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Surefire way to counter rotten behavior: Be sweet
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Be sweet.

It was what mothers once told their children in a time long, long ago before the advent of instant communication and the dawning of the "Age of Whatever."

They meant "sweet" as in kind, thoughtful, considerate, pleasant, amiable, friendly, caring, gentle, good-natured, soft-hearted, and sweet-tempered.

Imagine what would happen today if we all took the advice to "be sweet" to heart.

Pedestrian chats no longer would be peppered with enough swear words that would have made a sailor blush back in the 1950s. Terms used to describe female dogs would not be used to describe the gentler gender in casual conversations.

We'd smile and greet strangers we pass on the sidewalk.

Cell phone conversations in public places would never be conducted in a volume loud enough to broadcast what you are saying to everyone in a 100-foot radius. Face-to-face talking would never become subordinate to taking a cell call or the need to text.

We'd be thoroughly embarrassed if we ventured outside with our pants drooping down so the world can answer the age old question of boxers or briefs.

Coarseness would not be acceptable behavior.

Quaint manners such as opening the door for others regardless of their gender would be a universal practice and not a rare exception.

E-mails and blogging would be done with as much thought as one employed when they took to pen and paper to write a letter to a friend, loved one or a stranger. "Dear sir" or "Dear madam" would make us realize we are addressing fellow human beings who may simply think different and would go a long way toward setting the tone for civil discourse and reducing the vile on blogs.

Wit would be used as humor and not to cut.

Sexual innuendoes wouldn't cheapen our language and demean others.

The Golden Rule might actually become the new gold standard.

Rage wouldn't boil to the top at every perceived slight.

Common courtesy would become the underlying rule while driving.

The universal shrug word of "whatever" would disappear as we would not automatically dismiss someone's thoughts or requests.

How did we get to the point where "being sweet' seems so old school?

Somewhere along the line we decided collectively that no one in authority should impose and set a standard to call certain conduct unacceptable.

Anything goes because we let it. It's that simple.

There is a difference between standards of civility and individual freedom and rights. The two can co-exist. The problem is that we can't live together without marrying the two.

We don't live in the jungle or on the open frontier.

We have neighbors who may not want to hear blaring music at midnight. There are others trying to use the same roads. Those whose values are not carbon copies of our own have the right to exist and garner respect.

We wouldn't be hardened against - or ignorant - of the feelings of others.

We have gained nothing from being what are essentially inconsiderate, foul-mouthed bullies that confuse rudeness with self righteousness.

The tide of civility is receding because we as individuals assume our world's lapse into vulgarity and harshness is an unstoppable tsunami.

Buck the trend. All it takes is little steps.

Say "hello" as you pass a stranger today.

Try not to use cuss words so frequently.

Treat fellow human beings for what they are - human beings.

Give those in the world about us dignity.

Be sweet.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.