A simple state of affairs

Thisanjali Gangoda

It’s never difficult to say hello to a friend or family member, to engage in conversation with someone you know well. There’s an established sense of understanding and ease that makes these people worthy of courtesy and greetings.

But what about a stranger, someone you haven’t met before? Do you say hello and acknowledge the presence of the cashier at the grocery store, or the barista at a café or even your next-door neighbor? In the mid-1960s, many Americans considered the overall decline in politeness and respect between strangers to be a social problem.

Now it seems to be a widely accepted practice to ignore the simplest forms of social etiquette. Even when a person employs a polite word in conversation or makes a compliment of some sort, it’s disregarded as being dishonest or even creepy. There’s so much cynicism and distrust attached to everyday people-pleasantries that we don’t seem to bother with them anymore. We don’t take the time to appreciate or even acknowledge the men and women who have become a part of our lives.

Why is it so difficult for people to act on common courtesy? It isn’t a generational phenomenon either, with the youth of this country acting out in protest of adults. Rude behavior and quick judgments of those who work in social services, and of strangers in general, seem to have become a problem that now reaches all realms of everyday living.

We’ve become a culture of fear, a society in constant worry that outside people always have intentions to threaten or harm us. To some extent we have reason to worry, with the over-analyzed and excessively broadcast murders and details about suspected killers. There are real dangers that can be unpredictable when unfamiliar people and situations arise. But is it possible that many unfortunate circumstances could have been avoided if we had just taken the time to get to know and understand each other?

I’m in no way implying that the shootings at Fort Hood or the serial killings in Cleveland could have been prevented had the people in those communities taken the time to know Nidal Malik Hasan or Anthony Sowell through polite and courteous conversation. But I don’t think it’s an absurd idea that society would benefit greatly if everyone would make conscious efforts to be kind and considerate of one another.

It isn’t a difficult concept and requires little energy to be open-minded and thoughtful of those around you. There would be less angst and suspicion going around, as we certainly have enough of that thanks to Nancy Grace and the entire Fox Channel News Network.

Down with fear mongering and presumptions of others, I say. Instead, try and be mindful of this world that we live in, and just say hello.

Thisanjali Gangoda is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]