I say “thank you” a lot but too rarely get a response these days. When I do, it’s often “no problem” instead of the expected “you’re welcome.”

When did this start happening? What led people — mostly younger ones — to decide that good manners no longer matter? They do matter to me.

I was brought up (sometime after the Victorian era) to show respect for others and to believe that respect would be returned. That’s happening less and less all the time, and it saddens me. It’s one more example of the coarsening that is dividing our country.

It’s not difficult to say the “magic words.” Our children used them when they were still pre-school age. I’d like to see us all once again act like decent human beings who care about how we present ourselves to the world.

Courtesy used to be modeled and taught. There were children’s books such as Manners Can Be Fun. Emily Post and Miss Manners held forth on the rules of etiquette in their newspaper columns which are now used to give advice on sticky social situations. Going way back when I was in college, freshmen were required to complete a no-credit course on social skills. Manners were acknowledged as a measure of one’s character, success and social standing.

Guides to proper behavior have been available in this country since the mid-1800s and were so important that they were considered domestic and social “bibles.” Some of their rules may no longer be in vogue, but good manners never go out of style.

Manners today must be taught in the home. The rest of the world can model appropriate behaviors, but there’s no assurance that they will be emulated.

I blame the “me” complex, the belief too many espouse, that what they think and what they want is all that matters and the rest of us can lump it or leave it. I don’t think language is to blame. Instead, I think language follows thought.

That explains the obscenities and the bile that people share all too freely. It also explains the grammatical errors in “me and my friend.” Please don’t add to my dismay by saying that instead of the correct “my friend and I.” That ego-centric “me” gets the attention and “me first” becomes a prevailing theme. No wonder simple kindness and consideration have become so rare.

We humans were granted the power of language to separate us from the animals. It’s time we remembered to value that gift and use it to show caring and respect for others.

We have to learn sometime that the rules do apply to all of us and that rudeness lessens us in the eyes of others. It’s the Golden Rule in simple form: treat others as we wish to be treated.

If you have problems with these opinions of mine, please “excuse me.” I meant no offense.

Margaret Hays is a longtime Osawatomie resident who writes a weekly column for The Miami County Republic.

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