Is it me or does it seem to you that we are living in a meaner world?
There was a time when congeniality ruled our politics. Of course, there were other times (during the Civil War) when it did not. We seem to go through cycles of good behavior that rapidly crosses into deplorable behavior. We seem to be in the latter phase right now.
Our politicians do not look at each other as loyal opposition, but rather as sworn enemies. Even people in the same party are throwing bombs at each other. Let’s start with the Democrats. How can one party harbor both the bumbling Joe Biden and the clearly dissociating Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.? What’s worse, is that the legitimate Democratic Party cannot muster a reasonable challenger to an obviously depleted Biden. In 1968, a still relatively young LBJ was challenged from all sides when it was felt by his party that his stance on the Vietnam War was no longer in step with public opinion. Mr. Biden has a few legislative wins, but the economy is still lagging and he really seems to have no answer for that. Combine that with Biden’s disastrous pull-out from Afghanistan, his inability to really face off against the Russians or Chinese, his reluctance to engage with Russia over its illegal war in Ukraine, and a lack of any meaningful progress in the Middle East or Iran and I do not see Biden as having been a successful president. Does no one else in his party have any new ideas with which to challenge the aging incumbent? It can be done nicely without being rude.
On the other side, there is no lack of non-Trump candidates, but there is a decisive lack of any of the challengers being successful. No matter what Mr. Trump does or what truth about his tenure in the White House comes to light, the GOP faithful back him by over 40-points over any challenger. And no one can be ruder than Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump normalized rude throughout his presidency and took it to new levels on January 6. Should he be re-elected, he will take rude to even higher levels as he combines a mean streak with the vindictiveness of a hired killer.
Even in every day life, rude rules the day. Go ahead, try to get someone to return your voice mail, let alone an email or a text. It usually takes me multiple repeated phone calls to get anyone on the line with whom to talk. Recorded lines and robots are not rude, but they aren’t helpful either. They may save the vendor money because people don’t answer phones, but actually getting any service done is a rarity.
Driving seems to be the embodiment of rude from road rage to simply not allowing a merge on 610 North on the way to 59 North.
It seems that everyone is in a fight with someone. Cancel culture abounds. Twitter has become X has become even more rude. And everyone seems to be blaming someone for something. What were the authorities thinking in Maui? Why can a crowd assemble in downtown Manhattan looking for free video games? And, perhaps, most telling, how could Jimmy Buffett die? There is someone with whom the word rude was never associated. Bill Richardson, too.
Even in academic centers, lawyers and administrators are ruthlessly purging the ranks of the faculty who they accuse of being rude and then epitomize that rudeness themselves.
Whatever happened to manners? What ever happened to giving the other guy the benefit of the doubt? When did rude become normal? It did not start with Donald Trump although he surely took it to new heights.
I want to see a politician or national leader demonstrate the opposite of rude—magnanimity. Whether it’s Mitch McConnell not abusing his position to block President Obama’s Supreme Court pick or the courts throughout the country that must determine the guilt or innocence of the 45th President, we need some mercy. We need less rude.
When you feel yourself tensing up and your rude coming on, take a deep breath and try something else. Anything else. It just might work.
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