Everyday Ethics

Paddy and I thought we’d toss in our two cents on the whole
civility debate. After all, we’d hardly be an “Everyday Ethics” blog if we didn’t
have an opinion on everyday cultural behavior trends. So here goes.

Hillary: The
country’s buzzing with the news. The blogosphere is awash with disapproval. We’re
all aghast: People are being rude! In public! In outlets and in settings where
they’d only ever been moderately inappropriate before! Our culture is farkakte,
we’re all going down the tubes.

Yeah, I think that’s about right.

Now, I feel that others in other forums have said
it better
. They’ve certainly made
more passionate arguments
than I’m capable of penning on the subject of our
declining moral values. Here on this humble lay-person’s blog, I’ll just add
this: I think in these last couple generations, we’ve been indulged a lot by
parents who’ve told us our every last brain-dropping was worth hearing. And
that we have a right to be heard first,
because we’re special, precious, and wonderful. So, nobody else deserves
especial respect, because, well, we
have a thought, and we want to share!
How dare anyone else cross us, get in our way, or even make the mistake of
doing their jobs, speaking their mind, or accepting an award? Even if they’re
the President, a line-judge whose job
it is to make calls, or a totally baffled performer on a stage you just happen
to want to upstage, these days many of us seem to think respect
is obsolete. Sure, there’s that old saw about “respect has to be eaaaarned,” but how can it be earned if
you won’t shut up long enough to listen to what the person has to say?

I like my pet theory about this generational disconnect. It makes a certain amount of sense to me. I grew up with a lot of these “masters of the universe” types who were handed the world on a silver platter and have used that platter to whack other people over the head ever since. However, I’m not sure we can apply my amateur psychology to Joe Wilson, who not only is of a prior generation than the Kanyes and the Serenas of the world, but also was a military man, and ought to have had at least some discipline drummed into him during his years of service. For him, the incivility displayed seems to come from a deeper place. Racism? Maybe. It’s been argued, certainly. But I say, you can’t go wrong guessing politics. Who knows what new moral depths a politician will plumb in service of his reelection campaign?


Paddy: On another note, you know what continues to amaze me in the ongoing dialogue about this trifecta of disrespect? The justifications and rationalizations and comparisons by those doing the pontificating and analyzing and commenting.

What I dislike even more than showing disrespect is the art of making excuses. I liken it to my 7-year-old self who, when being punished for whatever crime, could not seem to stop herself from whining and tattling on her big brother, “But HE hit me fiiiirst!” The inevitable reply from our beleaguered mother was, “Does that make it okay for you to hit him then? No.”

So what’s with the, “McEnroe always did it,” and “The left always booed Bush”? Even those who don’t necessarily condone the behavior of Wilson, Williams, and West seem unable to stop comparing it to another’s behavior as a means of justification.

Bad behavior isn’t a scorecard – we need to quit muddying up what happened with what has happened before. I’m not saying we need to disregard precedent and history; however, surely there is a line between learning from the past and using it to make whiney excuses.

Grow up, people, I say. Bring back the age of the sincere, forthright apology that does not end with “but” as a transition into excuse-making.

What do you-all think, folks? Are we all just a bunch of hopeless rabble, or can we regain our respect for one another? And if so, how? (Beliefnet’s got some new features on teaching kids respect, by the way, if you want to check them out.)

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