Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Perspective? I've got your perspective right here!

Okay, I promise soon I will walk away from politics and hissy fits and move on to fluffy bunny posts and some more fiction and fun stuff.  But I have another one here that needs to get out before that happens...

After the name calling slows down or sometimes in the middle of the name calling portion of any debate there is always the "get some perspective" portion. This one is a difficult one for me because on one hand I hate it when people say such things, it makes you sound condescending at best and like a sanctimonious douche-bag at worst. And then on the other hand I have been guilty of it myself which as soon as I post something like that I think oh god you sound like a condescending, sanctimonious douche-bag!

You all know what I am talking about right? Like when a celebrity dies and people are posting about how it makes them sad and then someone else comes in and says, "You know 1,000 children died from starvation yesterday and you didn't shed a single tear." Don't you want to just reach through the computer screen and slap people when they do that? What's the point of it? To show how much more concerned they are, because we are assuming they cried over those deaths? Or to show that because we don't mourn the many we have no right to mourn the few?

Right now I sort of feel like that OPEC argument in the CFA debates is venturing into this territory. The whole, "You are protesting marriage rights yet condone death?" Well, no. It's not that simple. One, I have little to no control over where the US gets their crude oil from but I have complete control over where I get my chicken sandwich from. And two, because I drive a car doesn't mean I condone anything. I would love to be able to change the laws in those countries, but just because I can't that doesn't mean that I shouldn't speak my mind in my country.

There is a psychological part to the mass death vs. single death scenario. Part of it is that humans have a very difficult time imagining large numbers. You can picture 5 people. You can picture 20. You might be able to picture a few thousand, say by thinking about a concert or event. But when you get higher than that you have a hard time visualizing it. And then when you try to add in the concept of them dying? To imagine each one of those lives and the families of each one of those people? You sort of have to stop. Your brain says, nope, this is too much for me so we will think in groups and depersonalize this or you will drive me crazy and I won't have that.

But one or two deaths? We can imagine that. A celebrity that has touched our lives in some way? Even if it's just that you know their name. We can picture that loss. We know how it feels for their families. And yes, if we are fans of their work we can feel that we will miss them as well. People we watch on TV, whose music we listen to, whose movies we watch, they are part of our lives even if we aren't part of theirs. Brent and I watch Deadliest Catch and there is a guy on there, Jake Anderson, he has had a rough life but he seems likes just the nicest kid and has the best smile and you root for him to succeed. Brent and I have both said it, we want good things for this guy. Now we don't know him other than what we've seen over the years watching the show. He has no idea who we are, but if something happened to him I would be sad. From the same show, when Captain Phil Harris died I mourned for him. I was sad for his family, I worried about his boys. And I wasn't the only one. Fans of the show from all over were devastated and grieved. Did we know him? Do we know his boys? Not really. But the grief was still there.

To take it down to a more personal level when my dad died I know that weekend thousand of other people died. I know that somewhere children were starving. I know that we were still fighting two wars and  I know that there was a group of our military men and women who didn't make it through the weekend. But did it make the loss of my father any less devastating to me? Did I even think about those other deaths and those other families? I didn't. When I was at my father-in-law's funeral surrounded by hundreds of men and women in uniform, looking at pictures of him in Afghanistan, listening to the volley of shots being fired, thanking the Patriot Guard for being on hand in case the Westboro Bastards showed up did I spend a lot of time thinking about the hundreds of other military funerals they had all gone to? The fact that his unit was getting ready to ship out again and that some of them might not make it back? No I didn't. On both of those occasions I thought only of my grief. Of my family's grief. Of our loss. Would you have dared tell me that I had lost perspective?

It all reminds me too much of when I was a child and my parents would tell me to stop crying or they would give me something to cry about. Even as a child this just pissed me right the fuck off. Now, I would never have told my parents that they pissed me right the fuck off because then I would have gotten something else to cry about in addition to what I was already crying about. But if I was crying I obviously felt I had something worth crying about. How dare anyone tell you that your feelings aren't valid because there are worse problems? I never used that phrase on C while he was growing up. That's how much I hated it as a child it didn't slip in and become one of those "you just turned into your parents moments" I just banished it from my mind. If he was crying I might try to jolly him out of it, but I never told him that what he felt wasn't worth feeling. That his frustration over not being able to tie his shoe was silly and that if he wanted a real reason to cry I would give him one. I just suggested that he do something else for awhile to calm down.

We've all heard the opening to the Serenity Prayer, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Even if you aren't religious it's a pretty good base to start from. Know what you can change, work towards that. Know what you can't change and let it go. And keep in mind that both are in the world. And please refrain from pointing out to people that they shouldn't be upset about the smaller things if they aren't fighting against the bigger. That they shouldn't mourn the one when they don't mourn the many. Control what you can, let go of the rest and don't be a condescending, sanctimonious douche-bag over someone else's choices.

No comments:

Post a Comment