I believe in common decency. Not a new thought, certainly. I first considered it when I started reading Kurt Vonnegut Jr. books in my early 20’s. He was a great proponent of common decency. “Please, a little less love” he said in the prelude of Slapstick, the first book of his I had ever read “and a little more common decency”. Vonnegut was referring to what he thought you should say to your spouse during an argument. I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about then, in the beginning of my adulthood. Love was still the end all and be all to me. As long as you love your spouse or boyfriend, family and friends, cat or dog, and were loved in return, everything would be ok. Love, most definitely, was the answer.
Now, I’m in my late 40’s. I love my husband, my children, my family and friends, and I feel they all love me (I don’t have a cat or dog, but if I did, I’m sure we would have a mutually loving relationship, too!). Guess what? Love is not “the answer”. It does not “make the world go ‘round” nor does it “keep us together”. Common decency does. People who are the closest to us are often the ones we feel so comfortable with that we drop our filters and blurt out whatever we feel, without taking a moment to think how it will affect them. I love my husband, but when I’m angry with him, I need to remember to treat him with common decency. I believe this really applies to children. Yes, I love them, yes, I want what’s best for them, but just because they are smaller and less experienced, does that give any parent the right to treat them as lesser individuals? Don’t they deserve to be treated with common decency, too?
Imagine what would happen if everyone started treating people they love with common decency. Pretty soon common decency would start seeping out of people’s inner circles. Maybe they would treat the person blocking the isle at the supermarket with a little common decency instead of making a rude comment. Maybe a child would treat another child who is different with a little common decency instead of making fun. Maybe school employees would treat my autistic son with common decency instead of letting him sit in his own feces because they don’t have the right job classification. Maybe an employer would reward my hard working husband who daily sacrificed family life for his job, with common decency instead of letting him go.
And maybe, just maybe if the small percentage of people who are the wealthiest treated the poor and disabled with common decency, well, what would happen then? What would happen if detainees at Guantanamo were treated with common decency? What about the people in Darfur?
The world doesn’t need love, just a little more common decency.
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