Jeanette Sekan
Jeanette Sekan
By Jeanette Sekan
HCP columnist

Recently, I realized the irony of a moment I experienced. There was nothing special about it, but it became another moment of questioning how we got to this uncomfortable place in our society today.

It continues to puzzle. I am listening to a book about George Washington. I was listening intently when I had to set it aside to take care of a couple of things. I did a few chores while catching up on the news that I’d missed for a couple of days. I wish I had postponed the latter.

The king of twitter was at it again, only this time speaking before an audience. The language, as always, was cringe worthy. For a moment, I juxtaposed that moment with what I was reading about George Washington. I was at a point in the book where the “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior” was discussed. If only ...

This moment made me listen a bit further to the audio book as well as pull out a couple of historical accounts of George Washington and the “Rules.”

If there was ever a time since Washington that the new world was in need of civility and decent behavior, it’s now. Reading through the 110, I chuckled at some of the provincial thoughts as well as longed for the return to some of the basic rules of conduct so long forgotten. These rules weren’t the invention of George Washington. They were the rules of conduct he strived to live up to and incorporate into his life.

He was a flesh-and-blood man with strengths and weaknesses that everyone possesses. He set his moral compass early. I’m sure there were failures of character. However, failing character in Washington’s time wasn’t extolled, emulated or excused as it is today. Today, the ugliness of our human character is displayed with pride. I do wonder what happened.

The historical account says the 110 Rules were copied by hand by Washington when he was 16 years old. It is thought that these were based on writings of French Jesuits from 1595, which may have been translated into English circa 1640.

While much time and situations have passed, they are worth perusing again, if only to be reminded that since the dawn of humanity men and women have sought ways to live exemplary lives, even if we don’t always succeed.

A few of the “rules” to smile about and think about:

• Rule 1: Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect to those who are present.

• Rule 15: Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean; yet, without showing any great concern for them.

• Rule 19: Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters, somewhat grave.

• Rule 22: Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

• Rule 89: Speak not evil of the absent for it is unjust.

• Rule 110: Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

It’s good to remember there were, and hopefully are, people who aspire to civility and decent behavior.

Jeanette Sekan is a columnist for the Cody Enterprise in Cody, Wyo. and a former resident of Ohio. Jeanette’s columns are published in The Highland County Press, courtesy of the author and the Cody Enterprise.