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Mind Your Manners

7 Feb

Assemble a large group of people together in one location and watch the displays of manners.  At times when my awareness is heightened, I ask myself, are things really this bad? Are people, young and old, really this rude — and must we tolerate these behaviors in our schools? 

Could it be that I am alone in thinking that manners, those cultural and behavioral norms of the past, are irrelevant for today? Has neo-American culture replaced politeness, neatness, wholesome language in public and even chivalry? Have we encouraged our next generation to practice boorishness and crudeness?

I am curious as to when things changed enough to tolerate the wearing of baseball-type caps inside of buildings, in restaurants and in school classrooms?  Also, would someone tell me why T-shirts and bare feet are allowed on golf courses? I have seen my share of each of these. 

Where are manners, these days?  When people burp, others think it’s funny. Children scream in stores and are allowed to roam freely.  Are we teaching our young people to think of anyone but themselves?  Are families so stressed out that precious little time is spent actually drawing contrasts in culture for children? 

Has anyone else noticed fewer and fewer people actually hold doors open for others?  What about the phrases, “Excuse me,” “Thank you” and, “You are welcome?” Apparently, these phrases are becoming parliamentary dinosaurs.  Also, few people return lost items to those whom they know, let alone to strangers. If they do return an item at all, most people feel entitled to lift anything of value, because of their “good deed” as some jaded “finders-keepers, losers-weepers” notion.

Do parents really want their young people filling their minds with abusive talk about women, especially preached by today’s rappers? When was the last time we looked into the music downloaded on our child’s computer, on his or her iPod or CDs? I am sad to report that any manners and respect we might be teaching are probably being undone by other forces. Are these neo-American cultural norms?

Thomas D’Urfrey, reasoned: “He that hath more manners than he ought, is more a fool than he thought.” 

I don’t agree.  All stuffiness aside, can we have a little couth please? And while we are at it, might we add a little more of the Golden Rule? 

“Do unto others as we would have them do unto us” seems to have changed meanings today. The current meaning reads more like “Do unto others before they do unto you.” I could be wrong, but the general sense among today’s students is that self is held in higher esteem than the feelings of others. How about a little common good?

Ralph Waldo Emerson noted: “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” I think Emerson was onto something. What is sacrificed by not burping loudly in a restaurant?  Who is a loser by allowing someone to select a food item first, or check out first at a store? The incivility of some adults at sporting events, fundraisers and various competitions indicate that lack of manners is not endemic only to young people.  Add alcohol to the mix and things get worse.  If parents, teachers, coaches and other adults do not model acceptable, positive manners, where can we expect the younger generation to learn them? Seriously, what is lost by wearing a belt, pulling up one’s sagging pants, or speaking without profanity?

Now where do we place the blame for what many see as a breach of manners in our culture today?  We would all like to pin it on one group or another, and maybe some of that might be justified. However, there is no discounting the reality that there just seems to be a spirit of rudeness that stretches across our culture. 

So here’s the challenge: How do we correct ill-mannered behaviors? Specifically in schools, do we simply overlook the profanity? Do we allow students to be on their cell phones or listen to their iPods in class — both of which are in violation of school rules?

Should schools teach manners directly and positively, or indirectly as a corrective measure when a young person gets out of line? Manners, like character and morality, are best discussed at times when openness and peace exist. There is a greater acceptance in times of peace. These are what educators call “teachable moments” and they exist for us all. Teachable moments must begin at early ages and be practiced consistently and from within the fabric of the family. But difficulty exists there, too, when standards of behavior on weekends differ from weekday standards.

In closing, where can we look for help? Is it the media? Schools? The entertainment industry? 

Certainly, we can continue to blame the traditional whipping posts. There are no easy pinpoints on this one. But we can begin to shape the world one person at a time.  Answers do lie in the possibilities of all of our cultural agencies working together. But we must ask:  Is it possible that the cultural wealth of America’s past can once again become valuable over the present culture of selfishness and material wealth?

Have We Lost Our Minds? (Warning, Graphic)

20 Jan

The title, alone, of this blog might imply something that I do not mean for it to imply.  But really, can I control that?  Should I always be on the lookout for words and phrases that are metaphorical, allegorical, humorous, and even a bit sarcastic?  Do I have to have government to police my every word?

Some of the words that follow might offend someone just because they appear in digital form.  But put away your political correctness for a second and pretend you are reading your favorite novel, or watching Chris Rock.  If anyone is offended because I argue for these specific words not to appear in texts, and ask for them to be stricken from literature, then you are missing the point.  Be warned the following is very graphic.

If we are about policing what is in literature, then please ban Toni Morrrison’s The Bluest Eye.  It is vile and full of racial epithets, including the portrayal of a black man who rapes and molests children.   This book was on the California recommended reading list for high schoolers in literature class.  If the censor police get their way, then I hope they strike out all offensive terms, including:  “white boy,” “honky,” and “cracker” that appear in them.  I do not care, then, what the historical context is.  It’s the same with the words “negro” and “nigger.”  Words like “mick,” “dago,” “whop,” “chink,” “gook,”  and all sorts of other very hurtful derogatory words should then be removed from all literature and people should be punished for using them.  [Side note:  What is strange is that many of these slang terms show up as valid words on a spell checker]

Any word that connotes anything against one’s race, or ethnicity, or nationality should then be banned from use and people using them should be disciplined.  But wait a second.  Do you agree with this?

Can’t I, as an Italian, refer to my goombah as a “dago,” or a “guinea”?  What if he is acting retarded?  Am I not able to use that term?  Is it not acceptable for Blacks to use the term “niggaz” within a racial clique?  What about homosexuals referring to each other as “queer,” or saying, “You’re so gay!”  Folks let me in on a little secret.  The answer to the blog question posed above is “Yes!”  We have certainly lost our minds.

Allow me to move from one facetious discussion to another.  What in the world is going on with the First Amendment police in this nation.  Are we really not allowed to use terms like “Crosshairs?”  Should David Bowie change his name?  What about U2, that Cold War relic?  For crying out loud, I have crosshairs in my telescope and binoculars.  Does that mean someone is going to beat a NASA official over the head with a refractor?  Do we have to worry about a terrorist attack upon Griffith Observatory?

I drove my wife to Target the other day.  Oh my goodness!  I wrote the word “Target.”  Someone might think I am talking about guns and bullseyes.  BULLSEYES!  Oh my gosh!  How insensitive to the animal.  We should ban all references to animals.  No rabbit’s feet.  No one should come out of his or her shell.  It might be too traumatic.  PETA will sue us and then the fur will surely fly.  Oooopsie.

In politics, we cannot refer to “killing to bill,” any longer.  People might think that such incendiary rhetoric might very well place former President Clinton in harm’s way.  HARM’S WAY . . . Yikes, did I just write that?  Shoot, man!  Whoa.  I just used either a photo or gun metaphor.  We can’t take the bullet train.  Might be deemed a weapon.  If you are not aware, I have going to the gym a lot since June and now I have some serious guns.  Ooops!  Holy smoke!  Sorry Pope Benedict.  OK, how about “Holy cow!  Thanks to Phil Rizzuto, we have come to hear this in our sleep.  But we can’t use the “Scooter’s” term, because it might offend someone in India, or make a Hindu feel out of sorts, by referring to a cow.

FOLKS WE HAVE LOST OUR MINDS.  Pejorative term use does not make someone a hater.  It makes him a victim of his culture–yes, a victim!  And how could anyone, at all, hold victims accountable.  How insensitive and lacking in compassion, huh?

If that standard was applied, there goes most of all Rap music and many cable programs.  But what is fair is fair.  If one group can refer to members in its own group by terms they consider offensive when used by others, then they open the door for others to think it is all right to use as well.

So, let me ask you a question or two–and I am being serious here.  First question:  Does Tiger Woods get a pass when he uses black pejoratives with his black friends, or does he get “nailed” (uh oh!)  because he is only 1/2 Black?  He is also 1/2 Thai.  If President Obama used a racial pejorative, would he get “crucified”? (Messiah-talk)  He is only 1/2 Black as well.  Do you see the folly of all of this?  By policing everything, it has actually made things worse.  There is a double-standard in this nation.  Anyone conservative or Republican–or at least not in support of leftists–is labeled and called all sorts of vile names.  The media plays up these labels with a grin.  Yet, left-wingers get a pass, as if nothing was wrong with their words.  I have to tell you that my colleagues and I point these things out all the time.  Most students laugh and see exactly what is going on.

We make so much out of racial and ethnic nonsense.  We have so many multi-cultural and multi-racial families and marriages today, that we are so unlike the past it isn’t funny.  So, we need to relax on policing the terms and focus on underage drinking, or MTV producing kiddie porn.  You want to police something, go after MTV.  Scumbags!  Did you get what I was “aiming” at?  [Let me interpret:  “bag of scum”]

We have culture, media, literature, and political double-standards to thank for it.  We have writers, comedians, and entertainers, who think they should get a pass under the First Amendment, but the average person can’t get the same pass.  Why is that?  Answer?  We have lost our minds.  In so doing, we have lost our moral conscience as a nation.  When we are allowed to elevate anything about our oneness as Americans, we get what we deserve.

As an educator, I have to deal with so much of so-called daily cultural fallout.  Try explaining to a student why two kids can say things to each other, and nothing happens to either kid–especially when one of them is only 1/4 like the other!  Go ahead, I dare you.  Kids see through it all.

Is it racist for a Mexican student to call a non-Mexican by a Spanish slang term?  And what if the non-Mexican calls the Mexican an English slang term, and the English-speaking kid is Caucasian, or Asian?  Sheesh.  There is not even a Mexican race, yet they have racist clubs on school campuses:  LA RAZA (The Race).  Anyone want to call them out on that?  Si or no?

What about two girls talking and referring to the other as “a ho.”  This is a black term for a whore.  What about calling someone a “bitch”?  Is it all right for girls to use these terms, and not guys to use them?  Gay men are called whores, sluts, and a few other choice words–and they are using these terms toward each other.  If they call each other these words, should nothing happen?  name-calling and nicknames, cultural terms and slurs have always been around.  Use of these terms do not make a person an instant hater of an entire group of people.  It makes them stupid, boorish, and many other things.  Just by calling someone a name, like a “hater,” does not make a person a hater.  If one name-caller is wrong, so too is the retaliating name-caller.  How can they be stopped?  Government intervention?  Or people going right to labeling someone a “phobe,” or a “racist”?  We have lost our minds.

Name-calling and slurs are the basest form of hurtful terminology.  They are used by people who should learn a higher vocabulary.  These words are meant to hurt, meant to cause shock, and meant to demonstrate power.  We suffer from what I call a “retaliation ethic.”  It is what my dad phrased as, “Tit for tat.  You killed my dog, I’ll kill your cat.”  He was definitely old school.  The modern ditty goes a little like this:

“Tit for tat.”  Interpretation:  “Stop talking about my body breasts and my body art.  What are you a gawking stalker?  I will sue you for harassment.”

“You killed my dog.  I’ll kill your cat.”  Interpretation:  “Animal hater, you are!  You make Michael Vick look like a saint” (I mean Eagle).  🙂

We have lost a lot of our sense of civility because the language patrol wants to make big issues our of words.  I could go into how today’s kids have no idea the baggage that comes with terms, and how name-calling does little to educate them about the reasons why words may be hurtful.  But I won’t.  As an adult, I am not in favor of anyone telling me what words I should and should not use, because they might offend someone.  I can choose for myself to uplift people, or not.  I know what’s right and wrong and do not need the “word police” to step in to hold me accountable.  We have not only lost our minds, but we have lost our sense of playful humor, in a general sense.  All I know is that if people are willing to kill each other today over the use of one word, or the use of words that imply hunting, shooting, targeting, and the like, then families are not doing their jobs, first of all.  How is calling someone a racist going to help to stop true racism in this nation?  It is often retaliatory and meant to harm another.  Whatever happened to turning the other cheek?  Would Dr. King approve of such accusations to hurt others?

OK my fellow doofuses and dopes, I think that about says it all for tonight.  I hope you are not too stupid to catch my drift.  Hope no one was hurt by the real use of these terms as descriptors.  If you were, I will first say, “I am sorry you were hurt,” (some apology huh?)  Now shuddup!

In closing, I have to admit something.  I am an old white dude, who cannot jump, cannot dance, cannot sing, cannot do much of anything anymore.  I am old!  Uh ohhhh.  For those of you who are now getting AARP, let me put it to you this way–in all caps–so you can hear me:

CAN WE ALL LIGHTEN UP PLEASE?  [No, I am not talking about a person’s need to go on a diet.]

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