Smith: Don't let rudeness take over

July 03, 2012|By Steve Smith

At 4:34 p.m. June 26, I was exiting the parking lot of the Westcliff shopping center at 17th Street and Irvine Avenue in Newport Beach.

As I waited for traffic to clear before merging onto Irvine, I noticed two boys about 11 or 12 years old skateboarding on the sidewalk toward me.

About 10 feet from my car, one of the boys lost control of his skateboard and yelled an expletive. My car window was open, and I said loudly, "Hey! Watch your language!"


The boy was mortified. The corners of his mouth turned down, his entire body slumped, and he said, sincerely, "I'm sorry, sir. I'm sorry."

For exactly two seconds, I was pleased. The boy had done something unacceptable, had been called on it, and offered an immediate, polite and genuine apology.

Then his friend said, "Yeah, watch your (expletive) language."

Realizing the situation was hopeless, I drove away.

I am offering the details of this F-word exchange for two reasons.

First, I hope that there is a parent who may also be a reader and who may have reason to believe that his or her son was one of the two boys in this encounter. If so, I hope that parent will discipline his or her child.

The second reason for providing an account of the exchange is that it is proof of the decline of decorum in the area and in the nation.

In 2004, America witnessed Janet Jackson's phony "wardrobe malfunction" on live TV during the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Even though a female on the street may get arrested for exposing her bare breast, as Jackson did, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to reinstate the $550,000 fine issued against her and CBS by the Federal Communications Commission.

In February 2011, actor Melissa Leo dropped an F-bomb during the Oscar telecast. Backstage, she tried to apologize, but at least one interviewer told her, "I thought it was wonderful," and online columnist, Andrea Reiher, "…thought it was fairly wonderful too."

In February, pop singer M.I.A. gave her middle finger to the world during the Super Bowl halftime show without any consequence. To some, she is cool for having flipped us all off.

Countless other highly visible indecent incidents have occurred with no consequence. No, the solution is not to cancel the Super Bowl halftime show or the Oscars.

The solution is to speak up. When we remain silent, this is the behavior we get.

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