Watch the news, read social media, see behavior from real adults filmed at rallies, and it’s incredibly clear that there is a casual form of cruelty on constant display. Trying to score points by making fun of someone who stutters, then insisting the insult wasn’t about someone’s manner of speech, and then trying to walk it back by saying the “point” of said insult should have made respectfully. The whole point, in this case, was to bully someone based on how they speak.
I’m perhaps especially sensitive to this as someone who works as a speech pathologist, and sees the challenges people face day in and day out to communicate. It’s alarming to see how combative our everyday communication has become, and I’m not speaking just of political rhetoric here. To address said rhetoric though, I will say this: pay attention to how people hide behind faith and yet dismiss (and indeed, join in on) the cruel behavior of mocking a grieving widow or mocking a teenager, all behavior that is demonstrably uncaring and indecent. We can and should expect, and demand, better from each and every one of us.
There are no doubt many reasons we reached this point. Perhaps it’s the increasing booking of pundits, whose verbal sparring has turned news into an endless debate to garner more attention (to drive up time spent watching, to drive up ad sales). Perhaps it’s the temporal nature of social networks, who thrive on engagement and clicks and noise, so people post more and more in order to be seen and “heard”, and in turn who can be served more and more ads. Whatever the case, we’re spending more and more time staring at screens (TVs, phones, tablets, computers) and less time looking at one another, that it almost feels as if we’re neglecting our own sense of humanity. How else do we arrive at people who consider themselves moral and respectable defending concentration camps, forced separation of children from parents, smiling for a photo while holding a baby whose parents were murdered to save it from a man who shot up a store and targeted people of color based on the very ideas being spread by the person posing for that photo?
The cruelty starts with language, and builds into actions. It’s right there in front of us, and it’s gleefully retweeted and fed back on the news, and then promptly forgotten once the next highly objectionable comment or action comes along. Let us first stop feeding the machine. Stop fueling the fire. Stop shouting into the wind, and instead strive for calm conversation.
Reward love, generosity, and kindness with our attention.