Monday, June 28, 2010

Crabs in a Bucket: Why Am I Still So Shocked by the Incivility of the Right?

Let's get something straight: I am not a political pundit. I have no investment in recruiting impressionable minds to join my particular ideological team.

No, I am just a regular person who is not afraid to speak her mind, especially when people ask me what I think and how I came to think it. 

I believe what I believe because I feel--I deeply know--that it is right. By "right," I mean moral. That's where I'm coming from, politically. But isn't that, usually, what everyone claims?

Morality, to my mind, equals caring. It goes hand in hand with civility, and generosity, and all things that are Good and Kind.

I vote the way I do because I hope to make the world a better place. I want the earth to be saved; I want people to be healthy; I want people to be better educated, safer, happier. I want the wars to end.

Lately, however, I feel as though some people are like crabs in a bucket; they are desperately trying to pull back down the ones that have almost climbed out of the death trap and are getting away.

"If I can't have or didn't have that (freedom or benefit), then neither should you!" the crabs in the bucket might as well be saying.

I just do not undestand the mentality that declares with outrage, "I'm not going to pay for you!" 

I do understand that everyone works hard for what they have, that we all deserve not to be held back by government or have too much taken away in terms of our personal income. At the same time, as a regular person with a regular family income, I have no problem whatsoever sharing with other people. 

It stuns me that people who are rolling in money find all the tax breaks and loopholes and utterly refuse to let any dollar bills slip from between their greedy little fingers. 

I would give my last $20 (and, in fact, I did at one point) to someone who needed it more.

When I first started teaching, I had so little money in my paycheck, it was insane. One Sunday afternoon, I wanted to take my kids out for gelato in Philadelphia, and I was driving into the city, literally counting change and trying to figure out where I could park for free.

A man whose car had broken down (filled with family members inside) flagged me down, and begged me for $20. He had scraped together $80, but he needed that last bit in order to pay for a tow to get off the side of the busy highway. 

I felt really bad for him and I gave him the money. I couldn't imagine not doing so.

After I handed it over and once I had driven away, I was, however, mad at myself. Now, I was out that money, and I needed money, too, and why was I such a bleeding heart? I felt sort of like crying, actually. 

And then I looked inside my glove box and miraculously, there was another $20. I had shared, and it was going to be okay for everyone involved.

That's how society--civilized society--works. We all contribute a portion of our income, through taxes, to programs that improve the lives of everyone else.

No one really likes parting with money, and I am no exception, but we do it willingly, anyway, because of the Greater Good, and because we ourselves are helped when we help other people.

We aren't crabs in a bucket. And also, of course, no man is an island. We need each other; we need to think of each other.

We also need to stop yelling obnoxious slurs at our elected political leaders or shout from the peanut gallery of Congress that they are "liars" (what that even means in our current president's case, I have no idea. And save it, wingies, I don't want to hear it, either. I lived through the long and hard Bush years and I hated every minute just as much as you seem to be hating things now).

I already knew that one side of the political spectrum was a bit, shall we say, crankier than the other. Still, the amount of bizarro messages I've received lately, the hateful things that have been written about me by people who only caught a whiff of the fact that I am a proud Democrat who (heaven forbid!) held a teaching post--has shocked me deeply.

I can't even count how many frighteningly weird, right-wing blogs there seem to be out there, and how many readers of those blogs seem to gleefully engage in vicious, hateful commentary about people they do not know.

I am also really stunned by the number of "conservatives" who truly appear to loathe teachers. Why the distrust of educators? When I was growing up, I and everyone I know was at some point or another "humiliated"--and quite purposely, too--by our teachers. It helped us mature, actually. (If you don't like the "nanny state" idea, then why are parents interfering so much in educational matters?)

Things are much different now. I always fell all over myself to be sweet and accomodating as a teacher. I was probably one of the nicest teachers around. And still, I find myself on the receiving end of all sorts of undeserved vitriol, as a former teacher.

Do Democrats do the same thing and act the same way? I think not. In all my online travels, I have only seen a handful of "liberal" blogs, and all of them have been remarkably civilized, actually. If anything, they are usually just mildly satirical. Nothing I've seen was ever hateful; no liberal publications I've read have ever threatened violence or been filled with ominous images of guns. Blogs from the other side? That's a much different story.

I guess that ideological differences really do run far deeper than red or blue, pro-small government or pro-social programs. They seem to also indicate incivility (and much worse), in the case of one, and generosity, manners, and compassion for humanity in the case of the other.

What happened to civility in American civilization? What happened to caring about other people? That's what I teach my own kids: if we want a strong society that can accomplish great things, we need, first and foremost, to be kind to one another.


  1. I just have to say, as a parent of a 9 year old, I wish he had you as a teacher.

    My mantra has been for many years "People are stupid" because it has be proven to me over and over and over again. Its really quite sad and distrubing when you think about it.

    All I can do, and teach my son to do, is have a open mind, believe in Karma and do the best you can do, for yourself and for others.

  2. Nicely put, Nyven, and thanks so much for the kind sentiment.

    I often feel "people are stupid," too--but I do know that there are many people who aren't stupid. They are just keeping quiet, for whatever reason.

    The good news is the "stupid" cannot be the majority of us, I think. And there is a cure for stupid: it's called education and yes, as you note, "having an open mind."

    Be well;


  3. People are freaks, some of them. They are so angy, and over what? Over the fact that other people care? Maybe they are reacting to the guilty feeling they must have somewhere deep inside their three-sizes-too-small hearts.

    You are amaaazzing!

  4. Thanks, Meg. I assume you mean "angry" ;-), but you might have coined a new term--somewhere between "angsty" and "angry." I like it.

    I have a philosophy about people who criticize me for not changing my name after I got married on-so-many-years-ago: I think the women who harp on that are jealous that they didn't have the guts to preserve their own identities, perhaps. Crabs in a bucket. Again.

    Thanks for reading,