Remember the Golden Rule?

Make text smaller Make text larger

cutthroat behavior, not kind words, drives modern-day behavior

by lorraine duffy merkl

behavior that gets kids detention now, could get them elected governor later.



if these were the taunts of siblings at the dinner table, the parent would intervene and chastise, "that's not a nice way for people to talk to each other." a time-out would ensue.

if the exchange happened in school, the teacher would hand out detentions, where the students would write "i will speak respectfully to others" 100 times.

we tell children their unkind behavior is wrong, but our public officials name-call all the time while they're campaigning, and it doesn't stop after they're in office.

on november 2, new york state will vote for its governor. our choices? carl paladino, who photo-shopped opponent andrew cuomo in a shower to imply he's a dirty politician, and cuomo, whose party is equally adept at digital image manipulation, showing paladino configured as a hog at a trough. acceptable actions for grown men, but a faux pas if you're 10? shouldn't it be the other way around?

this below-the-belt behavior is hardly the handiwork of politicians alone; and don't make the mistake that i believe it to be a "guy thing."

in the new book the twisted sisterhood, by kelly valen, she dissects how nasty women are to each other, starting in girlhood. its intent is to help put an end to the bullying issue, but like all other books, talk shows and special reports that have tackled the subject, this latest tome has its work cut out for it since there are so many television shows targeted to girls that glamorize adversarial, razor-tongued gymnasts, cheerleaders and fashionistas.

we tell kids to have manners, and to act like ladies and gentlemen. yet if they behave to the contrary, there's an opportunity to make 30k an episode on a reality show? i refer not just to the young and misguided who reside by the shore, but to so-called socialites who live in affluent places like nyc.

we may be doing our young a disservice by offering platitudes like, "do unto others?" how will this train them for the future, when they'll need to undercut others to move up in their companies? sabotage their friends when a bff has something they want such as a job or spouse, or humiliate a roommate by blasting personal business over the net? and how will they ever feel equipped to run for public office, like "the pig" and his opponent with "no cojones"?

unfortunately, not all poor illustrations of "do as i say, not as i do" that our children witness are "ripped from the headlines."

a few years ago, i was on a school committee that collected funds from the parent body and divided it up among the staff for holiday gifts. head teachers got more than assistants; support staff got an even smaller sum. after the first distribution, the director informed us that some of the staff was miffed at the inequity. i was quite tempted to reply, "you get what you get and you don't get upset," which was the constant refrain heard by my child whenever educators handed out everything from homework sheets to cupcakes.

even though i felt justified, the only thing that stopped me was that i did not want to model how to be antagonistic and smart alecky. i wish i could say that i always thought through my actions and words to what kind of example i'm setting, but i can't. if i could, it would be so much easier to blame the results on only outside influences.


lorraine duffy merkl's debut novel fat chick, from the vineyard press, is available at and

Make text smaller Make text larger




Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters