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A Civil Concoction

International Civility Awareness Month 2017

Modified Excerpt from the book Tuesday Morning Love: 52 Commentaries and Weekly Affirmations to Honor the Soul within the Souldier [2014] Week 10 (Responsibility) Amazon

“We are coming to the point in this country where doing what is right is merging with what we need to do to save our national skins.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman

“Que sera sera, whatever will be – will be – the future’s not ours to see…”

The lyrics of this classic Doris Day song often encourage me to want to see more, though the transparent question of every day now is, “What really are we seeing?”

I did not want to believe my eyes while headed home from the office one day and sitting on a crowded train with standing room only. A man and his baggage occupied two seats in three rows ahead of me, while a pregnant woman stood on her feet with a toddler and during most of the ride. I thought, surely this man is going to stop reading his newspaper and give his seat to this expecting mother. But that did not happen at all. After minutes of observation, another passenger and I simultaneously stood up to accommodate the pregnant woman aboard. Needless to say, I was visibly disturbed for the remainder of the commute.

I am often disturbed by the public behaviors of people everywhere I go, from the lack of basic manners to the lack of fashion countenance. When I pass through environments where vulgar language is exchanged or the disclosure of ‘uncensored’ body parts are displayed, I am, indeed, disturbed. And so it seems, the more modern we become with technology, verbal exchange, and fashion too, the more we adapt to the negligence of exercising civility, genuine concern and consciousness.

As the song moves along…“The future is not ours to see.”

But in fact, it is. It is ours to envision, assimilate and amend. The manifestation of self-awareness on an individual level will awaken the necessity for universal respect.

The Founders of the Institute for Civility in Government state, “Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.”

What is painfully obvious are the continual immoral acts of incivility around our world. Much of the society in which we live has settled – and to a large degree – conformed to relentless acts of character assassination, cross identity differences, mass aggression, and the extreme epidemic of rudeness. The lack of civility and human rights liberties continue to run the gamut around the globe, for there is no corner of the world that has been ‘untouched’.

In 2015, on one episode of Bravo TV’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta Reunion, two cast members, Kenya Moore and Porsha Williams, battled it out in a relentless brawl in which Kenya Moore ‘ignited’ the cat-fight by screaming and waving a scepter in Porsha Williams face. I can assume that many fans viewed this occurrence as some form of quality discussion, but what began as an evening of entertainment quickly ended in a physical attack and arrest between the two.

In 2010, a series of civic atrocities occurred. A student in Lafayette, Georgia pulled an unloaded firearm on another student in a dispute over a Twinkie cake [Lafayette, Georgia News]. At South Hadley High School in Western Massachusetts, a 15 year-old girl committed suicide after intense stalking, name calling, harassment, threatened physical abuse and relentless bullying from other high school “mean girls” who even after her death, did not demonstrate any regret or remorse for their actions. Instead, they used Facebook to mock her death. [The Boston Globe] A 40 year-old Charter school teacher in Houston, Texas was fired and arrested for attacking and repeatedly hitting, kicking, then banging a 13 year-old pupils head into the wall of a school bathroom, an incident where the remainder of the teachers and many of the students stood around and watched. In another city, an angry man missed a flight connection and threw his suitcase at an eight-month pregnant airline employee. [Dailymail.com] And the beat goes on.

The tragic reports of incivility continue to rise, covering the pages of newspapers and magazines across the world. We bear witness to many of these behaviors in countless numbers, from public figures to everyday folks alike. Now in 2017, rudeness, the lack of human dignity, vulgar language, character assassination, and misdemeanors have reached an all-time high, while charitable giving and acts of philanthropy continuously decline. If we’re going to continue to wander around in a state of sheer unconsciousness and assume that it is all out of our control – and the only thing we can do is view it from afar and accept whatever happens – then we really can’t seize any opportunity for powerful transition and positive change. Now can we?

A sense of morality fosters an act of civility, which internally guides us in how we respond in and around the world. The end result becomes transparent in how we view ourselves, our bodies, our minds and others. When we honor and respect ourselves, we honor and respect others in the same manner. Our self-awareness is heightened and we begin to heal the world by resigning our ego, respecting multiculturalism, exercising civility, practicing etiquette and honoring the human rights of others. True civility takes into account the humanity of other people with whom we are engaged. It challenges us to embrace change, make connectivity, and cultivate accountability because we have certain moral responsibilities to one another.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”

As an etiquette and life skills consultant, I have witnessed the decline of basic manners in the world from road courtesy to classroom chaos. But I also see the rewards in making the youth aware of the need for civility. From time to time, I wonder if my work gives meaning; if anyone’s child is really paying attention in my workshops. I cherish opportunities where I can engage with youth of both genders and from every walk of life. Be they the under-privileged or the most poised, something remarkable happens. Once the season of etiquette workshops has ended, a student, somewhere, will write to express their personal gratitude for how my instruction has made a difference in their life, inspired them to excel, or simply helped them to consider a more adequate way of thinking, behaving, and speaking. They are grateful because I believed in them, but more importantly, because now, they can believe in themselves. While I take no credit for this intervention, I do take a moment to be thankful and clear on the position I hold.

We are all travelers on the same spaceship of life. The earth beneath our feet is our earth; it belongs to all of us. The air we breathe is common property too. Yet, we spend so much time drawing distinctions, defending divisions, and delineating differences from countries to culture to color. We go bananas for borders and boundaries. “That’s my property – that’s yours. This is my land – you keep out!”

An act of true civility requires consciousness, compromise, collaboration, connection and real change. We need to build bridges, not walls in our communities. And we need to concoct an ingredient that is civil, peaceful, and promising. Just because someone may not employ the best policy of pleasantries does not excuse you of being courteous and aware. We can rectify acts of incivility in our world by starting with ourselves. We can change. We can serve as better examples for the young and seek advice from the elders who possess infinite wisdom. We can modify the way we treat each other because civility begins and ends within each of us.

Yes, the future is ours to see, and to save.

Always choose civility.

Weekly Affirmation: I am living in the spirit of accountability.

love, light, and awareness for your Tuesday

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