I am normally an even-tempered person. I find ways to avoid confrontation, I seldom pick fights, and when I do I pick my battles wisely. There's a whole lotta room to roam on the friendly and well-mannered side of the line. In fact, most people don't realise that there's another side.
But then something or someone crosses it. And all bets are off.
Tonight, I read this post by my friend Lulu, who'd gotten caught in a ruckus in the comments of another blog. It all started with a reasonable post about children and television watching. I would post the link to the original, but the blog owner has already had to deal with a firestorm and it seems unfair to contribute further than I already have. And while I read the original post and the comments about television, this quickly became about something else for me.
I really dislike it when people use sweeping generalisations to pigeon-hole others. I really hate it when they are so full of themselves and their inflated sense of self that they assume all people not making the same life choices must be unfulfilled. I hate it when people insult others with knowingly inflammatory language, and then when they are called on it plead that they were only stating their opinions and didn't really mean it.
I hate it even more when they spend time defending themselves and don't do the honorable thing and apologise immediately. People aren't perfect. We say and do things that are perhaps not the best choice, and when we do we owe it to the world to apologise to those we've wronged. In my opinion, those who don't understand this haven't just MADE a mistake, they ARE a mistake.
And most of all, I hate it when someone insults one of my friends.
This is the sort of exchange I witnessed, all directed by one person towards my friend Lulu. And it made me mad. Really mad, actually. Over-the-line Angry.
And once we're on the other side of the line, I no longer try to exercise restraint. I do that 95% of the time. On the Other Side of the Line, I practice the Doppelganger Golden Rule, letting others' behaviour determine how I treat them. Lash out at strangers with sweeping generalisations? Fine, if those are the rules, let the games begin. Call others names intentionally to hurt them? Bring it on...I'm an English major and I've got the vocabulary to put up a fight. You want vitriol, you got it.
Which brings me to what I hate most about incivility. It turns me into the thing I hate.
First I lashed out in the original post comments. Then I lashed out again at the offending person in Lulu's comments. And when I say lashed out, we're talking a Cat o' Nine Tails the Blood of Jesus kit can only dream about. The blog owner reprimanded me, and rightly so. I apologised, and I deleted both comments so as not to cause further trouble. While my opinions on the matter haven't changed, I will express them here, where I own the conversation and I set the rules.
I watched a lot of TV as a kid in the sixties and seventies. (Which makes me MIDDLE AGED, just like Lulu.) But things have changed since our time, and children get exposed to all sorts of electronic media, likely causing an overload that is not healthy for them. I've watched my brother and sister-in-law raise my nephews with no television and limited video watching in their home. I've watched many of my friends do the same with their kids, all in an attempt to teach their children to be inquisitive and imaginative and self-entertaining. And it seems to work well, so I heartily endorse this policy.
I am sure many children who are allowed television and videos as part of their daily life still turn out fine. I'm sure the mean-spirited woman who attacked Lu is not actually hurting her children with television, and will likely not raise morons who sit on the sofa and play Grand Theft Auto 75, even though that is what I accused her of in my anger. But I do, however, maintain that part of good parenting is setting a good example. And while her children likely don't read her blog comments, if the lack of civility she has displayed recently online is any indication of her interpersonal skills in the real world, I maintain they have bigger problems than television.
And for my lack of civility? I hate it, and I am sorry to offend. But I don't have children, so the world is safe. (And I still think that woman is a closed-minded, sanctimonious twat, but I will keep that to myself from now on.)