I was skimming through my Twitter and Facebook feeds this evening after spending the day on the road. After listening to Mel Brooks being interviewed on Sirius Radio while driving home I was relaxing watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine once again confronted with the absolute fact that there are a lot of people in this country have gone totally stupid crazy in their paranoid hatred of fellow citizens who may not happen to look like or believe like them.
Now people who read this site regularly as well as people that really know me know I am a pretty moderate kind of guy. Now I am moderate but will admit that I fall to the left of the political, social and religious spectrum on many issues and to the right a bit on others. That being said I have so many friends that span the spectrum who represent about every point on the compass of belief in this country I try to be both respectful of them. That doesn’t mean that I agree with them or they with me, but the people that really know me and I them agree to disagree and be friends. We find common things that bind us together and can even laugh at each other even when we don’t agree.
Personally that is what I think our country is about, or at least what it used to be about.
Too be fair I have to say that this situation has been building for years and spans the political and religious spectrum of the country. I hate to say it but I wonder where this is going to end, especially when I see violent attitudes and words in so many of the posts that I read today.
It just seems to me that we now live in a country that has transformed itself into one of the thinnest skinned, easily offended societies in the world. It doesn’t seem to matter what political affiliation, religion, race, gender, socio-economic group a person belongs, they are bound to be offended at something and rather than reason things out as friends do take things personally and want somehow to exact revenge on their adversaries. It almost seems to me that we are getting as bad as the countries that have regularly scheduled Holy Days of Rage.
I could be wrong but it seems to me that almost everyone is offended at something or someone. Hell I even offend myself sometimes usually muttering to myself “asshole” when I do this. There are some people who almost seem to live with a chip on their shoulder. I call them the chronically offended who are quite often the most easily offensively offended.
Most of the time I try not to give offense. However, I have been known to offend the chronically offended and even the merely offendable with twisted or sarcastic comments and oddball humor which Judy tells me is not always as funny as I think it is. Nonetheless there are many people who are both patently chronically offended and very, yea verily very angry. So as Mel Brooks says, “when you go to the bell, ring it.”
I am assured by the Deity Herself that raging anger combined with a sense of being easily offended is not a good or virtuous combination. Even history tells of this, countries have been ripped apart and millions of people murdered in cold blood when this putrid and venomous kettle boils over.
Now I know from experience that this is true. I am one of the guilty parties questioning the parentage and Oedipal tendencies of the idiots who move across four lanes of traffic without signaling on I-264 or who insist on driving 10 miles an hour under the speed limit on rural Eastern North Carolina highways. Sometimes I find that I wish that this was Iraq so my turret gunner could shoot them. Thankfully my newly honed skills using the force that I developed in Iraq, which I am told is actually hyper vigilance, does allow me to sense Kamikazes and tortoises well before I even see them.
I remember once about 17 years ago or so when I was a civilian hospital chaplain and stopped by a grocery store to pick up some food to take to work. An older gentleman was going toward the sliding automated door and out of simple politeness I said “Sir, please, after you.” Hell, the way I walk, which is as those who see me rapidly racing down the long halls of our medical center without breaking into a jog can testify is pretty fast, it was a safety thing too. I could have run the gentleman down had I not stopped to let him through first. In retrospect I think that I should have run him over but would not have been cool. I could have seen the newspaper headline in that town:
LOCAL HOSPITAL AND ARMY RESERVE CHAPLAIN SLAMS ELDERLY MAN TO GROUND TRYING TO BEAT HIM THROUGH KROGER DOOR.
That would not have been good. The man, instead of smiling and thanking me or even ignoring me stopped in front of the door, turned around and said “Why are you calling me sir? Why are you disrespecting me?” He said it very loud, very sharply and I was wondering what the hell was going on. There was hatred in his eyes and I realized that I had to defuse the situation in some way.
Not wanting him to pull out a concealed handgun I defused the situation by using humor. I said, “Sir, I call everybody sir, even ma’ams.” The man cocked his head; the fiery glint in his eyes gave way to a stunned look of confusion. He then shook his head, muttered something under his breath and went through the door. I didn’t know that being polite and respectful could be taken as offensive and disrespectful. Maybe when some young guy does that to me someday and I whack him with my tazer from my motorized scooter because I think he is being disrespectful I might understand. Of course I will probably one of those old guys that takes a perverse pleasure in tazing the offender and enjoying his writhing in pain and twitching all over the place. But then maybe not as I do have some sense of decorum, I would simply taze the twerp and keep going.
I knew a young Chaplain who was spouting off in a public forum once in a manner that did not offend me, but which I thought if certain other people read it could affect him and his career in a negative manner. This is no one that I have ever worked with, just someone that I know in passing. I was concerned for the young man, so I contacted him just to let him know to be careful and I got an earful, the little twerp blasted me with both barrels. I was really surprised at the venom with which he reacted to my comment which was only meant to help keep him out of potential trouble but no good deed goes unpunished. Maybe he will go to a self-help course, but then again, selves are very difficult to help.
Now I think everyone at some time has been offended by something or someone. Crap we are human; we can’t help but be, though I do find the Romulan that resides in me very appealing. However, to live my life is a perpetual state of offendedness is something that I refuse to do, even though I both give and take offense probably every day, especially during the morning or afternoon commute. Hell, judging by the number of people I have lost as friends on Facebook after I have written articles on this site I know I give offense, even when I don’t mean to do it.
I really don’t want to offend anyone but when I look at the political extremes of our country and observe the words and actions of these people I am truly frightened for the country. People are talking about war against their political opponents and even revolution.
The situation is not helped by the litigious nature of our society. Lawsuits are as common as business suits. Someone gets offended and someone sues it’s almost a cause and effect principle. Someone else gets offended and pretty soon offensensitivity reigns and it is like half the country are Frank and Estelle Costanza on steroids. Serenity now!
Now our electorate is so spun up by the loudest and most shrill accusatory voices in the media and politics that it is frightening. Politics especially has become venom filled and hatred driven. A lot of our electorate is now so polarized and offended by anything anyone else says that there is almost a civil war going on. Albeit a war without weapons marching armies and crashing cannon, but instead being waged with great energy on the airwaves and on the internet with occasional talk of secession or armed revolt by one side or the other depending on who’s in power.
Politicians and political parties are no longer opponents, they are mortal enemies. Sometimes interest groups within the various parties opt for a no-quarter approach to how they do business pushing their parties further to the extreme. The Pelosi type Democrats did everything that they could to push conservative’s buttons and now conservatives led by the Tea Party are taking no quarter even in the Republican Party. The attitude of both sides is “if you aren’t totally with us on everything you are against us.”
Caricatures and sound bites suffice for truth for many people regardless of them being on the left or right wing of the body politic. This is especially true on Facebook where people blast the rudest, most cynical and often simply ignorant posts imaginable. For a while I was kind of into that but I have really tried to pull back from that type of discourse. I made a decision a while back after getting pulled into a number of very nasty debates not even to comment and simply move along. In light of some of the things I have seen I believe that the extremists in in our society, regardless of their actual ideology have more in common with each other than they do the middle where traditionally most Americans live.
I think that as highly divided, hypersensitive and easily offended we have become that we are heading for big trouble. That is unless people stop taking themselves so seriously and get about with finding a way to cooperate and make things work. I know that is important to remain principled, but there is also a duty to be civil and respectful even when there are real differences in ideology, politics, faith or whatever.
Sometimes I have to tell myself that restraint, respect and civility is a virtue, even when I convinced I am right. That being the case there are times that I will just go up and as Brooks says “ring the bell.” If when I do that it offends someone I’m sorry. So until tomorrow.