When did our society become so rude? When did the f-bomb become an acceptable adjective as opposed to a means to reinforce something truly remarkable? When did it become acceptable to air your dirty laundry in public or to curse out a stranger?
Yes, even in small town America—communities that were once prized for their close knit attributes—people are becoming more and more self-centered and downright spiteful. People cursing a litany of profanities in the presence of adults and children alike; one shopper shouting at another for inadvertently knocking a cart into the her; even a drunk adult pulling a gun in a local grocery store accusing another man of ‘eyeing’ his daughter. Yes, those are just a few of the things that have actually happened in our rural community lately. When did we become so tolerant of this behavior?
I was raised in this small town community, by working class parents who struggled to give us the best foundation in life. Parents who taught us to respect our neighbors of every creed and color and who instilled in my sister and me the importance of independence and self-reliance as women. Parents who taught my brother to share the same respect for female members of society as for his male counterparts. And, gratefully, taught us all about good manners and how to maintain a positive reputation for ourselves. Today my parents are in their very old age and they are appalled at what we are becoming. Younger people who talk like they were raised in a gutter and show no respect for themselves, let alone their family, friends and neighbors. Or even worse, adults who are behaving in this fashion, often in the presence of children and the elderly. When did all of this become ‘OK’?
Personally, I no longer like to go out by myself although I used to very much love shopping alone. For one thing, my own mouth may borrow trouble as I have been known to tell off more than one person for loud expressions of a vulgar tongue in public places. Now I have to worry about being shot down in the aisles for opening my mouth. And yet, if we do not step up and set an example to these people who will? Who will intervene when there is a man hitting a woman in the parking lot of the mall? Who will object to the racially charged joke at the dinner party? Who speaks up for those who cannot? That someone used to be me. Now I have to fear for my own safety in my own society. But I am who I am and I cannot let go of my nature. And my nature is, generally speaking, a polite one.
I believe in treating all people with courtesy and respect. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are necessary commodities in my language. Reaching out a hand to someone is a requirement not an option. Doing the right thing when no one is looking is a mandate not an elected choice. Watching how I speak to people, how I present myself and praising the good in others is more than a motto, it is a way of life. Courtesy shows not only a respect for your fellow citizens, it shows respect and love for yourself.
I do not know when these notions of respect went to the wayside in favor of a rude and sometimes even hostile public but, it has happened in my half decade of living and we do not have far to fall before we reach the very bottom of the social trenches. How do we rectify the situation? When our own leaders talk in schoolyard vulgarities and treat women and minorities like disposable trash, it is hard to keep up the energy and momentum to do the right thing and say the right thing. But I will keep doing my best to be better than those people who want to pull my community down. I will do my best to set the example of what a civilized woman and upstanding citizen should strive to be. Not just in rural America but in all of American and beyond.
Being polite takes nothing away from you and may mean everything to someone else. Expressing courtesy tells the world you care as much for yourself as you do for others. Expecting those around you to express themselves and behave themselves in a civilized fashion allows everyone the opportunity to live without fear or offense. No one is hurting me by living as they choose, just as our nation’s founders expected. Living with an open heart and a kind demeanor helps me to live the life my parents fought for; the life of America’s dream that lives for every single person. Not just every person in America, but every person who dreams of making democracy their own. Let us restore our communities to the kind of society everyone wants to flock to again: A positively polite society that we can all claim as our own.