The death of respect?

Okay, so I’m infected too.


A few years ago, if someone had blown their horn or been what I considered ignorant to me, I would taken it, seethed inwardly, and asked God to drop a big rock on them—a little bit at a time.

No mercy, there.

As time passed, and God worked with me and showed me just how much mercy he’d shown me, I seethed less, prayed more, but remained the gal most likely to act like a ‘drive-zilla’ in my automobile.

This morning, I participated in probably the most ugly verbal exchange I’ve done in a long time. Why? All because I wasn’t moving fast enough for the drive thru customer behind me, and because her way of showing this was to honk her horn and then get indignant when called on it.

Before the exchange was over, I’d called her an idiot, and she’d told me to F*$# off. I drove off because doing otherwise at that point might have gotten us both arrested.  Telling the story at work to two coworkers allowed me to vent, but also made me consider the slow death of respect in America.

The more I think about what happened today, the more I think, (I didn’t see her face) the woman behind me was likely a teenager or young adult. I’m saying that because her voice sounded, ‘young.’

The sadness is our whole confrontation consisted of us yelling out our windows at each other. Not face to face, as a good honest exchange would be. If she was idiot for what she said, I was certainly one for responding in kind.

And if you think about it, if this was a young person, nothing about the way the confrontation went down would be unusual. Likely adept at social media, this person might be the veteran of many ‘faceless’ confrontations where from behind a computer or I-Phone screen she could be as nasty as she wanted to be.

Before the advent of social media, there were consequences to a confrontation. And there was also time to de-escalate. Even a war with letters would assume the time that it would take for the mail to be delivered, read and responded to—and mailed back out to the offending party.

These days a pithy word or crude insult can go out in a micro-second, perhaps faster than the would be offender can think. We can turn on the television and see glitzy talk-show hosts who encourage gladiator style fist fights (to include cursing, hair-pulling and audience cheering) of their guests. Can anyone say “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry?”

I grew up down South, where women sometimes tied up. Over their men, or their marriages, or even their kids. Sometimes their recounting of the events were even close to truth. Sometimes such embellished stories became part of the time honored folklore of the deep South, getting better with each retelling.

But the difference was, if people really argued, they picked up the phone, or they knocked on the door. And it was for a pretty good reason, if they did it at all. For the most part, it was assumed that only a very trashy kind of person would put their dirty laundry out in public for all to see and hear.

And yet, today, that’s nearly what happened at the drive-through. Even now, I’m thinking of a way to use the event to write a comedic episode for my ongoing arch-enemies in the Contentment blogs. I can see the fictional Sue Beth Snooker, and Eleanor Grace Vernon taking it a step further, and getting into a free-for-all at the new Dairy Queen circa 1968. The Sherriff having to come take them away. Funny for a tongue in cheek look at deep old timey Southern life.

Not so funny about today.

I am convinced, after this morning’s exchange that I’ve fully come into my own when it comes to having a temper. My mother’s Muscogee Indian and my father’s multiple warring heritages conspired this morning to make me call someone I didn’t know and couldn’t see an idiot—after telling her to ‘have some manners.’ Then totally losing my manners along with half of my religion.

If she were as young as I think she is, telling her to have manners just encouraged her to not have any. If she’s young, rebellious, defiant and intent on acting like her favorite reality show, that only made her go wrong. Who was I to tell her what to do?

However, if she were my age, or slightly younger, maybe this woman was coming into ownership of her own personal rage. And loving every minute of it.

I don’t think so, because her response to me telling her to have some manners was not even correct grammar. She said, “I have some, you do too.” Okay, apparently she wasn’t instructed by Professor Higgins in English, but this affected comment really sounded like something that an under-educated, immature person would say to have the last word—or die trying. What was her example for appropriate womanhood?

Well….that type of crudeness is what we see on television today.

We have our reality stars, our talk show hosts, and our presidential candidates showing themselves and acting the fool. If called on it, they use terms like ‘disgusting pigs’ or other horrible terms to try to shut up or disparage their opponent. We have our social media full of people who will get into a name-calling contest with strangers they will never meet and make perfect fools of themselves. If you try to correct them, they turn on you.

I admit today, I could have acted better. You see, I find myself getting more infected too. The current lack of respect in our culture tells me that I have a RIGHT to be pissed off. I have a RIGHT to the last word. I have a RIGHT to put someone in their place. I even have a RIGHT to be WRONG and hold onto that right even when every bit of evidence is pointing in favor of the person(s) I am assume to be my naysayers.

Yes, society tells me—I have the right to be wrong. Who is someone else to tell me that I can’t be boorish, hating, rude, impatient or verbally abusive? I have earned the right to this behavior. Our current Republican Presidential nominee prides himself on ‘telling it like it is’ and says that the problem with America now is that we are ‘too’ politically correct! Tell it like it is, people! To do less makes you a ‘loser!’

When I was growing up, there was a saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”  I understood that to mean don’t go to extremes. Maybe some personal freedoms have been stepped on by over-editing ourselves, but going the other way and being rude and insulting can’t be the solution either.

If I could step back in time and do this morning’s exchange differently, there are certainly things I could have done better. From this moment forward, there are things I can do should I ever get into a similar situation. What would these be?

Take a few deep breaths. Remind myself that I don’t have to feed into another person’s negatively. A person who will lay on their horn after a two second wait and use crude cursing to express their loud frustration can’t be a person who is very happy.

They may be financially or vocationally successful, but every time they open their mouth they reveal the cavity in their souls to all possible observers. And, unless they are aiming to be the little old lady or man that everyone avoids, I think it would be stretching to even call them successful.

I’d like to think that God is daily working on filling the cavity in my soul. Today, with my church sticker on the back of my car, I may not have demonstrated that too well. Yes, of the two of us, I had the cleaner mouth. But who had the cleaner heart?

Who could have chosen to do better? If I met this person again, this time face to face, and knew it was her, how would I greet her? Hopefully, it would be with respect, even if I decided I just didn’t like her.

Our nation has deep division and scars. Some from holding onto rage for too long. Some from giving vent to whatever emotion we choose to vent. I may never encounter the driver (who I never saw) behind me again. However, I can learn from this.

I can take some time to figure out how I can be more respectful in confrontation. I can choose to take the high road, even when it is difficult. And if I don’t think that I can, I can ask God to help me. It is guaranteed that I will face other confrontations. What will I bring to them? Respect or the ability to demolish first?

Our nation has experienced a death of respect. We seem to think we are entitled to be as nasty as we want to be, even over silly and petty things. If someone honks at me, I somehow feel, I am entitled to defend myself. And maybe I am—but always, always, it should be with respect.

For it is how I defend myself, how I fight back shows the world who I am more clearly than anything else that I do.