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Common Decency Not Dead, But in Peril

January 19, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
It was heartening in the past week to listen to stories of bravery and selflessness committed by the pilot, crew and passengers aboard the U.S. Airways jet that went down in the Hudson River.

One report states that one or more male passengers shouted: "Women and children first" as the icy water poured in the cabin and everyone scrambled toward the exits.

So-called "mob mentality" isn't always bad. It only takes one self-appointed leader to take charge and do the right thing, and others will follow.

Two letters to the editor in recent weeks show the heart of decency still beats in the Ohio Valley. An elderly woman fell crossing the street outside River City Ale Works in Wheeling, and a Wheeling newspapers employee helped her inside and made sure she was OK, even checking on her during her meal. Another person wrote to thank a bus driver and another man for helping her when she fell at a bus stop.

What's sad is that such acts of common decency seem so rare in our society that those on the receiving end feel compelled to write letters to the newspaper about them.

Unfortunately, we read and hear all too often about the horror stories that happen every day in our towns, our states, our country. Common decency was dealt a glancing blow a few days ago at a Monster Jam truck show in Tacoma, Wash., for example, when a 6-year-old boy died a horrifying death from flying debris from one of the performing trucks. The boy's father says he can't get the bloody images out of his head. Many spectators left after the accident, yet the show went on.

The show went on.

That's not just indecent, it should be criminal.

Then there are the little examples that defy logic and make my head hurt. On my way to work this morning, I followed a pickup truck across Wheeling Island. The back window and bumper sticker were covered in stickers that made it clear the driver supported gun ownership. I have no problem with that; it's an American right, after all. Two Calvin cartoon character stickers depicted the little imp peeing on the word "anti-hunters" and on the words "gun control." Another sticker stated "Guns Cause Crimes Like Flies Cause Garbage." Not sure about the appropriateness of that simile, but I get the gist.

But it was the bright blue sticker that completely blew his cover. "Take Out Your Ex Tonight," it read, "One Bullet Oughtta Do It."


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