I’m mad and sad a lot these days. I am overwhelmed by the nasty balls people have in how they speak to and about others. I’m slack-jawed. Dumbfounded. Appalled. Gobsmacked. Nauseous. Heartbroken.
WTF? How did it become okay to spew the hatefulness and venom that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds of late? How can what happened to Leslie Jones actually happen? By human beings? When did it become mainstream acceptable for a political candidate to—take your pick—make fun of the disabled, label an entire nationality rapists, spout misogyny, encourage violence? And then have multitudes claim, “He’s just speaking the truth…”
Listen, as I’ve said before, I believe political correctness can be a two-edged sword because it can squelch important conversations, education, and growth, but…where is our collective sense of dignity? Respect? Humanity?
Picture a bell curve of what is considered acceptable public speech. On one end are those who believe that chanting “airball” should be formally banned because it isn’t nice. On the other end are those who vomit vitriol that used to—at least in public—be said under white hoods. Both are extremes, but one is infinitely more insidious than the other.
I can’t help but feel like that side that says and does whatever the hell they want no matter the pain caused is squishing that bell tighter than ever. And what are those of us in that bell doing about it?
We can’t legislate the heart, for sure. And we can’t legislate kindness or love. Education may help, but legislation? I think that trying to legally douse the fire of hate is like playing a game of Centipede—if you don’t get it at the head (or heart)—all it does is break up and scatter everywhere. People need to choose morality to truly be moral.
Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you have a RIGHT to be hateful or cruel without consequences. While it may mean that the government can’t suppress your speech unless it falls into very specific guidelines, it doesn’t mean that you can post whatever the hell you want on someone’s Facebook page, and if they choose to take it down they are “taking away your rights.”
You can get fired. You can get unfriended. You can get called out. You can be stood up to and schooled. You can suffer consequences.
While the “anonymous” online culture of malevolence has sadly been around too long and without much (or enough) consequence, I think it is breeding the growth of more and more people being comfortable and emboldened to say whatever the hell they want.
Take, for instance, a recent tweet of mine. I was merely posting a link to an article on the gender wage gap for Women’s Equality Day. I immediately got a negative response.
And as the “conversation” wore on, I could easily tell he hadn’t even read what I was referencing, but he still felt confident to condemn. Ultimately, this was my response:
Now…this exchange was mild, but…the whole being ready to jump and punch culture, well…sucks. WTF, people? Why?
This election cycle has really pulled back the curtain and revealed to me many people who I would not have thought capable of believing certain ideologies. I must admit that it hurt my teeny bopper heart to learn that Scott Baio says that President Obama is a Muslim who wants to destroy the U.S. Charles in charge has also ripped on the First Lady and implied that Hillary Clinton is the c-word. Joanie may love Chachi, but I no longer do.
Learning that a celebrity holds beliefs that are upsetting to me is one thing. Facebook, though, is an entirely different story.
Seeing hate espoused by people I’ve known for years and never knew held such views is disappointing, disheartening, and depressing (especially when they identify themselves as Christians). And while I often speak up and hold my ground, I admit I sometimes hesitate to get involved when I see a group engaged in a scathing diatribe because I’ve gotten beaten up enough times to make me flinch. I don’t block people because I don’t want to pretend that those kinds of viewpoints aren’t out there, but that choice at times results in my being sad and mad and…heartbroken.
We don’t all have to agree—as freethinking people, we can’t—but must disagreeing result in such disdain and disgust?
As life teaches us, there will always be a bell curve of behavior. Extremes exist. But we in the big bell need to hold our ground. We need to push against the infiltration of negativity and assault from those who feel that everything is fair game for them to lash out in cruelty. It’s not. We know that. We’ve got to fight the good fight. Literally.
Kitties unite! Don’t let the haters win by forfeit.
As Elie Wiesel, the author who recently passed and knew all too well the horror of inertia said,
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
If we give up or stay quiet, then there will be no one to stop the hate. Whether it’s internet bullying, racism, sexism, xenophobia—anything that is rooted in putting another down—we must not sit quietly and watch it happen.
We are in the center of the universe. I’m not ready to surrender. Are you?
*The artwork in my feature photo was done by a good friend of mine. If you’d like to learn more, let me know in the comments!