One of my pet peeves is people who are incapable of being courteous at events, such as concerts, movies, and plays. And public screenings of historic events, such as the inauguration.
A few months ago, we attended an orchestra concert where our daughter played her violin. At no point during the entire event did people stop talking, laughing, answering their cell phones, or wandering around.
Last week, we went to the Kentucky Theater to watch the inauguration of President Obama.
I understand people having strong political leanings, and I support that entirely. But Mr. Bush, whatever one may think about his presidency, has been nothing but cooperative and courteous in the period of transition. That’s not my opinion, but Mr. Obama’s. Yet when he appeared on the screen, a couple hundred people felt that it was appropriate to boo loudly. Booing at an event is just rude. And showing respect, or at least courtesy, for an outgoing president is just common decency, whatever you thought of his policies while he was in office.
A couple of generations ago, showing respect for a defeated enemy was one of the signs that we were a civilized people. We certainly seem to have lost that, too, as evidenced by the way we made a public spectacle of the humiliation of Mr. Hussein when he was captured a few years ago in Iraq.
I have a notion that watching the world go by on TV is what teaches people that it’s OK to be rude at events. They’re used to being able to get up and go to the toilet in the middle of a scene, so they figure that’s ok when the Vice President is saying his oath of office, too. Or when my little girl is playing her piece at a concert. I suspect that attending events courteously is something that has to be taught and practiced, and these days people attend fewer and fewer events where silence and courtesy are expected.
The loss of common courtesy is a great shame. I, for one, intend to teach my kids how to behave politely, even if they don’t see it modeled for them anywhere else in their experience.