DEAR MISS MANNERS: At the risk of sounding political, and that is the furthest thing I wish to do -- is protest mutually exclusive from etiquette?
This dilemma has come up many times during the past few years, and it has caused some heated discussions with my friends.
My position, I could be very wrong, is that I don't mind protesting. Sometimes, I truly do not like the manner in which people choose to protest. For instance, with large graphic pictures and swearing; however, living in a free society, I've learned to accept this.
What I do have trouble with, and this is where my friends and I disagree, is how some protesters engage with the public. For example, giving children graphic pamphlets, telling children they have bad or abusive parents, calling individuals names, commenting on people's apparel, barring people from entering a facility and grabbing at people. I've seen all of these.
My friends say there is no room for etiquette in protest. I think when dealing with people in public one should at least try not to be rude to them. Who is correct?
GENTLE READER: Of course protest, like every other human activity, requires etiquette. Have your friends never heard of civil disobedience?
The saddest thing about using rude tactics is that they damage the causes for which they are used. Rather than the targets thinking that they are being shown a way in which the world would be improved, they focus on the immediate way in which they are being mistreated. These people may claim to want to make the world better, their victims conclude, but are actively making it worse.
Miss Manners would think it obvious that in order to persuade people about an issue of justice they had not considered, you must open their minds to your arguments. People who are humiliated shut down and turn defensive.
But when they see orderly picket lines or sit-ins, or hear speeches or read leaflets and articles by people who seem to be well-intentioned and reasonable, they just might stop to think.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I were recently invited to a birthday party for a relative. The event was to be black-tie optional. One week prior to the event and after we had responded to the first invitation, we received a second invitation to the same event. The second invitation specified that the dress for the occasion was now casual and the event now had a different theme. Also, the second invitation specifically said no black tie.
Isn't this a breach of etiquette to switch the dress for an event so close to the date and after the date invitees were supposed to respond?
GENTLE READER: Because now you are committed to something that sounds like less fun?
Miss Manners' guess is that the invitees did respond, and rudely at that. She is guessing that they were carrying on about what wonderfully casual people they are and how much they hate to get dressed up until the host gave up and agreed to dumb down what was to have been a festive occasion.
While that is a shame, canceling would suggest that it was dressing up, and not celebrating your relative's birthday, that originally led you to accept.