Good grief! Is it even possible to have an opinion these days? No seriously, is civility just a quaint notion that we all want as we incinerate it beyond recognition? It’s like we morphed into a society of pre-teens as we have turned boorish behavior into a social norm and a virtue. Just now, while writing this article, someone responded to an article I wrote earlier about Bill Cosby using the most abrasiveness and brashest language possible. Is it any wonder that America elected the most uncultivated goon president? The man who sits in the Oval Wing figuring out how to best troll his trolls is only doing what too many of us do best. Rationalization abounds as we justify our insipidity by saying “I was only responding–acting every part a five year old.
Donald Trumps just a reflection of our society; we have entered into a zeitgeist where rhetorical firebombs are accepted as normal. I feel like taking creative license with the song from Goodie Mob as I sing “they don’t talk no more, all they do is burn, all they do is burn”. Both tails of the societal bell curve swallowing it’s own tail! The younger generation just know they have it figured out and pay little regard to respecting their elders. Not to be undone, the elders are intent on competing with the youth as they use fatuous language befitting a kindergartner more than a senior citizen. I don’t mean to paint with a broad brush–I know that social media exaggerates visceral human emotions–but I think most of us would nonetheless agree that decorum has taken a back seat to antipathy.
If there is one thing I have been praying for over the past year is for the patience to return kindness when met with malice. I have a ways to go on this journey as my default reaction is still to throw rhetorical grenades at those who glance at me with animus. Even as my mind understands the folly of fighting hatred with hatred, nonetheless my heart and my pride insist on getting the last word against those who come at me venom. Why even swallow their venom to begin with only to turn around and spit yet more poison. This is the height of toxic behavior! The better course would be to extend grace to those who invite hatred–the better course is always the hardest row to hoe.
It’s like we have become a caricature of civilization; we are on a quest to either get amens or we turn to butane torches. In this paradigm, one is either an friend or an enemy. Anyone who stands in the middle ground is treated worse than the enemy as both sides darken the skies with their innumerable arrows at the heart of those who dissent. This is decadence and sign of an empire on her last legs for a nation will burn itself to the ground when the public get imbued with a spirit of hostility and lets comity go by the wayside. Telling people to be polite in this paradigm is almost comical for schadenfreude is sought and valued more than friendship.
I used to wonder how German, in the 1930’s and 40’s, let Hitler rise to power and then stayed silent while endless millions were being oppressed and eventually exterminated. But lately I’ve come to realize that Germany of the 30’s is not such an anomaly. When the public mood is one of vengeance and anger, mob behavior can make humanity bleed into the background. What happened in Nazi Germany happened many times throughout history. Rwanda witnessed the genocide of a million people as neighbor turned on neighbor. On a smaller scale, these horrific instances of the public allowing the most horrific of injustices have taken place in Turkey, Russia and India as prejudice gave birth to oppression. Our own nation is not guilt free of this; during the time Hitler was exterminating Jews in Auschwitz, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was interning Japanese-Americans in open air prisons.
We should really pause and reflect, the very enmity we give a nod to can one day metastasize into open hostility. It’s not a far travel from insults to injury; what seems unthinkable today can end up leading to mass graves tomorrow. After all, no one in Germany during the 1920’s would have imagined that their nation would one day be set ablaze from odium on the ground and firebombs over Dresden and beyond. Next time, instead of rushing to bury people with pejoratives and letting ad hominem be the weapon of choice, engage with people on the basis of civility and you will be surprised at the outcome. There is nothing but woe to be gained from rancor; friendships are found in the midst of disagreement when we let respect be our guiding light. #AgeOfAntipathy
“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” ~ Coretta Scott King
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Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discuss via video candle blowers who try to take away your joys with their animus and how to best deal with those who love to blow at people’s happiness.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.