Far be it from me to add fuel to the fire, but the recent uproar over commencement etiquette convinces me that while common courtesy has fallen out of fashion with some, it's still favored by most of us.
The volume of letters to The Herald vindicates officials who cracked down on overly effusive graduation attendees. Their epistles indicate that most citizens care not that Rush Limbaugh called it overkill to arrest people who disrupted graduation ceremonies here.
Interestingly, neither side in this niffnaw focused much on an issue affecting too many graduation ceremonies: The number of students that cross the stage for that parchment.
Obviously, with some senior classes numbering in the hundreds, decorum is essential. If every graduate's name were greeted with an outburst lasting, say, 30 seconds, programs would be extended by hours.
At some point, school districts might be forced to change their approach to graduation.
One of our daughters graduated from Wofford College, a small liberal arts college, at which graduation was like a family affair. The other received her diploma from Duke University, where the graduates almost filled the football field. We had to use binoculars to spot her. Those graduates not only didn't cross the stage, but also their names weren't even read aloud; they did, however, get to stand as their respective majors were announced.
If we keep building mammoth high schools, school leaders one day might have to adopt similar tactics.
In the meantime, perhaps high schools could offer families the option of attending either of two ceremonies: One where conduct and dress codes would be strictly enforced, and another where practically anything would be allowed -- cheering, foot-stomping, air horns, etc.
(What the heck! Why not let people bring coolers? Just string chicken wire in front of the stage -- like at the country and western nightclub in "The Blues Brothers" -- so the valedictorian won't be clobbered in the head by a beer bottle. That way no one could claim his civil rights had been violated.
The "right" to be obnoxious doesn't appear in the Bill of Rights, although too many Americans think otherwise. It doesn't take a constitutional scholar to realize that the Founding Fathers probably didn't intend to include shouting during commencement exercises when they guaranteed the freedoms of speech and expression.
I am long past the stage where graduation ceremonies are a personal issue, but I harbor other peeves about social rudeness.
For example, my wife and I recently had otherwise fine meals spoiled by inconsiderate diners using their cell phones at adjacent tables. In the first instance, we were having lunch at a restaurant near Greenville when a salesman at the next table began chewing out a customer he claimed had cheated him out of a sales commission. The next day, in Rock Hill, we asked to be moved from our table to put distance between us and a chap who was calling friends to announce that George Carlin had died.
(Had Carlin, a keen critic of such behavior, known, I think he would have reached up dragged the man into the civic Hades where he belonged.)
Another recent incident involved an unpleasant encounter at a local movie house. Despite admonitions from the staff against talking during the movie or using cell phones, the adolescents around us chattered away incessantly. Although I didn't notice anyone talking on a cell phone, on several occasions kids saw they had an incoming call and raced out to field it.
I couldn't figure out why anyone would pay today's admission prices, only to talk throughout the film. My wife surmised that most of them had seen the movie several times and were reciting key bits of dialogue.
Finally, I couldn't take it any longer and said to the young woman beside me: "You have been talking throughout the entire movie. Will you please shut up?"
The look on her face was one of astonishment; she had no earthly idea of why I was upset.
What I should have done was to ask her name and her school.
I'd like to attend her graduation -- with an air horn.