I don’t know anything about her. I don’t know if she was polite or smart or kind. I only know that she was a nine-year-old girl whose life was cut short because of hatred.
I concluded my last column with a wish for a well mannered, civil 2011. And, so far what 2011 has given us is a horrible shooting of American citizens and leaders engaged in the democratic process.
The Arizona sheriff said that the viciousness of the current political world has helped to create a climate of turmoil, hate and prejudice. While this particular incident cannot be pinned on the remarks of any one particular politician, the shooting in Arizona on the 8th was the work of a troubled and unstable mind, period, we have to take a long hard look at the society in which that mind was allowed to fester.
The sheriff was correct in his remarks that the vitriol of the current political climate has fostered hate and prejudice, and the 24-hour media have done an amazing job using his remarks as an excuse for digging up and replaying ad nauseum every negative and inflammatory comment made by every politician and political commentator in recent memory.
Apparently if we want more civil discourse, if we want leaders who will quit talking and start working—together—and media who will cease to glom onto the most negative things they can find to report, then We, The People, will have to lead by example.
Here is what I propose: a return to civility, and I propose that we start with manners. It seems a shallow proposal in light of the fact that so many have lost their lives. But, maybe just maybe, if we can stop yelling at each other long enough, we can find the common ground to get some good accomplished.
Try this: The next time you attend or watch a sporting event, don’t “boo” the opposing team. Cheer for your team, but don’t cheer against the opponent. Don’t call the referee or umpire “stupid” or “blind” no matter how bad the call. Instead treat the other guy with respect, deference, kindness, even mercy. And if you are the host team, welcome the opponent to your home arena, don’t be rude. Walk the mile in the other person’s shoes.
Or try this: Make an effort to say “yes, please”, “no thank you” and “may I” in your every day conversation. Eliminate phrases like “gimme”.
When you don’t understand someone, instead of “huh?”, say “pardon” or “excuse me.” And if someone holds a door open for you, say “thank you.” And if someone says, “thank you”, take the time to say “you’re welcome.” Don’t just grunt. Please, don’t just grunt.
Or try this: Clean up your language. Not just profanity, but any words or phrases that are just cheap or crude sounding. Make “stupid”, “idiot”, “I’m going to kill you” and such forbidden language in your home, and treat them just like you would any of the more serious “curse words”.
Or try this: Don’t talk about other people when they aren’t present, unless it is to praise them. If you have a beef with someone, confront that person directly or don’t confront that person at all. And if you find yourself surrounded by a bunch of gossiping Gertrudes, walk away. The adage, “if you can’t find something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, will always serve you well.
Good manners—not much of a solution to offer when people have lost their lives because of hatred, but I can’t think of a better place to begin, to find common ground.
No one has a right to go through life without ever being offended, but that doesn’t mean that we should go around trying to offend. No, we should conduct ourselves in the best possible manner at all times, with kindness and mercy and goodness toward all who we meet. That sort of conduct starts first from simple good manners, because good manners force us to set our anger aside.
When we do that we will be able to sit together and solve problems of environment, energy, unemployment, healthcare, and create a world that any nine-year-old child would be delighted to grow up in.
© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.