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Why Are Americans So Rude To Each Other?

by Ken Kreps
2000, 2011, all rights reserved

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In writing this article, I feel like a person sitting down at a huge table covered with all manner of food and delicacies. I hardly know where to start as rudeness in the United States has reached epidemic proportions and manifests itself in all parts of our lives.

The symptoms of our plight are easy to spot, anywhere, anytime. The boom-box bozo driving down the street with a stereo system cranked up so loudly that paint peels from cars as he passes and his car shakes with every bass note; the person who cuts in front of you in line as if it was their divine right to do so; the obscene gesture which is now used so casually at even the slightest provocation (or, in many cases, no provocation at all); the smoker who thinks nothing of throwing the pure garbage of a cigarette butt from their car (they, no doubt, have not yet heard of the new wonder invention called the ashtray) or worse, one who uses the ashtray and then, when its full, dumps the entire contents in a parking lot or other public place; the person behind you who leans angrily on their horn because you failed to move your car within three tenths of a second after the light turns green. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you have many examples of your own.

How did we reach this state? A state of absolute uncaring about another person's sensibilities, privacy, feelings and in some cases, personal safety. Many people these days are entombed in a doctrine of "Me first and to hell with anyone else."

It's easy (almost too easy) to say the roots of this problem start at home. To be sure, my parents, like many of yours, taught me to say "Yes Sir" and "Yes Mam", to say, "excuse me" if I walked between two people talking or a person or persons who were looking at books on a shelf, grocery shelves, etc. In essence, they taught me to be respectful of others and to be polite.

But while important, the training a child receives (or doesn't receive) at home is only one slice of the pie when it comes to the rudeness problem. Like most basic behavior patterns, I believe our course is usually set by the time we're twenty years of age. Changes can be made after that, but they're much more difficult to achieve and certainly happen less frequently.

As a child grows through their key developmental years in today's social atmosphere, they're bombarded with many bad examples of how to behave. TV shows teach them to hit, shoot, and sometimes kill anyone who opposes them. Movies reinforce this (in wide screen splendor and Surround Sound) with ruder language and even more graphic violence. Cartoon shows like The Simpsons, teach them that bad behavior is not only acceptable, it's also funny.

Professional athletes who at one time were, for the most part, good role models have now become some of the worst. Ex NBA player, Charles Barkley was quick to point out that he wasn't a role model. Considering his numerous bar fights and other on and off court transgressions, we can all be thankful for that. Pro athletes in most major team sports now play with an "in your face" attitude that has virtually eliminated any form of sportsmanship from their games. And their off field antics from brawls and wife beatings to alleged murder is headline material the newspapers simply find too good to pass up. Professional wrestling (while not a sport) often offers the worst examples of how to behave. Unfortunately, children make up a large segment of the professional wrestling audience.

Children learn from what they're told, but often learn even more by watching others, particularly adults. Any generation gap non-withstanding, children watch adults and mimic their behavior (good or bad). Since many adults have the practice of rudeness ingrained into their daily lives, children watching this soon start to behave the same way. They in turn, grow into adults and pass these same bad social habits on to the next generation and on and on and on.........

This isn't a simple problem and, therefore, there's no simple answer. One person, or even one group of people, cannot solve this problem, but maybe there is a way to slowly start turning it around. The procedure starts with you and me and all the rest of the people in this country who aren't rude and know how to behave in public. No, you don't have to join any organization or send any money. What you do have to do is lead by example. If you have children, that's obviously the best place to start. Show them, by your behavior, what it takes to be a responsible, polite human being. Teach them the right way to protest when, indeed, someone has wronged them in some tangible way. I know that many parents have been doing this all along and for that, we all thank you.

For those of you who don't have children or whose children are now adults, you can play a positive part in this process as well. Children are all around us....our friends kids, as well as younger people in malls, movies, supermarkets and any place where the public congregates. Whatever we do, they see. However we act, they remember. All of us can do our part. Try to be aware of who's nearby and what message your actions or words will send to them.

I have no delusion that overnight, this national rush towards rudeness can be reversed, but if enough people make an effort, we can start to make a dent. Charles Barkley may not be a role model, but the rest of us certainly can be.

2000, 2011 by Ken Kreps. This article may not be re-published in electronicor print media without the express written permission of the author. All rights reserved.


Ken Kreps is an actor and writer, and has recently returned to the Pacific Northwest, after having lived in Los Angeles.  He now lives with his wife in a suburb of Seattle.  He has appeared in two episodes of a popular network television series, in a television pilot, in a number of independent films, television commercials (both local and national), corporate-industrial films, two docudramas on Japanese network television, and various types of voice-over work. He has written a number of published articles, essays and short stories, as well as numerous consumer pieces.  Ken has written scripts for Imagination Theater, an award winning audio drama series heard on over 120 commercial radio stations across the nation, as well as on XM Satellite Radio.  He has also written four short film screenplays.  For the past fourteen years, Ken has concentrated on acting, studying in Los Angeles, Seattle and Dallas.

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