Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

Kanye West, Serena Williams, Joe “You lie” Wilson: A Trifecta of Public Figure Tantrums

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is obsolete.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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posted September 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm

My mother used to say that the most interesting part of any sentence is what comes after “but” or “and besides.”

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Thom Hunter

posted September 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm

My four sons and my daughter are all young adults now. I’m really glad they had plenty of distractions growing up — church, sports, arts, reading, cars — that they spent their time on rather than listening to the emptyheaded celebrities who, for some odd reason, grew up in the same time frame but became completely self-indulgent. People like Kanye and Serena become less and less interesting everytime they project their lack of manners and inaibility to cope into the spotlight. That’s what the mute button is for. Are there really children who see these people and want to grow up to be like them?
Fortunately, most children growing up in the real world have ample examples around them of civil people, some of them too polite to point out that the media is shining spotlights on spoiled brats who need to spend a little more time in someone else’s shadow. Their apologies should be accepted, but we should be looking for evidence that they learned from their lapses.
Thom Hunter

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posted September 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Wow, Hillary, you’ve perfectly summed up exactly what I think has gone wrong in American culture, namely solipsism. We’ve all been told we’re all unique and special for so long that now a days no one thinks that anything is important but themselves.
Respect for others, for your neighbors? That might get in the way of playing my music as loud as I want and throwing all those parties.
Obeying those pesky traffic laws and driving in a way that’s even somewhat sensible? Sorry, I have somewhere to get to fast, so I can’t be bothered with obeying the law.
Not bulldozing over people and killing them when Wal-Mart opens for that huge holliday sale? Sorry, I need that $5 DVD player (or whatever is the big item) so you’ll just have to get out of my way or be crushed to death.

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Hillary Fields

posted September 15, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Kauko – “Solipsism” – yes! That’s exactly it. Wish I had thought to use the word.

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posted September 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm

People choose to respect or to disrespect if they have an IQ that isn’t questionable. Chris Matthews on Msnbc said today what I’ve been saying for days, that Wilson knew exactly what he was doing and knew what the results would be. To me that was that he was the star for his party for the evening, and the media would run with it and it would interrupt the Presidents Address to Congress and to the Nation, not just that evening but for days following. The Republicans play a well-thought out game all the time, we should all be aware of it by now. If Joe Wilson had scramed out anything when he was an officer in service to anyone above him in rank his apology would not have been accepted, he would have been court martialed! He should consider himself lucky that all he’s getting is censoring him for speaking out in a Congressional Address by the President; the only Representative that has been admonished in 122 years. Well we all have to be remembered for something, I guess.

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posted March 1, 2011 at 9:34 am

Hello. And Bye.

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posted March 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Hello. And Bye.

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