Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's possible to care about more than one thing

On my previous post, which was about football, I received this comment:

People are rioting in the streets demanding justice. Children are hungry and homeless this Thanksgiving. We just bombed Syria....again. But this. Yes. Priorities. Good to have in your 30's.

Of course, I have no idea who wrote this. I don't know if it's one of the many trolls I've attracted over the years, or an all-new troll, or someone I know who feels like I needed to read this without confronting me directly. In any case, it's a pretty hostile dig.

But that isn't what bothers me about it. The attitude behind it does, and has for years.

Many people — most of whom I wouldn't argue with in principle — operate under a notion that if you're not talking at every moment about the gravest ill in society, then you are foolish and part of the problem. That because a person can care only about one thing (apparently), it had better be the Most Important One at all times.

They seem to think every problem in the world would vanish if people would just step away from the sports for a few minutes — or any other distraction created by puppetmasters solely for the purpose of enslaving people or whatever such self-righteous nonsense.

These people hijack all sorts of posts and conversations, purportedly making a point about someone's sense of perspective but mainly saying, "Look at me, I see more clearly than you do."

(I suppose we'd call this "righteousjacking" if that weren't such an unwieldy term.) 

The perspective argument has its time and place, but it too requires perspective. If someone is forever dwelling on welfare, for example, it's right to set them straight about what really gobbles the most governmental spending. Priorities, as the above commenter would say.

Random zero-sum scolding such as, "You should care about world hunger, not Sons of Anarchy," on the other hand, accomplishes nothing.

A blog post about the Saints — part of a weekly series I've been writing all season long, no less — is not evidence I don't care about more pressing issues. I think the 10 1/2 years I've been writing this blog is pretty clear proof of that. That fact is even more evident offline, where my sister saw me watching MSNBC last year and asked, "Do you ever watch anything fun?" (And she works in the U.S. Congress, arguably not a hotbed of wackiness.) Of course I do. In fact, I'm a pretty silly person most of the time. Not because I haven't seen or been through any hardship in my life, but because I have. Every time I joke about something, or get irrationally passionate about trivial things, it's a way of coping with the real problems out there that would be overwhelming to try to shoulder.

There's nothing noble about being miserable every moment, nor does such an outlook facilitate lasting change. That hyperserious perspective isn't any less skewed than being blasé about everything. It certainly doesn't make anyone pleasant to be around.

I lived in Missouri for years, so I've seen its particular strain of racial tension firsthand. (Indeed, I recently unfriended a Missouri acquaintance on Facebook because she referred to a man as "colored." She's 22.) So when the grand jury's decision in Ferguson was announced, I cried. In the middle of a shitty Saints game, I suddenly cared a lot less about the shitty Saints game. I didn't tweet or write much about Ferguson for a variety of reasons. But the main ones were that 1) it was simply too sad in a real way and 2) I had nothing profound to add to the conversation. It's a terrible situation all around with no winners or positive outcome even in the best scenario. That seems to me too obvious to express with much more than quiet tears. (In other cases, conversation or good works do the trick. One size of expression does not fit all issues.)

At times, I've been exactly the kind of person I'm decrying here; I own up to that. But over time, I've learned to give people the benefit of the doubt. Deep down, I believe most people have a sharp sense of empathy and a desire for justice to be done. So I don't judge them harshly for caring about something superfluous, be it sports or the Kardashians. Because we all have that level of something, whether or not we admit it. That doesn't keep me from trying to be a better person every day and refusing to put up with ignorance wherever it rears its head in my presence.

While driving to work on Tuesday afternoon, I tuned to a sports-talk jock who said something to the effect of, "If you're upset that your football team isn't doing as well as you thought it would despite its talent, if that's what you're mad about, then you're doing pretty good. Because it's ultimately something that isn't important." 

Words of wisdom.

I keep that perspective in mind, even when it reads like I don't. Don't mistake that for apathy where it counts. 

1 comment:

Robin said...

You are spot on here, Ian.

Thanks for writing this.