Saturday, December 5, 2015

Apology Nation (I Blame The Quiet)

One of the most frustrating things about being politically active is observing the absurd and not having any capacity to stop it. All those people who a decade ago who were gung-ho about this bullshit war in Iraq... are now the same people who are so against taking in refugees from Syria. Do people connect the dots? It is a simple case of cause and affect. If you go freely into the cause, surely, you must accept the affect.  Right? Surely, most understand that if you contribute to destabilizing a region of the planet, then it is partly your responsibility to assist those that are displaced by your actions. In all political discussions, the most frustrating, maddening even, are the quiet ... those who say nothing. I can at least respect those that disagree with me, those with a backbone. Those who say nothing, the jellyfish, are simply cowards.

But I have discovered a new low ... those that are quiet during the cause but once the affect is upon us, they complain loudly. They roll their eyes when we debated the war and said "must we talk politics" and now, when we talk about the refugees from the area, they complain that me might take them in, wrapped a warm flag striped with ignorance and fear. The quiet are the problem not the loud. If you are out on the town and sitting at a bar quietly talking shit with a friend and there is a loud group of people talking politics at the next table ... they are not the problem, you are. Stop talking about Modern Family and walk over there and join in. Argue with the person that you disagree with or support the person who is brave enough to speak up, but stop being quiet. The quiet are the problem. I blame the quiet.

The virtues of quietude are not lost on me. I am a very quiet person while at my place of employment. Tactful, I guess, is the word. Tact is what one practices when you live in a world that values the perception of peace over getting things done. I can't change this so I play along. The most dreaded outcome in Apology Nation is being guilty of making someone feel something and pulling them out of their cocoon of denial. I avoid the big three subjects while I am at work: politics, religion and sex. My opinions on these subjects are no more radical than anyone else, but I have no doubt, like anyone else, that if I got onto one of these subjects at the workplace I may piss off a few or make a few just roll their eyes in disgust. This is unneeded in the workplace when you often have to work as a team among people from very different backgrounds. When I started my first job as a software analyst in Norwood, MA in the early 1990's, I was partnered with a very talented engineer who was an outright racist. It annoyed the hell out of me. Because I had to work with him everyday, I didn't tell him what a worthless piece of shit I thought he was. It was easy to avoid the subject and because I am a white dude like him, he thought I could relate. I'd ignore it and avoided the subject because I needed him to get things done. It was a tenuous relationship. I have some regrets, but mostly, I don't. I did what I had to do to get the job done. To get through the day without losing my job and paying the rent was the ultimate goal in that relationship. After I was laid off, I never talked to him again. But this type of quietude is not necessary in your private life. If expressing your opinions is going to fracture your personal relationships, then those relationships aren't worth saving. Ruffle some feathers, you'll find out who your real friends are.

As Thanksgiving approached this year, I saw several articles and comments on social media on how to avoid arguments at the holiday table. Why? Isn't that where this is supposed to happen? Aren't we supposed to be figure things out with people we trust? Instead of talking about global warming, gun control or terrorism, instead lets all talk about the weather, sports and Game of Thrones and be safe in our discussions, be quiet and polite. In the future, when your grandchild takes off her oxygen mask to ask you what you did to help fight global warming, you can proudly tell them "I was polite! I didn't offend anyone." In a nation where it is impolite to have an opinion, only the rude are expressing themselves. Don't worry about offending anyone. Democracy is supposed to be messy. Disruption is how to get things done. Stop apologizing for having an opinion.  Apology Nation will smolder at the bottom of a pile of nuclear fall out, it was be covered by the rising tide and murdered while it was shopping ... but at least it was polite.

1 comment:

Olga Hebert said...

I quietly express my opinions--the problem being I have been doing it for so long now that those who stay around me mostly agree with me. It's actually good to actively seek out differences of opinion so as to not become complacent and then prone to being shocked at the stupidity (how's that for keeping an open mind!) of others.