By John David Dyche
Kentucky would be a better place if its citizens would simply stop doing a few things. Refraining from a fairly short list of bad behaviors would improve everyone’s quality of life at no cost to taxpayers.
These are not the big public policy issues this column usually addresses. They are instead small issues of personal consideration that can build or break down the social cohesion upon which the strength of a community depends.
Stop littering – Nobody wants to live amid the trash of others. Yet Kentuckians continue to despoil our roadsides with indiscriminately discarded cigarette butts and packages, fast food containers, alcohol and soft drink bottles and cans, and other debris. Despite a half-century of public relations campaigns and laws against it, littering seems as bad as, if not worse than, ever.
Stop dropping the “F bomb” – Not too long ago, no decent person would have dared use this particularly vulgar four-letter word in public. Now many otherwise respectable people freely, loudly, and regularly proclaim it in mixed company where others, including children and women, cannot help but overhear. This worst of the bad words and its thinly veiled variants have become commonplace and almost impossible to avoid whether at ballgames, on the bus, or anywhere else one goes.
Stop being obnoxious at youth sports events – Too many parents at all levels of competition yell at coaches and players of not only the opposing team, but also their own. It is likewise inappropriate and unproductive for parents to coach from the stands. Offer your sage advice to your offspring at home, but leave the coaching to the coaches during games and practices.
It is particularly painful to watch a youngster try to hit or pitch a baseball with Dad crouched behind the backstop mere feet away offering non-stop instruction. Bat and ball sports are hard enough for kids without parents putting on public clinics. Volunteer to coach if you just cannot contain yourself and remember the remote possibility that the coach might be right and you might be wrong.
There is also a distressing and unsportsmanlike trend, especially in rivalries, of high school pep sections hurling insults at each other and ridiculing opposition players more than supporting their own team. Some such taunts can be admittedly clever, but others can be cruel. It is up to the adults in charge, which includes parents and not just administrators, to prevent the latter.
Stop being a bad dog owner – It is basic, but unfortunately not common, courtesy to clean up after your dog when it deposits something on someone else’s property. Do not let your dog bark so as to annoy your neighbors. Signs saying that dogs must be kept on a leash actually do include your dog, even though your pet is undeniably cuter, smarter, and more like a person than anyone else’s is.
Stop the loud noise – Turn down your car stereo, especially when you are idling next to other vehicles at a stoplight. That booming bass can actually be a form of assault on others. Your music is undoubtedly the coolest and hippest sound in town, but do not inflict it on innocent bystanders who might inexplicably prefer silence. Cars and motorcycles with loud tailpipes can disturb literally thousands of people in mere minutes of macho driving.
Stop obsessing on the smart phone – When you are among other people give your attention to them instead of to your smart phone. Otherwise you are effectively saying, “You, with whom I am physically present as a living, breathing, fellow human being, are not as important as someone else who is not here,” or, worse, some game. Watching videos on your phone while among company is especially rude. To the extent you must consult your smart phone in a social situation, please at least first say, “Excuse me.”
Stop saving seats – Saving seats is inconsiderate and selfish. By saving seats your message to those already there and desirous of sitting is, “My coat or handbag has more right to this seat than you do even though you did what was necessary to arrive early or on time so that you could get a good seat.”
Many ideas for making the state a better place require action. These are considerably easier since they require only inaction.
Your humble correspondent certainly has habits as bad or worse as some of the above, and there are definitely other things we should all stop doing. But bringing these few uncivil behaviors to an end would be a great beginning.