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Reviews | Rudeness is on the rise. Do you have a problem with that? | Breaking News Updates

Reviews | Rudeness is on the rise. Do you have a problem with that?

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Some time ago I tried to write a sympathetic column about women named Karen, people who through no fault of their own now find their names to be synonymous with a particular type of bad behavior associated with it. to white women indignant at privilege. I posted an open call on Facebook, asking women named Karen to tell me their stories. A few people took the mission at face value, but many more received letters of scathing outrage.

The gist of all of these responses was accusatory: How dare I have sympathy for someone named Karen? Did I, these writers write in various but meaner ways, blind to systemic racism, classism and white privilege? Was I, asked a writer, a complete idiot?

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the vitriol. It seems many people are just waiting for an opportunity to express the pent-up rage of Donald Trump’s four-year-old Covid-21, twenty-one in the 21st century. It reminds me of the remarkable scene in the reboot of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” in which two brothers, ringing a doorbell in a strange neighborhood, witness a mind-blowing shootout, sparked by nothing more than a couple blocking someone’s driveway with their Van.

“People are very stressed out, Bradley,” one brother said blithely. Indeed.

So how do we respond to a tense world, a culture in which the safeguards of so-called civility have disappeared? The proof of this stress is everywhere. In airports, then in the sky, you can find airline passengers angry at wearing masks, angry at inspecting guns in their carry-on baggage, seemingly angry with, well, everything. Things are not much better near us, and this is coming from both sides of our ideologically divided society. Take the growing online culture of heckling skeptics of deceased Covid vaccines and their families. As Dan Levin asked in his New York Times article last weekend on the phenomenon, is it schadenfreude or a public service?

Nationally, incivility and rudeness have increased in all aspects of life – except at work – in recent years. Even in 2019, 93% of people surveyed across the country reported uncivil behavior was on the rise; 68 percent called this a major problem. And that was before the pandemic and insurgency of January 6. Since then, things have clearly gotten worse.

I’m more interested in the 32 percent who told pollsters it was not a major problem. Was it their feeling that a grosser world is really just a more truthful world?

To some extent, I think this is true. There was a time when frankly speaking the truth from one’s heart was considered, by some, to be rude. As a queer American, I am grateful to live in a time when I can live my truth out into the open. Maybe some people find my lack of shame about being trans offensive, but I don’t lose sleep over their sensitivities. Sometimes one person’s rudeness is another’s truth.

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But there is a difference between freedom from shame and shamelessness. When I see the guy driving around my neighborhood in a flagged van carrying a particularly lewd suggestion about President Biden, it makes me both angry and sad. Perhaps that is his intention. It makes me wonder how we got to a point where such displays go unhindered, where meanness rarely has consequences.

This is one of the reasons I admit that I find the videos of passengers refusing masks and handcuffs on planes quite satisfying. Here, just once, we can see the consequences of incivility. I get the same sense of satisfaction when I see images of January 6 insurgents sentenced to prison terms. I cannot turn away when the insolent are reduced to tears. I’m sorry you’re unhappy, I mean, in the same tone of voice that I once used with my preschoolers. But perhaps you should have thought about the consequences before attempting to violently overthrow the United States government while wearing a Viking hat.

And yet I worry: by indulging in the pleasure of someone else’s tears, am I the one who is showing incivility? I mean the dark genre described by Flannery O’Connor’s character the Misfit in his story “A good man is hard to find”, a person who says he finds “no pleasure but wickedness” .

Such dips and dips into wickedness remind me of my mother (who would have turned 105 on Thanksgiving weekend). It was his opinion that forgiveness did not only restore dignity to those who had lost it; it also gave a certain power over the pettiness of the world. She always thought about the best of people, whether they deserved it or not.

Once, after I came out as a trans, we went to dinner together. That night, a transphobic waiter made it clear what he thought of us. I was used to that kind of cruelty, but it hurt to see her target my worthy mother.

She was unfazed. Later I asked him, wasn’t it embarrassing to be treated like that, by a stranger, in a place where you paid clients?

“Oh, Jenny,” she said. “You know he didn’t really mean it.”

I actually wanted to tell him, I think he really meant it. But then, she wasn’t really talking about the man in front of her; she spoke of a better version of him, of a me he had not been able to become, but one in whom she had not lost confidence. He wasn’t that man yet. But, she thought, receiving the gift of kindness and grace, maybe he still had a chance.

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