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Lots of reaction to last Thursday’s rant about the lack of civility in society in general...with most people agreeing with my general sentiment, but a number of people disagreeing with one example that I cited.

For example, one MNB user wrote:

While I agree with your rant on society lacking humanity these days, I would like to respectfully disagree with you (this is after all a conversation on civility) about your comment regarding "the row of parking spaces that is reserved for energy efficient cars" and how shoppers ignore the signs and park their gas guzzlers there. Not a good example in my opinion.

So if you have $40,000 or more dollars to buy a hybrid, you get a parking spot up close? It seems sort of elitist to me. What about the environmental activist that just graduated college who drives a beat up '89 Accord? Or what about the composting soccer mom who drives a '98 Dodge Caravan? Or what about the retail store manager who really wanted a 2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid but didn't have it in the budget and had to settle for a regular V6 version. They have to park further back and drivers of Hybrids should get spot up close? This really bothers me and I'm sure it rubs others the wrong way. I have no problem with those who thumb their noses at this elitist Whole Foods policy and act in an "uncivil" way.  In fact, I am inclined to borrow my friend's '78 Cadillac Fleetwood, drive to Whole Foods lot and park it horizontally across the the whole row of "energy efficient car" parking spots.

Another MNB user wrote:

Why are People who drive Hybrids deserving of a special parking place and what about having children and strollers means you get to park up front.  It seems to me that the more we make individuals special because of their lifestyle choices the more we tend to create conflict and division and damage the civility of society.  It’s as if those lifestyle choices make you better and more deserving of consideration than someone who has taken a different path.  Once you create privilege you create another chance for conflict. I have always felt that there is no greater value of one lifestyle over another and that everyone is equal and should be treated as such.

It is an interesting perspective, and I’ll have to think about it.

I’ve never had a problem with the idea of pregnant women and hybrid cars getting preferred treatment ... and for a retailer like Whole Foods, giving hybrid owners better parking spaces seems in synch with its broader brand message.

But I’ll reconsider.

Other comments on that piece...

MNB user Craig Espelien wrote:

On the flight attendant issue – planes are becoming more and more uncaring – both attendants and passengers.  I have never seen so many folks who blatantly disregard the “turn off your electronic devices” – especially Kindles or other reading devices.  Now, I realize that a single user is not much of an issue – but I heard it expressed this way and thought it made sense:  one person who ignores a 4-way stop sign is not a problem – but we would have chaos if everyone did it.  Food for thought – follow the instructions as provided by the flight attendants, suck it up for five minutes where you might be disconnected.  Please.

I compared rude people to animals, which led MNB user Kathleen Whelan to write:

I think you are maligning animals. I'll take animal behavior any day.

MNB user Rick Marcum wrote:

Two things come to mind:  1. Perhaps a read of “All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” Robert Fulgum, would help these people.  In essence it is about living with others and treating them with respect.  2. There is also a guy we are all, in one way or another, familiar with whose name is Jesus that said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  If you attempt to live your life as both Fulgum and Jesus illustrate for us, then the woman on the plane would have apologized and waited, SUVs would not be parked in the illegal spots, people with 20 items in their grocery carts would not be in the “10 item only” line  and folks would not be running around thinking only of themselves.  Remember, that we all have a “ripple effect.”

MNB user Richard Evans wrote:

Please allow me to join in with you on your "rant".

You said "When that flight attendant swore at those airplane passengers, in some small way he was giving voice to a growing frustration that I think exists among many people with how our culture and civilization is going to hell in a hand basket."

The observations you make are a good comment on what we have become. and just as an aging person does not necessarily like the wrinkles, moles and sagging skin that goes along with their age, we are at odds with the symptoms of an aging society.

We all would like to think that things will get better as time goes on, and sometimes it does, but I believe many times it does not and it may take a catastrophic event to snap us back to civility where we can once again live with one another in peace and harmony.

I am partially handicapped and it never ceases to amaze me how many times I see a perfectly healthy young person pull into a handicap designated parking space simply because they are too lazy or too much in a hurry to park where they are supposed to park.

Even though there is a sizable fine attached to parking there without the proper tags. they do so anyway depriving a legitimately handicapped person from parking where it would be easier for them to gain access.

Why?  Because they simply, as you pointed out "don’t give a damn what the signs say." I think that this a symptom of a much deeper problem in our society. We are all a bunch of spoiled brats who think we are owed something special simply because we exist. Reality has not yet come into focus for many people.

I hope it does before it's too late.

Another MNB user wrote:

I couldn’t agree more…our politicians and what they accomplish and how they behave is a reflection of pop culture – the moral fabric of the American culture is being stretched and torn from every angle. This not meant to say the left, right or middle are wrong…we are in this together and must band together to preserve human dignity and the condition in  which we live.

And, from another MNB user:

I have to agree our politicians are just an extension of our society. I guess we are getting what we give. (Or some say deserve.) To add to the mix, ever attend a youth sporting event where the parents are yelling at the officials like their nuts? Start them young with the attitudes don’t we? Look at me rant now.

One MNB user wrote:

WOW, the column about society becoming more rude, etc was the best one I've seen in MNB.

And speaking of calm, reasoned and civil debate...we also got a number of emails about the debate in San Francisco about a proposal banning free toys from children’s meals, a move that some think would get kids to eat healthier and address the obesity issue.

MNB user Dave Vosteen wrote:

San Francisco is one step above hell. As a matter of fact, California is the land of fruits and nuts. Glad I live in new Hampshire!!!!!!! LIVE FREE OR DIE!!!!!! I love this motto.

Careful. You are coming dangerously close to calling them pinkos and commies.

MNB user Karen Shunk wrote:

Just a couple of comments about limiting toy giveaways in children’s meals:

I lived in San Francisco during most of the eighties.  We didn’t have many chain stores or restaurants (except where tourists were likely to be) because of regulations limiting their presence in SF.  It’s part of what made San Francisco special and interesting.  Once they loosened restrictions on where these businesses could open, the city suddenly had to figure out a lot of things like what to do about all the trash they generated.  It was the deregulation of the late eighties and early nineties (sound familiar?) that brought a lot of the problems that they are now trying to deal with.  Fat kids in SF?  Really, that used to be really rare compared to the surrounding suburban areas where people drive more and eat at chain restaurants more often.  Sad that they are apparently no longer rare.

My two kids (five and eight) recently admitted to me that they don’t like McDonald's’ food.  They beg for it because of the toys (which I hate – just more landfill!).   If you’re not allowed to market alcohol to kids, why can you market food to them that is patently unhealthy for them?  I understand the role of parental discipline here; my kids get to see the inside of McDonald's maybe three times a year.  But, in my bones, I feel like there is something really wrong with this model of marketing.

MNB user Elizabeth Archerd wrote:

Okay, this fast food toy ban to address childhood obesity is patently ridiculous, unless the kids are eating the toys after dessert.

The obesity/fast food connection is not proven. Our widespread obesity problem has more to do with social class and government subsidies than anything else.

Research seems to indicate that poor children can gain weight on rice and vegetables, while middle-class children can maintain healthy weight on "unhealthy" food. Stress may cause the body to convert food to fat for storage.

USDA subsidizes the grains and oil seeds that seem "cheap" because we pay for it with taxes rather than at the grocery store. Approximately 60% of the calories in "food products" come from three things: refined flour, refined sugar and refined vegetable oil. Check out the ingredients of most boxed, bottled and many canned "food products" in the standard grocery store and you see that most of it is some mixture of the above three.

Since those three products are cheapest for food "manufacturers" they form the basis of many products, but they are not the basis of a nutritious diet. You can eat that stuff until you feel sick yet never feel satisfied, and there is widespread malnutrition among our fattest citizens.

The food industry needs a major overhaul if we are going to get healthy. Banning toys is absurd.

And MNB user Richard Thorpe wrote:

Wow – a city that seems to put the welfare of her citizens ahead of business profits. Self regulation in advertising junk food to children is working just great isn’t it? I don’t think so.  Removing incentives to purchase unhealthy food is not punishing the restaurant industry, it is helping children.  It does appear that some California cities are well ahead of the rest of the country on environmental and other social issues but that just might be a “good thing.”   Perhaps if the toys had been included with the few healthier foods, salads for example, the ban would not have been needed. We regulate a many things when it involves children – limits on the promotion of junk food has not crossed the line in my opinion. Junk food is as bad as cigarettes.
KC's View: