From government officials to recording artists, respect as a common value has disappeared.
Incivility was at its finest during what humorist Andy Borowitz referred to as “National Outbursts Week.”
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) called President Barack Obama a liar during the president’s address to Congress, tennis superstar Serena Williams threatened an umpire at the U.S. open, and hip-hop star Kanye West acted his shoe size, rather than his age, at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Unfortunately, old-school morals like the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have others do unto you”) have left the minds of far too many, and lack of respect is becoming a serious problem. Instead of taking ownership for their actions, though, these public figures poured excuses from their mouths.
Rep. Wilson felt his direct apology to the president was sufficient. It seemed, to him, there was no need to apologize on the Congress floor for U.S. and international audiences to see, but it was OK for him to shout, “You lie,” and interrupt the presidenton national television.
Serena Williams only owned up to being frustrated because she was not playing her best and said she, like all athletes, was only being passionate about her craft. After Williams admitted these things, comparisons to other tennis athletes, such as John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, were made in every direction, pointing out that she’s not the first to lose her temper and yell at an umpire.
But the line has to be drawn somewhere.
Kanye West, who is known to throw temper tantrums when things don’t go his way, interrupted an important moment for young recording artist Taylor Swift with valid statements but at a horribly inappropriate time.
Some celebrities think because of their status, they can get away with whatever they want. To some, their influences are so prominent they seem to think their actions are justifiable.
The Columbus Dispatch reported this modern-day rudeness is a result of a stressed-out society. Common courtesy is put on the back burner to accommodate people’s own immediate needs.
“American society is among the most informal in the world, and often that informality crosses over into incivility,” said P.M. Forni, head of the Civility Initiative at John Hopkins University and author of The Civility Solution: What to Do When People are Rude.
As a society, it’s easy to expect more from these individuals because they are high profile or because they are considered by some Americans to be role models. But the levels of disrespect demonstrated by Wilson, Williams and West weren’t all that different from that occurring in everyday life.
Between the Internet and text messaging, it’s easy for individuals to take freedom of speech to a whole new level. There are fewer and fewer one-on-one conversations, and there’s hardly any accountability for what is being said.
Non-celebrities run into this lack of civility on a regular basis, but they go unnoticed.
From a receptionist who, even though she’s on a call, actually acknowledges you with a smile or nod, to a simple please or thank you, our focuses need to be redirected. Incivility is undeniably at its highest when throwing a shoe at a president turns you into a hero, or calling your president a liar on national television earns $200,000 towards your re-election campaign.
Haniyyah Sharpe can be reached at email@example.com.