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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The New Epidemic

We have an epidemic of bad manners. It is spreading into the halls of congress (Rep. Wilson- R-S.C.), the stage of the VMA awards (Kanye West), and on to the tennis courts (Serena Williams). These are just three examples. There is an explosive nature taking over our personal exchanges.

I recently had to leave an email group of my old hometown gang. There were maybe two dozen names on the list, all who grew up in the same small town in the close suburbs of New York City, now spread out through the world. We reminisced and exchanged photos. We kept each other up to date and shared things of mutual interest. And then he arrived. You know the guy. He made some horrible decisions in this life, he screwed up and was screwed over, and he's basically a sorry case. It is a sad story and some of the others on the email list took pity on him but I prefer not to pity people. I want to accept them and help them if they need it and if I'm able, but I won't insult them with pity. Anyway, as soon as he arrived on the list we were all made aware that he had found The One, he had Jesus as his Savior. It was shallow at best, I didn't engage it, and yet it quickly became politically ignited. I tried to reason with him privately ("look," I'd say "protecting homosexuals under a hate crimes bill will not provide protection to pedophiles"). It tested my patience. But I took it as an exercise in balance and restraint. I never expected to convert the guy and that's probably where I made my mistake. People like him are looking to be converted or to convert. They go through their whole lives having to screw with things, they can never let well enough alone. They get their big awkward thumbs all over everything, they can't help themselves. But I drift away from the point of this long story.

I also asked him privately if he could curtail some of his more hate-filled religious rants without saying those exact words. I explained that I'm "sensitive" to that kind of material which is really a nice way of saying "You're a callous bore." Anyway, on the group emails, he just ramped it up. He singled me out. He grabbed on to a quote that I used in my email signature line by Ted Kennedy. It was the week that Kennedy died and I was showing a little respect. Well, Jesus' newly begotten son got on my case, to the whole group, about the mistakes of Ted Kennedy and that he wasn't a person worthy of, of, I don't know, acknowledgment.

I simply and briefly responded that it was a good opportunity to ask ourselves if we really do believe in redemption and forgiveness. Jesus' newly appointed spokesperson responded that Ted Kennedy wrote a letter to the Pope and so he did not deserve to be forgiven. His tirades escalated without my saying another word. This went on for a day and then some kind soul within the group emailed a few of us privately and asked what we can do about the particularly "mean spirit" of the emails of late? A few of the other people decided that they believed in freedom of speech and that we all had the option to delete. That's when I decided that the effort to filter him out and delete him, to have to navigate around his hate in the name of God, was an imposition. I opted out of the group. It took a few tries. I had to get very direct and stern with new Son of God before he understood that he was not to include me in on anymore of his emails. He did not know how to respond to the word 'stop.'

So there you have it. People are getting more rude every day. I blame the tone of the town hall meetings more than anything. I know it's really a much bigger issue but I don't want to navigate around other people's fears and ignorance's my whole life. I don't know if it will be possible. But we really do need to ask ourselves, what happened to get us so angry?

Now, I'd be so remiss if I didn't mention a particular reason for the rude tone among people, or a reasoning that has come up from New York to Kentucky from what I've seen, I'm sure more folk are mentioning it. So I better too. They are blaming this bad behavior, these over-the-line antics, on the fact that we have a black president. For all the crap we will say about Kanye West, he is not a birther. If I was a betting woman, my money would say that he voted Obama. I think the people who need to act out because the hate our black president are a virus that has fired up the rest of country. It's not a good heat. A vaccine would be more cool heads, but I do not witness an abundance of those.

I'm glad that Congress rebuked ol' Rep. Wilson. Note to South Carolina: get your representatives sorted out or stop embarrasing yourselves.

Thank you for listening.

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