Excuse me, did you drop this?

April 27, 2022

This quote caught my eye some time ago, so I saved it. “To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people’s trash.”  (Bill Nye) 

I think the quote is true and good advice, but I also believe that there is nothing wrong with bringing it to the attention of the offender (thus the title for today’s post).

I suppose that I am becoming (if not one already) an old curmudgeon; however, I just can’t let some things go by without trying to bring it to the attention of the offender and bystanders (some might call it shaming).

I live in the small Village of Milford in Southeastern Michigan. Like most villages, towns and cities we have laws that were enacted for good reasons, many for reasons of public safety. Our streets have signs clearly pointing out places where (and who is to) to stop at corners and where and when left hand turns cannot be made. Yet every day I see people choosing to ignore those signs. They are effectively thumbing their noses at our laws because to obey them might cause them some inconvenience.

I take whatever opportunity I get to point to them as they go by or to honk at them if I see them making that illegal turn or cruising through a stop sign intersection. Sometimes they just smile at me sheepishly and acknowledge with a head nod that they realize what they have done. Sometimes they are so distracted by looking at their phone that they don’t even see me. Sometimes they show their complete disdain for our laws by flipping me the bird. Those last ones are the most disgusting of all, since they obviously know that they are breaking our laws and just don’t care. They are saying, “Your stinking laws don’t apply to me.”

Another sign of this self-centered disdain for others is the litter that we see on the sides of streets. Many feel that, when they have finished their takeout meal or drink, it is OK to just roll down the window and toss their trash out. Others, taking heed of Nye’s advice, adopt sections of roads and spend hours picking up that trash. Which do you think is leaving the world a better place?

I think that kind of self-centered disdain for others and the rule of law is at the core of much of the political unrest in the country. The concept of “we”, that we are all in this together, has given way to the concept of “Us” vs. “Them”. Obeying the laws of the land has always been largely a voluntary thing, but it was more the norm before the deep political divide that now seems to have hold over the country. The appeal of individual freedom to do as one pleases has come to dominate our thinking and weakened the concept of the collective good (a bedrock of societies) and the rule of laws.

I don’t disagree with Nye’s thought that we must be willing to pick up the messes that others leave behind, but I don’t see anything wrong with also letting them know that what they did is not right and not in the common good. We must continue to promote and reinforce the common good; otherwise, we just join one of the groups – Us or Them – and that’s not good for anyone.

Excuse me did you drop this?


Show some respect…

February 21, 2021

My dog and I barely escaped being hit this morning on our walk when a driver blew thorough the intersection at which we were about half way across. Now this is no little, hidden intersection with a stop signed that might be missed. It is a well marked intersection with two blinking red lights and an illuminated STOP sign hung in the middle over the road. Fortunately, I could hear that the car was not slowing and pulled my dog back to safety. I yelled at the driver, who had his driver-side window half way down but he made no indication that he cared. I’m sure that had the window been all the way down he might have even flipped me the bird.

After I thanking God for once again saving me from danger, I thought about this particular incident and other instances that I see every week of drivers ignoring signs either to stop at an intersection or not to make certain turns. The word that kept popping into my head was disdain. While a certain number of these incidents might be attributed to distracted drivers not seeing the signs, most of them are obviously cases of people who see he signs but choose to ignore them. They are showing disdain for our laws and for the safety of others.

I looked up disdain, just to make sure that it is the appropriate word to associate with these people. Disdain is defined as –dis·dain

/disˈdān/

noun

the feeling that someone or something is unworthy of one’s consideration or respect; contempt.

verb

consider to be unworthy of one’s consideration.

I think the word fits and it also points to a personality flaw in these people as a root cause – their egos. To disdain something or someone is to consider yourself to be so superior that you may judge them. Instead of taking a position like that of Pope Francis who said, ”Who am I to judge?” these people have taken the position of, ”I’ll be the judge of that. I don’t need your stinking laws and signs; I’ll decide whether to stop or turn at the sign or not.” They are showing disdain for the rest of society and for common decency. I suspect those who stormed the Capital Building a while back were showing their disdain for our county’s laws, the law makers and the rules of civil behavior.

In truth everything and everyone deserves to be treated with respect and consideration be given to how to interact with them. To act with disdain is to isolate oneself from the rest of society, to set yourself apart from, and above, the laws, rules or mores of that society. A society exists for the common good, but it can only exist if those within it abide by the rules and expectations of the rest of the group.  If each of use can no longer expect that a person driving a car will abide by the stop signs or no turn on red signs or whatever instructions are clearly posted for the goods of the society, then we devolve into anarchy.

So the next time you are tempted to make that turn on red or roll through that stop sign and keep going, remember that you are showing disdain. Is that what you really want your kids to see or other to see from you? It is not just a reflection on your behavior, which is bad enough; it is a lesson that you are teaching others who are watching, an example that can have lasting bad effects on young minds. Try showing them the opposite – respect. Respect for the laws of our society and for others within that society.

I leave you with the words of the song R-E-S-P-E-C-T by Aretha Franklin from the1980 movie The Blues Brothers. Show a little respect for the rules of our society when you get behind the wheel and all the time.