"another guest stormed in. "PROFANITY!" she screamed, when she saw that all the treadmills were filled, "This is utter PROFANITY PROFANITY. This is the worst kind of PROFANITY mess I've ever seen!" She stood in front of us, muscles beautifully cut, wearing the face she certainly deserved, and pursed her lips, clearly challenging one of us to surrender the equipment. When we didn't, she leaped on to an exercise bike, with a 15-pound dumbbell in each hand and began pedaling wildly, pumping the dumbbells as she muttered, "I can't believe this PROFANITY!"This is one of the great black pits of today's society, and indeed of the blogosphere in particular.
A week before that, I bought a pair of relatively inexpensive shoes on sale. I'd tried on a size too small, so the seller came back with the right size in a box. When I got into the car, I discovered one of the shoes had no heel, which I pointed out when I came back in. "No returns on sales," the woman said. She was on the telephone, "Wait a minute," she told the caller (it was like a parody), "I have to deal with some lady."
"I don't want to return them; I just want the ones with heels."
"You bought those," she said, "If you wanted to make sure they both had heels, you should have checked before you walked out of the store."
Apparently, we are now not just allowed to practice rudeness, but we are expected to tolerate it. The swearing health club lady was "just a Californian," someone explained to us. The abusive builder was a great customer."
We see it all the time. There are people out there that apparently have the inability to stand other people, and make their opinions known at all opportunities.
The blogosphere is a prime example of this type of intolerance. Reasonably eventempered people in Real Life become raving, spittle-flinging, profanity-hurling lunatics when confronted with people they a) disagree with, b) don't like, or c) just rub them the wrong way. Apparently they feel this elevates them in the eyes of others - that somehow their defiance of humanity is a positive trait and one to be admired or respected.
And there are some, judging by the volume and tone of their commenters, that agree with them.
I told my group of high school students this weekend that when people are looking for God, they're looking for Him in you. And your actions reflect this - I challenged them to find ways to demonstrate how God works in their lives by how they interact with people. Simple acts of smiling to others in passing offer huge opportunities to improve our quality of life. I told them that every opportunity I have, I hold a door for someone. It costs me nothing except time, and improves someone else's life, however insignificant as it may seem.
So why do we persist? Why do we tolerate and elevate those among us that persist in treating others with deliberate rudeness and malice?
I saw this link on Donald Sensing's site, and one of his commenters had good insight:
'It's because of the widespread attitude that "I can do whatever I want". That includes throwing temper tantrums. Morality and community standards went out the window when youth rebelled against 'the best generation' in the late sixties and early seventies.'How much longer do we have to accept the sins of the sixties hanging over our heads?
If it's not the permissiveness of the "hippie" generation, it's the ghosts of Vietnam that won't leave us alone.
What do we seem to have lost? Honor for one. And I want to talk about honor soon, but that's another post I have to muster up some courage on.
For now, when you encounter rudeness I feel the best response is probably to ignore it - eventually the unfocused anger and uncivility should burn itself out when left to itself. But judging by how people flock to those sites where the hosts rant and rave and rail against anyone unlucky enough to earn their enmity, they will continue to flourish.
UPDATE (09/16/04): Ray McAllister of the Richmond Times-Dispatch would seem to agree.