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INSIDE COLUMN: Keeping our common courtesy

Steve Kerins | Monday, November 6, 2006

I’m no conservative. Terms like “family values” make me cringe, and whenever I hear mention of “traditional marriage” this election season, I want to run back to my apartment and put on my rainbow bandanna.

In spite of all that, I’ve always thought of Notre Dame and its surrounding community as a place where the norms of a simpler time are embraced, and where a refreshing sense of common courtesy holds the day. And while I might not always agree with Notre Dame’s values, I know that they stem from a sincere desire to set right the ills of the larger world.

This is why I’m concerned that the decency for which our University is known is under threat from the outside.

In my small East Coast hometown, our local coffee shop recently made the news following a fight over a parking space in which one driver maced another, sending her to the hospital.

Now, this is a feeling I can relate to. We’ve all felt frustrated when that selfish mom in the ugly hip-huggers takes up two parking spaces with her Suburban, forcing us to park illegally so we can run in to get our dry-cleaning. We all know the pain of waiting in line at the store as that fool with the comb-over pays for his $1.50 tube of toothpaste with a debit card.

I know a Notre Dame woman who carries a “rape whistle” to defend herself in the event of an attack, which I find a bit quaint. A friend at home carries nunchucks in her purse for the same purpose.

I am frequently offended by certain local drivers, who seem to find the concept of the “fast lane” difficult to grasp. I am not at all ashamed of peppering them with obscene gestures and choice language as I zoom past them in the right-hand lane. But I try to remind myself that Notre Dame is a world unto itself, and screaming at the elderly as they wind their way to the Bookstore won’t help me fit into this culture.

I love that visitors write into The Observer to tell us how nicely they were treated at football games. I love that my school has a reputation for personal conduct that precedes me wherever I go. And I hope that Notre Dame continues to set itself apart, and that its students continue to conduct themselves with class when they leave this place.

This is one rare instance in which I hope we never bend to secularizing, depersonalizing elements in the world around us.