How casually we hate, but why?

Today my students kept asking me if I’d heard about the “whole gorilla thing.”  Almost immediately, as soon as anyone mentioned it, someone else would say, “that mom should have all her kids taken away.”  I would simply respond, “let’s trust local law enforcement to do their job,” and move the conversation onward.

But seriously.  Woah.  What is going on here?

I cannot move five feet, virtually or in real life, without running into someone who has already decided that a complete stranger deserves to have her family pulled apart, for a tragedy they didn’t personally experience and could not possibly fully understand.  I have to wonder what in the world we’re getting from this as a society, that we feel the need to execute this stranger and her family when we have to know we don’t have all the facts.

It’s gotten to the point that I’ve pulled the plug on Facebook.  For the meanwhile, I’ll continue posting there, but I refuse to read the news feed.  It was bad enough seeing the non-stop barrage of “you’re an idiot if you’re voting for this person” posts, followed by the “if you really love your friends you’ll share this” posts, and the “only stupid people like (whatever)” posts.  Now, to top it off, there doesn’t seem to be a single person alive who doesn’t have a vehemently held belief that either the zoo, or the mother, or both the zoo and the mother deserve to be prosecuted within an inch of their lives.

I deal with enough hatred on a daily basis without opening a door to allow more in, so sorry, Facebook, I’m gonna have to let the dead bury the dead on this one.  (Or let the judgmental bury the judgmental, whatever).  You’ll have to find another way to guilt me into buying your various multi-level-marketing products or to invite me to your parties that I can’t attend because I live out of state and am to anti-social to ever go anyway.

But back to the subject at hand:  why crucify total strangers over a situation we can’t possibly understand?

There are a lot of things to consider.  First, there’s the fact that women in the United States are incapable of raising their children properly.  No matter what choices a woman makes (breastfeed or bottle?  Cloth or disposable diaper?  Back to sleep or side?  Bassinett or crib or co sleep?  Start on solids or puree?  Veggies first or meats or grains?  TV or no TV?) there is literally no right choice to be made.  A large segment of the population is waiting to tell you how you’re ruining your kid, often very loudly and obnoxiously to your face in the store even though you are total strangers.

So, on the one hand, mother-shaming out of the blue to total strangers in a very real and hurtful way is a national past-time.  So mother-shaming this particular mother is just like winning the mommy-guilt lottery.  This is the Moby Dick of mommy-shaming moments, how could we POSSIBLY pass it up?

Second, there’s the fact that there’s a huge segment of the population who distrusts any authority figures and can’t wait to blame them for handling things wrong.  In some cases, like Michael Brown and Freddie Gray’s death, there’s both good reason to distrust the authorities as well as evidence that perhaps they weren’t entirely wrong.  In other cases, like the constant malingering belief that Barack Obama is going to steal your guns and impregnate your teenage daughters just to forcibly abort their babies, there’s not a lot of good evidence but the hatred remains.  So who WOULDN’T want to hate on a zoo for killing an innocent animal just to protect a human baby?  I mean, let’s hate on them hardcore!  Even though none of us are animal behaviorists, none of us were there, the video is short and doesn’t show the most violent actions towards the kiddo, we’re obviously anthropomorphizing the gorrilla by describing it as “protective” when we don’t really know how gorilla’s express protectiveness versus possessiveness, etc, let’s just decide to blame the zoo because blaming authority figures is our second favorite past-time right behind mommy shaming.

Then, there’s the fact that everyone loves to feel like their opinion matters.  Me too.  Having an opinion that matters is fun.  Mine matters a lot to me.

But last, and not least, I think we all just want a sacrificial lamb.

Boy, don’t we have a LOT of guilt as a nation?  We do, and we have a lot to feel guilty for.  Most of us enjoy lives of relative luxury, and the news reminds us on a regular basis of all of those people who have less than we do.  The migrants, the refugees of war-torn countries, the people fleeing cities we’re currently bombing the hell out of.  We live these privileged lives and routinely we see the evidence around us that it may not last.  Our place of privilege in the world is threatened constantly:  by our own greed and avirice; by a shaky economy based off of invisible money we don’t understand; by terrorism; by immigration; by jobs being constantly outsourced; by the cost of education skyrocketing while low-skills jobs pay less and less of a living wage; and so on.

We’re terrified.  And in the collective mind, we’re not too far removed from the Judeo-Christian values that say that when society wears a collective stain, it requires a sacrifice.  Sacrifices we’re all too happy to make.  Welfare moms?  Throw those bitches under the bus.  Bankers who are just banking the way society has taught them to?  Slash those golden parachutes.  Politicians doing what we ask them to?  Smear them.  Mothers trying their best?  Shame the hell out of them.  And the gays, and the single parents, and the transsexuals, and the celebrities, and everyone else to.  Whoever the news parades out for a public stoning, we are locked and loaded and ready to cast our own chunks of granite and rotten vegetables at their tear-streaked faces.  And why not?  We’ve got anger and fear to spare, and no-where better to put it.  We’ll put it where the media tells us to.

Harambe shouldn’t have died, we say.  Let’s stone them all.

Only in the midst of all of this, we forget that the world is a place where sometimes bad things happen even though no one meant them to, even though no one may have been able to prevent it.  What we have, most times, isn’t a failure of foresight but a failure of imagination.  Perhaps we could have never known such things would happen, until they’d happen.

As human beings we’re always learning from our mistakes.

Only we live in a society that has become intolerant of mistakes, so we take out our own anger and frustrations at our own failures for whatever sacrifice-of-the-week has been pulled out for us.  The terrorists, the Kardashians, Johnny Depp, who cares?  They made mistakes which we can paint as worse than our own.

Kill ’em all.  Take their kids.  Make them pay.

Anyway, I need out of the big societal rock-throw, so I’ll be stepping away from social media and focusing more on blogging as a way to unwind from my plethora of bad days at work.

Perhaps this is my own way of casting out for a sacrificial lamb.  Who knows.

All I can say is that the more I see people polarized- willingly, gleefully polarized- the less willing I am to participate in a society that thrives off of division, instead of unity and understanding.

As my students would say, “byeeeeee Felicia.”

Heh.

time for a time out.

How many arguments end with both people still believing the same things, and just hating each other more?  You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it.  People yell and rage at each other until they run out of steam and then they retreat into their respective corners to lick their wounds.   The inevitable result is that while no one “wins” the argument, their disdain for the other side grows increasingly strong, and the next time the topic arises the furor with which it is debated is only stronger.

Pretty soon, all you have to do is mention the topic and all the sudden you are drowning in a sea of bile, which once expelled leaves everyone exhausted and in pain.

I saw this recently with gay rights.  Someone posted, on Facebook, a fairly innocuous plea for people to show Christ’s love and compassion when discussing the recent outcry over Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty’s comments. Within seconds, what unfolded was not a “he who is without sin may cast the first stone” show of support, but a heated and bloody argument that left the original poster in tears.

“What’s left,” another friend later said, “but the “unfriend” button?”

I have to wonder, whose needs are met by this disturbing trend?  What is really being served?  We often assume, when we retreat to our respective corners, that out there is a world that agrees with our assumptions.  Yet today I’m feeling like it’s far more likely that we are actually alone.

corner

I think we need to take a time out.  I think instead of rushing from our corners like a prize fighter hungry to land the killing blow, we need to take the time to look around us and simply be aware.  Who are we fighting?  Why?

A dear friend of mine said, in the midst of the heated discussions of the past few days, that’s it’s easy to say something isn’t all that bad if it’s not being said about you.  Often the kneejerk response to her quiet plea to be understood was further defensiveness or accusations that she simply took things to personally.

I have to wonder why, never once that I heard or saw, someone didn’t turn to her and ask, “can you help me understand why you’re upset?”

We need to keep our eyes and hearts open.  Instead of viewing every argument as a chance to bury our own hatchets, why aren’t we seeing an argument as a chance to further our understanding of the world around us?

I believe this is doubly, triply, infinitely more true for Christians.  After all, as Christians we act not as ambassadors of our past grudges but ambassadors of the love and grace of God.  When we see an argument, our first response should never be to start drawing lines in the sand and throwing punches.  We should see them as opportunities to express a unique grace and compassion, defending those who are in pain and showing compassion to our enemies.

So why are we still fighting?

Photo by Nasrulekram

My Time as Two Pink Rectangles

If you’re on Facebook, you know there are happenings in the Supreme court this week.  You know it because chances are at least a handful of your friends have replaced their smiling faces with little equals signs, and you may feel that there’s an invasion of the Borg and you’re about to be assimilated.  (Or the Daleks, or the Vampires, depending on what fandom you’re familiar with.)  I have to say I’ve taken it all in with mixed emotions.  Like many of my friends, right now I’m also a pink equal sign.  I did it to show my friends that I support them, because while their sexuality leaves them inextricably marked I myself have happily been able to be “normal”.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask that for one week I be as marked as many of my friends feel, and for one week I’m open to judgment and “what the heck is that profile photo about” and whatever, as a simple expression of love.   I love my gay friends, and I know how much it means for them to see their Facebook pages painted pink and red.  No matter how alone they may feel when they and their partners get sideways glances in shopping markets and face blasts of hate from the evening news, for this one week they don’t feel so alone.

But even in the happy solidarity of equal signs flying back and forth on Facebook, and for one blissful minute feeling the togetherness of all of our names sharing the same face, there is something in it all that turns my stomach.  Not the love, not the togetherness, but the fact that it’s contrived by a unique set of circumstances.  Some day, maybe tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, we’ll all go back to being ourselves.

This tenuous feeling of togetherness, of shared love and shared rejection, of spreading the hurt across a thousand faces that for one moment choose to share the same mask; this tenuous thread will break, and I’ll go back to being just another face in the crowd. But my friends?  They’ll still be holding hands with their lovers in the grocery store.

Let me tell you a story.  Last night, I was commenting on a friend’s page, and one of his friends asked me if we could private message.  I (willingly) subjected myself to a protracted conversation where I was interrogated while this very well-meaning soul tried to catch me in a logic trap to teach me the error of my theology.  I can’t judge the guy, because I’ve been that kind of person myself and I’m sure that people who think that gays are a threat feel the same queasiness that I felt while being subjected to my own Biblical exegesis.  But it made me wonder, what did I do?  What did I do to convince this guy that I needed him to explain salvation to me?  Why does he think that I need to be drilled on faith and works?  Why does he think that I haven’t heard this argument a thousand times before?

Oh, I get it. I’m a pink equality symbol, so I must be broken.  I must need somebody’s help to understand scripture.  But tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day after that, I won’t be a threat anymore.  I’ll just be a smiling strawberry blonde who disagrees.  I won’t be marked.

You may be wondering where I’m going with this.  That’s okay, I wonder where I’m going with it too.  Here’s the thing:  It’s easy to forget, in the love and solidarity, what it’s all about.  It’s about a world in which people are told, tacitly and constantly, that they are flawed.  Where people who are subjected to judgement and criticism, where well-meaning people feel it’s their moral obligation to offer correction and condemnation at every turn.  A world in which it must at times be hard as Hell to accept the fact that there is a Creator out there who loves and needs you, and wants you to experience His love and blessing.  A world that straight people may or may not be assimilated into.  But we must never, ever, ever forget:  for some people, that world is just life.  I don’t believe at the end of the day that I have a choice in whether or not I choose to align myself with my gay friends, my single mom friends, my pot smoking friends, my Buddhist an Atheist and Agnostic and Just Plain Confused friends.  I don’t feel that it’s optional that when one of them asks me to show solidarity I do it immediately and without thinking.  Why?  Because how can I minister any love to them if I am not willing to be a part of their world.  How could I ever in good conscience ask them to enter MY world, MY faith, MY belief if I am not willing to bring it into theirs?

So, yeah, on Facebook I’m a pink equality sign.  All I can do is hope that in the real world the compassion I feel for the people I rub shoulders worth marks me as clearly as that avatar does.  And for my friends, my dear friends for whom I mark myself:  you are loved.  I don’t want to leave your world.  It’s rocky and engulfed in flames from time to time as the random hateful visitor passes through, but by God you are here.  You are here, and you make it worth every second.