Ed. note: I was planning on a more lighthearted piece for my first blog post, but then I read the story about Rush Limbaugh calling Michelle Obama "uppity" and, well....
If we are judged at the end of our lives by our manners, I'm afraid that way too many of us are going to be in big trouble.
When we use manners, my southern mother taught me, we are showing respect to our fellow man. Manners are used to convey consideration and cooperation, and ease uncomfortable or unknown social situations. And, as humans can be cantankerous, opinionated and downright bull-headed, being able to diffuse tension with consideration is a good thing.
For example, I'm using my manners when I don't say that Rush Limbaugh is a disgusting racist pig who spouts and sputters bullmalarkey about patriotism and decency when he wouldn't know decent if it hauled up and shook his sweaty muckracking hand.
Instead, I say that surely Mr. Limbaugh was caught up in the moment, and perhaps under the influence of advertisers and special interest groups that pay his mortgage, when he called the First Lady of the United States of America "uppity."
I might even add that perhaps Mr. Limbaugh's mama didn't wash his mouth out with soap often enough when he was growing up.
Manners, let me be clear, should never be used as an reason to repress our constitutional right to free speech. Just as there is a ban on yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is none, so should we not use free speech as an excuse to be hateful.
More and more, we seem to be allowing public figures to make terrible and untrue comments without recourse.
Mr. Limbaugh's lack of manners scares me. His words are incendiary; he shouts his flaming words of hate across the airways to listeners he has already sprinkled with gas.
I like to think that politically most of us are fairly moderate. Middle-of-the-road. Center-right or center-left a wee bit but, generally speaking, we share common ideals and aspirations.
When we don't share the same beliefs, however, it is manners that keeps us from whacking each other over the heads with newspapers. Or getting into a shouting match in publlc. Or calling people names.
Uppity is a nasty word. It's a word filled with 150 years of silent (and not so silent) and embittered racism by those who believe skin color is the first deciding factor of personhood. It's a word that embodies bitterness and ignorance and anyone who uses it on a national radio talk show is appealing to the basest part of a small segment of our society.
Anyone who grew up in the South- or read Harriet Tubman, for that matter- knows that uppity has a distinctive, racial meaning. Politicians and talk-show hosts who use the word and then profess any innocence ("I never meant it that way.") are simply trying to weasel out of being taken to task.
Certain words, when used in a specific context, have a racist meaning. Here are just a few words that are derogatory and racist when used as to describe any African-American:
Shine. Spade. Boy. Cocoa. Monkey. Buck. Spook. Macaca.
Calling a black woman uppity is inexcusable. Calling the First Lady uppity is something I never imagined would happen in my America.
It's hateful and rude and appalling and we should be collectively ashamed of ourselves for allowing the discourse in our country to disintegrate to the point where that type of racial stereotyping is tolerated.
Whatever your political leanings, Michelle Obama should be treated with respect, and not because she is the wife of the President.
She deserves respect because she shares in this community we call our country. She deserves to be treated with respect and politeness, as do we all.
Rush Limbaugh, I suspect, believes this to be true- as long as you agree with him.
Which is where manners come in........
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