The charcoal fire cooled to a weak glow as the burgers settled into our stomachs after a lazy Fourth of July dinner in the backyard. My kids and I talked, as we always do after a meal, about whatever wistfully entered our minds as we passed the heaps of quantity time I’ve taught them to treasure.
“I wonder what Jefferson would say if we could bring him to today,” my daughter asked. I stalled as I wondered about it. My son, more into science than public policy, thought Benjamin Franklin would be more interesting. I latched onto this because “Bonhomme Richard” was more outgoing experienced traversing new cultures, so his measured response would be based on careful observation. “I think all the political correctness would seem strange to him,” my daughter added. And that’s when it came to me.
“No, I don’t think so,” I answered as fatherly as I could. “I think he would see that as nothing more than a kind politeness – the way a gentleman should behave in a different world.” And I realized that it was that simple concept – being a “gentleman” – that is missing in so much of our public discourse and gives a greater meaning to the bits of politeness and respect we have left.