Monday, July 9, 2012

The New Definitions of American Society

Respect—(transitive verb)
1.) Esteem somebody or something. To feel or show admiration and deference toward somebody or something.
2.) Not go against or violate something; to pay due attention to and refrain from violating something
• respect the law
• respect another’s privacy
3.) Be considerate toward somebody or something; to show consideration or thoughtfulness in relation to somebody or something

I don’t particularly enjoy the extent to which my current opinions resemble those of my parents thirty years ago. They were pretty sure American society was going to hell in a handbasket. I thought they were full of crap, then. These days, I’m convinced they were positively prophetic.

I’ve mentioned before that I believe one of the major ills that has infected our society is the extinction of the concept of “respect.” Respect is no longer a social obligation. In fact, it has fallen so out of fashion that when someone publicly demonstrates it, they themselves are generally disrespected by others—neighbors, colleagues, classmates, the Press—to the point of utter humiliation.

The traditional concept of respect has become so archaic that most Americans under the age of thirty have no idea what the word actually means. They have conjured up their own definition of “respect,” mostly having to do with YOU letting ME do anything I feel like doing and not having the nerve to get in my face about it.

I had the opportunity to witness this definition in action yesterday, when the posse of twenty-something gangsta wannabes next door decided their party would not be complete without contemporary dance music blaring from a four-foot-tall stereo amplifier they had dragged onto their back deck. Their deck which is separated from mine by about fifty feet and a six-foot cedar fence notorious for its inability to block noise. Twice in a matter of ninety minutes, my hubs popped his head over the fence and politely asked them to turn their music down. Each time, they complied, minimally; but within minutes, the volume had made its way back up to annoying level and beyond.

Finally, we moved to a different part of our yard, where the sound was less audible. Seeing that we had vacated our own back deck, the young gangstas did what any normal, considerate, neighborly types would have done. They turned the stereo UP.

It was this action that prompted the hubs to pop his head over the fence for a third time, which then inspired the young neighbor to declare that we were “disrespecting” him by asking him to control the volume of his stereo. Thereby demonstrating the contemporary definition of the concept of “respect.”

They did indeed turn down the volume of their music, but not until the young neighbor had accused us of everything from waking them up with our screaming fights at 1:00 in the morning (ummm….we don’t have screaming fights and we are almost never awake at 1:00 in the morning) or sitting outside on our deck late at night disturbing them with our loud conversations (my husband and my sister are in bed by 9:00 every night, and I don’t sit outside alone…and if I did, I would certainly not be having a loud conversation with myself.) I’m sure he pulled these accusations out of his ass…uh, I mean, his imagination…for the benefit of his audience. (Demonstrating another contemporary concept—that “truth” is anything I happen to have the balls enough to write or say out loud and does not have to be based on actual fact.)

The confrontation was ugly and didn’t need to be. Our young neighbors and their massive sense of entitlement would probably have won the day, had they not been hampered by another manifestation of their re-write of their parents’ and grandparents’ moral code: a pack of offspring produced by their lack of sexual temperance.

Husband and I retreated to our yard, certain that our peace would only last until a favorite track rolled around and the volume would once again be cranked, the better to savor it. But, inexplicably, the noise grew less and less, until it silenced altogether, well before 7 pm. Certainly the party was not over so early!

I was mystified; until the absence of “boom-chunka-chunka-chunka-boom-chunka-chunka” allowed me to detect the distinctive plaintive wailing of a colicky infant emanating from deep inside the manse next door.

It went on for hours.

Karma IS a bitch.


  1. I saw a funny quote that said, "Karma is only a bitch if you are!" I thought that was very funny and have filed it for future reference. Having nightmare neighbors is a lousy thing and I am sorry you have them. My father would have taken a stick to me if I had done things to bother our neighbors growing up. While I didn't have much respect for my father (then or now), it is correct to try to live your life so that you don't bother others and its reasonable to expect that respect in return. Too bad you can't count on your police to address the issue.

  2. The family that lived across the street some years ago were great. A little noise but not often, and nothing we couldn't handle. HOWEVER, there was guy who liked to stop by with his tricked out What ever the hell it was and leave the car running, bouncing on its axles and blaring while he waited for the people who weren't home to answer the door. Either that or they heard him coming two blocks away and hid. Who knowss. When I had the gall (in his opinion) to ask him to at least lower the bass a bit I faced the same thing you folks did. I was a racist, etc, etc, etc. (he was Hispanic) Told him I didn't care if he was purple with chartreuse polka dots the music was too damn loud, the plates on the wall were rattling. I think I confused him with the chartreuse comment. And I think it finally sank in that folks weren't answering the door when he showed up.

    It's this whole unltra individualistic baloney. I have my rights and I'll think about respecting yours if and when I feel like it. Perhaps during the next blue moon or something.