I recently viewed part the 2019 National Convention of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) held in Atlanta. While I share very little of the platform of the DSA in my personal political proclivities, I did find one aspect of their convention interesting, if amusing.
In order to convey a tone of what appeared to be near reverence for the convention process among delegates, those in attendance were instructed to not applause in the usual fashion by clapping their hands, but to quietly raise both hands upward and flutter them like bird wings to signal approval of this or that proposal.
Other instructions included avoiding “aggressive scents” in personal grooming, and generally keeping a low profile during the proceedings.
At first blush it seemed a bit much. But then I started thinking. Perhaps these folks were simply overdoing what otherwise is a good thing. I reflected on the number of times I visited the two Trappist monasteries in the Southeast on private retreat, and there really isn’t that much difference in terms of demeanor and speech between the rules of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance and that DSA convention.
We live in a profoundly immodest society today. And I don’t simply mean the uber-abbreviated attire which has virtually become de rigueur for not only the beach, but just about everywhere else as well.
No, the core of the matter goes much further and deeper. We live in an immodest – and I would amplify that word to include a close synonym, immoderate – world.
Gentility and propriety as the lubrication of any well-functioning society have given way to what sometimes looks like an NBA playoff with elbows swinging and frequent foul whistles. Only in our world there doesn’t seem to be anybody playing the referee anymore.
It used to be society’s leaders – elected officials, judges, teachers, even clergy, and yes, parents – who used to insist on a modest lifestyle characterized by respectful speech, respectful dress, respectful means of disagreement. Now it’s “in your face whether you like it or not, and I dare you to do something about it!” And it’s a global problem. In these days of international trade wars it may be our chief export/ import are indecency.
What tears me up – and I mean that in both senses of the word – is that our young people seem to have completely bought into the ethos. Remember the 1974 song by Harry Chapin, “Cats in the Cradle?” Remember how it ends? “Then it occurred to me, my boy is just like me!”
We reproduce what we are, and if we have too often embraced immoderation and immodesty, no wonder the kids blow us off. What did we expect? And I’m praying it’s not too late to turn it around!