Monday, September 21, 2009

The Ignominious Coach

Here in the States it has been a rather cringe-worthy couple of weeks. Stunning outbursts of petulance and ego have spewed from several different corners; vitriol hurled forth from individuals in the public eye who apparently possess neither the spirit nor the capacity for civility and respect. In one arena after the other, like a bumper crop of fruit from a poisonous plant, rudeness has abounded, and shockingly so. From the music awards stage to the tennis court, and sadly, even to the floor of the United States Senate, where a congressman had the unprecedented audacity to yell out a boorish rebuke to his own President during a joint session of congress. Yes, there were apologies, and I will not doubt the sincerity of those here. But I will say, although I do not hold with the spanking of children, tanning the backside of a few adults seems like an excellent notion to me.

When I was younger, it was a belief widely held that this type of conduct was contemptible. It certainly lent no weight to a person’s opinions, nor to his arguments, indeed it rendered them dubious at best. However, in our current talk radio era, it seems that some feel entitled to express themselves whenever, and in whatever form, they choose. Forget about dignity or consideration; those were jettisoned a while ago. We are now on to abuse and denigration as the favoured methods of debate.

Years ago, upon landing in London for the very first time, I was soon on an early morning train into the city from Gatwick airport. Wide-eyed, and clutching my train ticket tightly, I was astonished to witness an argument between a rather wildly bohemian young woman who happened to be sharing my compartment and the gentlemen who was taking tickets enroute. Seems the lady was, quite knowingly, in the wrong train car. What followed was the most delightful example of a witty debate that I had ever heard. Although the lady had no leg whatsoever on which to stand, both people made their points with respect, civility and a good bit of humour. After she trundled off to the appropriate seating and I was left alone gazing out the window at the unfamiliar countryside, I could not help but think that this was the best first impression of a new country I could possibly have had.
My heart goes out to the tourists who landed here in the States for the first time last week, and I am ashamed of the introduction they received.

It is well past time for us as Americans to grab the reins of the ignominious coach of rudeness in which some of us have been traveling - shaking our fists out the windows, heedless of those in our path. I fear it is dangerously close to a precipice of shuddering depth, from which our words, spoken with such graceless arrogance, shall not just go unheard, but shall become ridiculous.

"Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength"
Eric Hoffer


  1. Oh, how I agree, there is barely any real manners of speech anymore, and I think this, and I live in England. I am grateful to you for your lovely opinion of our manners over here, but even so, I still notice standards of civility dropping steadily. There is an art in good conversation, and a real need to regain respect for each other and a more generous spirit too! Do unto others... and all that kind of thing, would be good!
    Suzie. xx

  2. Sadly, I think there are some stunningly rude people in England too!
    I think manners and politeness can go a long way in making life pleasanter.
    If you talk nicely to people they are much more likely to listen...
    as in:
    you catch more flies with honey
    an old saying but a true one.

    Happy weekend from me and to Apple and Edward from Buster.

  3. Oh my~ that quote says it all~ doesn't it! It takes so much more energy being nasty. What happened to good, old-fashion manners. Important words here Pamela. Have a beautiful weekend.

  4. Many trips to the backroads of England thru the years in a large touring bus.

    Many times oncoming traffic had to backup great lengths to let us pass.

    Every time, always, without exception, the backing driving smiled and waved.


    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  5. Oh, very well put, though I fear that you may not hear such eloquence should you visit England today!


  6. Here, here! Well put.

    I crave civility in this country, and I feel blessed to have many friends who feel the same way.

    I set a rule in our home years and years ago that swearing was banned. Not even "stupid" or "crap." And lo and behold, everyone (hubby and 3 kids -- and their friends!) have all abided by it.

    My rationale: I'd like to keep a civil home. You should have seen the look on my kids faces the first (and last) time a friend would utter a forbidden word! LOL. My kids quickly shuttled them off to the side and explained the house rules.

    It's not a BIG thing, but maybe it's true that civility begins at home.

    Wonderful post!

  7. I completely agree, especially with your comments about being rude to the President. I believe that we're all entitled to our own ideologies and opinions, but disagreeing with another's does not entitle us to become rude and contemptuous toward the other's same entitlements. There's a lot of anger bubbling at the surface, it seems, and lots of excuses for allowing the bubbles to turn into a splash.

  8. Hi Pamela,
    You have won the Spring Green, Fairy Bracelet. In the giveaway draw!:)
    Please send me your full name and address details through my website. I will send the bracelet to you early this week!
    Best wishes, Jo May.

    I was not sure if you got this message on your last post so I thought I would just send it again!

  9. "My heart goes out to the tourists who landed here in the States for the first time last week, and I am ashamed of the introduction they received."

    Of course, they are us, to an extent. I grew up in the Deep South, which is said to contain--for the whites anyway--the most pure British ancestry in this country, esp in the Appalachian areas. Yet, it is surely the part of America that is most looked down upon for its boorish ignorance. I've wondered what the people over there must have thought during the '60s when they saw Birmingham, Alabama, on the news everyday in such an un-flattering way.

  10. One thing I’ve noticed while living in England is that the people don’t act that differently, but they are quicker to apologize for their actions. It’s amazing how quickly an apology diffuses anger.

    I picked up the habit. Back in the US a woman bumped into me in a store and I said “Oh, sorry.” My fellow American snapped back at me “Why are YOU apologizing?!”

    So the Brits are in general more civil, but you should watch the heckling in Parliament. Politics can bring out the worst in anyone (NOT to excuse that rudeness to Obama.)

  11. I agree with everything you say. My Gran used to say "manners maketh man" and of course that applies ro woman too.

  12. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" is the adage my mother quoted to me most often. She learned it from her father. Kindness and civility is learned at home, I agree.

  13. I'm living in a small village right now where nearly all drivers wave at other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, whether they know them or not. People meet my eye when I say hello, and often stop to chat even if we've never met before. Within the first day of moving here I was on a first name basis with my mailman, the postmistress, and several shopkeepers. All of our neighbors have stopped by to welcome us over the last couple of weeks. I have never experienced anything like this in my life. The village is on a small, working- and middle- class island, and the people here work hard to keep it a friendly, civil, and safe place. It is in such stark contrast to other places I have lived and to the current public displays of ill manners here in the US that I am daily amazed and charmed by it. I think when people live in a place where they feel a deep connection to their community, to a sense of civic duty, then civility naturally follows.

    I teach college, and I find that over the last decade, my job has increasingly become one of teaching students how to sit still in a classroom for 50 minutes, be civil to one another, and resist texting, listening to ipods, or otherwise zoning out. When people feel so little need to actually connect with one another or be a part of a real conversation it is extremely difficult to foster a sense of true community and civility.

    Thank you, Pamela, for this post. Please forgive my long response. You have hit a nerve, and I'm so glad that you have. This is such an important subject.

    xoxo Gigi

  14. Thank you for such a thoughtful and well written post. I share your feelings on the subject.

  15. I seem to remember when I was a little girl, people seemed so much more agreeable, polite and gentle. I wonder, if when things were much more simple and we all went home early to sit around the table as a family and have a meal at supper, if we were all saner. It seems we all knew the golden rule, asked permission to leave the table, and the gentlemen held the doors for the ladies. I love your blog and your insight. Wishing you a lovely week filled with good manners and good wishes.


  16. I cringe at how uncivilized people have become, and even more at how acceptable it is. There is really no excuse for it! I have two young children and whenever they have friends over I am appalled at the words out of those mouths and their boorish manners in general.

  17. I must tell you that I love your virtual & image blog!! Amazing mix of pic's & so much inspiration!

    Regards from Sweden & Agneta

  18. How I agree with you about the lack of manners and just plain niceness in today's society. It doesn't hurt to smile at people, to say 'good-morning' to respect their space and also their opinions even if you don't always agree with them. I'm afraid standards are dropping here in the UK too - I notice it more and more recently - perhaps it is because I'm getting older and notice the changes so much:)

  19. This is good writing! It's also pointed and enjoyable... and true. Also love the introductory artwork you chose!

  20. I agree. Afraid that the USA is getting a bad travel press (I write from UK) about the "welcome" tourists get at your airports and the off-hand manner in some shops. However, I notice that American men over here will still stand when a lady enters the room.
    The UK is sadly lacking manners these days too - it seems to be amongst the younger generation - but in what previous age was there when the oldies did not think the young were going to the dogs?

  21. I do agree Pamela. My view on it is that the only person to suffer is the person doing the shouting - it is a loss of dignity. It costs nothing to be polite - I hate rudeness. You do have lovely pictures on your posts - where do you get them all?

  22. Beautifully said. We have done away with broadcast t.v. in our home in large part because it was becoming so offensive and ugly on nearly every front. Now we just do Netflix. We choose what comes in, and no commercials!

  23. Unfortunately rude people can be found all over the world. However i do know what you mean that there is a sort of accumulation currently in the USA. I found your blog recently and love what and how you share. Regards across the pond. Paula

  24. was a banner week here. And in a good way. Where is tact? Manners? Becoming ghosts of modern culture....ugh.

  25. well the Uk is very rude too sometimes, it can be depressing.

  26. I heard *that* behaviour live on BBC radio, (it was about 2.30 in the morning and I could not sleep)and I was quite shocked; not because of the cry itself, though that was bad enough. (After all, if you have ever heard our House of Commons debating, far worse goes on, they are like a bunch of four year olds in a bun fight, yahooing and jeering). No, what surprised me, was that it was happening in an American debate! Since knowing so many of you on the internet I have been constantly delighted at your good manners and tact, which frankly put the Brits to shame. I had previously assumed - wrongly - that Americans were rather brash and even vulgar (forgive me!) and was very glad to have my narrow- minded opinions changed so radically. In fact, I would say that as a whole, you have overtaken us in the manners and consideration department, though there is an awful lot of bad propaganda and sheer scaremongering nonsense being put about by the new health care proposals, from what I hear. Good luck with it!

  27. Hello P&E,

    There is something of a universal move towards less manners, less consideration and less tolerance across the world and we certainly suffer from it in the UK, so you are not alone.

  28. I agree with so much in your post Pamela. Living in the UK I can see our standards of civility to others being eroded gradually. I think it is a world wide disease. Mind you, the manners in England's Parliament leave a huge amount to be desired. I like to do my little bit by always thanking motorists with a wave when they stop for me at zebra crossings. I think politeness rubs off sometimes.

  29. Amen!

    Never surrender the morale highground for it rests upon a steep and slippery slope.

    I remember as few as twenty-five years ago it was unthinkable to blow the horn in your car for less than a full-blown emergency. And that was outside of Washington D.C. .

  30. I agree with what you have written totally and have been disturbed by these same items in the news. I really believe there has been a drop in manners in many areas which is quite alarming. Even if we disagree with someone we should be able to do so in a respectful way.


  31. Great post Pamela and one that is well needed.

    May I refer you to a video a friend posted on her blog:

    I am astounded at the disrespect the "gentleman" from Carolina bestowed on his leader. Then again I am astounded by war and that still carries on.

    I applaud your timely contribution yet must add that rudeness is not a condition my nation is immune too, things change sadly.

  32. So true, Pamela. I blame talk radio and the 24 hour cable news stations that feed the beasts of disrespect and innuendo.

  33. On a recent entry back to the US, through customs, the agent directed traffic, shouting, US Citizens to the left and Aliens to the right. I was so embarrassed.
    As an American, I felt like hiding under a bushel.

  34. I have been cringing for weeks now. Thank you Pamela; I'm glad I'm not the only one.

  35. Well said. And it needed to be said, didn't it?

  36. I agree, and particularly enjoyed Clarity's remarks about this ongoing war, the ultimate act of lack of civility. I am amazed what people will do and say and then rationalize their behavior, escalating the problem by refusing to apologize and then blaming others for the problems they have created. For example, over seven years ago a new neighbor took down a jointly-owned fence (without discussion or permission), incorporated my stone wall into her garden, built a retaining wall on my property that she refused to move and called me a "bad sport." This week she finally built a fence totally on her property to keep her new dog, quite the bounder, from leaping over my wall and trampling my garden. I reaped all of the "bad press" by being painted the uncivil neighbor. It's one thing to have uncivil discourse in the news. Quite another when it literally hits home. I am grateful to the young goldendoodle who won my neighbor's heart, proving once again that doggie love can make miracles happen.

  37. The comments here are as interesting as your post!
    I don't think that cable tv and talk radio have as much to do with our general lack of civility as do the notions that whatever "I" want to do or say at any given moment has taken precedence over what would be appropriate for or respectful of "everyone" present at a particular place or time. How many times have you been forced to endure people talking in public (loudly) on their cell phones... sometimes mere inches from other people in line with them or directly into the face of the clerk trying to process their purchase. Too many teenagers (and sadly, many older people as well) feel free to spew four-letter-words regardless of who's within earshot. Some parents drop their kids at school in any spot that's most convenient for them regardless of the carpool lane rules. A very rude clerk helped me in a very nice store the other day. I always wonder why a person who so clearly is bothered by other people infringing upon HER time, would choose a profession of service in the first place!
    My hope lies with people like my 19 yr old daughter who is exceedingly pleasant and charming when dealing with both customers and clerks alike. It always makes my heart very happy when I witness her public behavior... especially considering the spoiled, surly teenager attitudes of so many of her friends and the tirades she herself can launch into in private!

  38. Hugs Pamela but I'm afraid rudeness abounds here in the UK too. I look at some of the comments people leave on You Tube and am appalled. True some of them may have been left by youngsters with little parental guidance, but there is definately a culture surfacing where there is an erosion of respect for other individuals.

    I like that owl poem that ends "the less he spoke the more he heard now wasn't he a wise old bird". Maybe people just need to slow down more and think before they speak and get some self control.

  39. Well said, Pamela.
    You are just astonishingly gifted, it's a true pleasure to read your writing.
    Hey, and you're an only child, too?
    ~ Anne

  40. I absolutely adore Edward! I agree with you about the necessity of civility, however I do think that the Britts really get down and dirty in their politics with no holds barred. Have you ever watched a debate in the House of Commons? They do have those lovely English accents and manner of speech which makes it all sound more civil! Love you writings and musings! Carla

  41. Yet another example of why I am sososo glad I don't listen to or watch or read the news. I vaguely heard of one item but that's it. What I learned was that Mary Travers died and that Dan Brown's book was out. Maybe I am an ostrich, but a happy one.

  42. I am always last to arrive at every party, but now that I've made my way to your doorstep, and what an enchanting entryway it is, let me begin by telling you how captivating From the House of Edward is. It is beautifully rendered, soulful in spirit and exquisitely poignant without pretension or artifice.

    I am dismayed and troubled not only by the absence of incivility, but by the complete disregard and disrespect for each other. Thank you for casting, small though it may be, a glimmer of light in this unmerciful darkness.

  43. Well said!..You put words to the feelings I have so well!


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