And it isn’t what you think; the ladies of popular talk show The View are no stranger to controversial discussions, or sharing their sometimes jaw dropping opinions on any and every subject, even naming one of their regular show segments hot topics. It was no different last Friday when the topics included etiquette for the new large bugaboo stroller and ended with everyone’s thoughts on how to handle a 7 year old screaming sports fan trash talking the opposing team, being what everyone seemed to agree was the definition of inappropriate, not what they came to see, all asking the inevitable question, where were the parents, why didn’t they correct their behavior. Sherri Shepard insisting that kind of behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum; they do things like this at home and that’s where you correct them. Continuing she recounted a story of her and her husband at a football game sitting in the opposing teams section and a 19 year old there with his mother who kept trash talking, only stopping when the young man started in on her and her husband made it clear an ass kicking would be the result if he continued; Ms. Sheppard emphatically lamenting why didn’t you say anything, referring to the mother. Segment ending with Barbra Walters cheekily saying that’s why they don’t allow children in the studio. Forgoing there is nothing discussed on The View anyone below teen age would want to see, is acceptable for them to see, never mind, as Whoopi Goldberg pointed out, such behavior particularly in a sports arena has become acceptable, is it really a lack of civility, decency, manners, a failure of parents, adults in children’s lives to teach them proper behavior? Or is it something else, namely a profound age gap, generation gap not necessarily exclusive to incidents involving the polite rules of social interaction but spreading into, bluntly, adult temper tantrums surrounding anything they don’t want to deal with? Sadly for society it appears to be the latter.
Interesting, we believe in freedom of speech, freedom of expression until someone says something we don’t like or expresses themselves in a way we, the individual, are uncomfortable with; that was the real issue with Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance not whether she was on the road to melt down, was having a sad fall from grace, not the “inappropriate” TV14 rating, but the fact we can’t get ourselves out of our puritanical headspace when it comes to sexuality or understand a marketing stunt when we see one. Beyond the obvious legal consequences for yelling fire in a movie theater, bomb in a crowded venue where there isn’t one of either, or spreading malicious, known to be false statements that can lead to defamation of character and slander lawsuits, even beyond the obviously too far, deities in vats of urine, chaining a dog to a pole, letting it starve and calling it an art exhibit, there is the generational reaction to younger persons deemed rude, the previous generation(s) who mistakenly believes their chronological age affords them deference with anyone younger than they are, who get almost pathologically upset when they do not receive it. Members of older generations who become equally upset when someone younger than they are tries to give them facts in a calm, rational manner during any sort of discussion; doesn’t even have to be someone below legal age, just has to be someone young enough to be their son or daughter and if they give a difference of opinion, challenge their understanding of facts as they know them, they become incensed, regardless of who was correct on the matter, regardless of if that correctness holds weight because it could drastically effect someone’s life. Unlike the people I often write about driven to the brink by bureaucratic dysfunction, people in customer service positions who can’t tell you about products, services, can’t get your order correct, routinely and repeatedly lose your paperwork, forced to get rude, belligerent and downright nasty to get what they need, these persons, who seem to be multiplying in number, are likely to be the perpetrators of the above listed problems who honestly believe there are replacement parts for microwaves and are pissed when someone simply tells them that’s not true. It also goes to what we choose to care about and the supposed decency bans cities have tried to put in place, beyond baggie pants to the wearing of pajamas in public, to flip flops worn by guests touring the white house or the food fight at a Texas Water Burger possibly to result in criminal chargers; not only does the school system there plan on doling out suspensions, other potential disciplinary actions, because the fight happened between to rival high school football teams, the police are reviewing video to see if they can identify and charge the instigators, instead of making them clean up the mess, pay for any damages to the fast food restaurant, pay a portion of the cost for police intervention, possibly banning them from the popular eatery for life of for a designated time frame. Proving for the land of the free we don’t hesitate to show petty limits to that freedom.
We fully support people’s freedom to assert themselves, stand up for their rights, the rights of their young children, their loved ones; in fact the co-hosts of The View and others like them fully support their right to tell these kids and their parents off, correct other people’s children in public, straight talk anyone they believe is over the line, but who are just as likely to have a mini nervous breakdown because someone was rude to them, didn’t address them as sir or ma’am, bumped into them and didn’t say excuse me, didn’t say thank you, who behave as if they will spontaneously combust, as if their world will end, their life is over if someone mildly disrespects them, whether that was their intention or not. Never mind younger, even some older, women do not liked to be called ma’am because it makes them feel old, younger men hear Mr. and their last name and immediately look for their fathers or want to distinguish between themselves and the former, so where they can request to be referred to a different way, no, the person didn’t say thank you but the smile and/or nod conveyed their appreciation, how brightly their eyes lit up as they finally found directions to what they had been looking for all day and run enthusiastically to it conveys their gratitude, demonstrating older people don’t know respect or appreciation unless it is delivered in a single form, don’t recognize it when it is given to them. Again we believe in the right to freedom of speech, freedom and necessity of being assertive, that however doesn’t seem to apply to parents speaking with teachers about their children when they warn the latter not to piss off the former and they are admonished for cursing like they are the ones attending school instead of the child; forget how many times they have already been given the once more imparted information. For example one parent got firm with a teacher after the teacher refused to follow the parameters of her son’s IEP the calming technique that keeps him from becoming aggressive and disruptive; her actions linked to a lengthy disciplinary record that year. To say nothing of how many times children have come to tattle on her son for something and she says to them what all he used was his words, not his hands, he did not call names or cuss; teachers and teachers aids have written her off as the problem when she didn’t intervene as her son told another student to stop picking on his little brother or when she let slide her son’s exasperated, “smart mouthed” comment to his principal over his mother telling him to remove his shirt on a hot day before walking home, despite her being told numerous times he is extremely heat sensitive and asthmatic. Next parent in a dental office almost barred from the place after speaking with dentist about her youngest child’s fear of same, dentist suggested she bring youngest in at older child’s appointment so he could see what happens, see it didn’t hurt his brother; day of appointment when mother tries to bring younger child back too she is told you can’t do that, then denied the older child his dental exam. At which point the yes obviously irritated mother demanded another appointment be set for her oldest child and emphatically stated staff needed to be aware of their policies (only one child can be in the dental exam area at one time; the others must remain in the waiting room accompanied by an adult) because her son almost lost his dental care thanks to that scene. Staff then threatened to call the police though she had threatened no one, hardly raised her voice, only requesting a basic reschedule and that all office personnel get on the same page reminding them she had done nothing wrong, there was freedom of speech in this country to a positive response from everyone present in the waiting room. The subsequent parent in line also giving staff an ear full over the one child at a time policy; keeping in mind this is a facility that serves low income, poor individuals, single parents exc. It’s as if older people have forgotten this is America, we do have freedom to speak our minds. Perhaps what we should be worried about are the overall examples we are setting for the younger generation with adults behaving badly; instances here involve younger individuals but there are plenty of over 40 arrests for DUI while operating a motorized bar stool or other unusual form of transportation, just look at the commercials advertising the season premiere of the popular reality series Duck Dynasty the older member of the family clan using a mobility scooter like and ATV or moped on the highway expecting cars to go around. These are the people who expect reverence and respect; these are the people we are to remain quiet about because we are younger.
Similarly we say we value honesty, forthrightness, directness, the ability to tell it like it is in the era of political correctness and people too afraid to hurt another’s feelings to actually deal with needed issues, but like freedom of speech, we believe in it until a child says something “disrespectful,” we believe in it until someone refuses to give up their first amendment rights to satisfy someone else’s definition of decorum; honesty is only valued up and until it makes us uncomfortable seen most clearly in how people deal with children. Parents teach them to tell the truth while telling them little white lies or made up stories about storks when they ask inevitably where babies come from, until they embarrass us by repeating something we probably shouldn’t have said about situation X, person Y if we didn’t want it repeated. At age 4, 5, 6 when they receive an undesirable Christmas present, birthday gift, look glaringly at the giver and declare they hate the color yellow, directly ask why they were given a monster truck when they prefer transformers, we will laugh, think it’s cute, lightly admonish them; as little as 2 years later we begin lecturing them about being polite, not saying certain things, what to say and do even if you don’t like a gift and be horrified if they don’t toe the line. We value honesty until we get called on our crap be that by the mouthy but perceptive teenage who points out your hypocrisy, a fellow adult who calls the flag on your play; we value honesty until it challenges how we thought the world was or how we perceive it is supposed to be. We want to be told the truth until we can’t handle the truth; now no one is advocating being cruel or completely without tact, the problem with the controversial Westboro Baptist church and their offensive signage. Not only do they not save their picketing for gay funerals of gay service members, of service members with known questionable morals, their approach flies in face of other parameters of their religion when they delightfully sing on a bus about who’s going to hell; unlike them, we can be gentle in giving uncomfortable truths starting with saving that task wherever possible for close friends and family, ignoring over confrontational people whenever possible, only being confrontational when there isn’t another viable choice like the parent examples who tired other things first, who repeated herself silly before becoming what others would term aggressive in meeting the needs of her child. It is the difference between the kid looking at the gift giver who is a relative, family friend, in some way supposed to know them giving a gift so unlike them, and us walking up to a complete stranger and telling them their clothes are frumpy, their socks don’t match and their breath stinks.
Likewise, no one is saying there aren’t other consequences to freedom of speech and going against the ingrained 1950’s definition of respect; aside from not being in legal trouble you also won’t be winning any popularity or congeniality contests. In fact you are likely to end up in more meaningless confrontations and increase your chances of being punched in the face for offending some older person’s heightened sense of social sensibilities. It trails right back to what we choose to care about; we choose to be overly concerned with a trash talking 7 year old at a sports game not the offensive political, media rhetoric at least partially responsible for mass shootings, gun violence nationwide. We choose, as a society, to demean, belittle and admonish a mother who sticks up for her child, is assertive about her needs in all aspects of her life, an assertiveness necessitated by dysfunctional systems and people who will not take appropriate actions until someone gets demanding of them, instead of recognizing the core of the problem, and for trying to teach that required life skill to her children, who have already needed it, she is labeled a problem adult and written off. We choose as a society to allow adults to go ballistic about the lack of thank you’s, excuse me’s, ma’am’s and sir’s doled out as signs of respect rather than reminding ourselves it’s not all about us, all people have a right to live and be here too, regardless of whether or not they adhere to our definition of sociable, “moral” behavior. We say we are for mining our own business yet, we fully support the idea of telling others, their children off for “bad” behavior, since we have so many adults “acting like children,” instead of being on the lookout for, intervening with an obviously abusive parent, blatantly minding everyone else’s for all the wrong reasons. Returning us to the 19 year old Sherri Shepard was so animated about, maybe the mother didn’t say anything because he is an adult, free to make his own choices and mistakes; maybe she was tired of trying to teach him and thought the potential beat down would teach him a better lesson about how and when to curb his mouth. We choose as a society to encourage public complaining before remembering not all of us have a talk show segment in which to rant about anything and everything that annoys us, or whether or not that’s healthy, whatever form it takes, as it seems to have gotten us to this point. Where we are more interested in the 7 year old sports fan trash talking a team, something he may well only do related to sports, than recognizing adults are the most likely to think the rules don’t apply to them or because they are adults they no longer have to follow that rule. We scream about the trivial instead of the substance encompassed in leaders of countries globally so not in control of their impulses, behavior they are duking it out on governmental floors internationally, so concerned with personal standards for people walking the street that we have no time to say leaders should be held to a higher standard above fisticuffs.
Never discussed is, the consequences of the society people who are so quick to sound off about things like this, so quick to melt down, spontaneously combust, seem want to build, the respect my athoritah concepts we expect people to follow without question illustrated in a disturbing Dr. Phil episode exposing huge holes in school safety; young boy goes off with complete stranger because the teachers aid mistakenly thought that was his after school care.
When asked by his mother why he did that he became shy, smiled looked around and said I don’t know; what the 4 year old can’t articulate, any older child to adult can is he did so because his mommy told him to do what teacher said or he would get in trouble at home for not doing so. 5-10 years later our child will undoubtedly be in a scenario prompting us to ask why didn’t you say this, why didn’t you stick up for that, and when they say I don’t know, we are tempted to yell what do you mean you don’t know, or worse when the child explodes from being grilled and says I didn’t say anything because you taught me to respect, name authority here, they get slapped in the face for back talking or screaming at us. When a child indoctrinated with the 1950’s version of respect/manners suddenly is on drugs we the parents look at them and wonder how this happened remembering the 2 year old who ardently refused a nap, the 6 year old who refused to wear a dress to church, never realizing we are the ones who spanked it out of them, mannered it out of them and before us is the result. As are depressed, overwrought, people pleasing women who can’t say no, people who need assertiveness training to avoid being door mats or worse victims of violence; we need manners for the 21st century not the first half of the 20th, manners based on how things are, not how things were, yes with an eye on how we would like them to be, but not at the dangerous exclusion of present reality. Hint, you were supposed to ignore the screaming sports fan and go on with your life.