COMMENTARY: As a youngster, I had hopes for when I grew up that technology would help America become a better place to live. It was standard dinner-table conversation to talk about the advances of technology. Why, we even had a telephone. That was something that my grandparents never had on the ranch.
When I was seven we were at my grandparent’s ranch and witnessed the first object sent into space, the Soviet Launched Sputnik, as it flew west to east. My uncle said to me, “Remember this moment for the rest of your life, because with that up there our world is changing.”
We didn’t have pavement at the ranch south of Carrizozo so it was a long dirt road to go to Alamogordo. When we were just North of Tularosa there was an overpass that was paved and then the road was paved the rest of the way into town. We would all say at once, “Ah” and revel in how smooth the paved road was.
When I was 11 we even got a television set — black and white, of course. And then the world was at our call by getting a kid to turn the channel changer or deal with the volume or smack the side when the picture would roll.
I was one of the side smackers when the horizontal oscillator would go out and the picture would roll. My brother and I would jump up and smack the roll out of the television until it stopped rolling. Occasionally, the television would just go dark. Go figure.
We were a community with good and bad people, with saints and sinners side by side. But there was an overarching rule that people had to act decently within the community or be cast out. The reason I am thinking fondly of a kinder gentler time is because today I am up to my neck in rude people.
When technology gave us a connection to most of the seven billion people on Earth, I never thought that I would regret that technology. But I do, since it seems to have brought out the very worst in our citizens. In the older days, including when I lived as a young man in several small communities, there was a price to pay for being rude to someone.
Often it was a punch in the snout. And since everyone saw everyone at the Post Office and the local café if you were snarky to someone there would be an immediate consequence from that person and likely several of the town elders who didn’t like that kind of behavior.
But we have a society today that screams rudeness, because even if you do not like the way you are treated it is next to impossible to find the culprit and administer the thrashing that the skunk deserves. So many citizens just write something snarky back, and the circle continues.
Worse, in politics it is required for people to lose whatever tiny bit of genteelness and be as rude and disgusting as their vocabulary allows, all in the name of politics. Where will this end? Who knows.
Kids learn potty words from watching movies and are incredibly inappropriate with each other and adults. Yes, I understand that there is free speech, but that just means someone can say that your mother is a big pile of dog snot legally. And often illegally you will punch them in the snout. But not if they are online and there is no way to bring them to a moment of atonement.
The worse thing about this rudeness in politics is we Americans who inherited a mighty fine nation from our parents and grandparents are not being good shepherds of that trust. Rather, we ignore the incredible debt being placed around the heads of our children and grandchildren while we complain that we haven’t gotten enough political plunder for our votes.
All I do now is shun those rude people when I notice them on Facebook or at a meeting. I have reached a time and station in life where punching people in the snout is not an option. Maybe I should design an app called the Snout Puncher.
Michael Swickard is a former radio talk show host and has been a columnist for 30 years in a number of New Mexico newspapers. Swickard’s new novel, Hideaway Hills, is now available at Amazon.com.