I miss courtesy. I want it back. Courtesy knows how to accept insults and move beyond. It knows a simple handshake isn’t a nod to I like you or I loathe you, It is just a gesture of jolly good, let’s get on with it and see how we do.
It seems to me when adults do not model courtesy, children follow suit. This election season, I find myself having a conversation in my head and with my children because I am always searching for the right words to explain how we lost courtesy.
When a debate is contentious, and there are gender-specific insults or personal matters that pertain to one’s past thrown randomly and disdainfully with an air of “I’m better than you,” It is that much harder to explain democracy to a teen and pre-teen who want to know about the electoral process and like to fact check, as the questions about economics and foreign policy are raised. Instead they want to know about wikileaks and women. Why women are at the center of every conversation and if one candidate wasn’t a woman would it be less insulting with less intimidation? I then talk about why as women of the future, it is important to have a voice and the freedom to express who they are. How that freedom isn’t to be taken for granted, how it isn’t available to many young women their age in other parts of the world. Also why it is also important to be globally aware and why one should work hard to empower young girls and women. A discussion, an important one, that had to step away from foreign policy.
This final debate had a beginning. I had hope. Chris Wallace had some important questions for both candidates and I thought to myself, okay, here we go then… Let’s talk about how we are different, how we disagree, could we perhaps move forward in a bipartisan manner to tackle serious issues to help our people. It started to sound like a proper debate for once. Of course it became clear as the debate progressed that courtesy would fly out the door. Disappear completely. Never to return. I was agog. It unraveled as I watched. My children were gobsmacked. They started to laugh. It wasn’t funny. I have family all over the world who were watching, I wish I could explain it to them. There it was, a complete and utter mockery being made of this all important process. I don’t have the words anymore. I think courtesy needed a break. I’m so thankful the debates are done. Are you?