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A return to civility

Posted: Monday, Oct 28th, 2013

What has happened to common manners? I ask myself this question on nearly a daily basis.

Itís not just kids who display a lack of common courtesy, but also parents and adults in general. Sometimes I think my expectations are just too high. But when I speak with friends who complain about similar problems, then I realize it is a societal problem.

It seems as though people are so wrapped up in their rights, and their freedoms, they forget the fact that their rights end where my space begins.

I have a friend with a retail store. Recently, parents brought their children into the store and allowed them to wander freely, which would be no problem if the children respected the store.

Instead they ran amok, tearing things off shelves. My friend politely asked the parents to have their children stay with them, to which they replied, ďOh no. Theyíre OK.Ē

Donít even get me started on Walmart. I pity the employees of that store. On Friday afternoons, when students are released early from school, Walmart becomes a stand-in babysitter ó not that they asked for the job.

Kids run around, chasing one another and hiding in the racks. They talk loudly and are rude to other customers. Shopping there when the store is filled with unruly children is not on my list of things to do.

Children learn what they live. Unfortunately, children believe they have a right to act any way they please, because their parents act any way they want.

At a recent band concert, I was appalled to see parents with their smart phones, checking Facebook and watching videos while the band played on. There used to be an unwritten rule that electronic devices would be turned off during public performances, but somewhere along the way, people have decided that watching some guy do stupid tricks is more fun than watching a middle school band performance.

While the video, or Facebook, or texting may be more entertaining than watching the band, it is still distracting.

And while I appreciate witty and wry remarks just as much as the next person, when your witticisms are louder than the band, or the chorus, or the orchestra, then perhaps it is time to whisper.

I think I am ranting. Unfortunately, this is something that has been gnawing at me for sometime. It is difficult to expect better behavior from children, than is exhibited by their parents.

It is not just an Evanston problem. During a recent speech, Hillary Clinton stopped what she was saying in order to address the manners of a heckler.

While I might be inclined to want to heckle Hillary Clinton myself, I would still respect that she has a message. If I didnít want to hear her message, I would probably skip the speech entirely. I can heckle her from my home, while I watch the television.

People seem to believe that anything goes in society. Social standards of behavior have fallen by the wayside. As parents behave badly, so too do children. And if you dare publicly correct anyone, then you suddenly become the pariah.

During the recent Hallowed by History tour, a person on the tour continually made loud comments to his friend. He wasnít nearly as funny as he thought and his comments were distracting to those in attendance.

Finally, after two hours of his running commentary, I politely asked him to please be quiet, as his comments were disruptive.

Well, from the look he and his friend gave me, you would have thought I called his dog ugly, or attacked his mother. He did, however, finally stop talking. Unfortunately, the tour was over, so I didnít get a chance to see if his silence would last.

It shouldnít have to come to public humiliation, but unfortunately, that is the only thing some people seem to understand. Giving disapproving looks goes unnoticed. Quietly shushing goes unheeded. It is only when we lose our patience and ask people to please stop their behavior that they finally get the hint.

Itís too bad we canít respect common social standards. Perhaps that is the problem. Common social standards no longer exist.

People whisper in church. They talk during an orchestral performance. They text during speeches. They talk in movies. They allow their children to run around, unchecked in stores, malls and shopping areas.

Maybe that has become the social standard and I am the one with the problem.

Now that I think about it, I can see that I am the problem. I expect too much. Rather than assign myself the task of social police, I think Iíll just stay home.

And donít forget to say thank you.

Namaste, friends.

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