Today’s news:

Society’s lack of manners has become a sign of the times

When I recently visited a local supermarket, I found a common sight: shopping carts all over the parking lot, with some in parking spaces, including handicapped spaces. Too much effort, it seems, for users to return the carts to their proper places.

In the supermarket, I was caught up in another lack of responsibility. As I put my purchases on the counter behind those of someone checking out ahead of me, I noticed two packages of frozen food on the counter. I asked the customer ahead of me if they were hers. She said no.

Then I asked the cashier if she could do something about these frozen items before they spoiled. She looked at me as if I had descended from another planet.

After I checked out, I went to the service counter and told the person there about the thawing food items. From the reaction I received, it seemed clear that the cashier had been taught how to respond to such a customer comment. I imagine that when the food packages began leaking, someone might have cleaned up the place.

Every day we talk and hear about hunger in the world — and more particularly, right here in Queens, where food pantries are in grave trouble, as they are around the city.

These instances of a lack of responsibility seem to be part of a pattern that has developed in our country in recent years. No one seems to be responsible for anything.

Has anyone admitted to mistakes about terrorism’s aims before Sept. 11? Does anyone take responsibility for the bogus intelligence which was used to lure us into the Iraq war? Do any bankers admit to helping this country and the world plunge into a recession? Do those who did not have the money admit they were wrong to go into debt to buy a house? Do any of the automaker CEOs admit to incompetence? Does anyone in government admit that a lack of oversight has led to grave problems? Does anyone ever say “I’m sorry” anymore?

The nearest thing you get to an apology from someone who has hurt another person without actions or words is, “Victim, you’re just a jerk not to be able to withstand what’s unfairly hurled at you. It’s not my fault, but yours.”

We are reflections of those who are supposed to be role models in our society. For eight years we have lived in a culture of non−caring and looking out only for one’s self. Our role models have made it clear that this is acceptable in the United States in the 21st century. Our outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney even used a vulgar expression in public against a U.S. senator on the floor of the Senate.

When I was a kid and rode with my father on the subway from Elmhurst to the Polo Grounds, I learned that if the train was crowded, I was to give up my seat to an older person or a lady who was standing. I learned, too, that you took off your hat when you entered a room and did not wear a cap when you ate. My father also taught me to hold doors open for other people. I still do that and say, “You’re welcome,” even when I do not get a “thank you.”

In those days, the Daily News ran a picture feature entitled “The Correct Thing,” a kind of common−sense Emily Post for the working class. You could learn a great deal from those pictures and captions. But in our “sophisticated” age of self−centeredness, it might be a waste of time to try to resurrect something like that. We worry about saving those in need in other lands and care about climate control, but we have a hard time dealing with problems under our noses.

Charles Dickens portrayed this kind of skewed vision of the world superbly in the person of Mrs. Jellyby in “Bleak House.”

We are about to begin a new era in Washington. The man who will occupy the White House next week is not ashamed of his hard−earned, fine education. He seems to have a sense of responsibility to the people he will serve. He can be a role model to emulate so that a sense of responsibility for the world around us begins to return to our nation. It cannot happen soon enough.

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