Civility is the buzzword of the day! Left, right and center! Bring on the guy in the sweater and the purple dinosaur. The tribalism and vitriol are heating up from all sides. A popular refrain these days is that Donald Trump is the cause of it all. Sorry, but rudeness didn’t start three years ago.
Some will point to the birth of the internet. Or, more practically, the explosion of the internet. The anonymity created by this (formerly) unique communication format produced a surprising side effect. The darker side of many people’s nature sprang forth.
I made a blog post about the phenomenon. In the way I tend to do these things. Not comprehensive, but, enough to bring the point up for discussion. Of course, it is from a blog posting time where I wrote in long sentences. So buckle up, if you decide to read it.
Obviously, rudeness was around well before the internet. But, it was trapped mostly in its own little corners. You had your local rudeness and then, occasionally, rudeness that got to you via the media.
In “those” days, that would mean TV (all of three networks) and newspapers (people read stuff back then). You only need to go back to “All in the Family” on TV every week to see rudeness has been around for a long time.
And, of course, rudeness is dopey. It adds nothing to an actual conversation. You tend to demean yourself in the process and you’ve probably done little (if anything) to change the behavior of the person you were rude to.
So, when people verbally harass someone at a restaurant to “pay them back”, that’s not heroic. That’s not even “resistance”. That’s just rudeness.
Stop, don’t give me the “I’m standing up for decency” argument. Even if your parents didn’t teach you about two wrongs don’t make a right, you’ve certainly heard it dozens of times in your life.
Using bad to “combat” bad is not “fighting for justice”. In the restaurant example, what about all the other people eating there? Did you consider that they might not want their dinners disturbed by your protest?
Out on the street? Sure, that’s general assembly area. Form a march. Stand on a soapbox. That’s not only cool, it’s patriotic (just make sure you don’t get ticketed for disturbing the peace).
Now, the restaurant owner refusing service? Well, bad form, but not really rudeness. Unless you think the baker not baking for a gay couple is rudeness. Then you don’t get the high ground anymore. But, “right to refuse service” is within the purview of a store owner.
It’s not classy, mind you. We should be able to handle opposing points of view. But, I agree some areas are particularly odious. Obviously, for this restaurant owner, the current administration represents a line too far.
Now, I don’t absolve Trump and his staff for fanning the flames. I posted about my fears on this soon after his election. Those fears have, sadly, become all too real.
But, it is a choice within each of us how we respond to the rudeness we encounter. Being rude back is an easy, but cheap, response. We can do better and we must do better.
One day, perhaps soon, Trump will be gone. The flames he stoked will take time to tamp down. But he didn’t create the rudeness. Rudeness didn’t start three years ago.
He simply manipulated the rudeness to his own benefit. That is, indisputably, something to be dismayed about and certainly something to resist and protest.
But it’s not a good enough reason to demean yourself by returning in kind. Those flames may dwindle, but they can only flicker out when each of use make the decision to rise above the level of rudeness.
Rudeness didn’t start three years ago and it won’t be gone in three years. But we don’t have to be part of it.