You must have noticed that rudeness is on the rise


I have frequently spoken and written about courtesy being contagious, and not being that person who feels entitled to break the rules — or the law — for their own convenience.
I’m sure we have all noticed a disturbing trend. People do what they want, when they want, regardless of how it affects others.

I believe the trend was magnified by Covid quarantines. This attitude has certainly existed before, but I’ve noticed that it seems to be more commonplace since the pandemic.

I’ve written about being a driver education teacher. Many years on the roads have made me acutely aware of dangerous driving trends. All too frequently, people double-park, block a driveway or stop in a fire zone, and they almost always overreact with righteous indignation if anyone calls them out on it.

When a code enforcement or police officer stops a motorist, they rarely take responsibility. They may say, “I was only there for a minute,” or “I pay my taxes, I pay your salary, don’t you have anything better to do?” Can’t anyone say, “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again?”

People stop and get out of their vehicles in No Parking and No Standing zones — even Handicapped-designated spots — just to drop off mail, get a cup of coffee, go to the ATM, all the while professing that it’s perfectly OK to do so. Worse yet, they do this even when there are plenty of legal parking spaces nearby. Those restricted zones are there for a reason. Not to inconvenience others, but for safety. They provide line of sight, and room to turn on or off a road safely, and they’re designed to maintain the safe flow of traffic.

Offenders often whine about the consequences of breaking the rules. They’ll say, “It wasn’t me,” when they really mean, “The rules don’t apply to me.” They frequently answer the charges with excuses — mostly lies — to hide or justify their actions. Whatever happened to admitting to a mistake? Taking responsibilities for one’s actions? Apologizing and moving on?

Righteous indignation or anger that is driven by contempt has grown exponentially. We get angry because we’re disgusted at something we perceive to be morally wrong. And because we bring our own sense of morality to our indignation, we try to claim it’s acceptable. I’m allowed to be mad: This officer gave me a ticket for a law I don’t like. Or “I only broke the rules for two minutes,” or “This was the first time,” or “What about everyone else?”

Once you proclaim yourself to be right, you’re entitled to challenge others as well as the law. This has become an underlying practice of most protests. Protesters don’t want the truth, nor do they want to hear your point of view. They’re always right, and don’t care about the opposing point of view. There’s no healthy debate anymore; it’s only “I’m right, you’re wrong, and I don’t want to hear anything different. I don’t subscribe to your point of view, therefore I don’t deserve to be held accountable if I break any rules.”

I’m sure you find this in some of your interpersonal relations as well.

We all know politics has become very polarized. At some point, each side became incapable of seeing the other side’s point of view. Empathy, understanding and even compassion have been lost.

Egocentric attitudes have become commonplace, even acceptable. I see it more and more in today’s youth, my students, in the school setting. Discussion seems to make us angry. We’re no longer enlightened by someone else’s point of view; we’re angered by it. Can’t we discuss things without winning or losing an argument? Let’s face it, everyone has some kind of bias, but does that allow you to be dismissive? Whatever happened to “Walk in someone else’s shoes”?

People used to be afraid to break laws. Actually, they were only afraid of getting caught breaking laws. Now that no longer applies. When people are caught breaking a law, they’re quick to claim to be a victim, and that their action is justified. They are persecuted, picked on, victims of a broken or unjust system. But there need to be consequences for breaking the law.

There are no easy solutions to this breakdown. We can try to learn and grow and modify our behaviors before they deteriorate further. We used to say, lead by example, but sadly, a worldwide crisis brought this to a breaking point. How do we turn it around?

Ed Fare is the mayor of Valley Stream.