Courtesy: The Key to Civil Society

Not to state the obvious, Roe v. Wade has been rescinded, and the political left has become the antithesis of civil society.  Acting in a manner that is rude, boorish, and bloody awful.  I know sugar-hyped, caffeine-strung-out, two-years-old who behave better than the supposed adults rioting, looting, and threatening violence.  Frankly, after the summer of rage (2020), I am fed up with the media cheerleading criminal behavior in the name of expressing themselves; let us now affirm and cherish as sacred courtesy as the preeminent civil virtue needed in society.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints (October 1976), addressed the topic of courtesy while discussing self-management.  Quoting Elder Ashton, “Courtesy and self-respect are necessary ingredients” in properly being a member of any society, business, family, etc.  In a previous article, the discourteous behavior of the political left was discussed, especially those who choose to join the LGBTQ+ communities.  Why has courtesy dropped so precipitously in American society and too other cultures across the globe?  Elder Ashton discusses the answer:

Seeing men and women who think, speak, and act with propriety in any community or personal situation is refreshing and uplifting.  Good manners are necessary for the decency and peace of community living.  [Good Manners] should be a matter of grave concern to all, yet we hear and read less about their cultivation than we do about dieting and “daily dozens” to enhance our personal acceptance and development.”

Stemming from self-discipline, courtesy is an outward expression of inner strength, and our manners precede us into new situations.  As a kid, one of the deadliest sins we could commit was being late to an appointment, meeting, or scheduled event.  You could lose your temper, drop the worst language, but if you were late, you were in big trouble!  Sure, foul language was a punishment multiplier but was a punishment reducer if you were not late.  In the US Army, we were taught if you are not 15-minutes early, you are late.  15-minutes early was on time, building the mental toughness to understand the military requirement of “Hurry up and wait.”Common Courtesy Quotes Quotations. QuotesGram

Yet, what do we see too often since 2000, less and less is society expecting a person to be “on time,” let alone early to a scheduled appointment.  Worse, recently, I had a doctor’s appointment, and the staff in the office were grateful I had shown up, let alone was 15-minutes early to my appointment.  When further discussed, the conversation drifted to how people do not call to cancel, show up hours late, and still expect to be seen, and how the staff was forced to work overtime when people showed up late.  The provider felt compelled to see these patients, even though doing so meant staying late.  Importantly, sourced from Elder Ashton, serenity and poise are the companions of those who practice courtesy and judgment to always be on time.

As self-discipline has been reduced, social interactions have also declined as people feel attacked when courtesy is absent.  Worse, if I do not believe the same as you, social norms state I deserve to be attacked, even physically attacked, and this atrocious behavior is my fault for not having the courtesy to believe the same as you.  No!  This is not courtesy, self-discipline, or proper self-management, and I refuse to spend another microsecond being abused!

What is courtesy?

Jim Butcher is correct, “If you can’t manage courtesy, try silence.”  In defining courtesy, the dictionary refers to courtesy as “polite behavior” and “indulgence.”  Yet, I feel this is barely scratching the surface on defining courtesy, especially since indulgence is not a strong suit of mine.  Courtesy is a willingness, and ability, to properly relate to others.  Courtesy requires humility or a humble approach to social interactions.  Elder Ashton was clear, “Proper self-management will permit us to be a team member first, a coach, captain, or superstar second.”  Do we understand, and will we willingly accept, the role of a team member, participant, or active and engaged audience?Quotes On Consideration And Courtesy. QuotesGram

Early in life, I had some lessons forcibly taught me.  Elder Ashton sums up the lessons:

Good health habits, integrity, bearing, mannerisms, conversation, and self-control can be powerful assets in one’s balance sheet.  These traits outwardly reflect the views of the management.  Integrity within oneself makes it possible for honesty with God, family, and all other daily associates.  A person with integrity within himself will also have it in his relationship with others.”

At my current stage of life, I lack a “cherub-like demeanor” with anyone who tries to steal, infringe upon, or impugn my integrity.  This is wrong, and I struggle daily with the slings and arrows of our discourteous society.  Yet, still, we find a need to define courtesy, and while healthy eating, exercise, and patience help me in my struggles, these other aspects of courtesy remain invaluable.Erastus Wiman Quote: "Nothing is ever lost by courtesy. It is the ...

Courtesy, as an extension of self-respect and self-discipline, generates improved mental and physical health, further promoting courteous living and mental peace needed to suffer the fools slinging mud and practicing violence.  Do we understand the connection being discussed; Elder Ashton affirms, “our self-image and general conduct [observed through] dress, grooming, and hair standards, moderation of voice, use of worthy language, good manners, respect for other’s rights.”  However, does this define courtesy; not really, but they form the core of actions witnessed by those with self-respect and self-discipline.

Consider the recent media coverage of the two camps prominent in the Roe v. Wade protests since late February/early March.  The dress, language, general conduct, manners, and moderation of voice distinctly identified which camp one woman belonged to or another.  The distinction was easily observed long before either camp opened their mouths.  More to the point, look at the Republican and Democrat audiences at their respective national conventions.  The media coverage never ceases to amaze me, the camera operators and producers work tirelessly to not fuel stereotypes, but even then, the audiences are clearly distinct.Courtesy Quotes | Courtesy Sayings | Courtesy Picture Quotes

Elder Ashton states and I affirm in the strongest language, “In any community or personal situation, it is refreshing and uplifting to see men and women who think, speak, and act with propriety.”  Having traveled amongst incredibly diverse global cultures, it does not matter where you are or the culture you originate from; it is mentally and physically refreshing to be among people who act with propriety and courtesy and live with self-respect and self-discipline.  Clearly, courtesy is at its best when it is least obvious, and the least apparent; the greater self-respect shines through the actions and speech of courteous people.  Courtesy is a manner of living; it is a lifestyle choice and is not merely a religious thing stemming from a Judeo-Christian moral code (the Ten Commandments).  Aristotle is quoted saying, “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”  President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.”  Consider these two quotes for a moment; courtesy is an action displaying excellence, and courtesy is courage.  To Jacques Maritain goes the final word on defining courtesy, “Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.”

How do you practice grace and courtesy with your children? | Montessori ...Thus, gratitude, excellence, and gratitude are mere pieces of courteous behavior.  Interestingly, I find the best lessons on courteous behavior have arrived from the most disgustingly discourteous people.  In the US Army, I was called out by an incredibly courteous person for my language.  In the US Navy, I learned why courteous language was required through observing the consequences of the discourteous around me.  Several department members used horrific language, acted in manners revealing their lack of self-respect, and then cursed the gods for their predicament with women and money.

I am not saying that courteous living makes people rich or loved.  I merely relate that life is better the more I struggle to keep my cherub-like demeanor when stressed by those with manners more closely resembling pigs in rut than men with the potential to become God.  William Wordsworth stated in his writing, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality:”

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.  The soul that rises with us, our life’s star, hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar: not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home.”

Disregarding religion for a moment, man has a tremendous imagination, but no religion yet has a discourteous god at its center.  Let us so live, with courtesy, self-respect, and self-discipline, that when we return to the God who made us, we trail clouds of glory as a mark of gratitude and courtesy.

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Father John Patrick Mulcahy – M*A*S*H 4077 Chronicles

Father Mulcahy 2Of all the unforgettable characters from M*A*S*H 4077, one of the most important characters is Reverend Francis John Patrick Mulcahy, Chaplain, United States Army.  A most courageous and kind person, a character full of intestinal fortitude, with a deep desire to help the living, and a solid right hook when needed.  Father Mulcahy has always been a hero of mine, and I wanted to explain why, as a tribute to both the character and the actor William Christopher.

Father Mulcahy:
This isn’t one of my sermons.  I expect you to listen.”

Humility is not a weakness!

Of all the attributes of Father Mulcahy, his humility always shines through.  From his unfailing kindness to seeing the best potential anyone can have, to representing the best of what the Chaplains Corps means, William Christopher, as Father Mulcahy, produces flawlessly the sentiment that humility is a strength, a desirable, needed strength.  Consider the episode where Father Mulcahy belts the unruly and demanding lieutenant in the jaw, the episode where Father Mulcahy rides in a helicopter as a counterweight or the episode where Klinger and Major Burns get into it over a scarf, and Father Mulcahy talks Klinger into giving him a grenade.  Never do you see Father Mulcahy backing down, giving up, or losing sight of the potential goodness of a person.Father Mulcahy 4

Father Mulcahy struggles with the US Army’s ineptitude to promote him to Captain in a couple of episodes.  Even as he struggles, you see Father Mulcahy learn invaluable lessons, teach kindness, forthrightness, and compassion, and diligence, and reliance upon the strength that only comes through commitment to something greater than oneself.  Father Mulcahy’s strength is one of the glues that held M*A*S*H as a TV show together for as long as it ran.  Why; because Father Mulcahy was genuinely genuine!

Consider the episode where Father Mulcahy sits down with Colonel Potter shortly after Klinger takes over for Radar as company clerk.  Who else could have talked Colonel Potter down without talking down to Colonel Potter and allowed Colonel Potter the opportunity to act without disrespecting his rank and position?  Who else could counsel Major Houlihan, chastise Captains Pierce, Honeycutt, and Trapper John, hold Major Burns’ feet to the fires of accountability, and seamlessly interface between the enlisted and officers?  Nobody!  Better still, Father Mulcahy did all this while epitomizing the Rudyard Kipling poem, “If.”

If—
By Rudyard Kipling
(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except for the Will, which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

From an interview with William Christopher, we find that Father Mulcahy was not just a character played but a person in reality.

How did you and Barbara survive the many disappointments caused by failed interventions when Ned was young? For example, the assessment of one doctor that he was “retarded,” and nothing could be done other than to “take him home and love him.”

We regarded this particular guy as a young psychologist who may not even have finished his studies. Maybe he was still in his early practice, a student who hadn’t earned his doctorate yet. In any case, we felt he was in the wrong field. We thought he couldn’t possibly know us and advise us to just accept a limited life for our son….  But we both believed that people make mistakes.

Humor is a Prerequisite Quality

Father Mulcahy always used humor to express himself.

Major Winchester was a blessing.  May the good LORD never bless me with him again!”

Some of the funniest lines in M*A*S*H belong to Father Mulcahy, and unless you are listening closely, they are often missed for the banter between the central characters.  Consider the episode where the company sings the M*A*S*H version of “Gee Ma; I wanna go home.”

A chaplain in the Army
Has a collar on his neck,
If you don’t listen to him
You’ll all wind up in heck
.”

Humor plays an incredible role in facing traumatic situations and coming through, not unscathed but mentally capable, confident, and more able to achieve.  Father Mulcahy teaches us this lesson in spades, with dignity, class, and a ripping sense of humor.

Father Francis Mulcahy:
Try to be compassionate. Remember, even one of our saints received a Dear John letter.”

Don’t be passive – Be Active – Work Hard

Father Mulcahy 5There is a story about how William Christopher got sick with Hepatitis, and the show’s producers wanted to remove Father Mulcahy’s role entirely.  Instead, Alan Alda went to bat for William Christopher, changed the scripts, and wrote Father Mulcahy’s sickness into the show to keep Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H.  Why would Alan Alda do something like this for a co-star?  There are several reasons; Alan Alda was a good person.  William Christopher was a good person.  But William Christopher was always working hard; he was not supposed to carry litters and all the other stuff he was always doing in the background.  William Christopher set a standard of behavior that modeled what a chaplain was supposed to do, and military chaplains copied his behaviors, mannerisms, behaviors, attitudes, and work philosophies.

Consider this for a moment; military chaplains learned how to be chaplains by watching a fictional character, imitating a US Army unit on a Hollywood set.  Reality has been changed to emulate fiction because fiction better reflects how people should act in reality.  I was not the only chaplains assistant who measured his chaplain by Father Mulcahy.  It is gratifying to know that many chaplains in the military have measured themselves against Father Mulcahy, found themselves wanting, and then worked to improve how they responded.Father Mulcahy 3

Name an episode where Father Mulcahy is not working, and I will show you an episode of M*A*S*H that was never made.  Father Mulcahy was always available, always cheerful, and constantly engaged in a good cause, as he himself said, “to be helpful to the living.”  Carrying towels, standing in for a nurse, providing an extra set of hands in surgery, comforting a patient, nurse, soldier, patient, always there, always caring.  One of the most poignant episodes is when the Bishop of the Catholic church is coming for a visit, but a soldier wants to give blood for his buddy, and he finds out he has leukemia, and Father Mulcahy spends all night, not on his sermon, but talking to this young wounded soldier.  Take a page from Father Mulcahy; working hard is not going to kill you.  Engage!

Father Francis Mulcahy:
[Wearing a dress] While I was showering, someone stole my robe and left me this… this… house frock!

Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger:
Better not take it off, Father, or you’ll be a defrocked priest!

Father Mulcahy:
How would you like to get last rites, [raises his fists] and a few lefts?

Standing for your Convictions is Mandatory

Father Mulcahy:
How dare you! You seek refuge in this house of the Lord when it serves your purpose. Then when it’s no longer convenient, you desecrate it by pointing a deadly weapon at another human being. Private, a faith of convenience is a hollow faith.”

Father MulcahyThe episode this quote comes from is where the mess tent is being used for services, fresh eggs had been donated, and a soldier comes in seeking ecclesiastical refuge and is AWOL from his unit.  This episode has always been a favorite of mine; it has come back in times of stress and trial when the harder right and the easier wrong conflict, and I have the choice to make about which to follow.  Father Mulcahy always chooses the moral high ground, the harder right, instead of the easier wrong, and the lessons he taught through living are not easily forgotten or pushed aside.  I might not be as practiced in the execution of living the harder right, but I cannot choose the easier wrong, and that makes all the difference.

Father Mulcahy:
Klinger, the Lord moves in mysterious ways, but you take the cake.”

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.