People are mighty touchy nowadays about how they are treated, and quick to condemn accidents or confusion as rudeness. Being pushed against someone in a crowded bus is as likely to inspire a loud denunciation as an accepted apology. Wedding invitations may be received as insults because the recipients’ choice of honorifics (Mr. and Mrs., Ms., Dr., or none) or altered surnames (in hyphenated or blended families) was not known.
Naturally, this sensitivity to etiquette does not extend to improved behavior on the part of the offended. On the contrary, it often inspires retaliatory rudeness. Rather, the burden of decorum has been carried by so-called role models.
These are not always well-chosen. It is hard to remember that movie stars were once considered role model material, and their studios put considerable effort into maintaining that they led wholesome lives. Sports stars lasted somewhat longer in the public imagination, but an accumulation of accusations of domestic and extra-domestic violence has tainted that.
Politicians may not be full role models in the sense that no responsible parent would urge a child to be one. It is more like “You could grow up to be President— or whatever you want,” with the emphasis on the latter. But statesmen have nevertheless been expected to behave themselves. Sex scandals, financial shenanigans, and the derision of entire segments of the population destroyed political careers—at least until the perpetrators were able to claim that these were symptoms of an illness for which they had hurriedly received therapy.