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Opinion

Public behavior raises doubts about country’s future

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September 20, 2017

It was not only a summer of bad movies (I’m looking at you Emoji Movie), it was also a summer of bad behavior at the movies.

When I was looking for a break from the golden sunshine of July, or more frequently from the hateful words spewing from the mouth and fingers of our president, I would retreat into the cool and dark interiors of a movie theater. Inside, I reclined in padded chairs and sat spellbound in the flickering darkness as kernels of popcorn pooled in the folds of my shirt and the condensation from my water trickled down my cup holder. It was, I thought, an ingenious way to combat the realities of the world for a few hours. But, as I would soon find out, this clever strategy turned out to not be as much of a refuge as I had anticipated.

The darkness of the theater that hid so well the fact that some movies made me cry or made me clutch at my armrests with white knuckles, did little to hide the behavior of my fellow movie-goers. In fact, the dimly lit and quiet theater only served to amplify what I wished it would conceal.

The audience’s behaviors and manners, or lack thereof, seemed to just get worse as the summer wore on. I tried in vain to ignore people who walked in late, already crunching on snacks. Or the parents who did not bother to keep their loud, angry voices down when disciplining their children who were also yelling during the movie. I resisted the urge to stare at the people in front of me whose faces were illuminated by the white glow of a cell phone. I actually put a finger in my ear to block out my seat neighbors who were carrying out a full conversation. It was all I could do to resist the tremendous urge I felt to shoot them a venomous look and an administer a desperate, “STOP” when their noticeable voices would rudely punctuate the silence of the theater.

As distasteful as some of my movie-going retreats were, the bad behavior I was experiencing is just a small, and mostly insignificant, aspect of an alarming trend that seems to be sweeping the nation right now. Sources such as the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Buzzfeed, Slate.com and CNN, to name a few, have all reported on a recent and alarming increase of racism, hate speech, abuse and bigotry that is being exposed in all corners of the United States.

It seems to me that too many people have forgotten that they need to adjust how they behave in public compared to the privacy of their own homes. And certainly more alarming are the people who seem to be taking cues from a prominent bad role model and are now not bothering to treat other people with basic kindness, respect, or consideration!

It is now more important than ever to increase our awareness of how we act in public, all areas of public, so that we all have a hand in stopping these insidious trends of hate speech and abuse from becoming even more common place in our public spaces.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.