Lest I Forget

Last week a friend and I were sitting around his filthy kitchen table, amidst the chaos of his filthy little apartment, off on various tangents, theoretical and so forth, politics, environment etc. He’d been talking about how he was raised to have manners, to have respect, say please and thank you. Although, apparently not raised to clean up after himself, but I digress.

Manners, as in table manners, and how you spoke to others, how you treated others, and especially total strangers who can do nothing for you sort of manners. I was raised the same. My own grandmothers’ personal fav do onto others as you would have done onto you; trotted out on all sorts of occasions, transgressions, or just out of the blue, unsolicited. Another fav of hers: if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.

That one I dearly wish the orange one down south would maybe try on for size.

Also, with recent events in mind, got me thinking about how calling people names generally don’t go well, for anyone. Certainly doesn’t put anyone in a fair light, and certainly not the name caller. Always bites you in the ass, I find. Although, hypocrites don’t seem to get this concept.

Now, I’ve done it myself on the rare occasion, and spit out or typed out (for posterity cause I’m an idiot) some nasty names, I think my last one was scumbag, in reference to a political candidate.

I guess the question is, is free speech more significant than its consequences?

So I think maybe THAT was my Grandma’s point, and many of that generation that had lived through the depression and two world wars just decades apart, and they understood the consequences and the importance of trying to get along; ie, manners, decorum, respect = fewer wars, less death, more security.

How to get along, or, today, why to get along. Please and thank you, and human decency, for gosh sake Grandma would say.

Side note – my Grandmother never, or rarely, swore. Maybe a very quiet damn if she stubbed her toe, followed by excuse my french, which now that I think about it, is probably a slight towards the French.

Yeah, so, recently this ex-CIA director, John Brennan, who served 4 presidents from both sides of the political spectrum, wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post had a few things to say I liked, and that got me again thinking of that conversation. In particular:

“I will speak out until integrity, decency, wisdom…and maybe even some humility…return to the White House”.

Which would suggest we’ll be hearing more from him in the not so distant future, and often.

black microphone

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In these radical and chaotic times we are witnessing, where manners and decorum have been washed with this brush of elitism and snobbery, one should speak up, and often. My own Grandmother would be horrified at how some of the current, so-called, leaders behave, what’s acceptable, and how easily people look the other way as long as they are getting what they want.

I don’t know, honesty, integrity and service are still, or should be still, qualities of good leadership. Megalomaniac, with a generous side of narcissism, seems to be the order of the day, sadly. Lying, adultery, and self-gratification are completely acceptable to a surprising number of people.

Basically, we make choices, and as such we as well must suffer the consequences of our must be friggin said truths, often illuminating our prejudices, lies, and racist thoughts, and nasty belittling ideas. Who does this really serve?

And, where do hateful statements go after they are said?

Now, take me. I’m selfish, I want things, I feel fed up sometimes, no different than anyone else. But I still say please and thank you. I still admonish myself when I say nasty words, though, sad to say, I for some reason don’t stop saying them. I do know better, and the consequences are generally that anything I just said gets washed with the brush of my own prejudice, vulgarity and perhaps my unreasonable ire, thus degrading my words.

Can just hear my Grandma tsk-tsking, looking at me with disapproval, at my taking myself down to the level of the seeming trash I’m criticizing; being all high and mighty she would say.

Growing up just after the boomers, the child of a boomer, I do retain some of the rural mindset, where manners and civility defined our rural community (usually), tied together as we were merely through proximity, although sometimes through DNA, and getting along had merit.

Manners, I think still matter, and even more so, or maybe that’s just my limited point of view.

Basically, I suppose it comes down to the fact that not everyone has to know what I think of them, I am a mature adult, not a child, and have managed to retain over the years some of the common decency that my Grandmother instilled. Such as, usually, not to go off half-cocked and say whatever stupid hateful thing that comes to mind. Although, that level of restraint would seem to be lost in many of today’s forums – online and otherwise.

But there are still consequences.

In the evolution of our species, from the trees to the savannah, from the savannah to the pasture, from the farm to cities, we’ve had millenniums to practice how to get along. Yet, prejudice of the other is a remnant of that past, and won’t just go away cause we desire it to be so. I’m not that naive. Being wary of strangers is a survival tool – just ask the Brits after Lindisfarne when the Vikings showed up, and they saw offshore those same ships coming their way.

Though, thinking back to that conversation with my friend, I realized that being PC is the next natural step from manners and decorum, and with the same intent. Call it civility, but sometimes I guess ya just spittin’ into the wind, talking to those for whom instantaneous gratification, materialism and intolerance are the norm, and expected, and when ripping children from their parents’ arms at the American border is just fine, and quite frankly I wonder sometimes if maybe we’re all going to hell in a handbasket.

Yet even I have to remind myself to think about someone other than myself, I can be just as self-obsessed as anyone, idealist that I am, I curse like a sailor. Still, as an introvert strangers are generally not my happy place.

That said, back to ones right to free speech (which we don’t in Canada have as hate speech is legislated), like it or not, there are always consequences of our words.

So, I say, own it, or don’t say it, it’s your show.

Oops, or in some cases, it was your show. {evil grin washes across my freckled face}

I believe our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, have/had lessons to impart, from decades of globalization, and at the turn of the century many factions were feeling the pinch, and fires of serious prejudice and racism reared its ugly head, as whole industries vanished, and the rich become more so, and the poor saw jobs disappear at the speed of progress, and refugees from foreign parts began to flood the borders across Europe, and nationalism looked to be the be all and end all, global wars erupted, economies tanked, and in the intervening years it would seem as though we have forgotten all those lessons of how to get along.

Now, here we are, back to nationalism, back to globalization is the boogeyman. However, you can not put that genie back into its box, try as we might, we are a global economy and migrations have been happening since the dawn of species, maybe it’s time we dealt with it rather than ignore it.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Manners are not just some antiquated notion of little old ladies in aprons, and with freedom comes responsibility; both of which are concepts I think that some find, apparently, inconvenient. Yes, in this era of the individual, everyone just wants their own way, and bugger the other.

Being that today is D-Day, lest we forget, it may be worthwhile to take another gander at that old folk wisdom as there are nuggets that we may learn from, from those who saw things we do not want to see, and that they probably dearly hoped we would never see, again.

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