Monday, October 17, 2011

#290 / Be Polite

My mother, Alma Bracken Patton, inculcated "politeness" as a primary virtue.

I think that the importance of politeness is underrated. Check out political discourse as practiced today (particularly on television). Politeness is given short shrift. That hasn't led to a better brand of politics. I am sympathetic to the President's effort to model correct behavior.

I don't believe that my father started out, at the time my parents got married, with much of a commitment to politeness, but my mother definitely whipped him into shape. In later years, one of my father's favorite sayings was, "It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice." Frankly, that is my mother all over!

My mother did not confuse "being polite" with "agreeing with someone," or with relinquishing her ideas of right and wrong. To the contrary. She never got confused about her beliefs. She was politically liberal, anti-war, and a passionate believer that the government was supposed to do something to help those on the bottom of the economic ladder. She and her family had been right there during the Great Depression, but because of my father's business success, my parents ended up quite well off, making friends with business leaders who commanded lots of money. Because of their love of golf, my parents spent a lot of their last couple of decades living in country club environments (in Rancho Mirage and Boulder Creek).

Always polite to these members of the privileged and entitled class, as to everyone else, my mother never got seduced. Not even one little bit.

The President could take a lesson from her on that score!


  1. Minnesota Nice is mocked and venerated by Garrison Keillor to good effect. But, raising niceness to a high virtue is beneficial for us all and is consistent with clear advocacy for particular values and policies..

    The difficulty is in the understanding of tolerance. Many people are taught not just to tolerate other people's views and behavior, but to see them all as equally valid, thereby suspending judgment and intervention into the lives of others.

    Mothers know the difference. Mothers are good models!

  2. You and my Mom would definitely have gotten along well!


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