This weekend marks what would have been my mother’s 86th birthday. She died 14 years ago, but her persistent voice is so imbedded in my brain that I still can hear some of her admonitions and demands. I don’t think she ever used the word civility, but she was insisted on it. In her world, it was simply called “manners.” We didn’t have a lot of money, but she drilled into my sister and me that money can’t buy manners and manners can take you places money has never been. I used to think, “yeah, but money could take me to Disneyland.” I never made my childhood dream of going to Disneyland, but the lesson on manners was not forgotten. If I failed to say “please, thank you, yes sir/no sir; yes ma’am/no ma’am” I could expect an icy stare, verbal rebuke, and depending on the circumstances, an abrupt physical contact. When I failed to live up to her rigid standards of polite behavior, I would sometimes be challenged with the question, “were you raised by wolves?” When beyond arms reach, I would sometimes display my inner smart aleck self and say, “You and Dad raised me….so you tell me.” She never thought it was as funny as I did. It was drilled into me that no matter how little we might have had in material things, we could always afford to treat others like we wanted to be treated. Our culture today seems devoid of manners. People shout at each other, talk over each other, and use profanity indiscriminately and gratuitously. Rude and selfish behavior has become routine even in business and political circles. Technology has given us the capacity to communicate by way of smart phones, but smart obviously isn’t the same as polite. Selfie photos—so ubiquitous that world leaders routinely snap them even at memorial services of other world leaders—demonstrate just how far we’ve slipped from social norms of courtesy and propriety. Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt whipping out an iPhone and snapping a shot of himself with Churchill at Yalta? Or Ronald Reagan, grabbing his iPad and asking Margaret Thatcher to ham it up with him for quick pic? The political environment of our country is infected with people who have replaced public service with self-service. Belittling and degrading comments are made behind the cowardly wall of a screen name on blogs and FB posts. Why should we be surprised that government is dysfunctional when meanness has replaced manners in our interactions with one another? And it’s not just the 2 political parties going at it. I watch fellow Republicans gnaw on each other like dogs gnaw on bones, fighting imaginary dragons and labeling other Republicans with the slightest of difference in opinion or tactic a “rino,” or “squish,” or “wacko bird.” If my mother were still around, she’d probably lay down her 10 commandments on some things: 1. If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything. 2. Wait your turn to talk. 3. Respect your elders. 4. Don’t talk back. 5. Never curse in front of a lady. In fact, just don’t curse. 6. Never mistreat an animal. 7. Let others go in front of you. 8. Always say “please, and thank you; yes sir, and no sir” 9. Never take more than once piece of candy, and 10. Keep your clothes, your mind, and your mouth clean. I think those rules could make Washington better. But maybe the people there WERE raised by wolves.