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Time for Courtesy

"These are the times that try men's souls." — Thomas Paine

On one hand, the last few decades have introduced incredible advancements in technology. New conveniences crop up every day. The abundance and variety of foods at the local market is something I never imagined as a child. On the surface, it appears that we are living in "the best of times," to quote Charles Dickens. But the best of times was only half of this famous quote. In certain respects we are living in "the worst of times" as well.
    Wars, terrorism, unemployment, a fragile economy just rising from the brink of collapse, and a society so distracted by technology and constant entertainment it can scarcely uphold the things that are meaningful. The once healthy tension of political ideologies now has many of us snapping at each other's throats. Inappropriate fear and anger are being encouraged by the media to the point that it threatens everything we believe in. As individuals, we feel little hope in changing things for the better.
    You and I have little or no control over the wars and politics of the Middle East. We just inherit the debt and mourn the losses. The insanity of terrorism lies outside our influence as well. Many, if not most of us, continue to suffer in various respects from current economic conditions. As for the media, we can always turn a skeptical ear away from the propaganda, or write letters of complaint, or change the channel, or shut the radio and television off.
    But there is something positive that we can do also, something we have to do if we hope to protect the very best of our own human nature. We can stop allowing ourselves to be shaped by the events around us, including the proliferation of anger and fear. We can live up to the principles we really believe in. Our patriotism need not be limited to regional concerns, but can include the overall ideals that America was founded upon.
    We start by displaying the healthy self-control and moral dignity of acting with courtesy toward others. Yelling, threats and angry demonstrations are signs of regression, not patriotism or heroism. The inability to communicate with courtesy and reason is not something to be admired. It is not a sign of strength. It is a sign of weakness, a refuge for those who do not know how to cope or effect change properly.
    Some adopt bullish behavior and use it to get what they want. What they fail to realize is that such victories come at a terrible cost. When social courtesies are ignored, the society becomes more coarse, more unreasonable, more contentious. Temporary personal gains produce long term losses. Problems multiply and resolutions are thwarted. Instead of teaching our children proper behavior that will make them happy and capable, we slight their growth with all the wrong lessons.
    As a civilized people, we actually start to devolve. Even freedom loses its main significance, which is the attainment of our full potential.
    Our nation was founded on ideals based on reason and virtue. If we do not incorporate reason and virtue into our relationships with other people, including strangers, we are not living up to the expectations of our founders.That includes courtesy.
    We live in the best and worst of times. And yes, they try our souls. But we must not succumb to barbarity. We must not only defend our ideals, we must live up to them as well.
The Golden Rule tells us to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That was written thousands of years ago. That it has morphed into "do unto others before they do unto you" is something that should shock us all into serious reflection.
It is time that we take our behavior seriously in everything we do.


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