Sunday, December 11, 2011

Southern Comfort

I recently read a friend's blog post where she had confessed to reading an article that suggested Southern manners shouldn't be taught to children because they are demeaning given their historical context. This immediately made me think of similar complaints that we tend to hear in more frequency during the holidays.

The idea of not teaching children manners is unfathomable to me. It points to a fundamental problem with society; not only people's aversion to teaching discipline and respect if it has any relation to religion or an undesirable historical context, but also to an egotistical and illusory concept of entitlement masked by a desire for political correctness.

Look, I say yes ma'am and no sir, because it's how I was raised to show respect to my elders, strangers, and to those for whom I work. If you find it offensive, express that to me and I shall refrain from saying it to you, out of respect. But to get enraged because it was said to begin with, or for you to want such practices eliminated from a child's upbringing because you are so vehemently insecure, hyper-sensitive, think the world should bend to your will, or because they have some historical context which you find offensive is a little ridiculous.

Unfortunately, most of our history as a race is littered with war, slavery, death, slaughter, and sacrifice, but from those ashes and from that bloodshed we have emerged, evolved, and hopefully gleaned the positive to pass on to future generations. It's inconceivable to me that people continue to hold on to the past and to victimize themselves and entire groups of people. Everything we do today has roots in some pagan ritual, some form of organized religion, some travesty, a rite of passage, or as a result of overcoming adversity in order to survive. Perhaps we should get rid of Thanksgiving because Indians were killed and Christmas because, God forbid, there's a baby involved who was believed to be a forgiver of sin. While we're at it, let's stop calling our country America because, for all intents and purposes, its a term mired in the genocide of indigenous people.

Okay, so perhaps Christopher Columbus day is a little stupid. I'll give you that. But I am going to continue opening doors, offering my seat, wishing people a Merry Christmas, saying yes and no Ma'am, and eventually teach my children to do the same. I would venture to say that anyone who takes offense to such trivial cultural gestures of politeness has issues far beyond what can be fixed by the mere elimination of them. I don't get offended when a Japanese person bows as he greets me, when Muslims witness Ramadan, or when the Chinese celebrate the new year a month after the rest of the world has, and do so in the name of warding off a mythical lion who apparently is afraid of loud noises and the color red. Who would have thought?

In the spirit of good will, peace, and family, I think we should embrace each other's cultural differences and spread good intention and cheer, regardless of why or how we came to do such things. In the end, we can't change our origins anyway, we can however choose to take these opportunities to share in the merriment, company, and joy of others, whether there is a nativity scene under a tree or the faint glow of a Menorah's candles on a mantelpiece. In either case, I'll be having a few drinks.....I hope that doesn't offend you.

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