When Dr. Michael Mantell began a recent speeck quoting President John F. Kennedy who said, “So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof” little did he realize he’d touch the life of a mom in the audience. “Dr. Mantell, my kids are learning the worst behavior imaginable from Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and the disgusting media who drools as they continue to scream headlines that I wouldn’t have repeated when I was a child without getting slapped in the face.”
Wow. Did this open my eyes…to this column.
Celebrity trash blogger Perez Hilton, hip-hop singer Kanye West, tennis pro Serena Williams, and South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson all put civility on the media map in America years ago, each in his or her own way. Or should I say, put the lack of civility on the media map. Trump, Cruz, Clinton — what in the world are they really teaching our children?
While the media sells papers, clicks, eyes and ears with frankly disgusting salacious attention grabbing headlines, they’ve also wondered, “What happened to civility?” (USA Today), and observed, “US Lacking In Civility” (Hartford Courant) and in the Houston Chronicle: “Incivility is heard ’round the nation.” while the Washington Post claimed “Call it the Glenn Beck-ization of America or an erosion of civility.” And this is reaching back years ago. Today, it’s much worse.
Bullying, name calling, threatening behavior – we don’t accept these actions in schools and it’s hard enough for parents who are paying attention to teach their children how to behave properly. But when adults, well-known adults, role models, world leaders, act out on the world stage, it becomes even more difficult for parents to do their job.
What is going on with our increasing inability to have a conversation with each other without screaming, vilifying, threatening, protesting, and boycotting?
Apologies or no apologies, explanations and rationalizations aside, it’s just plain wrong, and many are commenting on it. If you followed Facebook or Twitter as I have, you can’t help but be impressed by how many have simply expressed that they are fed up with this type of boorish, divisive, immature and out-of-control behavior.
You don’t humiliate a beauty pageant contestant and call her a “dumb b*tch.” You just don’t publicly call the President of the United States a “liar” while in a joint session of Congress. You just don’t steal someone’s shining moment at an awards ceremony and say that someone else’s achievement was better. You don’t threaten a judge at a sporting event with profanity. You don’t post suggestive pictures of one’s wife even if you are hoping to beat him in the race for President – even if it was your PAC and you “had nothing to do with it.”
Was Samuel Johnson correct when he posited (not posted), “When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency”?
I don’t believe so and Lizzy Post, great-granddaughter of Emily Post and a senior member of the Emily Post Institute, also doesn’t think he was right, “I don’t think society is coming off the rails,” she once observed.
There has always been rude behavior in our midst, but it seems to me that the media’s glaring obsession, their handwringing, their loud drum beat about who said what about who, is what is new. When President Bush years ago was booed loudly by the audience at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, or when Senate Marjority Leader Harry Reid a long while ago called Bush a “liar” and a “loser,” we didn’t see discussion of the demise of manners in America. Ted Cruz slams Obama’s foreign policy – doesn’t comment, but “slams.” John Kerry calls the GOP campaign rhetoric and “embarrassment.” Seriously? Hillary Clinton called the Republican rhetoric has never been lower. And on and on it goes. And I haven’t even mentioned Trump.
Perhaps an older Wichita Falls Times Record News headline says it best: “If civility isn’t dead, it’s definitely on a respirator.”
I’m concerned about health care reform. But I believe we need to be equally, if not more, concerned about HEALING. Do we need a day of healing in America? A chance to stop, reflect on the divisiveness, the rudeness, the lack of respect we hold for each other?
When children get off course in their road to civility, parents need to redirect them to be more kind, considerate and caring of all children. We need to do the same thing for ourselves as adults. Specific civility concepts that parents can teach children are:
- Teaching children about multicultural tolerance and acceptance.
- Assisting children to care about others because it brings them meaning rather than expecting anything in return.
- Involving children in public service, for example, at a children’s hospital.
Instructing children to respect older citizens by volunteering at independent living facilities.
Drawing awareness to common courtesies, such as introducing oneself, shaking hands with others, and thanking people for doing kind gestures for them.
Coaching children to share and play cooperatively with others.
Working with children to learn to respect and assist those who are disabled or have learning limitations.
Parents must make an effort to demonstrate through word and action what civility exemplifies. And this is where healing America comes into play. Civility is not dead in our country. The media insures that we cannot escape examples of what happens when it rears it’s ugly head. No handwringing, tears, whining, bemoaning or folding up the flag yet. How about taking the 7 concepts above and applying them to ourselves as adults?
Along the way, here are some simple tips for parents to share with their children to insure they are teaching manners and civility:
Remember to say “please” and “thank you” for everything. Those two words are the stepping-stones of manners.
Speak to people respectfully. Keep your tone positive and upbeat, and phrase your words so they do not come off as insulting.
Listen to others. It’s proper manners to listen to when people are speaking. Let them know with a nod of the head or other body language that you are indeed listening.
Shake hands with people you meet for the first time. This shows you’re friendly and respectful.
Consider other’s feelings by being receptive to their thoughts and opinions without forcing your own upon them. Being rude to someone shows you lack manners.
Accept others for who they are even if you don’t agree with them or their decisions. Accept apologies from people who offer them; it’s the polite thing to do.
Imagine that world. It is the responsibility of all of us in charge of children to make sure that the world of our children’s future is more civil than the world in which we currently live. Especially the world over this past couple of years, and on until, and likely through, the next Presidential election.