What we really need to know

My wife and I have tried to teach our children good manners, courtesy and civility in dealing with others - look people in the eye and tell the truth. Don't lie. It's impolite to yell or interrupt others. Our children are now parents themselves and they are teaching their children the same kind of good citizenship.

It appears that some in our community were not taught these basic manners. Letters to the editor and some printed political commentary suggest it's OK to disrupt public meetings, to promulgate lies and misinformation, especially if one thinks the other side has done the same thing.

It's wrong, regardless of who does it.

Some justify the disruptions of public meetings regarding health care with yells that are laced with hate-filled acrimony (posters too). Some support armed thugs walking around at public meetings with T-shirts emblazoned with Thomas Jefferson's famous quote from a letter to William Smith: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

The 18th-century quote appears to be about the right to bear arms (a militia) and Jefferson's concern about a well-educated citizenry. It is not a call for armed revolt. Besides, today, both armed revolt and secession are illegal and treasonous.

Citizens have a right to expect orderly and civil debate, regardless of the political party or the volatility of the issues being debated. They also have the right to expect accurate information, not lies.

Congressmen Heller forgot his good manners when at a recent Rotary Club meeting he was less than truthful about stimulus spending, and insulted an audience member for participating in the stimulus "cash for clunkers" program.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, at a recent town hall meeting gave credence to some bizarre idea that health care reform includes a "death book" for veterans. Former Gov. Sarah Palin spouted the "death panel" notion that the president was supposedly advocating. All, of course, are false.

There are many other examples where national Republican (some Democratic as well) policymakers have lost their moral backbone, have resorted to fear-mongering and are simply afraid to confront right-wing radicals who have taken over their party.

I am reminded of Robert Fulghum's 1993 book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

I won't list all of the lessons, but a few should suffice: "Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together."

That works for me, especially when you include, "Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you."


• Dr. Eugene T. Paslov, former Nevada superintendent of schools, is a board member for Silver State Charter High School in Carson City.

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