STFU….Seriously

“Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.”
~Epictetus

A few days ago, I was at the grocery store pushing a cart full of mostly high fructose corn  syrup with a side of kale when a woman stopped in the tracks of her own shopping and with a wrinkled, crinkled look on her face said, “Wow, that’s a garbage cart of food.  If you can even call that food.  That’s disgusting.”

Prologue:  It’s been a long couple of months, right?  For everyone.  It’s like someone with explosive diarrhea has been bent over a fan and the shit just keeps on coming.

But in the grand scheme of things, I have to admit that my struggles have been more akin to inconveniences than anything else.

I am healthy, my family and friends are healthy, we remain employed and alive and the toilet paper situation in my area made a comeback before I had to resort to using a hose or something.  So, while I am most definitely weary and tired and frustrated and pissed….I am also grateful, thankful, hopeful and a bit fired up.  I am 32 flavors and then some.

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As it relates to the Coronavirus, my immediate family and I have taken the position that it’s best to listen to the experts.  And by “experts,” I don’t mean a politician, or the herd, or that guy I went to high school with who took a semester of immunobiology at community college before dropping out to pursue a career in sandwich art at Subway, who knows what’s up.

And I don’t mean that girl who sat next to me in “Human Genetics for Non-Science Majors” my freshman year of college, who thinks that the X-Files was a documentary and believes all will be well if we all just start taking some drug Donald Trump can barely pronounce.

By “experts,” I mean the thousands of medical doctors and PhD’s around the world who have devoted their lives and their careers to the study of infectious disease and SCIENCE.

I don’t expect them to have all the answers right now, because how can they?  But, I expect and believe, they are doing their best to shuttle us through this storm, unmotivated by anything other than the health and well-being of people.

Of late though, it’s beginning to feel as though many aren’t so like-minded.  It’s as if we did our quarantine time and then said, “Fuck-It, Facebook memes and a plastic surgeon from Miami said I can go whoop it up at the bar, so peace out sheeple, there’s a Miller Lite and Cheeseburger in Paradise calling my name!”

Or, those who have taken up shouting, “You got to protest and loot, so I get to cough and sneeze on whoever TF I want at Walmart.”

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Quite frankly, this is just more motivation for me to mostly remain at home.  I figure I’m going to go ahead and let the trash take itself out first, and then we’ll see where things stand.

But look, I get it, it’s not exactly that easy.  On a larger scale, we need to be able to regain some degree of normalcy.  Social interaction and the freedom to roam beyond our own homes and front yards is important.  And I am all for the phased approach to reopening that many states, including my own, have adopted; plans that align entirely with the medical communities recommendations for taking such steps.

For my kids, the lack of social interaction with their peers, especially for my teenaged step-children, has been really hard.  So when my step-daughter broached the subject of inviting her best-friend to spend two weeks with us at our lake house, where we’ve been living full time since March, (yeah, I hear every bit of the privilege oozing off that statement), we decided, after much back and forth between parents, that it would be OK. Like us, her family works from home and they have strictly adhered to all the rules.

“Give me a list of the snacks and foods you’d like from the store,” I told my excited step-daughter as the visit approached….which is how I ended up being shamed by a stranger for my cart full of high-fructose corn syrup.

I paused for a fraction of a second….after the word “disgusting” fell from the woman’s mouth.

And then, maybe it was because she was traveling the wrong way down the clearly marked supermarket aisle.  Maybe it was because she wasn’t wearing a mask.

Maybe it was because I’m just really sick and tired of people who wrap up their nastiness in packages dripping with self-righteousness and ignorance, and launch them at humanity….regardless of whether or not the receiver is interested in catching the gift of their opinion and/or their “right to free speech.”

Personally, I am about as interested in catching someone else’s BS, as I am trying to catch a handful of cat vomit….with my mouth.

Probably, it was those things and all the other things, because I looked her square in the eye and as clearly and succinctly as I could, I said, “Shut.  The.  Fuck.  Up.”

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Her eyes widened in shock and her face turned red as she clearly struggled to adjust to what I’d just said.  This wasn’t the script she’d planned.  She’d expected me to explain myself to her in some way, as though I were obligated to assuage her concerns over my dietary decisions.  Well, fuck that.

Epilogue: This has been the banner under which I’ve been marching of late, on a variety of topics.

Because, let’s be clear about something.  Your right to free speech was never meant to be the excuse you hide behind in order to be an asshole.  If your words and opinions are intended to hurt, humiliate, degrade, oppress, belittle, etc., another human being, you are among the poster people for all that is wrong with our country.  You should be ashamed that this is the way you choose to honor those who gave all.

If I stand up in a crowded movie theater and yell, “FIRE!”  And mass chaos ensues and people are injured as a result, I don’t get to simply shrug and say, “I have a right to say whatever I want, because, America.”

But, I can devalue another person.  I can set another persons soul and feelings on fire, for no other reason than it just happens to be what I think and believe….and that’s OK?  I think any good person would say, absolutely not.

So, STFU, is the sentiment that perfectly sums up the degree of respect I have for anyone who believes they have the right to inflict their own personal feelings and beliefs onto another person.  Especially when in doing so, they are attempting to wield some manner of control over someone else’s life and personal choices and beliefs.

“But what about the value of healthy debate?  It’s OK to disagree!”

Of course it is.  But a person who starts from a place of believing it’s OK to inflict cruelty in any form, isn’t interested in debate, or education, or the broadening of horizons.  They are interested in control.  They want only to force others to surrender and conform and for those who don’t, to be violated, or cast out.

We are all walking some kind of path in life.  Paths that will include all manner of beliefs and opinions and feelings and our paths will cross millions of times with others who are walking their own paths.  Sometimes, we’ll find people we want to walk beside and keep close by.

Other times, we’ll cross paths with people with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  And you know what, it’s really simple to just keep on walking…