Growing up, Mother likely provided you with innumerable instructions about how to behave appropriately. Although she may have let you get away with saying “Yuk, I hate turnips,” when you were aged three at the family dinner table, you learned along the way not to say that when you were a guest at Aunt Doris’s house. First, it would be extremely rude; second, it might hurt her feelings; third, your aunt may feel compelled to cook something else for you to eat, which would unnecessarily put her out of her way. (If you were a truly blessed child, you learned to delicately push that root vegetable to the side of your plate, but not without a slight indentation of your fork, which indicated that—at the very least—you had sampled microscopic bits.)
Along the way, we learn to refine such sensibilities as we navigate within various social arenas, so that we understand that certain behaviors are okay, while others are not. Some of these things we simply pick up on our own because they are common sense. You wouldn’t, for example, tell your boss that his idea is lousy at a staff meeting, spill a glass of wine on a host’s rug without offering to pay for the cleaning, or show up at a chic sit-down wedding reception unless you were an invited guest who previously had sent a timely r.s.v.p.—and, preferably, a gift!
So what in the world was Neil Munro, reporter for a news website, thinking when he interrupted President Obama in the middle of the latter’s address to the press in the Rose Garden of the White House last Friday? Although Munro first claimed that he thought that the speech had concluded, it was evident from his retort, “You have to answer my question,” as well as his continued explanations afterwards, that he intended to nab the president with his question any way that he could. If you still give him the benefit of the doubt, take a peek at the concurrent video coverage, which shows Munro with a snarky facial expression and angry hand-on-hips body stance. What’s more, Munro’s boss at the Daily Caller applauded his employee’s action. (What would Mother say?)
Now this situation may not be as coarse or hostile as the incident in 2008 whereby an Iraqi journalist threw his shoe at President George W. Bush in Baghdad. But dare I ask, whatever happened to those unspoken rules, which—when we abide by them—help to restrain us so that we steer clear of such perilous cliffs? Is there no longer a standard, which keeps us from garrulously trampling a sense of decorum? Granted, we may respect a good journalist whose assertiveness with a well-timed question leads to the uncovering of a story. But puhleeze, my advice to any aspiring reporter who may not know the difference, interrupting a speech with your question is not good timing. In fact, in so doing, you might wait a very long time to be invited back.
Sadly, I’m beginning to think that the problem with un-spoken rules is that no one is talking about them anymore.