Bye Bye Birdie is a musical satire on American society set in 1958. There is a show-stopping number in the performance titled, “What’s The Matter with Kids Today.” It starts off like this:
I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Who can understand anything they say?
They are disobedient, disrespectful…
Let’s fast forward to 2014 and change-up this tune a bit by substituting the word “adults” for “kids.” (Stay with me folks, I assure you there is a method to my madness.)
“I don’t know what’s wrong with these adults today!”
And so on…. I think you get my drift.
As a society we’ve reached a new level of brashness with our anything-goes, no- holds-barred attitudes — and this rudeness not only influences the political arena, but has spread like a cancer in other areas of our lives. Did you ever wonder why folks are becoming so adept at showing disrespect to one another?
I am going to take a stab at this menace and give you my personal take. If you read my columns you know that I am an up-front gal and speaking my mind is second nature; however, I do listen to opposing views.
Nowadays, it is difficult to maintain any equanimity when it comes to hot-button issues. We shout each other down with faux facts that are not subject to logic. What has happened to civil discourse or rules that govern deportment? (These “rules” were drummed into me at an early age by Mom and the nuns who taught me through grade school.)
Methinks we are “Angry Americans” not to be confused with the book, “The Ugly American” — although it gets pretty damn ugly out there in blogosphere, social media, within our neighborhoods or in the dark shadows of family life.
Politics is in a class of its own: A few candidates will initially run a positive campaign; however, many succumb (as we have seen in the last election) to negative knocked-down-dragged out battles. One will win; but both will be beaten.
Physiologists maintain that sometimes behind anger lies fear. Even if the angry person appears strong, and in control, fear is usually lurking somewhere just beneath the anger. We don’t need to be rocket scientists to know the world is in flux: We have the bejeebers scared out of us daily with mega-doses of fear: Terrorist attacks, brutal beheadings, ISIS, Ebola—and that’s just for starters.
I enjoy posting comments on our local and national blogs and on social media, but with one caveat: If I do not agree with someone, I will try to get my point across, civilly or let it drop. By law, we are entitled to our opinions. However, sometimes comments become a spring-board for crude racist remarks, name-calling and intolerance. Mean-spiritedness reigns in blogosphere as well as on social media.
I love all kinds of music: Classical, pop and good old rock. I recently watched a music video that featured a rap artist. The lyrics were so disrespectful to women that I was taken aback. (I’m no shrinking violet; it takes a lot for me to be shocked.) I questioned why the gals who watched this display of vulgarity were not up in arms. Instead,they were waving their arms and dancing to lyrics that were calling them b— (The word rhymes with “witches.”) These degrading lyrics are what some kids are plugged into, literally.
Speaking of which, we need to teach our kids and grandkids to be kinder to one another. But in reality, what are we adults teaching our kids? Some parents at school sporting events make spectacles out of themselves. Egging their kids on, there have been numerous reports of parental disturbances. Often coaches and members of the opposite team are sworn at and threatened. Why would any adult want to attack a kid? It’s a game, for heaven’s sake!
I text often, but never while driving. Last week, I experienced two separate incidents where I was put to the test. My Sicilian blood almost (notice I wrote almost!) boiled over.
One gal cut me off almost causing my car to swerve into another lane. When I blasted my horn, she looked up —shocked. She had been looking down at her phone instead of the road.
I was stopped at a red light. When the light turned green, the guy in front of me didn’t move. I could see that he was texting. When I lightly tapped on my horn, he stuck his hand out the window and gave me the “universal finger sign.”
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, how sad that many families will not be eating at the same table. I am not speaking of travel constraints, but of Hatfield and McCoy feuds. Bad blood between relatives, whose cause is probably unknown to the current generation, decimates families. Cousins may not know each other, and what can be worse than a split between a parent and child? (I have heard stories of this nature and cannot fathom being estranged from my kids.)
America was founded on the principles of respect and mutual tolerance. We show respect for ourselves and others by not engaging in undignified behaviors. What we say, how we say it and how it is interpreted can either make or break a relationship. When we use our words and actions as weapons, it’s akin to metaphorically throwing rocks at each other—and rocks hurt.
I started this column with a song lyric and thought it fitting to end with a few lines from Aretha Franklin’s smash hit “Respect.” At first listen this song seems like a benign piece of danceable music: energetic and catchy. But on second listen the words ring as true today as they did in 1967. Here goes:
“What you want/Baby, I got it/What you need/You know I got it/All I’m askin’ /Is for a little respect…
If we, as a society, exercised more respect and gentleness, we will have gone a long way to become the “great society” that President Lyndon Johnson challenged us to be.
Folks, like you, I have been in tight spots, faced opposition, stalemates and have been pelleted with downright rudeness. I have learned —the hard way, perhaps — that gentleness and respect toward our fellow humans is truly the cradle of power
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in ‘retirement’ — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.
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