Throughout its' short history, this nation has undergone periods of extreme polarization. We all know this. The Civil War is probably the best example, when the war of words really became a shooting war. The present however, is something we can actually observe and, make no mistake, an ugly atmosphere surrounds us both politically and culturally. Who among us hasn't witnessed the lack of civility celebrated in nearly all forms of media in the U.S.? From the unreal behavior on "reality" television; the ugly hostility and revenge promoted in films; the hyper-competitiveness acted out on our highways; the road rage; line cutting; flaming on the internet; and the kind of hostility displayed by so-called Tea Party activists towards anyone who disagrees with them, all of these and more are indicators of a society in decline.
So, where does a sense of honor fit into this sorry picture? Sadly, the concept of honor has often been manipulated for personal or political purposes. This may have been going on for a very long time, but for the purposes of this writing it may be most useful to focus on contemporary distortions of honorable thinking and behavior. First however: define your terms! Webster's defines honor as "that which rightfully attracts esteem, respect, or consideration; self-respect; dignity; courage; fidelity; especially, excellence of character; high moral worth; virtue; nobleness". Do any of those terms apply to the behavior noted above? I don't think so!
It may take a little courage to scream and threaten one's perceived opponents in public, say at town meetings or on the street; and one may have fidelity with a given cause and one's allies, but having just those two traits and none of the others hardly qualifies as being honorable. No, an honorable person displays respect for others, even if he or she disagrees with their beliefs. It may be considered corny in an age of alleged sophistication, in a time where clever one-liner put-downs are viewed as enhancing one's own image, but having a sense of honor and honoring others regardless of differences makes for a better functioning society.
Real honorable behavior, not just wrapping one's self in the flag and spinning accolades to say the troops or first responders (while supporting policies that may be detrimental to them), is what we should expect from those we send into government to do the work of managing society. There's not a whole lot of that going on these days, especially among the rightwing in this nation. On a personal level, members of both parties in congress have shown an increasing degree of dishonorable behavior, but on a policy level it is the Republican party that has brought dishonor upon themselves and this nation.
Revisit those terms for honor above. Do the policies promoted by rightwingers in Washington seem to apply? Where's the virtue and high moral worth of continuing to enrich the already obscenely wealthy while cutting back on Social Security and Medicaid? Where's the dignity in insulting the President or other Democrats, in lying about their beliefs or positions on any given issue? Ask yourself if so-called conservatives are displaying excellence of character. They are not, and in not doing so they dishonor this nation.