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Lack of manners = murder

An example of the sort of panic terrorism is intended to engender can be seen in the hysterical debate and rushed legislation that has followed on the heels of the hideous school massacre at Newtown, Connecticut.

Regardless of one’s opinions on gun control—pro and contra—it should be clear that none of the proposed or enacted legislation would have prevented this or other acts of terrorism.

Terrorists and the murderously deranged will always find a means of carrying out their evil designs—if not a gun, a bomb; if not a bomb, some other weapon. Indeed, the day of the Newtown killings came news from China of a man carving up nearly 40 children with a knife.

That said, the real question we should be addressing is what explains the horrific murder toll, particularly in the nation’s inner cities.

One reason worth considering is the total absence in manners that is rapidly becoming the norm across the entire social spectrum. But while the problem is by no means confined to a single ethnic group or minority, nowhere is the situation worse than in the inner city and backwoods communities where an absence of manners is greatly exacerbated by swiftly shrinking vocabularies.

My epiphany on this came in New York City more than 30 years ago, when I was strolling along 34th Street from east to west making my leisurely way to Pennsylvania Station.

Ahead of me was a young man scurrying along, head down, never looking up, in typical New York fashion. Scurrying towards him, heads down and equally oblivious to their surroundings, was a young couple.

The inevitable happened. The woman was almost bowled off her feet, but the young man simply hurried on head down, as though nothing had happened. In a flash, the young woman’s companion knocked the young man to the ground and proceeded to bash his head on the pavement.

I was younger, more foolhardy, and an awful lot fitter in those days. Trusting in the protection of my dog collar, I yanked the young woman’s companion up by the scruff of his neck.

“It was a complete accident,” I explained. “He’s really very sorry—aren’t you?” The man underneath nodded, looking utterly bewildered. “Tell her you’re sorry, then,” I told him.

“Sorry, lady,” he gasped.

“There you are. No harm done. Shake hands and be friends,” I instructed.

Hands were shaken, albeit somewhat gingerly, and the parties went their owe separate ways. That word “sorry” had saved one young man from a prolonged hospital stay or possibly a trip to the morgue and the other the likelihood of a long spell in jail. GPH✠

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