Growing up in a middle class house in America was really a blessing. We learned early on about manners and the importance of following the basic rules we would need later on in life. There were rules like
- no arguing at the dinner table
- no borrowing from your brothers things without their permission (it was assumed my sister really didn’t have much that would be useful to a boy so that rule was not needed
- wash your hands before dinner and clean up your plate after
- no wasting of food… we had enough but we knew that to waste it was a wicked thing
- no fighting in the bedroom – especially if Mom and Dad were still at the dinner table directly below our room. The modest chandelier was a dead giveaway no matter how quiet we wrestled
- no swearing… ever… about anything
- you asked permission to leave the table and could only do so when Dad and Mom decided it was appropriate
- if you made a mistake, admit it. Quickly. And apologize to the person who was offended
The last one was kind of tough sometimes. I am not sure how many times I knowingly made a mistake that hurt someone else but I know I did it. I think we all did from time to time. But taking responsibility for it was the bedrock for being a mature and responsible person.
I distinctly remember a few times when I was not directly responsible for something bad that happened but was indirectly part of the event. Maybe in my mind I would justify how unfair it was for me to take my share of the blame but taking my share of the apology seemed like the punishment did not fit the crime. But as a part of my parents values, learning to admit the error was only part of the process. Taking your share of the sincere apology to the offended person was the natural next step.
My parents had class (Mom, who is still alive is the picture of a classy woman). Developing that class sometimes cost us some personal pride. Personal pride is a blessing and a curse. I am proud of my raising and my personal achievements along the way. I am also ashamed that from time to time I forget to remember the accomplishments of those who are close to me. For that, I sincerely apologize.
I lived in a quiet suburban neighborhood which was a short drive from houses that were infinitely more stately. Large stone houses with many rooms and more cars than you can imagine. Their houses were always the best decorated at Christmas time and their children always seemed to be better dressed and more comfortable in their shoes. I will admit that at one point I thought that was a measure of class.
Later in life when I learned about the ugly divorces, alcoholism, drug abuse, spousal abuse and all the other myriad of social ills that occurred in big houses and small, my definition of class came to revert back to what my folks had taught me. I discovered that just because you live in the biggest house, have the biggest staff, have the biggest jet plane and get to travel all over the world, it doesn’t mean you actually have “class”.
You can live in all that mess and still have no class at all. Your actions will show the world who you are. When you knowingly lie about another man in order to save your job, you have no class. When you are caught in that lie and refuse to apologize, you have no class. When you constantly blame your predecessor for every ill even though you long ago took a paycheck to fix the situation, you are completely without class.
If you lived in my parent’s house, you would be sent to your room and not allowed back out until you admitted to your errors and apologized to the one or ones whom you have hurt and offended. I have tried hard to understand how someone could come to be the leader of the country that I love without being aware of the basics in life. The more I have thought about it though, being raised without a mother and father must have been a hard thing. Being elected by so many other people who don’t understand the principles of class probably makes it harder for a person to admit how classless they are.
I would send him to his room until he had a change of heart. But then I remember that sadly, it’s a room in a house paid for by people who expect better where hundreds of servants will bring him anything he wants anyway. Class shows in the end. So does lack of any clue what class is.