(originally published March 11, 2009)
When I was a kid at the movies and got a little carried away with giggles or chatter with my friends, all an adult had to say was "Shhhh," much less something as aggressive as "Be quiet!" and all our little faces would turn red with shame, and we'd say "Sorry," and slink down in our seats.
Now, you take your life in your hands you simply ask someone to please be polite. Fuggedaboutit! "Rights" (meaning you can do or say anything you damn well please, and if someone doesn't like it, it's their problem) have trumped everything from responsibility to compassion to courtesy to politeness.
Case in point: The New York Post reported on what happened when a well-meaning woman simply asked a 21-year-old loud, cell-phone chattering female to please lower her voice. The well-meaning woman ended up in the hospital after newly purchased, very hot coffee was thrown in her face, her hands were covered in bites, and she was kicked in the thighs with the 21 year old's high heels.
The cell phone assailant tried to escape on a bus, but the victim chased her down the street to a nearby subway station. When police arrived, the victim pointed out her attacker, who was arrested on charges of assault, menacing, and criminal possession of a weapon (the boiling hot coffee). All this because the little twit was simply asked to keep her voice down.
I don't go to movie theaters anymore, because too many people think it's their own private media hall, where they can make loud conversation and a racket with their candy cellophane. If you dare to just ask kindly for them to keep it down, most likely you will be barraged with profanity. And those who are nearby, who must also be annoyed, keep silent - it's the old "don't get involved" syndrome, which contributes to fewer and fewer folks standing up for what's right because others are too "wussy" to back 'em up.
I love that many establishments "request" that cell phones be turned off, although I guess too many people either can't read the signs, or think they're somehow exempt because of their inflated sense of their importance above all others.
It's getting to be a scarier world out there, and not just because of rogue nations, tyrannies with nuclear bombs, or terrorists with bomb-decorated vests. It's getting scarier in our own neighborhoods, because people don't feel connected anymore. There is a persistent "me vs. the world" attitude that is destroying domestic peace.