- 2009 25 Jun
Last week a U.S. senator treated the world to a shocking display of rudeness toward a member of our armed services.
As Brigadier Gen. Michael Walsh testified before the Environment and Public Works Committee, Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer arrogantly and ignorantly reprimanded an officer and a gentleman who has risked his life many times over for her "right" to become a U.S. senator in the first place.
When he respectfully began a statement with "ma'am," she abruptly interrupted and gave the smarmy directive, "You know, do me a favor. Can you say 'senator' instead of 'ma'am'? It's just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it. Yes. Thank you."
More than any other group, America's military insist that their members show respect for authority. When addressing a male superior, they say "sir." When addressing female superiors, they say "ma'am." And out of simple politeness and common courtesy toward others, they are also taught to say "sir" and "ma'am" even when addressing civilians. As the wife of a retired naval officer, I have always been so thankful to be in the company of those who serve our nation with such dignity and respect.
Many moms and dads are trying to teach their kids to be polite and respectful by using the time-honored titles of "sir" and "ma'am" too. Most women appreciate when someone takes the time to show such honor. We recognize kindness and chivalry when we see it, and we're not so insecure in our gender identity that we lose our dignity by complaining.
I guess Sen. Boxer forgot how important it is to be a role model of civility when you are a public figure. As the most powerful person in the room that day, she should have been gracious and kind. She really should have thanked Gen. Walsh for his years of service to our country. She should have expressed praise for all military personnel who are making it possible for other women around the world to enjoy the same privilege that Sen. Boxer has of holding public office or even voting. And she should be aware that most women appreciate the respect afforded by the term "ma'am," regardless of any other gender-neutral titles we may have earned. Instead, she set a poor example, insulted every military officer in the land, and left many males wondering (once again) about how to be respectful to females without inflaming some feminist psychosis.
A very likely ripple effect from Sen. Boxer's petty complaint is that many may become afraid to practice simple courtesies, especially toward women. We can't allow our family members to be bullied into choosing the "safe" route and thus abandon acts of common decency. It's sort of like the quandary a male faces in wondering whether or not to open the door for a female, or if he should offer his seat on the subway or help a woman place a heavy bag in the airplane's overhead compartment. The shrill complaints of a few angry feminists have caused many to avoid eye contact and instead, to just look out for themselves.
We must teach our sons to value the concepts of respect and kindness enough to always be gentlemen, even if that means making themselves vulnerable to attack. And our young women need to be taught to accept the thoughtful gestures for what they are -- thoughtful gestures.
Showing and accepting kindness for and from others is the definition of civility, and our nation needs more of it. So, in the wake of this much-discussed rudeness by a prominent public official, let's make it an opportunity to remind our kids to always err on the side of respect.
Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family. Visit her website at www.HowToSaveYourFamily.com. where you can sign up to receive her free e-newsletter containing the Culture Challenge of the Week and how to fight back. Hagelin is also senior communications fellow for The Heritage Foundation.