Forgotten Habits of the Civilized

Americans surprised at their global unpopularity might consider how we are performing against this partial list of the most obvious, basic rules of civilized behavior.

  1. Justice, not revenge.
  2. Lead by example.
  3. Treat enemies with decorum.
  4. Speak precisely and succinctly.
  5. Admit and apologize for mistakes.
  6. Avoid condescension.
  7. Don’t flaunt prosperity.

(By coincidence, this list has significant overlap with a more complete, more general and more revered list of seven things not to do.)

Each time you read a public statement from our President or his staff, check it against this list, and ask yourself how we are doing.

When our representative on the world stage calls a head of state a “midget,” or a “sawed-off runt,” are we treating enemies with basic decorum and avoiding condescension? Is his dogged mispronunciation of “nucular” precise and clear?

Don’t rush to judgment either way on this. Just memorize the list, and compare it to what you hear America saying in the papers.

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