Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oh, Behave!

We seem to be living in a time of rampant rudeness. Celebrities reach new heights of publicity by digging to new lows in behavior. Politicians raise funds from their faithful by engaging in conduct that would've gotten them a stint in kindergarten "time out." Regular Joes and Janes eschew (I love the word "eschew") constructive town-hall dialogue in favor of gun-wielding scream-fests.

What would their mamas and Sunday School teachers say about this appalling lack of good old fashioned manners? I know what mine would say (as she so often did as we headed out the front door to school) "True politeness is to say the kindest things in the kindest way."

Now, no one holds the First Amendment in higher regard than Shorty PJs. But Shorty earnestly believes that Free Speech is in no way threatened by an infusion of civility and proper conduct. Please - say what you want, say what you think, but "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" at the same time. Take the high road.

But suspecting my pleas will fall upon deaf ears, I hereby recommend that we appoint a Nabob of Nice. A Queen of Serene. A Knight of Polite. Someone who can re-educate us in the simple art of polite regard for other human beings. After all, there are perfectly acceptable ways of making your voice heard in civil ways without resorting to screaming, interrupting, shoe-throwing, microphone-grabbing, or gun-totin'.

Problem is, I'm not sure how we'd choose the right person for this Manners Maven. It couldn't be through election or political appointment. Too much opportunity for corruption. Maybe we could all make nominations, then draw one name out - sort of a "Root Out The Rudeness" Lottery. We could toss in the names of mamas and daddies, teachers, or folks famous for their civilized deportment (Miss Manners and Julie Andrews come to mind). It'd be a tough job, but slowly - through much practice and perseverance - we might just turn ourselves around before we descend to the depths of snarling, animalistic behavior. Might be worth a try.

So all of you seething Joe Wilsons, Kanye Wests, Serenas, Barbara Walters, Qaddafis, and screaming citizens out there, take note. You are dragging civilization down. I order you to spend significant time each day meditating on the Golden Rule, your Scout motto, and your kindergarten rules of behavior. That way, you will make your voice heard loud and clear without resorting to rudeness. And who knows? It might just get you some publicity.

Now. Go have a cup of tea and play nice.


pannucci said...

mama always said "good manners don't cost a thing and are worth a million dollars' think about it...

Peter (the other) said...

Of course I would agree with you, but speaking of the political "protest", the superficial desire for order and "civility", can quickly mask all sorts of horribleness (as a southerner, I am sure you can understand). This would ask us to pay attention to the "pain" expressed, so as to try to judge the merits of the argument (as best as a human can) before dismissing the behavior outright.

I have personally found myself in a social setting, sharing a meal table with a person I truly believe (and others believe as well, so it is not just my personal craziness) to have committed crimes against humanity. As one whose parents taught that "one should not rest if others are oppressed", it was either sheer cowardice or too much politeness that prevented me from standing up and screaming outrage.

As much as I disagree with the position of these "teaparty" town meeting screamers, I respect both the right and responsibility to scream when I believe it is the appropriate action. Very, very few (although history gets rewritten to make everybody feel nice and comfortable, how polite) "screamed" while we killed 3.5 million Vietnamese (what is the difference in evil between 3.5 and 6 million?). And we are not doing much screaming as even our new President goes right along killing towelheads, now somewhere on the level of 1 million in the last six years (trust me, a citizen of the US is very unlikely to be able to tell the difference between an Afghani and an Iraqi, unless they served there).

Oh I'm too old and tired to scream now... say, what's on TV tonight?

MaryB said...

Pat - And your mama should know. She was a real sweetie pie.

Peter - Yes, there can be an insidiousness in politeness - or what it covers up - but I do think that there are times when decorum and dialog and real listening enable anger and frustrations to be expressed (town hall meetings, Congress) better than shouting. Save that for demonstrations, football games, war. Your dinner table experience is a good example - even if you'd let loose, vented, and yelled in protest, the other guy (if he stayed calmer and cooler) would've won the day. I do believe there are civil, constructive ways to work against real evil in the world. Shouting somebody down doesn't really accomplish a thing and often turns the tide against you.

That said, as someone who has been the screamer, I certainly understand the frustration of trying to be heard.

I'm also too old for screaming. TV sounds like a good plan . . .

MaryB said...

Peter - where are you, BTW? California? Paris? Start blogging again so that I can keep up with your extraordinary projects!

Peter (the other) said...

I am in dissertation netherworld, and have been for over a year. It is located somewhere near Vice-President Cheney's old digs... for all I know. I am in a rush to finish before my Alzheimer's has finished the last brain cell off, and thus the long time in a bunker. Uh... what were we talking about... ? Nobody sees or hears from me, except when I manage to sneak... (oh no, they're on to me... I better go.... quickly)... (shhhhh, I wasn't here, okay?)....