Sunday, September 27, 2015

Parking Lots and other anonymous venues

What is it about parking lots? They seem to bring on the worst in people.

Honestly, do people who are probably perfectly reasonable people in real life become total jerks when they get into a parking lot. Or do the people who are actually jerks in real life just stand out when it comes to a space with defined parameters such as a parking lot.

Of course, it may also depend on the parking lot. The parking lot at the grocery store where we shop is one of the most ill-planned, ill-conceived parking lots in the world. Seriously, I have been shopping at this shopping center for years,and still, once a week as I look for a space I say out loud "Whoever designed this parking lot has a lot to answer for."  It is so strikingly badly designed that it hits you every time how awful it is, even after years.

I actually expect people to be disgruntled in this parking lot. This parking lot gives credence to those who believe in karma, or Feng Shui, or the laws of attraction, or just plain good energy vs bad energy.  This parking lot would be a great place for Dante's sign--Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here.

So, what is it that allows people to become or exhibit hateful behavior towards random strangers in a parking lot? I think, it's the anonymity. Anonymity is often used to be hateful to others. Now I don't get it, and you probably don't get it--but there it is. Some people are so immature and miserable in their own skin that being hateful to other people somehow makes them feel superior--andall the more so if it is done anonymously, so that it isn't someone who can actually tell them they are wrong and knock it off.

Social media acts this way too--people who wouldn't dream of saying bigoted, or racist, or downright mean things in real life can use the anonymity of social media to attack other people. Just last nght on facebook, someone decided that the profile picture I use of my late husband and I sharing a kiss looked like two men kissing. So I received messages telling me I was an abomination, God hates me and I deserve to die. Now, I am no stranger to being criticized for my appearance--I am after all The Fat Lady, and I was the Fat girl, strangers choosing to tell me how ugly they found me has always been part of my experience. But, I don't remember  being told I deserve to die before--simply because some old fool thought I was a man kissing another man. The worst part may have been the old fools profile picture-a man standing in front of a Cross wearing a clerical collar.

Now lest we think it is technology that has allowed this to flourish, let me share that those who have lived prior to the cyber get will probably remember the anonymity of slam books. What is a slam book, you younger folks might ask? Well, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and The Fat Lady was in junior high and high school, the mean girls (and guys) would take a spiral notebook and write hateful ugly comments about a person. This notebook would then pass from mean girl to mean girl and when it was full it would be slipped under the door of your locker or in your desk so that you could read just how ugly and awful and what terrible things you deserved to happen to you. All anonymously of course. So, the technology has changed but the intent is still there. Use anonymity to make yourself feel superior by bullying and humiliating someone who fits your description of "other".

It's wrong. It has always been wrong. But, unfortunately it has become more open--hell, even presidential candidates are doing it these days, and a certain segment of society is reveling in it and feeling like that gives them permission. So, those who would kill a man because of his skin color a hundred years ago are still around. Yes, they are still killing people, but they are also using social media to vent their hate. It's just wrong. And honestly, not enough of us who know its wrong are saying its wrong. When our politicians, our religious leaders are modeling hate--it becomes all too easy for those who hate to feel justified. AND IT IS WRONG!!!

Some days I think must have fallen asleep and awakened in a different universe. Or maybe I am just getting old,but honestly, I don't remember civil discourse being so polarized and divided when I was younger. People have always disagreed, not seen eye to eye on things from religion to politics to current events to sports. I think, back before we communicated through a keyboard we remembered that those we disagreed with were fellow human beings because we were looking them in the eye.It was possible to engage in spirited debate and still remain civil.

It is possible to have friends that you are diametrically opposed to what they support and still remain friends. I know this because it is true in my life. I have friends from all political and religious parts of the spectrum and we love each other. I think it maybe because while we can think the  person is wrong or misguided we can respect that they have the right to feel and believe what they do. We understand that people can honestly look at things and understand them differently. Different doesn't mean someone is right and someone is wrong, it simply means different.And, honestly, differences can be discussed without demonizing or marginalizing the other persons opinion. In fact, as members of society we should each make it our project to bring the civic conversations in this country back to this.Because, the truth is, words have power, and you have no way of knowing who you are hurting with your words.

So, whether it is the guy in the parking lot yelling at me because I parked in a regular parking space rather than the handicap space my license plate entitles me to--yes that happened--or it is some anonymous stranger on Facebook choosing to tell me I deserve to die, we need to stand up and say it is wrong. Knock it off.

Just knock it off. Yes, I know the people I really want to say that to won't be reading my blog...but honestly, it needs to be said.


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