Fetterman Dress Code Flap Shows ‘Lack of Respect,’ Say Observers
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. is commonly viewed as a place that reflects dignity and honor, a symbol of freedom, rights, faith, hope, and patriotism, the landmark where many important decisions are made that affect those aspirations. So when Senator John Fetterman (D-Pa.) recently made a habit of walking through the Capitol with shorts, sneakers, and a baggy shirt, it became “a point of focus.”
Fetterman has argued that his choice in attire was “not the driving force” behind the change in Senate dress code announced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) over the weekend, which reportedly allows “more relaxed gear — including a hoodie, sneakers or gym wear.” For Fetterman, “America [is] about freedom and choice. … It’s like [a] Burger King ‘You Rule’ kind of a thing.” In response, many expressed their disapproval of such dress — particularly on the floor of the Senate. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said of Fetterman’s attire, “You ran for United States Senate, you ought to dress the part.”
The uproar over what is acceptable for congressional lawmakers to wear or not has led to a public debate on decorum and good manners and how much they matter. On Tuesday, Jill Garner, founder of Manners of the Heart, joined “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” to discuss the issue.
For Garner, this is “a heart issue” more than anything else. “The more we try to complicate [finding answers], the further we complicate the problems,” she said.
“Manners truly are the foundation of morals,” Garner continued. For her, decorum and good manners aren’t just important, but matter for several reasons, and it mostly boils down to respect. “The way we choose to dress shows our respect for others or our lack of respect for others.” This respect, or lack thereof, directly relates to both place and position, she argued. “[W]hether we’re talking about the floor of the Senate or whether we’re talking about going to our house of worship [or] going to a school [or] any place of business.”
Perkins noted how a recent study found that the U.S. ranked at the “bottom of the 24 countries surveyed in saying that manners actually matter.” Considering her view that manners are the foundation of morals, Garner expressed how survey results such as these reveal the truth behind how our children are being raised. “If we are teaching children how to respect others, if we are teaching others to put the needs of others ahead of themselves, then what we really are instilling in children is the foundation upon which they can build their moral decisions,” she said.
However, by letting go of the value of manners, “why would we expect to have a higher standard of morals?” Garner asked. “As we lower these standards, all of the statistics are going in the wrong direction.” Perkins added, “U.S. adults were at the bottom when it came to whether or not they thought it was important that children in the home actually were obedient. … So, we’re basically raising lawless kids in the home so that they can go on the street and be lawless.”
In terms of a solution, and like many sources of reform, it starts in the home, Garner pointed out. “Parents are the first responders when it comes to this.” What good manners reflect, as she put it, is an attitude that is “self-giving, not self-serving.”
“There’s etiquette, … but [practicing] manners is something much larger,” she concluded. “It’s the attitude behind the action.”
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.