There are few things I dislike more than sounding like an old fuddy-duddy. Sometimes, however, harking back to my traditional upbringing (that being my point of reference) is the only way to address an issue. The target of my rant today is the appalling lack of respect and propriety in our society. Even when I was a child, “Ma’am” and “Sir” were quickly dropping from the vocabulary. I know this only because of the numerous times I would address my friends’ parents thusly, only to have them turn to their children (my friends) and ask, “Why don’t you use manners like that?”
These days, “Ma’am” and “Sir” are the least of our worries. A typical 12-year-old’s daily conversation might well include such vile slang as: freakin’, frigging, sucks, p.o.’d (except possibly not the initials – most likely the p***d word itself), and “OMG” (which, let’s face it – is another abbreviation for the Lord’s name in vain).
I can’t say it is the fault of the children – or in some cases, even of their parents. These words are all over the media – not just prime time television, either. Many commercials loosely use these terms to advertise the most innocent products. That simply proves how easily we have allowed them to slip into the vernacular.
And speaking of television commercials – that is almost a whole ‘nother blog. The personal products that are graphically described or demonstrated basically teach a child the facts of life. At the very least, they will definitely lead to questions requiring that discussion with parents. Some of this began when my children were young. It was easy enough in those days to keep the TV on Nick at Nite or keep them watching videos of their favorite children’s programming. Even that innocence is now lost. Much of the programming on Nick and its counterpart TVLAND is far from child-friendly. Add to that, it’s not only the television that parents have to police – there is the myriad of social media outlets. Because most schools have curriculum requiring use of a computer, tablet or other Internet accessible device, the exposure is exponentially multiplied. And to think all I had to worry about with my kids was television and any of their friends who might tell them there was no such thing as Santa Claus… They laugh at me now, reminding me of how I wouldn’t let them say “butt” or “shut up.”
And though he teases me about those restrictions in his own childhood, my son recently shared this observation. He was watching the CNN special “The Sixties,” and noted the following in the episode that covered the Kennedy Assassination: “Mom, everyone was dressed so nice as they lined up to watch the President’s motorcade – the men wore slacks and sport shirts; women in dresses. You didn’t see anyone in jeans – there was no cleavage.” Then, my young adult son added, “And even Oswald was saying ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no sir’ in the interviews.” That struck me as particularly funny – my son noticing that even though a guy would kill the President of the United States, he was still credited with using good manners.
It is always my writing goal to entertain, stimulate thought, if not discussion, and most of all, to inject some humor, so it doesn’t come off “preachy.” Unfortunately, my son’s observation about Oswald’s manners is the only humor I can find for this topic. So, here comes the preachy part. I won’t harp on the things we have lost to political correctness, such as prayer in school and daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. There are plenty of others to address those issues over and over again. We do, however, need to raise our standards of behavior and speech – or perhaps I should say “restore” those standards. As a baby boomer, it would be beyond hypocritical for me to deny that I’m all for a certain level of casual – blue jeans and some slang. Yet, as the old saying goes, “There’s a time and a place for everything,” and our children today need to know and understand that distinction.
Now, for the proverbial “call to action:”
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