Windward Review


Volume 18, 2021


I don’t really know how to write this. I could start by thanking all the helpers and

contributors that made this volume outstanding. But that would be many, many thank

yous. I also had the idea of listing out all the mistakes I have made throughout this

process. This wouldn’t be hard, because I already have a list made. However, my

mantra as an editor has been one phrase: this is not about me. This volume is not about

me or the things I could have done better, it is about Civility and You.

We chose Civility and You as our theme because we wanted to document the US

election (2020) and reactions to it on a personal level. We didn’t want to highlight

divisiveness/ political polarity; we wanted to underline contrasting emotions and

tautologies, the quiet stories and intimate truths that constitute the complex

human perspective. That said, we never could have anticipated how 2020 would play

out—how a global pandemic would put our lives and our livelihoods at stake, and

how the fight for racial justice would experience its 21st century apex. But with this

backdrop of upheaval, Civility and You became a richer story than I even expected.

I know that I have already said so, but I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude towards

our contributors this year. We have all had to grapple with the abstract, untamable

nature of civility, characterizing it in our lives and hearts during these times of strife

and isolation. In juxtaposing and entangling voices together, Civility and You works

to address a universal unknown: the meaning of ‘civility’. With this publication, I

wanted contributors and readers to see value in theirs’ and others’ work that they

couldn't see before. It was in our mission that each accepted piece, as it is showcased,

would become irreplaceable and fully resonant, like the notes of a chord.

With that, I must admit, I had hoped that those responding to our call for submissions

(2020) would be stymied by the ambiguous word, ‘civility’. Because I wanted contributors

to respond intuitively rather than methodically. I was interested in the term ‘civility’ in

part because it is a word that tends to meet its opposite. Teresa Bejan wrote about this

in the book, Mere Civility (2017). In short, ‘civility’ may become ‘incivility’ when it is reduced

to the status of a social more. For example, it is often said that one ought to have

‘civility’ while speaking with someone of a different opinion than one’s own,... so as to

alleviate tension and reduce argumentation. But this ‘civility’ can also act to censor voices

and activity, maintaining social and class barriers. Thus, ‘civility’, which is meant to bring

peace and the interchanging of ideas, may bring civil unrest and oppression instead.

For ‘civility’ to capture both what it is and its opposite means that ‘civility’ is probably

a socially deterministic idea. In fact, careful readers would question my insinuation

that there is an absolute what-it-is to civility, because there may not be an

absolute definition of it. The readers of this text (writers and artists) will probably

be aware of and comfortable with this slipperiness of language. But I want to take

pause and question: what is implied by ‘civility’ being a slippery, relative term? And

why is ambiguity here both useful and also slightly unsettling (at least to me)?

For one, this 'ambiguity of civility' bears a resemblance to cultural moral relativism,

where there is no absolute ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in regards to morality, just cultural

or local experiences dictating these. I would note that cultural moral relativism is

very hard to swallow for most people. Because, think about it: do you really want

to accept that your rich sense of morality is nothing but what you’ve been taught

through cultural/ lifetime exposure? Maybe some of us are okay with this, but what

can we possibly do when there are disagreements between us? Is it simply impossible

to understand each other’s point of view, all because we are culturally dissimilar?

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