Skip to content

‘THE VORTEX of CIVILITY’ (The 4-Way Stop) —Stiles

(From the 2003 archives)

With most of the peoples of the world angry at each other, and as we sit on the brink of yet another war, is it any wonder that a sense of hopelessness and despair permeates the battered spirit of any human who takes the time to actually think about our dilemma? Nothing ever seems to get better. We just run the cycle, over and over. Recently I picked up a copy of LIFE magazine and turned to its table of contents. The editorial for that issue was titled: “Palestine–Will we ever find a solution?” The story recounted recent acts of senseless violence and wondered if political manueverings on both sides could ever result in a peaceful outcome. A few pages later, a reviewer criticized the inane and violent aspects of recent media fare. Have we reached rock-bottom when it comes to bad taste and displays of physical horror, the writer asked.

The answer to both questions was–NO. I was reading a LIFE magazine from 1948. A half century later, resolving the “Palestine Problem” is just as elusive, the violence more intense than ever. In the media, beautiful young women are eating horses’ rectums on national television (“Fear Factor,” NBC) and depictions of violent behavior have never been more graphic or disgusting.

So is there any place on this planet that offers hope? Is there any tiny corner of our Earth where resolution comes easy, where our differences are set aside? Where we are all equal in each other’s eyes? My friends…there is such a place and it was right under our noses…

The four-way stop.

It is truly a vortex of civility in a world-gone-mad. Total strangers, who could be savage adversaries in another venue, come together at a four-way stop and resolve what could otherwise be chaotic confusion. It doesn’t matter if the other three participants in this Great Experiment are of a different race, or political persuasion, or sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter what kind of car they’re driving or what their economic background is. We are not only all equal at a four-way, we are incredibly and consistently respectful of each other. We know how the four-way stop works and we live by that creed of civility.

So even Al Gore would yield to Ralph Nader at a four-way in Tallahassee. Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken can find resolution there. Al Sharpton and Trent Lott. Dr. Laura and Madonna. George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein…

Perhaps that’s stretching it a bit.

Of course there is that occasional deviant, who fails to abide by the rule, who takes someone else’s turn in the rotation, but even that aberrant behavior has a bonding effect on the others. When that rare event occurs and a violation of the code is observed, note the all-knowing glances that the other drivers give to each other. “That poor fool,” their eyes say to each other in quiet nods and gestures. “He is not a member of the House of Civility.” But even then, they forgive him and go on.

We humans may quarrel endlessly and kill each other and lay waste to the planet and show utter disregard for everything worthy of respect. But if you ever despair to the point of giving up hope, get in your car and find the nearest four-way stop and rejuvenate your spirit. It’s the place where we all can just get along.

Posted in Uncategorized.

One Response

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Many of these new creations are about shape and texture as much as color and style.
    They are going to almost any extent to look good and attractive.

    Moccasin UGG slippers are quite popular among the

Some HTML is OK


(required, but never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.