ROSE NOLEN: Public servants deserve more respect

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — With so many ways to express one’s opinion anonymously, and with freedom of speech being so loosely interpreted, I’m surprised that some people are still willing to run for local public office.

I find this especially true in smaller communities where they are known by a majority of their fellow citizens. I’ve observed that some newly elected public officials have barely warmed their seats before they are under attack by unnamed persons.

As a person who strongly believes in rules, I find this situation unsettling. First of all, these people are willing to give up their time and energy to serve the community, and while we may certainly disagree with their position on issues, I think we owe them our courtesy and respect. The news sources have given us the opportunity to talk back, and I think that when we attack their views, it would be nothing short of fair play to sign our names as the attackers.

The two-party system has allowed politics to deteriorate to its lowest level. Cable talk shows open the door for people to hurl insults at each other and play fast and loose with facts, and everyday people have taken that as a signal to open fire on anyone with whom they disagree. This attitude and disrespect has been allowed to rear its ugly head in all areas of our lives.

We see this with parents dealing with their children’s teachers, and too often the school administrators fail to protect the teachers from parental abuse. If this abuse of teachers and public servants continues, I would find it understandable that we would get less qualified people to put in the classroom and serve in public office. People shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of disrespect in order to do the job they agreed to perform.

I really don’t expect anything in this area to improve because we don’t really have any kind of national moral leadership to combat it. We’re like naughty children permitted to make up our own rules on the playground, with no one taking the responsibility to take charge and set down the conditions under which play can continue.

Since we have allowed this kind of behavior to be sewn into our social fabric, it will become increasingly difficult to tear it out. The next generation will grow up seeing no negative consequences for this behavior and begin to develop ideas on how to advance it. As Americans, we seem to have lost our capacity for self-direction. Whatever trends get introduced into our social intercourse or woven into our social fabric, no matter how inappropriate or harmful, we seem unable to eliminate them.

What happened to our social radar that we cannot detect and deflect dangerous elements before they are bred into our society? At this point, we can only be thankful that our medical and scientific communities are more alert. At least they seem to do their homework. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be safe to drink water.

The freedom of speech police seem to be on extended holiday, or they have been overpowered by the cyber bullies and television personalities who feel that it’s their responsibility to keep us all at each others' throats by any means necessary. Anytime we can be convinced that we are the kind of people who don’t care for clean-cut political campaigns, and that we like it when people are calling each other names and telling lies about one another, then we are making ourselves available to everything these bad actors are dishing out.

I really never thought I would see the day when it would be not only lawful to picket the funeral services of people who have fallen on behalf of their services to the country, but where some citizens would think that it was OK. Little by little, we are whittling away those qualities that separate us from the lower animals.

For many years, there were charm schools that taught us how to properly behave in public. With the economy still in trouble, there’s room for a cottage industry of institutions teaching courtesy and respect. Butas in the case of any kind of education in this country, the trouble would be finding students who are willing to learn.

What a reality.

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



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Mark Flakne May 31, 2011 | 1:32 p.m.

"I’ve observed that some newly elected public officials have barely warmed their seats before they are under attack by unnamed persons."

Rose, please provide some specifics. Thanks.

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