Right now, I want peace, quiet, order, manners, thoughtfulness, concern for others . . . even if it is totally hypocritical.
I don’t want etiquette police. I just want individual people to take responsibility for their behavior. I don’t care if people do it because they believe God wants them to or because they want to suck up to someone who can give them a good job. I just want the experience of a day here, a day there, a week, a month where there is no sound of the English language being daily used as a weapon of selfishness and stupidity.
And, of course, that would include no sounds out of my mouth. Sometimes I am so very really tired of my own selfish, whiny mouth.
Back in college days, I heard someone say that there isn’t and has never been a sort of ideal America that people are always striving for. There isn’t and has never been a point of equilibrium in social, political, moral, legal and/or any other issues.
Essentially, this person said, culture swings back and forth between the poles of being legalistic and repressive and being wink-wink-I-don’t-give-an-eff. Somewhere in the middle, there are periods where things feel stable and ideal and golden, but those don’t last long.
So, as far as achieving a grand vision of American life is concerned, there is, and there never will be.
Right now, that view of things makes perfect sense to me. It explains a lot and makes the old sixties idea of “dropping out” seem quite desirable.
However, I personally would love it if American culture started swinging back just a little from where it is now toward the middle in terms of etiquette and public behavior. Where it might end up once it passed through the mid-point and headed for the other extreme is not a particularly happy thing to contemplate, but where culture is now is horrible.
I really, really am tired of living a culture where the standard of public, daily, average-citizen discourse is, for instance, “You people are f—ing crazy,” something I heard on the phone recently. I am also tired of the view of public life and discourse apparently espoused by a man who was standing in the bus shelter, smoking marijuana one morning as I approached to wait for my bus to work.
When I (impulsively, I admit) confronted him and said (thinking of small children viewing him), “Can’t you do that at home?” he said, “I have freedom of speech, and I don’t give a s–t what you think.”
As someone who went through the strange adventure of English literature in grad school, I know that “four-letter” words are just words, and a couple of them were really just words earlier in the history of the English language. But it’s how they are used.
I mean, I have nothing against butter knives, but if someone starts using them constantly to try and stab people, I am going to start working for the elimination of butter knives from public life until it’s clear that people are being taught that butter knives are for butter only.
Self-absorbed, uncontrolled blurting may be the ideal of free speech toward which we all should aspire. And perhaps we should all be working toward a utopia of cacophony and violence. Maybe anarchy and nihilism truly and completely let loose would once and for all shake everyone free of selfishness, knee-jerk anger, greed, prejudice, but the history of the world indicates that probably would never happen.
So right now, I am really desirous of living in a culture that finds a way to stop worshiping the f-bomb as the ultimate expression of maturity, intelligence, and self-determination.