character assaults on Communists and suspected sympathizers during the “Red Scare” era in the U.S. after World War II.
Welch’s words had a profound effect on the nation’s collective conscience. McCarthy was censured by the U.S. Senate and basically ostracized until his death in 1957 at age 48.
As serious as we are about the future of our democracy and the divided nature of our country in 2020, we managed some light-hearted moments bringing the website to life — especially in coming up with a domain name.
We searched everything from inauguration speeches to famous quotations to song lyrics and poetry. The quote by Mr. Welch worked its way to the top.
Runner-up domains fell by the wayside either because they were already taken, ambiguous, obscure, outrageously expensive or, honestly, “looked funny” with no spaces between the words.
Here are some of the (.com only) possibilities we tried:
FreeToDisagree; TheseAreTheTimes; WithAllDueRespect; ThePerilousTimes; StubbornThings; AfterTheFall, and InkStainedWretches — already taken or too pricey.
What’s a domain name cost? $9,888 for AnyLastWords; $18,880 for OnSecondThought; $50,000 each for NothingToLose and FreedomOfSpeech.
The most expensive one we found (surely some are higher) will give old newspaper people a surge of nostalgia and pride, along with shock:
AboveTheFold.com — $594,888.
We seriously considered a name honoring Diogenes, the Greek cynic philosopher said to have roamed Athens with a lantern searching for an honest man. Diogenes was known for his simple way of living and irascible demeanor. (Among a list of anecdotes from the University of Chicago: Alexander the Great once came upon Diogenes sunning himself and offered to grant him any request. “Stand out of my light,” Diogenes replied.)
We toyed with DiogenesGotLost; WaitingforDiogenes; DiogenesIsTired, and a few others, but they seemed too obscure. As a consolation, we have appointed Diogenes our official muse.
We almost went with variations of OurBestShot or OurLastChance, but ultimately we decided on the aspirational SenseOfDecency rather than anything “desperational.”
We’ll do our best to ensure the site lives up to its name.
— Jim McKeever, June 2020