August 14, 2020

Kindness used to be Cool, but we’ve become Mean Girls.

I can’t help but scratch my head and ask myself: “When did we become so ugly as a society?”

There is a vast range of diverse opinions and social commentary surrounding us whether we overhear it in the supermarket, read it on social media, or participate in an exchange ourselves when making small talk.

Raised by generations that discouraged speaking publicly about religion or politics while Archie Bunker—the most politically incorrect of all—bellowed from living rooms everywhere, there was a time when civil proclivity, common courtesy, and respect for one’s fellow (wo)man were the norm.

Manners were considered commonplace, and not airing one’s dirty laundry—whether your own or the opinions you held about others—was the standard.

Even though those generations held tightly to that, I did not.

I derived pleasure from exchanging views on controversial subjects like religion, politics, sex, and any other topics considered taboo. I experienced a non-chemical high from sharing opposing opinions and thwarted thoughts.

And what made that even better was the fact that, in most cases, my debate opponents also shared what I described above (civil proclivity, common courtesy, and respect for one’s fellow [wo]man).

At the end of our often passionate discussions, we would smile, wink, and shake hands or hug good night with a bounce in our step. We were energized by the differences and ejected into an intellectual whirlwind of thoughts, the pursuit of supporting facts, and a renewed vigor for the next conversation.

It was absolutely exhilarating and fueled me. I was often running on fumes day and night; I was ready to dig deeper, explore further, and learn. I wanted to learn not only what supported my opinions but also why my person of opposition was so vehement in upholding his or hers.

Seeing all sides, walking in everyone’s shoes, and taking the time to sit back and reflect certainly expanded my view—even if I didn’t agree at the end of any day.

Today, those discussions lack civility, respect, and common courtesy. I would equate the responses I read and hear with personal attacks, outrage, and hate. What seems to be missing is the desire to express one’s viewpoint from a civil and respectful position.

People are reacting, spewing angry emotions, and—from where I stand on my perch—observing without actually reading, taking the time, or trying to interpret the point another person is trying to make.

And the few people who do get shot down, chastised, or, even worse, laughed at for being reasonable.

How is that productive?

If I support a statement and thank a person for a refreshing viewpoint, I become the enemy.

Ugly. Just ugly.

Maybe it is time to bring back manners, civility, and common decency.

Perhaps it is time to accept our selves, views, and opinions without continuously forcing them on others.

Maybe if we took the time to explain from a place of intellect, compassion, and a genuine desire to gain understanding, we could all make a difference.

And maybe we could even remove the ugly.

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