Monday, March 19, 2012
Where is Emily Post when you need her?
For all her family's generations of well-mannered breeding, Lizzie Post is not immune to the awkward moment. She was out to dinner not long ago with friends, and as the hour grew late, the wine flowed, and so did the foul language coming from her group. A man from another table came over and asked that they tone things down because he had children with him.
"I was really embarrassed," winces Ms. Post, great-great-granddaughter of the legendary etiquette giant Emily Post. But not so for one of her table mates. He said that it was the father who was out of line, that people curse, and that if the man wanted to take his children out in public, they'd better get used to it.
You can read it all in the Christian Science Monitor online here...
We are facing a crisis in that we have all sorts of ways to talk to one another, making small the grand scale of the globe, but when we do talk, we don't know what or how to say something to one another. Good manners are not foils for disagreeing but the means to disagree without it becoming vulgar and foolish. In every age there have been those who rose to challenge the level of conversation that had become the norm. Our age is no different.
The silly season of political jousting has exposed our Achilles heel -- how do you disagree without making it personal and turning the debate into a shouting match in which we are all diminished? Apparently the Republican candidates are still struggling on this one and for this reason some have given up on their prospects in November no matter who is the head of the ticket against President Obama and the Democrats. Rush Limbaugh created a big stir with his vulgar comments and so his whole point was obscured by his bad manners. The media in America seems to delight in showing us the brutal side of our natures and exposing our every foible and flaw to bring us down to size. So we are addicted to the conversations of desperate housewives and to the ongoing rhetoric of the political gridlock in which the best it seems we can do is to tear down our opponents. While such vulgarity and crude conversation works, it only works because it is all there is and the level of discourse is left to those who have become experts at dissing any who disagree with them.
This is not simply a problem in the political arena. Our penchant for anonymous comments that lob words designed to wound and our comfortableness with whispered conversation instead of honest confrontation have interrupted the life of the Church as well. Too many of our congregations are afflicted with barely concealed conflict that have become the most personal of disputes and with a dialogue laced with threats, inaccurate characterizations, and words designed to muddle more than clear up the mess.
We need to be taught manners and to be reminded over and over again the value of good manners to effective communication. But there is one thing we dare not do -- that is get used to foul language and conversations designed merely to hurt with words as weapons...