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Swearing and Bad Behavior


Cheryl can be reached at 775-331-6723, or at cheryl.erwin@sbcglobal.net.   Okay, time for an old-person warning. I am so old that when I was growing up, men did not curse in the presence of women they respected and women didn't curse at all. At least, not if they wanted people to think they were "nice." (Whatever that meant.) In fact, in all the years I knew my father-and he was 81 when he passed away-I heard him use profanity only once, and that was a word that is now so common most people don't even consider it profanity.             Obviously, however, things have changed. I am continually surprised at the level of discourse when I'm out in public. Everywhere, in malls, coffee houses, and restaurants, teenagers, adult men, and even some children are using words that would have made the proverbial sailor blush not too many years ago. I've sat at sporting events (including Wolf Pack games, by the way) and listened to middle-aged adults yell filth at the top of their lungs when young kids are sitting right in front of them. Lovely young women use sexually explicit language and barely seem to notice. I don't find it attractive, hip, cool, or appealing-but apparently I'm in the minority on this one. It's bad enough that so many young people can't tell the difference between the English language and text-speak, but the constant cursing is downright disgusting. And I am not "LOL."             I certainly don't think my grumpy radio musings are going to turn the tide of public behavior, but I'm curious: when did it become commonplace for supposedly educated, hard-working adults to be crass and rude, regardless of who's listening? And why do kids curse, shove, interrupt, and behave badly while their parents do nothing? It makes one shudder to think where we'll be in a decade or two.             This isn't as insignificant a matter as you might suppose. Years ago, parents taught their children not to talk about other people or to point at those who were different. Parents corrected kids who swore, who interrupted, or who were rude to others. These days, as often as not, it's the parents who are doing the swearing and misbehaving, while kids watch and learn. It's a small step from pointing at someone with a disability and making a rude remark to outright bullying or online insults. If everything and anything goes, what's to keep your child from being the next target?             Ethics and moral values are the responsibility of parents, and there's no doubt parents who do care about things like good manners and respect are swimming against the tide. The "family hour" on television is long gone, especially if you have a computer, cable or a DVR. Your child can beam R-rated music, videos, and movies directly into her bedroom without you being much the wiser. Kids have always wanted to be "cool" and these days recording artists and reality TV stars push, shove, and curse. Sometimes, even members of Congress do it. Why shouldn't kids do it, too? Especially when mom and dad swear at people who cut them off in traffic or use disrespectful language to describe those who voted for the opposition?             You may not be able to change what happens on television or in popular music and movies, but you can certainly change what happens in your living room. It takes more than wishful thinking, though: you have to act, and act with firmness. I remember making dinner one evening while my son and his buddies played a game in the next room. The competition was friendly but fierce and it wasn't long before f-bombs were flying. When his friends had gone home for dinner, I called my son into the kitchen. I remember telling him that I understood he would use that sort of language with his friends, but that I never wanted to hear him use it, nor did I want to discover that another parent or teacher had heard him use it. And you know what? I never did. In fact, I lost my temper once while driving and said a four-letter word and it was my son who responded with, "Mo-oo-m!!"             So maybe it doesn't matter. We can all behave like we're auditioning for Jerry Springer or an MTV video. But I believe there's still a place for kindness, compassion, and respect, even in public. I prefer to eat my dinner, drink my coffee, and work out without hearing or seeing any more ugliness than necessary. Humor me, will you? I'm old. For KUNR, this is Cheryl Erwin.