Fort Mill Times

Opinion: It’s time to tone down the coarseness and here’s a way to do it

In this 1993 file photo, Fred Rogers pauses during a taping of his show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," in Pittsburgh. His Birthday would be a perfect time for a Unified Day of Civility.
In this 1993 file photo, Fred Rogers pauses during a taping of his show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," in Pittsburgh. His Birthday would be a perfect time for a Unified Day of Civility. AP

Maybe it’s the fast pace of technology.

Or, perhaps, it’s the residual effect of becoming a super-charged, goal-oriented society.

Certainly, the toxic, hyper-partisan political atmosphere that’s enveloped us over the past couple of decades, sucking so much oxygen from our lungs and exacting a price from our souls has to be part of it. We’ve casually developed a coarseness to our lives, many of us. Perhaps that’s fallout from shock jock radio and less restrictive language on TV. And partisan cable news.

Whatever the blame, there’s no denying we, Americans, are a somewhat different people than we used to be.

Not fundamentally. We’re still good at heart with a boatload of empathy for the misfortunes of others and generous as the day is long. We’re spiritual and entrepreneurial and fun. Adventurous, creative, clever and competitive. And if you hurt one of us, you’ve hurt all of us and planet Earth is not big enough for you to hide because we will bring you to justice.

But, something has taken hold of us and it’s not good. The signs have been there for a while. First, it was primal scream therapy. Then stress balls. Now we have aroma therapy and hot yoga. And goat yoga. Goat yoga! All in an attempt to rid ourselves of the stress of our “ordinary” lives. If we’re not walking on eggshells, we’re in each others’ faces – both literally and the figurative kind involving social media – frustrated because we can’t get someone with an opposing view to surrender to “our” side or they can’t get us to come around to sharing their opinion.

This can’t go on. Not if we want to hold on to our true selves as a people, celebrated for our differences, but united as countrymen and countrywomen. Brothers and sisters who may quarrel, but at the end of the day, doubtless of the ties that bind.

With that in mind, we propose a Unified Day of Civility. A day when we all make an effort to be less coarse, more respectful and caring of others and the environment. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a working list of do’s and don’ts for this one day, at least. We encourage you to add your own. To get things started, we propose:

Do’s

▪ Mind the speed limit and show courtesy to other drivers

▪ Take a meal to someone dealing with an illness, the recent loss of a loved one, an elderly neighbor or anyone else who would appreciate it

▪ Make a donation to charity (monetary, or drop off used items to a not-for-profit thrift shop)

▪ A random act of kindness

▪ Encourage your kids to set up a lemonade stand to raise money for charity

▪ Visit the neighbors on either side of your home

▪ Clean up after your dog

▪ Try to see something from the point of view of someone who doesn’t agree with you

Don’t

▪ Litter (including tossing cigarette butts out of your car window; The world is not your ashtray!)

▪ Spit in public

▪ Use profanity

▪ Watch/listen to partisan cable news or radio shows.

▪ Talk politics

▪ Troll on social media

▪ Talk over other people while they’re trying to talk

▪ Waste food or water

▪ Shout across the room. Instead, go over to someone with whom you would like to speak

▪ Throw recyclables in the trash

This might seem silly and trite to some people and if you’re one of them, ask yourself, “what’s the harm?” At worst, you tried something simple and different that could help make a positive change for you and those around you. At best, perhaps we can start a movement and on one day a year, at least, we do something together to make our communities – and our country – a better place. We propose launching this Unified Day of Civility on March 20, the birth date of the late Fred Rogers. Why? His legacy is that all he wanted to do was be a good friend and a good neighbor. What possibly could be wrong with that?

If you want to participate in this Unified Day of Civility, we encourage you to help promote it on social media using #UDC. Who knows? Maybe we can be onto something good. Together.

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