So my point here, to begin, is not to disparage Gov. Palin, but to use a contemporary incident to illustrate a societal issue. Okay? So with that, probably the biggest laugh I have had in a while was a post shared with me regarding Sarah Palin's remarks about Pope Francis, and then following up to see if it was a real story or a hoax. No, it was real alright, making me wonder why she even speaks at all. Frankly, if I may borrow on a certain lyric: "If Pope Francis is wrong, I don't want to be right." Which can be played however you want to play it.
It brings to mind that what we say can be very strong, and can be so strong as to topple nations and take down the powerful. Yet, with absolute casualness, people go about from day to day and make off-handed comments with no other purpose than to put someone else down and, in their eyes, push themselves up. When this happens, I want to engage them, to make them see the error of their ways, but the reality is that most of them couldn't care less what we think, so long as they got their snarky little jab in.
Let's go back to Governor Palin. Honestly, why in the world would anyone ever make a disparaging comment about someone so universally revered right now as Pope Francis, if not to drum up controversy? Let's see: the current Pope, who is preaching the Gospel that Jesus asked us to share, about loving thy neighbor, is a "liberal" for acting on those ideals? So then, what you are saying is that Jesus was a "liberal"? Given that her fan base (I don't consider them constituents, as she made herself unelectable a long time ago) is predominantly right-wing Christian, I wonder, did she WANT to commit career suicide or what?
While I don't consider wanting to help the poor and needy "liberal" but rather, "just" and "compassionate", this isn't intended to be a comment on politics, but a lesson in how words are very, very strong. While yes, this was a bizarre act of political activism, I ask you: How powerful was that spoken word? Something I am guessing was just one individual, speaking their mind, coming off the cuff with something they considered witty, or prescient, or intended to tweak, caused a shitstorm. If she wanted controversy, she got it.
When we are speaking or writing, I'm assuming we want it to have purpose. Unless you are just in the mood to talk to yourself, and sometimes, yes, I do that too, why say something if we don't intend it to challenge, motivate, cause action, cause inaction, or point out something? Are we the tree in the empty forest that, having fallen, our noise goes on deaf ears? What is it that we say that we want people to remember about us?
A long time ago, I caught myself in a people-watching slamfest, observing a slew of the poorly dressed, the clueless, and the obviously non-self-aware. No, I was not at Walmart, but you get what I am getting at. In context, you have to wonder what these people are thinking, or even if they are thinking. Or perhaps, they are really just tricking us, and they WANT to cause us to wonder what they are thinking. I doubt that, but again, let's not be critical here. My point is, really, who are we to judge? How much of what we are saying about them speaks to what we think about ourselves?
Why do we have this need to communicate things that have no purpose but to incite ill feelings? When we say a good thing about someone, it props them up, and in turn, props up those around them. And in turn, I am hoping it would prop you up as well: others see the goodness in your heart. When you tear someone down, you are pushing them down, and creating negativity around them. And again, I would think that others might see you as mean or hurtful.
However, that's not always true. Some mistake compassion and goodness for weakness. Some see nasty comments as funny. It's at that point when you have to realize that if we want society to change, we can't reward people by laughing or supporting that kind of rhetoric. I'm not going to say this is easy, because as you may have noticed in the paragraph talking about Walmart, you all knew what I was talking about. And not only that, you, as well as did I, laughed about it and acknowledged that we were all in on the joke. But then, to use that Walmart analogy again, do we do that to call attention to ourselves, or are we really that unaware to how we come across to others? Or do we even care?
One of the strongest and most admired people I know was a Battalion Chief in our department and he retired to become a full-time Baptist preacher. I know of nobody who would ever say an unkind word about this man, and honestly, if they did around anyone who knows him, they'd likely get their teeth pushed in. It's not to say he couldn't get mad, because sometimes he did. And it's not to say he was never wrong, because, infrequently, he was. This man acknowledges that he, like all of us, are imperfect, but those imperfections endear us to our family and our friends sometimes. But I will say this about the man: if he ever spoke badly about anyone else, I sincerely cannot ever remember him doing so. And I inherited his shift, so I can tell you; some of them certainly gave me reason to do so. But his approach really made me consider at that time of ascension to a new responsibility, the power of what I said and how I said it. While I am not even a fraction of the man that he is, he is certainly one of my heroes and he inspired me to try to be a better person.
The more we practice mindful consideration of what we say and how we say it, the more likely someone else may notice and do the same themselves. I don't know anyone who thinks that society is becoming MORE considerate of others. That seems to be the central theme in individuals fed up with rudeness and aggression, criminal behavior, uncooperative politicians, and those abusing things like government assistance: that while we behave a certain way, others should emulate our example. As a productive member of society, we expect that people will be courteous to one another, live within the laws of the land, cooperate, and work to earn their keep. But at the heart of this is our outward projection of self, our ability to communicate what is in our heart, and even if we are doing the things that we consider to be right, if we are saying the wrong things, we are creating the impression that it is okay to hate.
I titled this piece "Make It Fit" because we all know ways in which we can change to make our society a better place. Even if we take one minute to do something nice for someone else, maybe, as the common belief holds it, we can create a cascade of goodness. I don't know what it is in your life that you can do, but I'm sure you can find that place to do it. But one big place where we can start is in how and what we say to others, and to be cognizant that those words have consequences, and to make sure if we speak, it has value.