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A Historical Round Table On Civility
by Jon Sindell

Moderator: Welcome to today’s edition of Historical Round Table, where influential figures past and present discuss timeless topics. Our panelists today are Abraham Lincoln, a former president; Mark Twain, a humorist; William Shakespeare, a playwright; SumSicChick, a modern American slam poet, activist, and hella influential thought leader who has more than 3,700 followers; and ChunxForBreakfast, a YouTube sensation.

Our topic today is Civility. Suppose we begin with Mr. Lincoln. Mr. President—

Lincoln: Now, Mr. Prescott, there’s no need for formalities. Just plain “Abe” will do. I’m sure you’ll remember that our first president, Mr. Washington, eschewed all high-falutin’ incidents of office.

SumSicChick (peering at Lincoln): SMH.

Lincoln (with warm, befuddled smile): I beg your pardon, miss. SMH?

SumSicChick: OMG! Get a clue!

ChunxForBreakfast (talking behind hand): Ape Breath.

Lincoln (chuckling): I must confess, your contemporary vernacular makes me feel like the near-sighted snake who fell in love with a rope. OMG?

SumSicChick (rolling eyes): OMG! Oh! My! God!

Lincoln (pointing at face with a self-deprecating grin): Miss, I ask you. In a year of Sundays, could you ever conceive of this craggy relief map of a face as our Lord’s countenance?

SumSic: No, because I “can’t conceive“ of any man at all being the face of Our Goddess. If there is one.

Lincoln: I have faith not only that the Almighty exists, but that His judgments are altogether righteous and true.

SumSicChick: You’re such a patriarch!

Lincoln (humbly bowing): Thank you. You know, in my time, many charitably called me Father Abraham, though I’m sure I did not merit the epithet. The fact is, many called me much worse.

SumSicChick: SMDH

Lincoln (chuckling): I think I begin to grasp the tenor of the time. Brevity is the soul of wit, as the great bard said. Is it not so, Mr. Shakespeare?

Shakespeare (bowing head with dignified modesty): “... and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes...” Of course, Polonius was a tedious old fool.

SumSicChic: Old fool, that’s the point! And dead is old! And here I sit in hell, surrounded by dead white males!

Twain (eyes twinkling, pointing with cigar): As you can see, young lady, the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Shakespeare (dipping quill pen): Zounds, sir, that’s good! I am sure you have observed that great writers steal. 

Twain: No need to steal, sir. If you like it that much, it’s yours.

SumSicChic: Ugh! Do you dead white men even realize how irrelevant you are, how toxic and ... just ... ugh!

ChunxForBreakfast: mimes dying of asphyxiation, rolls onto floor.

Shakespeare: In my age, such a knavish affront would beget a duel.

SumSicChick: In your age, toxic masculinity was accepted.

ChunxForBreakfast sits up and rings bell.

Shakespeare: In my age, the man who let his beard be pulled would oft lose his purse and gain cuckold’s horns.

Lincoln: In my day, the fear of becoming a rapier’s pin cushion would muzzle many an unwise gibe.

Shakespeare: ‘Reputation, reputation, reputation.’ ‘Who steals my purse steals trash, but he that filches from me my good name ... makes me poor indeed.’ Is it not so, sir?

Lincoln: Iago spoke the truth, Mr. Shakespeare, though his character was akin to that of the snake I have mentioned. But can anyone tell me how one guards that most precious bauble, reputation, in today’s world?

ChunxForBreakfast: Yelp!

Twain: That man reminds me of the old hound dog that climbed into a barrel of tar thinking it was molasses.

Moderator: I perceive an implicit consensus emerging that civility is linked to preserving one’s reputation.

Lincoln: Insofar as the judicious restraint of rash speech is intertwined with civility, I believe you stand on solid ground.

SumSicChick (checking phone): No, actually, 745 people thumbed up my statement that your f&*in* *#^*** about civility is a tool of oppression to maintain your patriarchal white hetero-normative power.

ChunxForBreakfast (checking phone): And my live stream shows mega likes for my take on civility, which is basically this: (emits sustained rumbling flatulence)

Lincoln: Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Twain, may I offer you gents a ride back back to the past? It would appear that our time here is done.

Twain: In more ways than one, sir. (flicking cigar ash into ashtray of history). In more ways than one.