Now, tennis (unlike politics) is, without question, one of the most civilized sports in the world. If there were any chance that Williams would shove an EXPLETIVE ball down the EXPLETIVE throat of a line judge, it might even be a sport worth watching. But despite the overwrought finger wagging of critics, the incident tells us nothing about society at large -- other than that athletes can be competitive and lose their tempers.
Neither does a hammered celebrity rapper making an idiot out of himself on the MTV (the exemplar of proper etiquette, no?) Video Music Awards. Yes, I, too, yearn for the bygone era of hip-hop chivalry, but those days, sadly, have passed.
Where does that leave us? Exactly where we were 10 years ago -- or 20. I've been around this country a bit, and most of the people I've encountered have been extraordinarily civil -- even if they occasionally drink too much or embarrass themselves or curse at one another while playing pickup basketball.
This new focus on civility is meant to cloud another issue. Let's not confuse personal civility with political civility. A "civil" citizenry can mean a pliable citizenry, waiting -- sometimes forever -- to speak their minds.
We have no duty to say "please" and "thank you" to elected officials. Not yet.