The burial took place at Our Lady of Perpetual Partisanship Cemetery in Washington D.C. The pallbearers on opposite sides of the casket were Democrats and Republicans.
Civility is survived by his infirm wife, Good Taste and ailing daughter, Good Manners.
We know that America has long suffered in international cultural reputation. In 1958 the book “The Ugly American” disdainfully branded us as arrogant and ostentatious. Two years ago, though, things took a frightfully spiraling downward turn. Civility was put on life support when, in the course of a few days, Congressman Joe Wilson screamed out to the president, “You’re a liar!” Serena Williams volleyed an expletive-laden tirade at an official. And Kanye West unceremoniously grabbed the mic from Grammy winner Taylor Swift and yelled that Beyonce deserved the award.
In the aftermath of the national rudeness orgy, President Obama lamented our cultural coarsening and CBS ran a report titled, “America the Rude-iful.” Since then a poll, unsurprisingly, indicated that 72 percent of Americans felt bad behavior was on the rise.
What exactly caused the worsening malady? Some argue that the Great Recession frayed nerves. Granted, it took its toll but, remember, civility endured the Great Depression.
Others argue that the Internet accelerated the demise. For sure, America has long been known for sweeping informality but digital anonymity has altered the landscape such that total disclosure and an undisciplined letting it all hang out is now off the charts.
Then, too, no reasoned person disputes the role of TV in vulgarizing America. After recently watching a rerun of the delightfully innocent Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” I sadly reflected on our more recent fare: “Beevis and Butthead” and “South Park,” which, admittedly, can be mesmerizing in shock value.
For historical perspective, compare the enlightening conversations of Dr. Joyce Brothers with the brain-deadening knucklehead yell fests of Jerry Springer. The common denominator has, indeed, sunk immeasurably.
Am I that old-fashioned to find completely unfeminine the cussing L.A. Laker Girls? Need I really hear what’s on the mind of a “Jersey Shore” cast when I know that their world revolves around sex, body piercings and getting high?
We could also point a condemning finger at the bling-bling, steroid-popping image of sports figures. No excusing either our public square: the shamelessly pajama-clad shoppers at Walmarts; the buffoons sitting behind us at athletic arenas; the insensitive minions behind the wheel who think hogging the passing lane is their natural right; or the legions who use the F-bomb as if it were the preeminent adjective giving Shakespearean authority to any sentence. Once the domain of sailors, salty public description of intimate bodily functions is now passe to housewives and high school students alike.
Lest we not forget the causative factor of partisan politics, toxically practiced on both sides of the aisle. Politics has become mud wrestling with no holds barred.
Gone are the non-demonizing times when a Hubert Humphrey, the Senate Majority Leader and self-proclaimed champion of the “politics of joy,” would go head to head in spirited debate on the Senate floor with Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, and then end the day together tipping beers. Now try imagining John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi sharing a brewski.
In the end, though, none of the debilitating factors listed takes full crippling blame. That honor goes to the parents. Obviously, you readily become what you see and hear at home.
When I taught in Turkey for the Peace Corps, students meeting me in the street would bow. In my wife’s native Philippines, they kiss the hands of elders. What a far cry from the States, where my 14-year-old neighbor called me Walter. Since when am I Walter to a 14-year-old?
Emily Post must roll over in her grave musing on a society where teaching etiquette at home or in the schools is so foreign.
Hope, though, springs eternal that the cultural phoenix can rise from the ashes. I was delighted at the recent Antioch Teacher of the Year dinner to hear County Superintendent of Schools Joe Ovick talk of a civility initiative. Sir, I gladly open the door for you.