Auld Lang Syne

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Manners Matter

When my grandson Christopher was a tween, we set him up for an etiquette class at the local country club where my husband played golf. It was to be a dinner adventure wherein the kids would learn about table setting, napkin folding, which utensil to use for what dish, etc. Every child was dressed in Sunday Best. There were a dozen kids, boys and girls together. We offered this to him and he jumped at the chance. Did I mention it was a meal, so free food including dessert was part of it. When he arrived, he began holding out the girls' chairs and shaking hands with the boys and the staff. Unexpected for a 12 years old, and we were proud. The meal and its lessons proceeded to unfold. Christopher raised his hand and asked if someone could give a toast. The woman who was leading them said that that is not a normal part of a dinner, but certainly he could do that if he wished to do so. He did. He welcomed everyone, remarked how nice everyone looked, and thanked the staff and the teacher. When dinner and the class were over, he politely thanked the teacher and put his napkin in the right place before holding the girls' chairs for them again.

My point is this: We have a president who just flicked a piece of something off a foreign head of state who was at the White House to attend a state dinner. The boorish behavior was accompanied by telling French President Macron that he got a piece of dandruff off his suit. He did this as the press was snapping photos. It is possible that he thinks this is an intimate gesture between friends. Yes, he is that unschooled in manners that he would not know that even best buddies and family members do not announce dandruff flicking in public.

This kind of thing happens every time the president meets with foreign dignitaries. Of course he (sometimes) reserves his direct insults for times when he is alone with his mouth, his inner circle, or his keyboard.

The limits to his bad manners and insulting tone seem unreachable. There is no inhibition present whatsoever. It is never the case that he behaves in a dignified way, even when he is saying nothing. His facial expressions, hand gestures, his body language, and his undignified mannerisms are always and ever on display. He has even picked his nose in public.

I know that there is an Office of Protocol available to teach him how one behaves in the presence of heads of state. Or perhaps he has disbanded that. It would certainly be a good idea to partake of a few lessons on how to comport himself. I am guessing that this all falls under his basic rejection of any kind of learning. He has not availed himself of any kind of that since taking office. He knows and is better at everything. He is quick to point that out. When he embarrasses the President of France on TV, it is clear he has overestimated both the friendship and his people skills.

Maybe our grandson could teach him something about being gentlemanly at dinner parties, before he blows his nose on the linen tablecloth.