What’s going on out there in Walmart land? Is it Halloween?

I know Halloween is getting closer, but when did the USA become a running freak show?

I write this after running over to Walmart on a shopping errand.

You have your poor white trash – more to do with appearance and general demeanor than income – your “non-conformist” young people, who all wear their spiked and colored or weird-cut hair, or shaved heads, and nose rings and tongue baubles or whatever you call them, and their strange attire in a conformity of its own, and women and young girls in hip huggers with rolls of fat showing (actually I did not see that this time, maybe it’s going out of style, but I often have), and all those people running around in power chairs or scooters, way over weight and sucking on cigarettes.

We just don’t seem as pretty as we once were.

I’m not one to tell people how to dress. I’m certainly no model sartorial splendor. And I don’t believe in lockstep conformity, be it in good taste (whatever that is) or bad taste (whatever that is).

But I have noticed that something has happened over the decades to our collective sense of what is acceptable attire in public, and for that matter what is acceptable behavior.

Yes, I was once young and learned profane language and used it. And I might now and then slip up and still use it, but for the most part, at least in that sense, I grew up.

I’m well aware of when I repeat myself, but I will recall my favorite memory on the subject of using curse words in public. I remember tagging along with my mom to a neighborhood grocery store – not a 7-11, a real neighborhood grocery store – and a man in the aisle uttered a curse word, looked around and saw my mom and said: “oh, sorry mam”.

That would never happen today. Foul language is used freely nearly everywhere, including the popular entertainment media.

Maybe this deterioration in dress and manners has something to do with the nearly complete lack of civility in most of our political discourse. It is not good enough to disagree. You have to insult and malign those with whom you disagree – then again some of them need it. Sarah Palin,  Rush Limburger and Glen Heck (not their real names), whoops there I go.

Then there is that strange phenomenon of the pants of young men worn real low, exposing underwear. I once heard a caller on a radio talk show who purported to have the low down, so to speak, on that. I really don’t want to go into it in my blog, but it had something to do with what goes on in prison and how new arrivals are initiated. After that explanation, I had to wonder why anyone would be caught dead wearing his pants (trousers used to be the more common word sometime before my day) in such a way.

Related to all of this somehow – when I was in high school the Beatles came on the scene. Most of us boys wanted to wear our hair long in their initial mop-top fashion. But at the time our school regulations forbade long hair. Imagine my surprise and amusement when I came back to my old high school but a few short years later as a local newspaper reporter to discover one of the teachers who was a big-time enforcer of the long hair ban wearing his hair much longer – although stylishly cut in 70s fashion – than I was ever allowed to when a student. In fashion I think the 70s was the 60s stylized and commercialized.

My father was a strong supporter of acceptable public behavior (good manners) but also personal freedom and individualism (he did not find manners and individualism as mutually-exclusive). As I recall he did not think highly of school dress codes. But I was somewhat surprised to read an editorial he wrote (he was a newspaperman) complaining of “slovenly dress of young men around town”.

There’s personal freedom, there’s minding your own business and not trying to run the lives and ways of others, there’s good manners, there’s pride in appearance, and there’s attitude, and somehow they do not always meld together in this crazy quilt world.

But it’s looking like Halloween out there more and more every day and it’s just as scary.

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