This question has plagued me for awhile now, and I'm not sure if anyone can really answer it. But seriously, what is happening to our society? I'll admit, I may have some bitterness harbored up inside my soul from years of working for an airline and dealing with the public. But it's not just about my job--it's life in general.
It's like the art of being nice, polite, and considerate have fallen to the wayside. They're luxuries our modern day society can no longer afford. Who has the time? And why bother when there's nothing in it for us?
I feel like that's the mentality, and it's everywhere from kids to neighbors to strangers in the parking lot of the nearest supermarket. People don't take the time to be courteous anymore. And what's worse, the negativity that's circulating in our world as I type this, is damaging our children in a way that can't be repaired. It's damaging ourselves. The cycle is getting darker and deeper with each go round.
It's why I can't watch the news anymore. The hatred and violence is too much. But I don't have to watch the news to be aware of violence and anger. It's everywhere. It's the guy who flicks me off because I have the nerve to beep my horn when he cuts me off driving. It's the woman who doesn't bother to hold the door open for me when I'm two steps behind her. It's the couple who refuses to lower their voice in the row behind me at the movie theater so I have to listen to them talk instead of getting lost in the film I just paid half an hours paycheck for.
These courtesies and niceties used to matter. People used to be aware of them. Now, if you make mention of someone who may be disturbing or rude, you risk getting your brains blown out when they pull out the gun they're packing.
How did we get to this point? And what will it take for nice to be in again?
In some ways, we've come so far, and in others, we've regressed in an awful, ugly way.
The other day I was walking my dog in my neighborhood, like I always do, and we passed a house that we pass everyday, but on this day, the garage was open and a little scrappy dog came bolting out and jumped onto my dog. Now, my dog is big, but he's a teddy bear. Sweet and calm. A teenage girl was standing in the driveway with her mom and they passed it off, called their dog, Princess, back to the garage. But Princess didn't go. She began biting my dog in his hind legs and back. Literally biting and growling. Such a vicious little thing. I pulled my dog away but Princess followed, still sinking her teeth into my dog.
The girl was beside us now but made no motion to pick up Princess. "Come on, Princess," she said. "Come here."
"She's biting my dog," I told her.
"Oh she's just a little dog, she won't hurt him."
"It doesn't matter, she could have something," I said. "Please don't let her bite him."
The girl glowered at me, still making no motion to pick up her dog. "She ain't got nothing."
"I don't know that. Get her off my dog."
I led my dog all the way down the sidewalk to the stop sign with Princess still biting him and the girl still NOT picking up her dog. I told her I'd have to call someone if she didn't take care of her dog and pick her up. She told me she didn't care and I could go call whoever I wanted f***ing b***ch.
She still hadn't picked up her dog. Finally I stopped in front of her and said, "PICK UP YOUR DOG."
You know what she said to me? "Don't you tell me what to do you f***ing b***ch I'll knock you on your ass." And she got in my face to threaten me.
This from a teenage girl. Huh?
If you're curious to know how I handled it, I was pretty irritated by that point and told her to go ahead and knock me down and see what happens. She picked up her dog by then and my dog and I turned down the next street. But all the time I was wondering what in the world could've possibly put so much anger into that teenage girl? To physically threaten an adult who had done nothing but walked past her house with her dog?
I was mystified. I never would've even considered speaking to an adult that way when I was a teen. My mom woulda slapped me upside the head so fast I'd seen stars. You know what that girl's mom did? Nothing.
Could that be the problem we're facing as a society? Hmmm. I'm not condoning domestic violence or anything like that, but where is the line? At what points do parents need to step up to the plate and teach their kids how to be respectful?
Where do these violent tendencies in teens come from? I don't have to mention the recent shootings because they're fresh and obvious. But how about the teen serving a life sentence for assaulting a teenage girl at the library five years ago? I'm writing her mother's memoir right now--the mother of a once healthy vibrant girl, now confined to a wheelchair and eating through straws, no longer with use of her speech or legs, or even full vision.
All because she returned books to the library, and this teenage boy decided he'd rape and strangle her til her brain suffered a stroke. He was sixteen years old when he committed this act of violence. And left her for dead in an alligator infested swamp. He went back to the library the next day. As if nothing happened.
What's happening to our children, to our society? How do we fix it? Were these teens mean and quick to violence because someone wasn't nice to them? A lot of people maybe? How much did they themselves have to endure to make them into such hateful beings?
My daughter is seven. She just finished second grade. You know what she told me a few months ago? "My friends aren't really all that nice."
"Huh? They're not nice?"
"No," she said. "They're my friends, and I like them, but my best friends in my class are rude to me and each other. No one is nice."
She told me this again in different variations throughout the rest of the school year. Yes, she liked her friends. Yes, she remained friends with them. But did they make her feel loved as a human being. No. They weren't nice kids.
Why? What's happening? Why aren't we nice to each other?
A few years ago I had to change my job function with the airline so I could only speak to people in the UK. Why? Because they're nicer. Sorry, but it's true. Not everyone, of course, but in general, they still mind their manners and maintain politeness even when upset. I'm not saying all Americans are rude, and it's certainly not only an American issue, but it is what it is.
I'm in no way suggesting I'm above anyone else. I have my moments of improper manners just like everyone else, but I try really hard to be courteous and polite at all times. And respectful. Maybe it's just that we don't respect each other anymore. How do we get that back? What do we have to do to teach our kids respect? That it's not all about me, me, me?
I fear for my children. I really do. If they're having to deal with rudeness now in elementary school, what does the future hold?
Being nice does not mean you have to let people walk all over you. You can teach a child to be thoughtful and courteous and still stand up for themselves. Are we doing this? Are we setting the right examples?
Are we being nice to each other? Are we taking the time to be nice to kids and teens so they'll in turn be nice to each other?
Niceness is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of peace and friendship and beauty. And it spreads like wildfire when given the chance!
Next time you have the opportunity to go out of your way and be nice to someone, I hope you take it. I hope you don't skip over it because you're in a hurry, or because it's not important. It IS important.
This is our world we're talking about--our children and future. If we're not being nice, why should they?