The Ghost of Civility

Ya know what, I refuse to believe that there was ever any true ‘golden age’. A golden age is something we make up in the present and toss over the past in a wave of nostalgia and misguided fondness for things of long ago. Truly, we are people of the present, even those of us who ‘live in the past’ and mourn for things that once were. The fact is that it’s real easy to project ourselves into these myriad ‘golden ages’ and to imagine how great it would be but we are people of the present and as such very, very few of us would be able to adapt and survive to a world we were not born to. Sure, some would adapt and survive but most of us wouldn’t and sadly, we’d probably find that we don’t want to.

There is no ‘golden age’. There is only Now and Then.

That isn’t at all to say that there aren’t things to learn, things to take from other times, and aspects of other times to want to emulate and honor. It’s just that we need to live in the present, we have no choice. The present writes the future and the past sets the groundwork for everything. It’s all connected, all of it a circle, and we need to have our minds on all three as we live in the present.

Ah, we have an issue with the present though, don’t we?

We are in an era where the ground is shifting around us, where the tremors of social change are undeniable and we are all, no matter how forward thinking we may believe ourselves to be, trying to keep our balance as things shift. Society’s always under a threat of constant shift, because it has to be or else the society will, for all intents and purposes, will die. If we don’t learn, adapt, and evolve we cannot grow as a species and if we don’t grow we regress and unfortunately we can see quite clearly what regression looks like all around us.

Regression wears a banner of the Glorious Past, a past where God, Country, and Family all meant something and This Country Was Great. All of those are merely the rhetoric of the fearful. The people afraid of how fast things are changing. Even as a pessimist and a bit of a nihilist see that humanity, at its core, that American society, at its core, wants bad things to happen to other people. Taking away the aberrant people who just want to watch the world and everything on it die, most folks just want to be happy and want their loved ones to be happy and while they don’t get too invested beyond that usually, they are pretty OK with the rest of the world having the same things. Sure, we get caught up in petty anger and ‘hate’ but those tend to be hot winds blowing over shaking foundation. It takes too much energy to hate all the time so most people don’t want to bother. Ah, but in times like we are in now, we humans start to close our ranks, personally and as groups and sub-groups, for fear of change. Not that we are inherently afraid of change but we are afraid of a change to the status quo we are comfortable with. We don’t want to lose ground or standing.

And honestly, as a species, we’re a little lazy.

It’s easier and more convenient if things just carry on as they have so we can focus on other things, like ourselves and our leisure. And believe me, I am a lover of leisure. It is a survival instinct. We prefer terrain we know. Terrain we have mastered. The more we have to adapt to the environment, cultural or physical, the more chance we have to lose the status we have now. Sure, there are born and bred racists, and sexists, and homophobes, and trasphobes, and xenophobes and all of it but the fact is that to me most folks develop those attributes out of a fear of losing what they have. America has been, since its inception, a place dominated by white heterosexual men who believed, to varying degrees, that that a Christian God knew their hearts. Now, there are variations to all of that but that’s a pretty close mark as to how things have been. So imagine that, after ‘ruling the roost’ for a couple hundred years the status quo is changing.

Women are FINALLY starting to get out of the long shadow of men who have dictated who they should be and what they should look like.

Blacks, most who came here against their will or interest, are finally starting to feel like they are beginning to have a say in things.

Gays, who had to hide both literally and figuratively in the closet are finding out that society CAN change and that maybe we are finally able to admit the truth that has been with Man since well-nigh the beginning and that is that not every person wants, needs, or craves the same thing and that’s OK.

And people who have hidden their feelings of gender confusion and who were forced to live their lives as someone that didn’t reflect their hearts are finding that many of us don’t want or expect them to fake it any longer.

There are a LOT of things changing and if you want to look at the civil rights movement and the sexual liberation movement as a spark that lit the keg, well, we’re dead center in the blast radius gang.

We forget, so often, that we don’t have to agree with everyone or everything in order to maintain who WE are but we have to accept that people are different inherently. It’s convenient when it’s a difference of opinion of movies, or music, or sports teams, or even politics and religion because those are things we can debate and can argue about. How do you argue against someone’s sex, their color, their sexuality, or their orientation? You can try, people do, but it’s a fool’s game and truly makes the person arguing look petty and small and awful.

The problem is people get more caught up in what THEY are losing and not what others have felt that they had never had.

We don’t let ourselves feel empathy.

We are afraid of being on the wrong side of an issue.

Worst of all, we are afraid of what we perceive we are losing and not, again, what others never had.

They are taking our guns.

Except, no one is taking guns. They want to take guns that can kill people en masse. Um, sorry, but that’s just logic. You can tell me knives kill too and I will agree, but I will also tell you that I stand a chance against someone with a knife, but don’t have much hope for someone with a gun. In light of the tragedies America has been through in recent years it is just common darn sense to take a step back and accept that this is a volatile time and that people are very, very sensitive about gun rights issues. You can tell me all day long that you need to protect yourself, and that you’re gonna stop the ‘bad guys’ and that you ‘have rights’ and I’ll nod and smile because you just don’t get it because this isn’t about you. At all.

They can’t take our heritage away!

A flag is not heritage. A flag is a flag. If someone burns an American flag it doesn’t upset me because they are damaging a symbol, not a thing. America is as much a concept as it is a thing. Heritage is the same. If you feel so desperately tied to the ‘Confederate Battle Flag’ that you need to display it on your personal property then so be it but understand that there are repercussions. Just like other acts of free speech. The act of a thing is free, the repercussions are where you pay a price. This isn’t to say people should get violent or hateful but you will feel scorn and honestly, you should. In an era where we throw around the notion of treason a lot it’s interesting that people want to cling to a flag that represents the treasonous act of secession of the Union. The flag can stand for whatever you want it to, you can argue it however you want, but you cannot escape that it is a symbol of division, and of war in the country that you should hold more dear than you hold the memory of a time you didn’t personally experience. Do what you want, but don’t expect the rest of the country to agree with you because it’s not about YOU!

I just don’t want that stuff shoved in my kids’ faces. What will I tell them?

The fact that people want to act as if trans people and homosexuality are new things is mind numbing. Because you see it on television doesn’t make it real, it just makes it scripted. You don’t get to tell people who they love, who they are and why they are the way they are. You don’t. This isn’t about your religion, or your family, or you. It’s about other people, people who had to hide for far too long. Do you truly believe there is a ‘gay agenda’? To…what, turn people gay? Like they are vampires? Come on. I don’t like watching ANYONE kiss, whatever their sexuality but I don’t get an option. You can’t fill the airwaves and radios up with overt sexuality and act like you are offended by gays and trans people. And you can’t act as if you don’t watch or listen because the stuff wouldn’t exist if that was the case. Alas, we don’t get to hide from the world and not have things ‘in our face’. That’s not the world we live in. The more you hide from the world and the more we hide our children the less of a chance they have at the future being built beneath their feet. If you can’t figure out how to tell your kids that sometimes a man loves a man or a woman loves a woman you’re screwed. Yeah, there are a lot of complicated topics and discussions you have to have but the more you hide the world from your children the less they will understand it and the more apt they are to run full tilt into the worst the world has to offer just to see what it’s all about. Gays and trans people are not your problem. Trust me.

Women are trying to take emasculate men.

Uh, except not. Women are tired of being treated as +1s to men. They are tired of being seen as valuable only from the chest down. They are tired of a world that tries to sexualize every aspect of them but won’t deal with their true, open sexuality. None of this is new. None of this is a newsflash. For some stupid reason a boys club of gamers got their knickers in a twist when, oh my gosh, women gamers wanted to not be treated like crap. Oh, sure, it gets all wound up in the controversies of how people lead their personal lives, as if that’s something more than high school gossipmongering, but at its core this imagined movement has never disappeared. It’s feminism, has been feminism, and remains feminism. And all that is, at its core, is a demand to be treated as equals across the boards and not as objects or foils.

The list can go on and on, truly, and we all know that.

The problem is that we are in a time where so much is changing that we’re caught up in the notion of Freedom and our rights and we forget that Freedom and Rights are not solitary things but are about the body politic, about the People as a whole. The glory of Freedom, what it means, really means is not the ability to have everything you feel you want, but to protect the things you need. It is the willingness to let go of things when it means that your fellow citizens are harmed, physically or emotionally by said Freedoms. It isn’t about giving up guns, it’s about appreciating that you don’t need to carry one on your person at all times because you want to. It’s not about YOU! You can still own the guns. You can still shoot the guns. You just can’t act as if the country is the Wild West and you need to play at being sheriff because many of us, many of your fellow citizens, don’t feel safe when you do that. YOU become the bad guys to us. Sometimes we need to understand that in order for the whole of the country to celebrate Freedom we need to personally limit the freedoms we enjoy, not because we are told to but because it’s the right thing to do.

This nation is undergoing so much change right now that it’s hard to wrap our heads around. We are told what to believe, what to feel and are shamed when we don’t show enough empathy for this or that. It’s not just confusing, it’s frustrating. I can appreciate that. The landscape, thanks to social media, changes daily and it’s hard to keep your head straight. But now more than ever is the time to challenge each other, to challenge our understanding of Freedom, to challenge our understanding of the things that make America great, and most of all to challenge ourselves. Too many lives are being lost. Too many people are being lost. Too much of our national soul is being lost. It’s not about us as individuals and we need to see that. This is about We The People. We don’t have to agree, we don’t have to accept, but we have to respect that we are all different but are all here together. Our nation has lost its civility, a thing from an era many seem to hold in great reverence. Perhaps it’s time we did turn our heads towards the past, if just a little, to regain some of that lost civility and to remember that when it’s all over, we all live, we all love, and we all die and those three things are more important than anything else and far more important than the petty things that divide us.


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