There’s a lot of shit going on in the world today.
It seems like every generation says this. We always think that what we have to deal with is somehow more complicated and burdensome than our forbearers. Yeah, I’m worried about the orange-faced narcissist in the White House pressing the red button with his infamously small fingers. And I’m worried that the social safety net that has been part of what has made this country great since at least FDR, is systematically being dismantled at the hands of a few alt-right ideologues.
But the Vietnam war, civil rights activists being lynched, mustard gas in WWI…. Slavery. There’s been a lot of fucked up stuff in every generation.
Having said that, there really is a lot of shit going on in the world today. And the internet (Exhibit A for why we can’t have nice things) – enjoy the download speed while you still have it – only makes things worse.
The political dialogue in the country is the most toxic I’ve ever seen it. The internet only exacerbates it (as I was typing this, a combination of fat fingering and spell check momentarily had “sexacerbate” on my screen – so yeah, I coined that phrase).
We no longer sit down across from our neighbor at a cookout or talk to him across the fence and have respectful conversations. I know this sounds like a hokey notion from Mayberry circa 1950, I’m not suggesting we have to try to live in a bygone era. But, Good Christ! Let’s at least take a collective breath before we go running to Facebook and trying to dress-down or one-up some stranger’s uncle from Eau Claire.
You wouldn’t know it, but the internet wasn’t created just so we could all get more angry at each other. Not every Instagram post, tweet, or public comment has to be treated as the next front in a culture war.
I’m honest enough to admit that I can get riled up with the best of them. I’m not sitting here wanting to buy the world a Coke. I’m simply saying that not everything has to be treated with the wrath of Curt Schilling when his daughter was cyberbullied. By the way, I’ll allow that one. I’m not fan of Schilling, but I’m fan of dads and daughters, even if it means a little frontier justice once in a while.
So, if you’re one of those online jihadists who, rather than acknowledge that you might agree with someone 98% of the time, chooses to treat the other 2% as a chance to use your caps lock button or affix a hashtag to something, remember: social media apps are like a nuclear weapon; or a sex toy on a first date. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to use it.
Case in point for all of this – Matt Damon. Damon supposedly said, “There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” Now he’s taking a lot of heat for it. But, I agree with him. I mean, there is a difference, isn’t there?
If you’re predisposed to look for a fight, you can find one here. If you want to act as though Matt Damon is not sensitive to any kind of unwanted sexual advance, you can. But you’d have to ignore the story and read only the headline. If you read the story, you’d see that he also said the following.
Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated…
When you see Al Franken taking a picture putting his hands on that woman’s flak jacket and mugging for the camera, going like that, you know, that is just like a terrible joke, and it’s not funny. It’s wrong, and he shouldn’t have done that…
… the fear for me is that right now, we’re in this moment where at the moment — and I hope it doesn’t stay this way — the clearer signal to men and to younger people is, deny it. Because if you take responsibility for what you did, your life’s going to get ruined.
All of these seem like reasonable statements. But the last of them seems especially perceptive, even if potentially apologistic. It’s a good point and worthy of consideration in the public dialogue, especially if we want the next generation of boys to be the ones to take responsibility for eradicating this stuff. In some cases ruining someone’s life might actually be the appropriate response. But can’t we at least talk about it first?
Unfortunately, the internet – where every infraction is a capital offense and every disagreement calls for a boycott – wasted no time in meting out its special breed of derision and scorn.
Trust me, I’m not shedding tears for men like Franken just because they didn’t bend someone over their desk and rape her like Matt Lauer did. I’m not excusing unwanted horrible behavior. I also think that women have been screwed so hard for so long that I can’t get upset if in some instances men might be punished more severely than necessary. Particularly if it’s a rich guy or a someone that abuses a position of public trust.
Women have been dealing with this shit for years. And frankly, there’s something entertaining about seeing the next dirtball get his public comeuppance. But it’s particularly incumbent upon those on the right side of the issue to not portray all of these accusations as the same act. As with anything else, there are differences of degrees and the distinctions may be subtle or overt. It’s intellectually lazy to fail to understand that. But hey, I understand. You haven’t tweeted in the last few hours and you’re worried that you might not get as many follows if you don’t jump on the blood in the water. But when you engage in this sexacerbating, you’re not doing anything to solve the problem. You’re just fomenting outrage where it probably need not be.
Sure, we could treat that creepy guy at the office who sneaks up behind a woman and rubs her shoulders the same as we treat Harvey Weinstein or a gymnast’s pedophile doctor. We could also start cutting off hands for shoplifting and make Matt Damon wear a scarlet M for “Mansplainer” But why bother?
We’ve got the internet for that.