Chivalry is not dead…It may be down for a mandatory eight count, but it isn’t finished, or at least I want to believe it isn’t finished. Following the television mini-series farce also known as the presidential election makes one wonder though. I vacillated about touching this third rail but a series of incidents conspired against me and so here I am writing about gutter language.
This is not an endorsement of any political candidate. I have always tried to maintain the tenor of Switzerland in my efforts within the covers of this periodical, primarily because I am not going to convince anyone to come over to the light and understanding of my side of an argument in 800 words or less, and secondarily, it really is none of my business who somebody votes for…or against.
I also try to keep things kind of light and breezy but the current political climate is more hot and humid and to self-censor myself, maybe advice some political candidates could use, is not the bravest stance to take. Just a few days after the disclosure of the recording of the presidential candidate speaking in the most explicit and demeaning terms about one woman in particular and all women in general, I found myself casually walking down a city street minding my own business when a car pulls up to a red light. The bass on the sound system was making the car’s windows shake and shimmy. It was a rap song, granted, not my area of expertise. But after the bass was finished assaulting my inner ear and basic sense of balance, the “singer’s” voice kicked in and he was using the exact same language the presidential candidate was using to describe women. No one, me either, said or did anything and we just kept on our own merry ways.
This not so coincidental event got me thinking on how casual and even comfortable we have become with awfulness. Just how did we get this way brings the usual suspects to mind. All forms of modern media whether it be television, film, music or the internet have grown increasingly course but since media and politicians for the most part mirror the general public, the recent recording off a hot mic should not surprise us much. Now national politics have always been a full-contact sport, and not for the squeamish. I was raised in a big family where Sunday dinners always, and I mean ALWAYS ended with a lively political debate (that’s a polite word for an argument…and that’s a polite word for a verbal boxing match). But it was television that turned me into a political junkie way back when I was an impressionable 11-year-old glued to the TV set watching the chaos that was the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. That’s not a bad reference point for thinking things are worse now. In some ways they aren’t but in so many other ways they are…and the multi-media industrial complex has a lot to answer for.
I am the father of three adult children yet rarely does a day go by I don’t think of my own dad - gone all these years. He had a temper and the requisite amount of bad Irish luck yet, I heard my dad use one four letter word in my life, and that was in the midst of a scary home break in. I never heard him speak with anything but respect about my mom or all the other women in our lives, though he may have called one a witch…that was as tough as it got. I’m not saying he was a basketful of virtues. He may not have been a saint but he certainly knew what a saint was and he strived, in his own way, to get there. And through all his foibles, he clung to respect and dignity, two virtues in short supply this political season which has made its own dubious contribution to the vulgarization of the culture (which my auto-correct did not alert me as being incorrect so I guess that is a real word).
In short, my dad was Chivalrous – not for show and not for some. It fit him like a sprocket in the wheel of his internal Catholic identity and it had a lot to do with a dedication to the Holy Family. With that as your template, you really don’t have to worry about ever getting “caught” by a live microphone or a person with a cell phone camera.
The answer is not going to be found in a policy paper or through political discourse. We don’t need better republicans or better democrats or even better independents for that matter. We need better Catholics and that journey starts with us.