I have often felt that so many people today are unnecessarily mean. I'm not talking only about heinous crimes such as murder or animal cruelty, but the average everyday things people do that they really shouldn't do in a civilized society. You've seen it, I'm sure: the person who cuts you off in traffic because he refuses to wait his turn, the parents at the holidays pushing and shoving and potentially hurting someone in a rush to get a scarce toy, the check out clerk who talks to the clerk at the next register while ringing you up and totally ignores you. These are not exactly crimes you'd jail someone for, but you'd sure like them to act a little better.
I bring this up because yesterday's paper had a column that started out about a judge who held a court spectator in contempt because he (the spectator) yawned loudly. This judge apparently has the highest rate of finding people in contempt in the county. Maybe this shows that the judge "goes too far in pursuit of order in his court. Or maybe they are evidence that [he] is an admirable defender of civility inside one of our most important institutions."
The author of this article, Barbara Brotman, who also writes the outdoors column for the paper (with some good hiking ideas in the area!), wanted in on this action.
"That driver who forced me onto the shoulder as i tried to merge into his lane on the Eisenhower (expressway)? You, sir, are in contempt of court!
"The people yakking through an entire Grant Park Orchestra performance in Millennium Park? Comtempt of court!
"The owner of the SUV hogging two spaces in a packed parking lot? Contempt!
"Tailgaters, cell phone shouters, car music blasters -- I'd jail 'em all."
So are we lacking civility as a society? Have we become so narcissistic as to totally ignore the impact we have on others? Are our lives so busy that we can no longer take the time for small acts of courtesy to strangers?
I would like to think that I see the positive side of people, that there are just a small percentage of people who are mean and nasty and uncivilized. But every once in a while I think it's all going to hell in a handbasket. (Were DID that phrase come from!?) Then something happens, something positive and good and uplifting.
That's when you realize there really are disability lawyers out there who really are working to give the weak and broken their day in court and a fair and just settlement, there really are people who care about the environment and encourage people to leave less of a carbon footprint without making them feel as if everything they've done so far is completely wrong and stupid, there really are nurses out there who care for patients and will endure long and trying days making them feel more comfortable, there really are people out there willing to walk for three days to raise money to help find a cure for breast cancer, even if they don't have a family member who's been affected, there really are organizations out there that rescue animals who are abandoned or the victim of cruelty and make sure these least among us have someone looking out for them.
There's better people out there than maybe this city girl would think, sometimes. There are still those for whom the word civility isn't obsolete. And maybe being held in contempt wouldn't be a bad way to make sure the rest get the message. Either that or have them write "I will not be mean" 1000 times!
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