A home school mom I know, raised in Montana, made the observation that gas stations got more and more friendly the farther you get from Southern California.

I hope that isn’t the case, since I know a fair number of loving people in Southern California, but I suspect there’s some truth in the observation.  This afternoon, I was entering a small town grocery store in Chester, some 10 hours north of Southern California, and a big guy let his wife pass through the sliding glass doors first and then argued as to why I should proceed into the store before him. “It’s hot out there, dude.  You first.”

As an extremely flawed, selfish person, I guess I’m obsessed by places where people seem to be joyful givers, or, at the very least, “working out their salvation with fear and trembling.”  You don’t have to be a saint, in other words, to worry about the cultural assets around you. My wife and family were obsessed, this week,  by a dash cam video that showed someone who created a near  fatal I-10 collision by thinking they could jockey, at high speed, across traffic.  That hit and run driver, miraculously, didn’t kill anyone, but when you watch what he/she/it did, you have to wonder, “are we really just becoming savages, with higher tech toys?”

It’s a difficult question to answer with precision. I think, without doubt, we put more Americans in jail these days, and that might argue we’re on the decline, but you might also argue that’s only because we’re a wealthy country and we can afford to do so.  Still, I just don’t remember, as a child, seeing as much fraud, divorce, rape and outright savagery as we see on the streets today.  Our grandparents actually got to see justice on occasion.  Murderers were subject to public hanging or electrocution; now they are the beneficiaries of unmatched, free litigation on their behalf.

To make it worse, we’re not talking about behavior anymore.  We’re talking about party affiliation, presidential ballot choices, and skin color.  I don’t care if you’re black or white, if you kill your child in the womb, that was a moral failure.  It doesn’t matter if your ancestors came from Mexico or Canada or Pakistan, if you run people down in the streets with your car, you’re an evil bastard.

It’s so painfully clear to me, it’s downright embarrassing having to repeat it.