Courtesy-If You Please

COMMENTARY: Courtesy – Where has it gone?

This commentary was written as a courtesy to all of the people of this great country (USA), in the hope that a new awakening will occur and we can regain the love and respect among our people of the basic principles America was founded on. It is NOT a political statement.

The Problem

If you‘re like me, I have been continuously frustrated with how things have gone these days in Washington D.C. and the State Capitol as a matter of fact. Every time I turn around there is an issue, something controversial, no one there is willing to compromise on anything. The politician’s only interest is what is good for them, not us, who are the reason that they are there in the first place, to represent us. I see very little representation occurring and therefore I see very little getting done for WE THE PEOPLE.

The only compromise we see these days is that a few of them have made matters worst by compromising their principles-Not What We Want! They are not exhibiting the courtesy of abiding with the rules set out for them to follow and giving us the respect that we are entitled, and thereby the results expected.

To further complicate the matter, the general stream news media, with a few exceptions, is no help either. Perhaps out of a completive necessity, they are looking for only sensational stories, slanted in one direction or another, instead of also providing all of the factual information to accompany such stories. And guess what, we encourage that behavior by buying the newspapers and watching the television reports. There is plenty of blame to go around. Furthermore, the politicians themselves are continuously jockeying for the best political position and how this can better influence the public through this sensationalism. Sad to say-right?

There has not been much that we have been able to do about the sad state of affairs on the Hill. About the only thing we have been able to do, is voting every time the vote comes up, thereby repeatedly sending the same message to our elected representatives that we want real progress, not politics as usual. Yet, it is vitally important that in a democracy we voice our desires loud and clear les we fall by the wayside, not only as a people but as individuals as well.  How can we do this? Apparently the direct approach is not working. So, HOW then?

What Can We Do?

We need to get back to basics. First, how do we repay (maybe pay forward) to those who came before us and pioneered this great country of ours, and who sacrificed so much, gave their blood, sweat and tears and in many instances gave up their very lives so that we, the latest generation, could bask in those hard earned freedoms. They had no problem with extending the common courtesy and giving the respect deserved to those that they were dealing with, especially with those who reciprocated.

And there lies the answer-a lot of hard work, and to do it with dignity and courtesy. Why can’t we have respect for our fellow man (and women of course) knowing full well that their plight is our plight; their successes are our successes as well. No one of us can do it alone, but together anything is possible. Have we forgotten this? Obviously the politicians have.

No matter how terrible people seem to be, how cruel some treat others, deep down inside of us the majority are decent people who really care what happens to their neighbors. It just does not seem to be very popular today. We seem to be afraid to express the kindness that goes along with being decent. So, we keep it to ourselves.  We may even think that it is the cool thing to do, if we exhibit the opposite.

Secondly, we can point to a prime example and something that we really can do some thing about, and that is how we drive our roads and byways, most particularly our freeways. Where has all the courtesy on the roads gone? While the vast majority of us behave reasonably, there are some who follow two extremes-the aggressive driver and slowpoke. Both of which do not have much regard for the rest of us.

We all contribute to construction of these modern conveniences (Streets & highways) through our taxes. These freeways are designed to move traffic expeditiously and safely bypassing the slower congested city streets. And, even though we are not alone on these roads, some drivers selfishly claim their spot without regard for others.

When an aggressive driver speeds by, weaving in and out of traffic lanes with total disregard for their own safety much less mine, my blood boils and sense of rage comes over me-ROAD RAGE?? - Maybe. I appreciate how an individual can lose control and would want to retaliate, to speed up and to match their aggressiveness. Of course I quickly come to my senses, slow down and realize that my aggression will only contribute to that accident looking for a place to happen.

The lack of courtesy on his part should not constitute the reason for me to join him in his indiscretion and perhaps follow him into hell's den-CRASH!

By the same token the proverbial slow poke is no less culpable in the traffic nightmare that we all face everyday. By driving too slow on the freeway this driver also contributes to that same nonsensical rage that we may feel with the over-aggressive driver. Believe it or not the posted speed limits are there to help us recognize the level of skill that we must possess in order to safely navigate the streets and roads that we drive on.

For instance, except for special circumstances (rain, accident, funeral, etc.) we should all be driving within 5 miles per hour of the posted upper limit. If a minimum speed limit is posted, this limit is there to compensate for the special circumstances that I mentioned above and if we are paying full attention to our driving (vehicle spacing, proper lane changing) we could all safely drive at that minimum speed until the special circumstance subsides. Otherwise, we all should be driving near or at the upper limit posted. To violate that trust is a lack of courtesy.

Merging onto the main flow of traffic from an entry ramp onto the freeway requires us to accelerate as quickly as possible to match the level of speed occurring. This would most likely encourage the traffic already there to let you in, since your are attempting to respect their position in the lane you are entering by matching their speed and therefore will not disrupt their momentum. You should never race onto the freeway and then suddenly slow down. This is very irritating! And is unsafe.

When exiting the freeway you should not slowdown too early, but wait until you reach the exit speed limit sign, unless you have a separate exit lane. Again, if you slowdown too early, you may impede the traffic’s momentum behind you.

If your vehicle or if you are not up to driving the freeways with the courtesy and respect for the other drivers, you should NOT be on them at all. You should be on the street level not the freeway. You might say that you as a taxpayer have paid for a portion of the freeway and therefore entitled to be there as well. But just because your tax dollars also helped buy that brand new F-22 Fighter Plane does not mean that you can go out and jump into it and attempt to fly away.

Unfortunately this phenomenon is not limited to just the roads. This is happening anywhere there are lines for us to wait in, for whatever.

If only everyone would do their job of properly driving their vehicles, the accident rate would certainly go down. If only everyone would just be patient we all would be safer and therefore happier. And this is something we all can do something about. So, it can start here for us to reclaim control of the rest of the mess we find ourselves enduring. We just need to collectively work peacefully, but with firm determination to exert the pressure required to clean up the mess.

If we were to make a comparison between what happens on the roads and highways and what happens at our Nations Capitol, we will recognize some very distinct similarities.    We will see that the major political parties are behaving just like those drivers we spoke of earlier.

In the case of the aggressive driver comparison there some on The Hill that behave in an reckless manner and such recklessness is clearly a demonstration of their arrogance, believing all along that the strength in numbers of the like thinkers will gain them the political results they desire without any regard for the good of their constituents and the rest of the country as well. 

The politicians need not worry about instant success in their endeavors for they are there to focus, to carefully and methodically lookout for our interests.

We can even make the comparison with the slow driver, in that we can easily see that in order to get their way or gain an advantage, some politicians will introduce features into the bills being written that have nothing whatsoever to do with legislation being considered and thereby slowing down the entire process. My goodness, if that were to occur in the business world, those businesses would have long ago gone bankrupt. Bankrupt?? Sounds familiar! Do we (USA) have to file for chapter 11? That would be like selling us (the people) down the river. I, for one, am not going down easily! Don’t you feel the same kind of rage and helplessness that you might feel when dealing with those inconsiderate drivers.

Although not perfect the founding fathers laid out a path for us to follow in order to constantly be creating a more perfect union. A union of people, all people, whose main interest was and still is to carve out a place in the world whereby we all could live out our lives in peace and harmony, to choose our own path and reach for the stars if that is what we want. The original plan was for us to arrive at a juncture of Human Evolution that would allow for individual rights to prevail while still nurturing the belief that working together would guarantee such a dream. Is it not what the American Dream is all about?

So it would make sense that the rules (speed limits) that the congress has laid out for itself are there in order to achieve that dream for the people. Is it not the right thing to do? All the wrangling (merging), if it must go on, must be for the good of all the people-not just a few.

The Solution

Perhaps it is time to really hold our representatives truly accountable. Whatever we currently have in place to give us that accountability is not working. One way this may happen is to establish an oversight committee (watchdog) of independently minded nonpartisan individuals, coming from varied walks of lives, and whose only interest is to assure that the system is functioning properly. This would be an added balancing device that would be pointing to the truth of all matters being dealt with by the Government. Yes, we do have a system that balances the power of the various branches of the Government, but it is a very arduous and extensive task to achieve and beyond the access of the ordinary people. While it ultimately does work, and we are blessed to have such a system, it does not address the immediate needs of those who need it now.

This unpaid committee, with no power to change anything, would have sufficient funding available to them to publish their findings in every news outlet. Every detail surrounding the subject matter would be clearly spelled out in simple terms. The committee’s job would be to ensure publication of the information in all major news media and payment for such publication coming from an established public fund. This will assist everyone to determine for them selves the truth of the matter.

Maybe, simply shaming the politicians into proper behavior is what has to be done to level the playing field and get us back on track. And if that does not work on some individuals, those that do not conform, then it is time to show them the door.

Now, this may sound like a huge and expensive endeavor, but consider all the money wasted in just the past 100 years, the cost of this suggestion would be but a drop in the bucket. Now, if we really do not want to face the truth, we could do nothing, just as we have been doing now and in the past-maybe for forever.

After it’s all said and done, we indeed can do something about the mess we’re in, we just have to start somewhere, but not in the streets nor the WEB (cyber attacks), anarchy has never solved anything.

The recent movie Pearl Harbor quoted Jimmy Doolittle in saying: “Victory belongs to those who believe in it the most and believe in it the longest. We’ve gunna believe. We’ve gunna make America Believe too.”

Does America still believe? Can we win over world history that has almost always predicted the fall of established civilizations? Does our behavior predict that fall or can we re-invent ourselves and once again believe? Our very survival may depend on it.

Harry J. Perez, San Antonio, Texas. (first posted May 4, 2012)


Harry is a Technical Writer by profession and along with his wife Linda Kaye is a freelance Travel Journalist.


   © Harry Perez 2012