The Bridge: A Meaner, Less Gentle Nation


By Darryl James

A silly president named Bush once promised that America would become a kinder, gentler nation. He then proceeded to make war across the seas and loot the national economy. His mean, ignorant son continued that program and now their party of losers attempts to blame everything wrong on everyone but themselves.

After making the world a worse place, the Republican Party, along with some disgruntled imbeciles who call themselves “Tea Baggers,” are raging against a machine that has hardly come close to undoing the wrongs in the world and in the nation wreaked by their own.

In general, the rich blame the poor, the whites blame the Blacks, women blame men and everyone else blames everyone else. And still with so much blame to go around, not many people are interested in taking the action required to make things better for anyone but themselves. That position is always problematic in a society where the actions of each of us inadvertently affect all of us.

And, we are a society—one that used to have the position of taking care of the least of us so that the best of us could continue to rise, but has now converted to a position of blaming the least of us for having less, in order to justify doing any and everything to rise at anyone’s expense.

On a large scale, the country is allowing public programs to falter, including public education, yet corporate welfare (including business bailouts and political spending) is viewed as necessary and continues to get unabated support.

On a smaller scale, drivers won’t let each other pass and they fail to thank each other; people go straight to assumption and insult before understanding; people curse at others while expecting that everyone else will take the high road; and everyone wants something without giving up anything in return.  Many of us spend our time demanding that others act graciously toward us without understanding that the person may be acting without grace because they saw no grace to begin with.


The answer is simple—because along with being mean, more Americans are also selfish.

For employees, the goal is to work less and demand more pay. Customer service has declined because many people are unhappy with their jobs and allow that displeasure to seep into their interactions with customers.

For employers, the goal is to make more money and pay the employees as little as possible. Corporate greed is at an all time high, as high-level executives pay themselves higher wages and continue to lower the living standards of the employees at the bottom.

And in business relationships, selfishness has people confused, thinking that networking means seeking others to support their business and doing nothing in return.

In personal relationships, more men are seeking to opt out of courting in favor of going straight to the bedroom, while more women are seeking to lower their grocery bills by dating simply to be fed.

When socializing, groups of women demand that any man who shows interest in anyone in the group purchase drinks for the entire group. To have such an expectation is one thing, but to ask men, or even demand that they buy drinks for the entire group is just poor social behavior.

While some may argue that chivalry is dead, few want to admit that the lack of two simple words have ushered chivalry into its current ill state:  “Thank you.” From city to city, I have conducted a simple social experiment which I urge any of you to conduct or to observe–I hold the door for ten or more women and examine how many say “thank you,” or even bother to acknowledge the courtesy. I also observe how many men bother to hold doors–the numbers in both categories are few.

You see, part of courtesy is having the good graces to acknowledge a courtesy that is delivered to you.

Emerging technology has made our lives easier and has made the world a bit smaller. Unfortunately, it has also facilitated the making of a meaner society.

Many of us have been using email for at least ten years, so one would think that most of us would know that including someone in a mass email without their permission and/or without a way for them to get off of the list is in poor taste. So is attaching huge files to one hundred people you don’t even know.

It is also bad manners to send your religious views to people who didn’t ask, don’t want to hear it, and who can’t avoid it, because you won’t stop sending them.

And of course, you knew I would mention the nuts who email writers to tell them how wrong they are, disrespecting them while trampling on their privacy rights and expecting them to do anything but retaliate.  It’s one thing to disagree, but it’s mean and ignorant to disagree with insults and attacks, while still expecting the person to be nice to you.

American and many parts of the world have become meaner and the world is a colder place.

A mean and nasty man or woman will still likely garner meanness in return. Not all of us are interested in turning the other cheek.

But all of us should be interested in pursuing one simple task:

The task at hand for those of us who care about the world we hand to the next generation is to spread more love and more understanding to those who are still able to grow from it—our children.

Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opens in Los Angeles this Spring. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at

One Response to “The Bridge: A Meaner, Less Gentle Nation”

  1. This is excellent. Until now, I thought there was no one else who viewed the increasing selfishness, dis-respectfulness, and downright meanness of Americans through this conceptual paradigm. I cant begin to explain how many people have said to me that I’m too nice or that I care about people’s feelings too much or even that I need to grow a backbone. It seems to me that if you take time to apologize for a mistake you made; express gratitude for an act on your behalf, or show concern for another human being, people take you for a pushover. More importantly, you’re viewed as the exception to the rule, when it should be exactly the opposite. People drive down the roads like maniacs, unconcerned with the possible consequences of their reckless behavior. Young Black men, primarily, continue the abysmal rate of black on black crime. Popular television shows constantly include crude jokes about disability, weight, and other physical characteristics that people often have little or no control over. Bullying in schools has taken on a new dynamic with children hanging themselves as a result of online taunting through social networking sites. The bottom line…..a pathetic and disgusting level of animus and vitriol pervades our culture. At the same time, we expect to prosper, grow and progress as a people and as a nation, never appreciating the idea you so correctly point out: that we must love more if we’re ever going to move beyond the ills of the past and present. I would add that people need to have a greater respect for the value of life, not just their own, but every living soul. We need to remember that often times what we breath life into with the use of our tongues takes on a life of its own in the natural realm and has an odd way of limiting our own advancement. I wholeheartedly agree with you and I’m quite happy to see someone has given as much thought to this as I have.

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