Two days after Christmas, on Sunday, December 27, my husband Charles and I were fortunate enough to attend the Jets versus Patriots football game at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey.
Our seats were near the 50 yard line, and we were especially blessed to have record-setting 60 degree weather. It was a very exciting game, and the team we were rooting for (the Jets) won in overtime.
But despite the fabulous tickets, lovely weather, and our desired outcome of the game, there was an ugliness that surrounded us.
Foul language was a constant, from the parking lot as we walked to the stadium to the majority of people in our seating section. There were very descriptive death wishes for Tom Brady (the New England quarterback), shouting matches between fans of opposing teams, people so drunk that security had to escort them out, and an obnoxious amount of litter scattered on the ground.
Family friendly it was not.
Then I had my own challenge: what does one do in such circumstances? I can't control how much alcohol people consume or that they dispose of their garbage properly. But could I dare to censure the constant barrage of curse words that many around us kept speaking (or screaming)?
There is no doubt rudeness has taken over our society. The examples seem endless: road rage, cutting in line, letting a door slam into the face of the person behind you, dog excrement being left on sidewalks, people talking loudly (sometimes about very personal matters) on their cell phones, leaving shopping carts in the middle of parking lots.
I believe this coarseness is a significant reason why so many of us feel our country is headed in the wrong direction. There are many problems at home and abroad, of course, but challenges have always been with us. It is the day to day witnessing of and being a victim to rudeness that is why many feel cultural despair.
I've identified four reasons why society is more discourteous now than ever before:
1. Globalization - the outsourcing of jobs has created unprecedented competition of the workforce, with employees fearing for their jobs and working much longer hours.
2. Materialization - couples have big mortgages for their big homes and fancy lifestyles, thus forcing both to work long hours, rush in traffic to pick up their kids from daycare, and generally be exhausted and overwhelmed.
3. Isolation - computers, video games, and all those other gadgets are isolating people from each other, and in addition people are increasingly living far away from other family members.
4. Secularization - with the foundation of religion eroding, fewer people are being taught how to love their neighbor.
I have compassion of those who are impolite. Yes, I truly felt sympathy for the two young men Jets fans behind us who used the f word at least once in every sentence and who sincerely wished Brady would break his back.
Because people who are rude do not know how to treat others the way they themselves would want to be treated. Perhaps they do not even know how to love themselves.
My challenge was solved by Charles. Shortly into the first quarter, he said very loudly to no one in particular, "Can everyone watch their language in front of my wife, please?" A moment later he cheerfully added, "Thank you!"
He is my hero, because so often he has the courage to do what I wished I had done for myself.
For the rest of the game, the curse words from our area were only sporadic. I did, however, hear expletives being shouted from other seating sections, as they perhaps did not have any advocate for more civilized public speech.
This New Year I've resolved to not be silent when I am witness to or a victim of rudeness, and I invite everyone to join me and share their stories with me. I will be polite and will use the words please, kindly, and thank you. But I will speak up.
This will take courage. But I'm determined to attempt. Let us join together to transform our culture back to a more polite and considerate one.