I'm a writer. I’ve only just started calling myself that, thanks in large part to Ravishly and the platform they’ve given me to write my words and say my things. Since I’ve decided to call myself writer, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time deciding what exactly to write. The thing about being a writer is it’s generally assumed that you have something to say, that you have opinions to share. So I’ve been sitting here, for months, trying to figure out what my opinions are and how best to articulate them.
Considering that the overall theme of 2016 has been “man, this shit is fucked up," I’ve had ample opportunity to figure out where I stand on pretty much ALL the things. I’ve thought about racism and sexism, ableism, ageism, education, mental illness, and on and on and on. I feel like I’ve made some headway into forming opinions and I’ve written some stuff about some stuff.
Prior to all this soul-searching and self-realization, my main opinion on pretty much everything was simple.
Don’t be an asshole.
Pretty straightforward. Concise. The Golden Rule and all that.
Throughout all my figuring and pondering and weighing of the issues, I kept it close. Don’t be an asshole is my barometer. It’s my go-to for figuring out how to respond to any given situation, big or small, personal, local, or global.
The only problem is that it’s TOO concise. There is only so much you can say about not being an asshole. There’s not much nuance there, not much to discuss. There is no gray. And it’s tough to write in black and white. I could spend my writing time calling out people who ARE assholes and expositing on where they fall on the don’t be an asshole barometer. But that would be an asshole thing to do.
How can I not be an asshole to you when you are an asshole to everyone who isn’t like you? Do you deserve it? Do you deserve people not being an asshole to you?
I could write about all the ways people are assholes unintentionally, to others and to themselves. A lot of people are already writing about that though. That field is saturated. That dead horse is already being beaten.
I could write about ways to not be an asshole, but that’s pretty presumptuous on my part. I mean, who’s to say I’m actually getting it right (hint, no one. Because I’m not. It’s hard not to be an asshole sometimes. Like at the grocery store. I’m always an asshole at the grocery store).
The way things stand in the world today, it seems like everyone is trying to out-asshole everyone else. So how are we supposed to step it up, find our light, and not be assholes in the face of such epic asshole-dom?
I dunno, man, I really don’t. I mean, be nice to people, obviously. That’s a good place to start. Smile at people in the grocery store. Let that person cut in in traffic. Be pleasant. Other than though, when it comes to the big stuff, I don’t know. How can you not be an asshole to someone who thinks you and your entire family should be deported? Or have your legally binding marriage dissolved? Or be cured of “the gay”? How can you be kind to people who are not kind to others?
That kind of psychic f*ckall takes a toll on a person.
It makes it REALLY hard to believe that “don’t be an asshole” can feasibly exist as an axiom. How can I not be an asshole to you when you are an asshole to everyone who isn’t like you? Do you deserve it? Do you deserve people not being an asshole to you? And what does that accomplish? If everyone is nice and pleasant and brings light to people who are peddling hate, or even just ignorant of the current social-political climate, then doesn’t that make me complicit? Doesn’t that make me an asshole?
I’m not quite that enlightened yet. I’m trying, but I’m not there.
I’m still too raw, too nervy, too much in my own ego. I know that’s the right path, but seriously, I just can’t. Not right now. Not in the midst of all this. Maybe in four years or so, my light will come back, and until then I’ll do my best — but chances are, I won’t be able to muster up love or empathy or sensitivity for the people who can’t or won’t do the same for large swathes of the population.
Don’t be an asshole. Unless you’re surrounded by assholes, then just do your best.