Civility

Civility

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
April 22 1998 3:30 AM

Civility

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       Thank goodness somebody is addressing the road rage question. I must tell you, I've failed to give it the thoughtful attention you have pointed out that it deserves. I had been concentrating on spitting and gum chewing in public.
       You say that road rage derives from the reification or what you call "the dehumanization" by the road rager toward the road ragee and that this seldom happened a generation ago. Being almost as old as the Dalai Lama himself, I confess that I was driving a vehicle a generation ago and the biggest change I'm aware of from then to now is a helluva lot more cars.
       Perhaps road rage is an automotive version of the too-many-rats-in-a-box phenomenon. It may well be that cars can't stand the stress of being too closely packed together and that they transfer their anxiety and anger to their drivers--reification!--who go bonkers, curse and cuss the dehumanized, thingified person in the car ahead. Hence, road rage may not be a symptom of incivility but a condition brought on by the automobile manufacturers. Import restrictions should bring almost immediate relief as well as strengthening the hand of domestic car makers and the United Automobile Workers.
       I think I agree with you about the song lyrics. I say I think I do because 90 percent of the time I can't understand them. And I have a better chance of catching their meaning than the teen-agers who buy this stuff. Ancient that I am, my hearing tests 100 percent OK, something which cannot be said of younger people whose hearing, otolaryngologists report, has been impaired by the high decibel blatting of modernity. I doubt very much that these children know what's on those records, but allow me to felicitate you on being able to decipher them. Oh, and before passing on to your next item, may I join you and go on record as also being unalterably opposed to gangbangaggio in whatever form it may take.
       I'll give you another point on the schools. Disobedient and misbehaving children are unbearable. Since I'm not as concerned about civility as you are, I would just throw the brats into vats of boiling water and stew them until tender. Should you find a ragout d'enfants a trifle, to use your word, distasteful, you can rest easy anyhow. Tinker vs. Des Moines School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), the Supreme Court decision that set the children to running amok in the classroom, is step by step being rescinded by a different generation of judges. Even Bill Clinton, not known as a self-disciplinarian, has gone on the stump for school uniforms and keeping quiet when the teacher is talking.
       Anent public safety. Ducks, we may have a definition problem here. If the term you use--civility--is stretched to mean the suppression of violent crime, I don't think we have a dispute. However, I confess until now I had not thought of the police as civility enforcers, but a rose by any other name ...
       Nevertheless, lest there be a scintilla of doubt and since the opportunity has arisen, may I forthrightly and categorically state I am against murdering people awake or asleep, in their beds at home or on their blankets in the park. Let us have none of that.
       As to those poor families in Chicago who would sleep in the parks on hot summer nights, you're right. We can surmise that far fewer do now than did a half-century ago. Doubtless some don't take their weary rest in those sylvan precincts because they're afraid that they'll get their throats slit but, I suspect, many more don't because they have air conditioning or have moved to the suburbs.
       So, wringeth not the hands. Gnash not the tooth. It is a sign of how good times are that we can occupy ourselves with manners and comportment, for we are in a Panglossian moment. Civility regaineth and, if everything isn't getting better and better, the Dow Jones is going upper and upper.