mate relationship problem is Man-to-rnGod-to-Man, and what to do abont it.rnIt is a large claim to make for tablernmanners (which, in any case, are just onernbranch of a large code of practice);rnnevertheless, I make it. A show of coordinatedrnrespect for the smallest of relationshipsrn—man to woman, woman tornman—trains the jctors as they ascend therngreat pyramid of larger, always larger, relationships.rnThe last of these is said tornhave something to do with a great Seat ofrnJudgement—a prospect our present culturernseems to find uncongenial. (Judgment?rnThe drawing of distinctions?rnBlack and white instead of woolly,, forgivingrngray? Shudder!)rnFor illustrative purposes, let me turnrnthe matter around. Over time, as one individualizedrnplop follows another at therndining table, and cell phones emergernfrom pocket and purse, and eyes stare vacantlyrnacross the table, you have the seedsrnnot of relationship but of relationship disintegration.rnA relationship recjuires somernacting out—some physical observancern(vertical as well as horizontal). Mannersrnprovides the stage directions.rnYou see, perhaps, where this takes us.rnManners undermine raw, rank, whoopsmy-rncell-phone-is-ringing individualism.rnNor do manners have collectivist implications.rnNobody makes you curb yourrnsolipsism; you feel led to do so. The stagerndirections seem persuasive — even, perhaps,rnappealing.rnNaturally, feminism—which seeks tornunleash and empower the individualrnwoman—sees manners as a corrspiracy, arnmeans of foreclosing rather than broadeningrnchoice, a breeding groimd for dependency.rnWhat is it that makes usrnSoutherners more resistant to this strainrnof the modernist virus? People from “uprnNorth” and “out West” remark on ourrngreater capacity —compared to theirrnown, they mean—for acknowledging relationshipsrnthrough the display of onceordinaryrncourtesies. Often, attempting torndescribe it, these outside admirers warmlyrnpraise Southern “friendliness.”rnNot bad, really. Friendliness is a subsetrnof manners, a show of warmth onernmay not particularly feel just at the moment.rnFriendliness, in such cases, existsrnfor relational purposes, deeply and sincerelyrnfelt. It amounts to brotherly or sisterlyrnconsideration: the desire that anotherrnshould feel comfortable and dulyrnaffirmed. Raw individualism retreats, atrnleast temporarily, from view.rnSoutherners seem somehow to havernheld onto this viewpoint with greaterrntenacity than other Americans—that is,rnwhen they aren’t waving aroimd thernConfederate Battle Flag (the principalrnpreoccupation ascribed to them by thernnational media). It could properly bernasked: “Why the South?” Why notrnMaine or North Dakota?rnI don’t mean to impeach the mannersrnof Mainers and North Dakotans; all Irnmean to suggest is that the South’s wellknownrnbent for Protestant theology mayrnbe the main underpinning of its bent forrnmanners. Not for nothing do they call usrnthe “Bible Belt.” Our relationship withrnthe Lord takes on personal aspects thatrnundergird the higher—not the lower—rnview of human interconnectedness andrnput a lower, not a higher, premium onrnisolation and individualism and solipsismrnthan do other regions.rnThe c[uestion, obviously, is open to debate:rnResolved, that a region where waitersrnare surprised to see a man assist hisrnwife with her chair is homogenizing itselfrnI could argue for the affirmative orrnthe negative. Clearly, we ain’t what wernused to be. Who is? The point on whichrnto bear down is that theology—the highestrnof human matters —maintains a presencernhere. So long as it maintains thatrnpresence. Southerners will take somerncare with relationships.rnI would warn that this care, whilernseeming inbred, needs cultural reinforcement.rnWe are losing our cultural reinforcementrn—as our waiter’s testimony tornme might affirm. Men don’t stand automaticallyrnwhen a woman comes into thernroom. At the table, they don’t rise automatically,rnas they once did, when a ladyrnrises. Check-grabbing by women in businessrnsituations —one of the dreariest feministrnmanifestations —has done morernthan anything else I know of to bolster thernfeminist agenda of “We’re All Exactly thernSame Here.”rnThe hell we are. Southerners affirm, ifrna little more weakly under the bombardmentrnwe sustain froiu People magazine.rnThe Sopranos, and Britney Spears. Arnnumber of us, having said “hell,” wouldrngulp just a little if the company werernmixed. There remain inhibitions aboutrnreferences to the devil’s place of abode,rnand about similar (not to mention worse)rnwords.rnYes, theology again, you might say: therntheology of relationships in a fallen worldrnwhere we do well to spurn disconnectednessrnand attitudes that say to others, “Irndon’t give a damn about you.”rnThere I go again. Cood Southernerrnthat I am (and hope to remain), may Irnsay to the ladies reading these words,rn”Ma’am, I do most earnestly beg yourrnpardon”?rnWilliam Murchison is a nationallyrnsyndicated columnist for the DallasrnMorning News.rnCalculated Actsrnof Goodnessrnby David B. SchockrnHow could this be? In a Catholicrnschool? Here? This is what they’rernteaching our kids? I stopped, tiansfixed.rnI had parked my car and sauntered intornthe Catholic middle school in searchrnof my son. I was about to turn down thernhall that led to his math class when I wasrnstruck by one of the big posters that linedrnthe wall. I stared—no, glared—at the offendingrndisplay.rnThere, in vivid orange, was the admonitionrnto “Practice Random Acts of Kindness.”rnMy first response was to consider a randomrnact of my own. But that would bernvandalism, not the kind of lesson I hopernto impart to the rising generation. If Irnwere going to fight, I’d have to do it withrnwords.rnThe movement to practice randomrnacts of kindness began as a messagernscrawled on a placemat. Then, in 1993,rnthere was a book entitled (what else?)rnRandom Acts of Kindness — sort of anrneverybody-gets-to-write-something kindrnof publication. Then came the popularizationrnof the phrase.rnWliat mass appeal! Ann Landers espousesrnit; bumper stickers on thousandsrnof cars promote it; I’ve even seen a bigrnbillboard that trumpets the philosophy.rnAnd here it was on the wall at my son’srnschool, right next to “Jesus loves us.” ButrnI’m having none of it.rnIn the first place, those who suggestrnthis practice cannot know what they’rernasking. I suppose that most are guilty ofrnnothing more than lazy thinking: Theyrnwant something nice to happen to somebodyrnsometime.rnEven one of the book’s creators admitsrnthat she is not altogether happy with thernidea of using the word “random.”rnThere’s something wrong with it; she’srn42/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn