Jalpuna

The Arrogance Of Decency

Prelude:

A friend once told me that I expect too much of people. Time has taught me that I think too highly of people. Trust me, there's a difference, even if the end result is the same. Time has also taught me that I'm not going to change in this regard. I consider it a fact and I am fine with it. I dare say it makes me proud.

I believe in the Golden Rule, not as a slogan but as a way to live a life. I want to be known for the best that I am, and so, I choose to know others for the best that they are. It sure would be nice if some others would stop reminding me about the rest that they are, but their words and actions are beyond my control.

No one is perfect, of course, but never forget: there is greatness in you. I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true. But there is smallness too. Which you choose… well, that’s up to you. A name is just a name; your choices are how you tell the world who you really are.

So, who are you? That’s not for me to say. But when we meet along your journey, I will be there to help lighten your load rather than hurl rocks at you for a cheap laugh, because that’s who I am.

Who I am and who you are - these are choices we each get to make for ourselves.

Let’s hope we both choose wisely.


Arrogance:

I am the straightest of straight men, yet I am vocal about supporting gay rights. Why? I do this because it's right. I am the whitest of white men, but I am vocal about standing against racism. Why? I do this because it's right.

I do not understand why people want respect yet are so quick to disrespect others based on how they were born. Mocking disabilities? That's exceptionally low. "Hey, everybody, look at me making fun of the blind, because it's cheap and easy and haha aren’t I the funny one?" And how many of those same people are quick to point out that they don't like being ignorantly judged based on their appearance, or their sexuality or their race, or whatever else? Is empathy such a foreign concept?

How truly stupid do you have to be to not realize the analogy of living in glass houses and throwing stones is completely wrong. You live in a world of straw houses, not one house made of glass. When you glibly burn someone else’s house to the ground for a cheap laugh, be it a racist joke or a gay slur, you start a fire among all houses, including your own. How stupid indeed. And when you stand back and say nothing as such mockery and slurs are spewed by someone else, your inaction makes the awful acceptable. You are the raindrop which thinks it is not to blame for the flood that washes all of the straw houses away.

I can't help thinking back to the conversation with the friend who said that I expect too much of people. And I think "FUCK! Isn't it embarrassing how little some people expect from themselves?" Is being a good person truly that much of a burden? Is it really so hard to spot a wrong and say "Hang on, that ain't right"? For some people, apparently, it is.

Hey you. Yes, you. Speak up.

Our communities need to look beyond their borders and realize that a woman mocking someone with a disability is no different than a man being sexist. Wrong is wrong. And the black man who hates racism but is cool with sexism? He's wrong too. And you know it. Speak up.

I love community pride. Really, I do. Gay pride is awesome. Damn right you should be proud to be who you are! Feminism is marvelous. Women standing together, with each other, for each other. It’s beautiful. Cultural heritage and racial diversity… these things make the world a better place. But if you think for even one moment that it's you and yours against everyone else, you're dead wrong and stupid too.

You need to stand up for others outside of your community because you would want them to stand up for you and yours. That’s the golden rule. It’s also common sense. More importantly, it’s common decency. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a guy who never hesitates to stand up for your equality and your dignity, because I know it’s right, meanwhile I’m all alone when it comes time to explain why it’s inappropriate to mock the blind. That is absolutely unquestionably fucked up.

And for your voice when a member of your community is attacked followed by your silence when the attack is aimed at someone who is not part of your community… for that, you are wrong. You are very, very wrong.

The world is not going to run out of small-minded people anytime soon, so there’s no need for you to join the herd.

I am better than that, and you are too, but only if you choose to be.

It has been suggested to me that saying such things makes me arrogant. If so, let it be known from this moment forward that I am arrogant. We should all be so arrogant as to let it be known without a doubt that we are better than the small minded mockery which leads to racism, sexism, bigotry and the belittling of people with disabilities. If enough of us choose such arrogance - to let it be known we are better than that - perhaps fewer people would seek joy in acting so god damned small.


Decency:

It is often said that we, as a society, should value tolerance and sensitivity. If you buy into such misguided nonsense and then peddle it to others, you’re wrong. We need less tolerance, and less sensitivity, not more. What we need more of is decency.

Be decent - not because you don’t want to offend anyone. Be decent because it is who you are.

What’s wrong with tolerance? Tolerance means to tolerate, or to put up with. If the idea of different cultures, different physical challenges, different races or different sexual orientations is something you feel you have to put up with, what you need to learn isn’t tolerance. You need to learn decency. Basic human decency.

What about sensitivity? Sensitivity means being sensitive, as if to say one shouldn’t crack racist jokes because a black person might be sensitive to such comments, and thus, be offended. No. You shouldn’t be racist because it’s wrong. Period. Being sexist isn’t insensitive. It’s indecent. There’s a difference.

While it’s easy to believe the internet is making people more hateful, I believe it’s making people more ignorant. People join online communities made up of others similar to themselves, and they become ignorant to any reality other than what they and theirs experience.

Note that I use the word Ignorant intentionally, but without malice. Ignorant is not a word of malice. Ignorant means having a lack of knowledge on a given subject. It does not imply an intent to be cruel, even though ignorance often leads to cruelty.

The cure for ignorance is to seek out people different from ourselves and learn from them. Learn from the love between a marriage of two women. Learn from the struggles and triumphs of the deaf. The cure for intolerance and insensitivity is even more simple that that, and I’ll share it with you now because it starts with you, and it starts with me, too.

The cure for intolerance and insensitivity is decency.

Be decent.

Don’t be sensitive to the hardships of others. Calling for sensitivity implies that a person with a disability really aught to toughen up, but gosh darnit, he or she hasn’t tried hard enough, so, it’s good for the fully-abled person to be sensitive. No. That’s heartless. And it’s ignorant. Unless you’ve experienced disability firsthand, you don’t have a clue about the toughness that is required every single day for things most people take for granted. Trust me. Unless you've lived it, you don’t know. And I don’t have a clue about the toughness required for living with cancer. I can’t even imagine it, but I am wise enough to know that I would not want to bear that person’s burdens, and believe me, you wouldn’t want to bear mine. Quite frankly, you might not be tough enough. How could you be, without having had a lifetime of experience and the toughness that comes with it?

Don’t be tolerant of the differences between us. Be decent. If you have the heart to be caring, that’s better, but if at times you find yourself unable to care about differences or challenges that you can’t relate to, then at the very least - and I truly do mean the very least - be decent. Not to me, but to everyone. Not for their sake, but for your own. Be decent because it is who you are, and because it is the very least you would want from anyone else. And when the opportunity arises - as it often does - have the decency to stand up for decency.

Decency is not an end point. It is a starting point. It is a bare minimum to accept from yourself because it is what you show the world you are. But even more importantly, it is what you pass on.

Never forget that you are the example you set for others. That is your legacy. The things you do. The words you say. The heart you share and even the hurt you sling, whether intentional or not; these are the lessons you teach others. Do not teach them tolerance. Do not teach them sensitivity. Teach them kindness, love and compassion. But if at times you lack the ability to do that, then at the very least, teach them decency.


Postscript:

I'm not angry. I'm disappointed.

I'm disappointed that the voice to say mocking the disabled is wrong has to be mine. Why don't you speak up?

I'm disappointed that people defend the mocking of disability as, and I quote, harmless fun. How could anyone not know better?

I'm disappointed when people apologize IF they offended rather than apologizing for having been offensive. What is that, an apology escape clause?

I'm disappointed by those who think this is a topic on which we'll have to agree to disagree. There are things in this world that are undoubtedly wrong. Seeking joy in the pain of others is one of them.

I'm also used to all of this, and that is the greatest disappointment of all.

::::: | Tuesday, Dec 31 2013 at 8:37 PM
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