Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bad manners?

I know this is a break from my normal entries, but I wanted to share something I have been thinking about for the past week.

Last week, I reread a book by my favorite living author, Cormac McCarthy. In the book, the character named Ed Tom Bell said he thought our country started falling apart when people forgot their manners. He said when people stopped saying "Yes, sir" or "Yes, ma'am" that was it for the dignified world.

A couple of days later, a friend asked me if I had ever used the world "chivalry" in a sentence. This friend is probably 30 years older than me, and it shocked me that he would think that someone my age would not know what chivalry meant.

Come to think of it, in my 33 years, chivalry has never been of my time. I have read about it in books, but even though I am a native Southerner, the idea of moonlight and magnolias is just that -- fiction.

I actually agree with McCarthy on this, and I think I can narrow down when America lost its manners. I think it was when Kennedy was assassinated. It brought an end to idealism in America. It was the beginning of the 60s and the picket-fence-apple-pie era of the 50s was long gone.

Now, I have never been a fan of Kennedy, and I do believe that if he would have never been assassinated, he would be considered a mediocre president with bad foreign policy. It says a lot that I attribute the loss of decorum and values to his death.

But his death was brought into the home of every American, and every American realized the world was actually a dangerous and unpredictable place (I am sure the Cuban conflict added to this realization as well).

The fairytale was over. The ugliness was out in the open.

Just a thought.