Civilized is an adjective that describes the very opposite of barbarity. A civilized person is polite and courteous; he knows how to say “please” and “thank you.” A civilized group of people is characterized by being socially and technologically advanced. [vocabulary.com]
Two generations ago, we learned to Leave It To Beaver and Father Knew Best. This was followed by The Brady Bunch, My Three Sons, and The Andy Griffith Show.
One generation ago, we had Family Ties, Full House, Growing Pains and The Wonder Years. Family Matters, The Cosby Show, Saved by The Bell, and Married With Children were added to the mix. (Beavis and Butthead, Futurama, The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park grabbed the eyes of our youth.)
In the 2010’s Parenthood, Two and a Half Men, and Modern Family led the ratings for ‘family’ shows.
Whether Ed O’Neill is playing Al Bundy or Jay Pritchett, his role as a father seems significantly different from Robert Young or Fred MacMurray. Now I realize that cars styles have changed, the landline has morphed into the cellphone, and literally millions of things have evolved over the last seventy years. Religion, health care, energy, manufacturing, finances – nothing, it seems, has escaped the touch of change.
But I lament over what I consider the loss of civility, respect and other principles or values of a civil society. Our nation was established, in part, due to the deep desire for personal liberties or freedom. Each person possesses unalienable rights, per our Declaration of Independence (“…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”). [By the way, it seems that this inate desire for personal freedoms is the tinder that needs only some spark to ignite a raging flame.] Yet, in the absence of civility, it is difficult, if not impossible to advance the dialogue necessary to address our national (or local, community) interests. That which was once commonplace, utterances of social graces, respect, integrity, honesty, listening as well as speaking, seeking to be understood and to understand, these have become like the dodo bird, the unicorn, and dinosaurs – extinct. In all but a few circles, we want to be heard but do not want to hear any other view. We demand our rights without consideration of other’s rights. We want what we have and also what other’s have. All this while major ramifications to our future go unaware, or else at least do not possess serious traction to provide hope for resolution.
Why care? Healthcare. Energy. National Debt. Value of the Dollar. Ecology and Conservation. Education. Water. Agriculture. Pollution. Mass Murder. Religious Freedom. Jail overpopulation. Racism. Terrorism (Domestic and International). We no longer live in isolation from other nations. Our local communities are very much affected by our surrounding communities. Thus, we need to talk. We need to listen.
And this has to start in the home. The school system can reinforce family values of civility but if the parents are not modeling this behavior, the kids won’t either. We can be upset about an issue or about a person with whom we disagree. We can debate, even fiercely, about issues we care about. But each person faces similar difficulties and challenges as we all do. Compassion, empathy, sympathy, mercy and grace need to become ingrained threads within the tapestry of our families, communities, and our nation. It is okay to recognize our differences; however, we need to affirm our similarities as well.