Sunday, March 24, 2013

On Being Kind

You all know, of course, about the recent terrible events in Stubenville, Ohio, in which a drunken 16-year-old girl was raped by two members of the high school football team. The fact that the rape happened at all was bad enough, but no one associated with the crime smells very good ... from the young men who committed the rape to the other party-goers who filmed and photographed the crime and then discussed it on social media to the CNN reporter who filed a sympathetic story about the impact of the crime and the trial on the young criminals who violated a helpless girl.

Much has been written about the whole affair, from the mainstream media to the blogosphere (including this piece from Heidi), but I feel the need to weigh in on top of it all with my own observation ...

Just what kind of society have we become?

I was raised by parents who taught me good values and constantly drove home one basic lesson: the one we call The Golden Rule ... "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It means we should all treat each other with dignity and respect and compassion, and to think of the impact of our actions on others before we barge ahead and do whatever we want.

Unfortunately, there's precious little of the Golden Rule to be seen nowadays. The emphasis today is on the rights and priviliges of the individual, and the hell with everybody else. Clueless dumbasses buy into a thug "culture" and try to build "street cred" through belligerence and an insistence on receiving the respect they are unwilling to give. Violent and misogynistic rap "music" glorifies crime, violence and the degradation of women.

In the world of politics and punditry, extremists of the far left and the far right shout past each other, tossing off ridiculous accusations and demeaning every word and action of those with whom they disagree ... perfectly willing to let the country go down the drain rather than make the least effort to seek common ground and move forward.

Ultrarighteous religious bigots of every sort, from radical Islamists to severe Christian fundamentalists to superultramegaorthodox Jews to the miserable hatemongers of the Westboro Baptist Church condemn - often with violence - those who dare to worship God in any but their own approved way.

What has happened to us? What lessons are today's parents teaching their children that lead to the Steubenvilles and the Sandy Creek Elementaries and other tragedies?

We have allowed ourselves to become a society in which personal rights and privileges are worshiped above responsibilities, compassion, and even common courtesy. The other day I read this wonderful article by Kim Simon: 4 Musts for Moms of Boys. In the article, Ms Simon talks about a question asked by another mother in a playgroup: “What quality do you want to instill in your child? What personality characteristic would you most like for your son to be known for?” Her answer was simple, but goes to the very heart of the problems we face today:

"I want my son to grow up to be kind."

That's what's missing ... we have lost the capacity to be kind to each other.

I have three children and six grandchildren I love deeply, and of whom I am enormously proud. And if there was one lesson I would try to teach them - hopefully, by example - it would be to observe the Golden Rule. To be kind.

The NRA and its apologists would have you believe that an armed society is a polite society, that we ensure our safety and earn respect by packing enough heat to intimidate and deter everyone else. This is stupid. A polite society is based not on the possession of weaponry and the willingness to use it, but on a sense of responsibility for one's actions and a recognition that the world works better when we treat each other with the dignity and respect we would like to receive in return.

Keep the gun if it makes you feel better. But try to simply be kind. It's a lot less expensive than an assault rifle, and you might find that you like it.

Have a good day. Observe the Golden Rule. More thoughts on Tuesday.


P.S. - You might also consider these worthwhile guidelines from George Washington's "Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation" -

#1: "Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present;" and,

#69: "If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained, and be not obstinate in your own opinion. In things indifferent be of the major side."

Smart guy, that George.



Amanda said...

I'm feeling the pressure :D.

Its a good type of pressure...I'm excited (but definitely not rushing it) about my boys growing up and I hope I do a good job raising them.

Hell Hound said...

Wise words, Bilbo. I fear for us as a society.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I'm afraid that we've lost a lot of our social cohesion. For some, they're like belonging in individual tribes of one member each. The Steubenville affair is an example of diffusion of responsibilityt -- people seem to be less likely to help if they are in a large group. And alcohol doesn't improve things.

To be kind is a true requirement for social living.

Duckbutt said...

It seems that over the past 20 or 30 years meanness has become acceptable behavior in a lot of contexts: television and journalism are two obvious ones. And there's the practice of videorecording friends' peccadillios and posting them on You Tube. Kindness is diminishing in supply.

Mike said...

An armed society has become a paranoid society. There's a bogeyman behind every bush.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Society has gotten meaner

allenwoodhaven said...

Very well said Bilbo. One thing I don't understand is why more people aren't kind. It is easier, both in the short and long runs, since it uses so much less energy to spout off and then have to deal with the consequences.

Perhaps part of it is that few people try to look at things from any viewpoint other than their own, and dammit they are SO right that everyone else HAS to be wrong.


The Mistress of the Dark said...

Perhaps because we are making our kids grow up to fast and teaching them to be bigger and stronger then the next person.

Kids don't have time to play anymore. Sports etc become more important giving these people the inflated egos that they don't deserve.

People were kinder when they actually interacted with people. Talking etc, rather than typing out messages on a cell phone.

We live in a sad sad world.