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Thursday, July 05, 2007

For your consideration... so to speak.

Fireworks are a part of Fourth of July. That’s just a given. They are fun and awe-inspiring. And since Minnesota – in a rare bit of anti-safety/pro-fun legislation - repealed the law banning individuals from possessing, purchasing and operating fireworks, not a lot can be done about a neighbor that exercises their right to light up the night sky.

It does, however, become a matter of consideration – for your neighbors and society at large – to not exercise that right from 10:30 pm – 12:15 am. And that’s at the heart of this little missive – what happened to being considerate of others? What happened to granting individuals unknown respect simply based on common sense and the fact that they are part of that great stew we are all beholden to (or supposed to be) known as society?

I’m a former boy scout. No, I never liked it (and I abhor their current policy of discriminating against gay people), but it did teach me one thing; that we are all part of a larger unit called society. Belonging to society brings with it both privileges and responsibilities. A lot of those responsibilities are assumed considerations – like not making excess noise after 10:00 pm and keeping your dogs on leashes or fenced when they are outdoors. I learned these things as a child and they were constantly reinforced by my parents as I was growing up. The children in my family were taught to respect others – their property, their privacy, their lifestyles, their choices, and their well-being. The latter covers things like creating excess noise, not parking in front of their house if at all possible and to not encroach on their property - ever.

Somewhere along the line, these unwritten rules got left behind. They’re no longer taught. In fact, a lot of adults my age seem to have amnesia when it comes to what it means to be considerate. For proof – just try merging on a busy highway or driving on one during rush hour – and count the number of careless lane changes and selfish, grudging power plays you experience. Scary, huh?

Consideration for others, granted without exception, just makes good common sense. It’s like that invisible force field that Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four is able to project. It shields one and their loved ones from harm – be it physical or emotional. It protects one’s personal property and personal space. In short - it allows you to get a decent night’s sleep.

When a neighbor allows their yard to become filled with garbage, or parks their SUV on your lawn, or blasts offensive, sexually-explicit and insensitive hip-hop music at an equally offensive volume level, or uses a shared alleyway that backs up to another homeowner’s property to shoot off over-the-top pyrotechnics until 12:15 am in the middle of the week – you have to wonder what are they thinking? Are these really the values they want to pass along to their children?

Inconsideration/rudeness is a pebble dropped onto the smooth surface of society. The ripple it causes reverberates and grows in size. The effects of each such act live long after the act itself. The lack of foresight shown by people who are inconsiderate and feel they owe society nothing – not even common respect simply appalls and amazes me.

Yet, these people are the same people who, if disrespected or encroached upon – are the first to scream discrimination or foul – at the top of their ill-mannered voices. They have no trouble recognizing when they hurt, so why can’t they see when their actions hurt others? How self-absorbed can one be?

Consideration requires empathy. I am empathetic. I can see how my neighbors have the right to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth of July. Good for them. How American.

I just wish they would be considerate while doing so. That's American, as well.

Or, at least it used to be.