I recently saw one of those bumper stickers that says, "My kid beat up your honor student at such and such a high school" which, after a chuckle, gave me pause. While I appreciate the sarcasm, the sentiment behind the words--and the approval given therein, is a bit disturbing. I've been shocked lately by how many things are overlooked or accepted for the mere reason that there is a relationship with the people involved.
I admit it--I'm a painter that uses pigments of such variety and intensity, radiance, hue, luscious color--and yet I am absolutely guilty of black and white vision.
In a world where tolerance and acceptance reign supreme, I find myself the weary champion of common sense and distance. I am on the horse, sword in hand, charging the hoard of justification and explanations, the masses of excuse.
Why does it seem that when a person has a relationship with another--be it friendship, romance, or family--that judgement and perception become skewed as if reflected in a funhouse mirror? Stretched and smashed into a ludicrous replica of reality?
Everyone is quite horrified at the young mother who leaves her children in a state-funded daycare as she ditches work to indulge in "carnal frivolity" for the afternoon--yet the horror evaporates when it's whats-her-head's sister who is "going through a rough patch" with her boyfriend.
We're incensed at "Joe" who quits looking for a job and rides out the unemployment train for 6 months while playing guitar hero and eating nachos--until it's somebody's son who "just really needs a break right now."
"You can't blame poor Jane next door for having an affair--she's so lonely when her husband travels..."
We dismiss selfishness, explain affairs, justify cheating, even excuse stealing--all due simply to our proximity to the situation. What ever happened to distance? If you watched that particular movie on television, with total strangers making those choices, would you feel the same? Are we compromising our morality or are we merely a victim of familiar manipulation?
There is a right and a wrong.
I've lost friends over this, offended family, and irritated total strangers.
I am exhausted from listening to 40 minute defenses of the most irrational and destructive behavior. Since when do I need to agree with something simply because I know someone?? Where has our independent judgement gone?
Perhaps we allow or approve so as to leave room for our own possible indiscretions?
Are we splintering our evaluations? Fragmenting our ethics?
Please don't misunderstand--I am guilty beyond measure of several of the issues I raise....and I know it. Today I listened as a teacher at a local college told me how dumbfounded she was as she had caught two students cheating. And at the end of class, another--previously completely unknown--came to her and said, "I too, cheated." She almost hugged her.
Screwing up is human. Mistakes are not optional--they're part of our genetic make-up. It's how we learn, how we grow.....every chef has burned hundreds of meals. Every dancer falls, every painter paints one...make that dozens, that she covers in white gesso....and begins again.
However--it is in the knowing it is a mistake, in the admission....that is where we grow. To excuse is to stunt.
I am heartsick at some of the twisted shriveled vines that might have been magnificent trees....simply because they excuse, rather than admit.
Two of my favorite quotes:
"Don't compromise yourself; you are all you got." Janis Joplin
"You don't get to choose how you are going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now." Joan Baez
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