A few days ago I shared a post, We Are Failing As Humans, by Hijabi Online, in which she talks about the lack of civility in our world today. Just in the past week or so, three glaring examples of this have been in the news.
- In Florida, a real estate remodeler named David Sanguesa went to Starbucks with a colleague, ordered their coffee, paid for it, and when it took a bit longer than he would have liked, he began ranting at the African-American woman behind the counter. Sanguesa claimed the employee was refusing to serve him because his vehicle sported a “Trump” bumper sticker, but witnesses claim he was acting irrational and, in the words of one witness, he was “being an asshole”. He screamed at the employee, saying, “We want nothing to do with you! You’re trash. Because I voted for Trump! Trump! You lost! Now give me my money back. What is your name? I want your name. I want your card. You’re garbage. You’re complete trash.” – The Washington Post, 18 November 2016
- In a Chicago Michael’s store on the day before Thanksgiving, a customer went into a tirade against an African-American employee who had merely suggested that the customer buy a re-usable bag for $1 to hold her larger purchases. The customer’s rant, which reportedly lasted for a full 30 minutes, was caught on video by another customer. The rant began with “And I voted for Trump! So there! What, you want to kick me out because of that? And look who won! And look who won! And look who won!” The African-American store manager can also be heard calmly telling the woman to stop using profanity because there are children present. “This woman [the cashier] screamed at me across the [expletive deleted] store like an animal … you’re an animal … I told you as the manager to reprimand … Michael is going to hear about this first thing Friday morning,” the customer says. – The Washington Post, 29 November 2016
- On November 22, a man on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Allentown, Pennsylvania, went on a tirade for no known reason. He stood up in the aisle and began shouting “We got some Hillary bitches on here? Come on, baby! Trump! That’s what I’m talking about. Hey, baby! Donald Trump! He’s your president, every goddamn one of [you]. If you don’t like it, too bad.” His rant, also, was captured by another customer on video . Although the man was allowed to continue his flight, Delta later banned him from all Delta flights for the rest of his life. – The Washington Post, 28 November 2016
These are just three examples, glaring examples, of the loss of civility in our society today. Where does this come from? Why now? Has this attitude, this mentality, just been simmering below the surface in some portion of the human race, or is it newfound? I suppose there are many ways to answer these questions, and I do not claim to have a definitive answer, for I am not an anthropologist or a psychologist, but merely an observer of human behaviour. And what I am observing these days is not to my liking.
I believe that, after listening to the hateful speech of certain political candidates for the past year or more, speech that condemned people for their ethnicity, their religion, their clothing, the colour of their skin, and more, some portion of society now believes that it is alright for them to speak and act in the same manner. Civility, defined as “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech”, is deemed to no longer be necessary by some portion of society. And yet, some of us, even though we have heard the same speech, the same rhetoric, are appalled by such outbursts as those above. What, then, is the difference between “us” and “them”?
Certainly I have become impatient waiting in line, but never in a million years would I dream of screaming racial slurs at the employee who is just trying to do a job in order to earn around $8 an hour to feed her children! Yet for some, this just seems to be a natural reaction. I could speculate that such traits as kindness and compassion are built (or not) into our genetic makeup, but I suspect there is more than that at play here. I could also proselytize that those of us who spend much of our time reading, studying and thinking are more likely to act in a more reasonable manner under similar circumstances. Perhaps it is a combination of all of the above and then some. Interestingly, I came across an article in Forbes that reports Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice for Attorney General next year, and who has argued against special education rights, blames the lack of civility in schools on the inclusion of disabled children!
Whatever the cause of this recent increase in uncivility, we must find solutions. There is likely no single solution, no panacea, but those of us who still believe in treating every person with respect, with compassion, must do our part. I salute those customers who took out their cell phones and captured the rants and tirades of the ‘deplorables’ on video, then posted them for the world to see. We must continue to speak out against this type of behaviour, for it is destructive to our world. And we must continue to speak out against the leaders who seem to be saying that it is “okay” to call people names, to scream and yell at others, to be openly bigoted. This includes, if necessary, publicly and respectfully calling out the leaders of our nation, and organizations like Breitbart and others that openly promote this type of behaviour.
I can speak only for myself, but I simply cannot live in a world where it is acceptable to openly and publicly disrespect other people. I cannot sit idly by and watch our society spin into a vortex of hate and fear. Nobody, including the president or any other government “official” has the right to belittle another under any circumstances. There simply is never any reason for the arrogance with which people seem to be infused today. Those of us who have a venue to speak out against hate speech must do so, else we are doomed to become a small minority ourselves, a tiny island lost in a sea of ugly hate. Think about it.