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A Cry for Civility

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 6:10 PM


As of last week, Facebook has been banned in Pakistan.  While this is a blow to freedom of speech, it is also a perfect example of how a world made small by technology is open to culture clashes that can eventually cost people their lives.


The ban is a reaction to a Facebook page entitled, “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” that encouraged people to draw Mohammed on May 20th.  Graphic representations of the prophet are strictly forbidden in Islam, so you might wonder why anyone except a drunken college student would come up with that so-called bright idea. When it comes to religion knee-jerk responses are so easy to snuggle up to, and this was yet another knee-jerk response made in protest of fundamentalist Islamic groups who threatened the producers of the cartoon, South Park, for depicting Mohammed in a bear suit costume.  You may ask yourself if someone else will up the ante with another over- the-top response.  You bet!  Holland has a popular anti-Islam party which according to the Associated Press is one of the fastest growing political parties in that country, and what’s the response to that?  Associated Press reports that, “ …an alleged al-Qaida militant detained in Iraq said he had talked to friends about attacking Danish and Dutch teams at the World Cup in South Africa next month.”  And so it goes…

I blame all this on the loss of a value and a word that is old-fashioned, civility which is a stately way of describing the act of being polite.  Civility on television, radio and the Internet has gone right out the window.  American talk radio is certainly inflammatory which may attract listeners but does more to harm public discourse than anything I can think of.  People interrupt one another without hesitation, and trading insults is the main agenda for all parties.  Call Obama a Communist, a Fascist, Adolf Hitler reincarnated and you will probably attract listeners but as far as engaging in serious political analysis, forget it.  Talk radio sounds like a bunch of bullies participating in mindless name calling.

Civility has been replaced by shock.  Insulting major religious figures may be amusing to adolescents and adults who can’t quite climb out of adolescence but in the end, it has needlessly increased tensions between East and West among factions that are just crying out for a reason to up the ante, and this is all done in the name of profit.  The producers of South Park have to satisfy the appetites of fans who crave that kind of material and this need supersedes any form of common sense.  It’s all about entertainment and entertainment is all about money.

I am not advocating surrendering our freedoms because we are threatened by people for using them.  Art will always call into question our most sacred values and the conflict will always exist between freedom of expression and religious expression.  Yet even the makers of South Park would be loath to call what they do art.

If people are going to wave the freedom of expression flag, then let’s hope that it is waved every now and then with some seriousness, and for a purpose that is just a few notches higher than entertainment with shock value.  If as much effort was put into finding common ground between East and West as in finding fault with another, we might make some headway, and that can only happen if people actually start to listen to one another respectfully.

Maybe civility is as old fashioned as costumes in a Jane Austen movie but without it, we’re all just a bunch of mindless louts shouting at one another and getting nowhere fast.

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Mom-less on Mother's Day

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 5:27 PM
A funny thing happened on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I was upstairs working on the computer when the doorbell rang; my husband answered the door, and within seconds I heard my son’s voice which was strange because my son works in Ottawa. I came downstairs and there was both my son and daughter. My daughter ran up the stairs from our entrance and yelled, “Surprise,” extending a bouquet of daisies. I burst into tears and hugged them both.

They came at a great time. This was my second Mother’s Day since my own mother, Lynne, passed away. I think it was worse than the first one. Seeing my own children was a wonderful consolation after the weeks of Mother’s Day advertisements that depressed the heck out of me.
Mother’s Day was a big deal for my mother – heaven help the child that forgot it. In later years, emails and FTD florists took the worry out of realizing three days before that Mother’s Day was coming. A credit card and a phone call would send a new plant or bouquet of flowers my mother’s way and she always appreciated it. Every year, she told me that I shouldn’t have, but I knew that if I didn’t send something, I’d never hear the end of it. That was one of my mother’s endearing quirks; she simply wanted her children and grandchildren to pay attention to her and to express their love in one way or another. It took me a long time to understand it.
It also took many years to establish a non-combative relationship with my mother. She had a very vivid personality, so vivid that it’s hard to believe that she’s gone. My mother was the life of any party, she water skied and spent the summer in a bathing suit when all the other kids’ mothers were playing cards and she had the richest, most beautiful singing voice. Though I inherited her love of music, I didn’t get that voice, only a shadow of it.

Over time, I find that I’m taking on many of her characteristics. When my father tells another of his improbable stories, I can hear my mother’s voice saying, “Sonny, you know that didn’t happen.” I can feel my face take on my mother’s expression, the rolling of the eyes. It’s all that I can do not to say, “Dad, you know that didn’t happen,” but my father is ninety-one years old. His stories are overwhelmingly exciting. When I hinted to the nursing home staff that they were also untrue, I could see their faces begin to fall. I had to catch myself. He’s ninety-one and he’s entitled to an audience.

Coming from a home with two gregarious and charming parents was not easy. Everyone seemed to compete for attention and believe me, there’s still a fair bit of emotional baggage that my parents’ children and grandchildren are dealing with. Yet my mother was absolutely right when she said over and over again that I would miss her when she was gone. Of course, I miss her. Two years on, I’m still surprised to come home from work and not have a message on my answering machine with her usual, “Hello, it’s your mother. I’ll talk to you,” followed by the click of the phone hanging up. I miss my mother terribly.

It only makes sense that when my children surprised me on Saturday, I was thrilled to see them. They reminded me of the role that I have to play and I try to never ever say that they will miss me when I’m gone, because of course they will. Our bond is bigger than our disagreements.
I imagine that this isn’t going to get easier as the years go on. It is a pain that I will get used to every Mother’s Day, and there are some of you out there who have lived with this for years; you know this pain better than I. About six months, before my mother passed away, I thanked her for the wonderful life that she gave me; I’m so glad that I did.

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