Women are qualified to bring a return to civility

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 1:22 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The women I have always admired the most are those who have taken what skills and talents they have acquired or been given and created a niche for them. The history books are full of them.

Of course not all of them proved to be as relentless as Hannah Cole, who on her pioneer voyage was left a widowed mother of nine children when her husband was killed in an American Indian attack. When her farm in Boonville came under attack by American Indians during the War of 1812, she gathered her neighbors and they built a fort on her property, which helped them survive until peace came between America and Great Britain and the American Indians moved on.

But women, many of whom were born under quite ordinary circumstances have managed to distinguish themselves in every field of endeavor. They became teachers, clubwomen, cooks, writers, musicians, photographers and other professionals.

The other thing I’ve always admired most about women has been their ability to identify social problems and design strategies to solve them. While all of them might not have had the fervor of Carrie Nation in her drive to rid the society of drunkenness, there were many like Susan Blow who saw the need for early childhood education and led the movement for kindergarten classes.

In recent years women, of course have fought for the right to choose in the matter of reproduction. Women have successfully organized groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the past. Right now, I’m waiting on them to start the war toward driving out this lack of civility that has suddenly seized us like an epidemic of typhoid fever.

I recognize first and foremost that every American has the right to freedom of speech, however I for one am sick and tired of listening to the coarse language and lack of manners of some of those who wish to engage in public discourse. This total disregard for other people’s feelings is turning our society into an asylum for the crudely inept.

I feel that at any moment we will all be transformed into cave dwellers walking around with clubs to beat each other over the head. I fear that we will soon be sitting down to eat in restaurants where people have forsaken eating utensils and have returned to tearing their food apart with their hands. Where are we going to draw the line?

Women’s organizations, I think, are uniquely qualified to take up this fight. Although many are leaning toward the line, women in general seem not to have forgotten their manners. Even in the locker rooms they have been determined to carry on with decorum.

Already, some are realizing that this business of bullying is getting into dangerous territory. Since the advent of rap music, people seemed disinclined to pay much attention to the kind of tone this language was generating. But when young people begin committing suicide because of the taunts and teasing they are receiving from their colleagues, it merits a longer look.

As a result of the current environment, people are becoming less inclined to engage in any sort of exchange of ideas for fear that the conversations will get out of hand. Instead of joining others to try to solve problems at any level people are choosing not to get involved.

In the case of families and communities trying to reach consensus on how to deal with intimate or local problems, this can be disastrous. As people turn away from each other it becomes more problematic to determine how they feel about the world they live in or even if they feel comfortable about anything.

Setting the pace for the way we proceed as families, communities and citizens seems to me something women need to address. They can begin to set up public forums and seminarsto address this critical situation. We can only hope they won't wait too long.

I feel badly, suggesting that this is women’s work. But women have always been the movers and shakers when it comes to maintaining a civilized society. Before it comes down to people engaging in fisticuffs in the streets to settle even their pettiest grievance, somebody needs to intervene.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at


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