Making a face

Countenances have been much on my mind lately, thanks to the example of the Palo Alto, California, city council. Palo Alto’s Web site boasts that the city attracts “highly educated, politically aware and culturally sophisticated” residents, a fact which probably accounts for the incivility of councilors to each other. If the residents were also described as “highly spiritual, religiously aware and faithfully sophisticated,” we might expect them to be even more uncivil.

The Palo Altoans voted 9 to 0 to repeal a year-old ordinance that forbade “rude behavior and unflattering personal gestures by council members.” Now there are no longer any legal prohibitions against the use of “body language or other nonverbal methods of expressing disagreement or disgust.” No more punishment of eye-rolling, frowning or harrumphing, of offensive twitches or defensive yawns.


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