In America, one of our basic freedoms is freedom of speech. Yes, it’s your First Amendment right to speak your mind, voice your opinion, wave your freak flag, and/or poke fun at your elected officials or anyone else for that matter. Simply put, people can open the mansions of their minds to the unsupportive, unsuspecting, and unspecified universe at large, and no one can tell them to “Shut the front door!” Hopefully, such people can find an appreciative, if not patient enough, audience to avoid being offered a Hawaiian Punch, a blind ear, or other such dismissals of drivel that we are all taught as reactions to the abundance of cosmic debris that has invaded our lives and that has absolutely nothing to do with our realities. As we all know, it’s only our opinions that make any logical sense (at least to ourselves).
To balance this, we have created a class of society whose job—yes job—it is to tell us where we are blocked from our pursuit of freedom by RULES that don’t suit anyone but the enforcer of those rules. To wit: the postal clerk that will tell you that you cannot send newspapers or magazines at the “Media Mail” rate because they are not considered “media.” (You’re thinking, “Well, what the heck are they?”) Or a U.S. postal worker who explains that although it is their job to bring the mail to you, they only take mail from you as a courtesy (read: they don’t have to). This brings questions from the elder person without transportation who would need to pay bills by mail.
I have Winn Dixie wanting to swipe my driver’s license into their computer before they’ll sell me beer, although I am over three times the drinking age and look it! The rules are the rules; sorry, you need exact change to ride this bus.
These seemingly illogical edicts are delivered by stony countenances that we’ve come to regard as RBF (Resting Bitch Faces), and you’ve seen them: the check-out person who disregards your brought-with-you grocery bags and proceeds to put one item per plastic bag in your cart or makes you bag your own groceries by ignoring you altogether; the policeperson that gives you the RBF when you question why it took three hours for them to respond to a call; or, the meter maid who doesn’t care if you dashed into a shop to get change, he or she has already given you a citation (citation?). That tow truck guy, the impassive receptionist, invisible sales clerks, city workers that came to fix a water leak and left a Rhode Island-sized crater outside your home. Not my job.
You wonder about how that travels up the chain of local government at every level, a streetcar to nowhere, a major thoroughfare closed for years for repairs (?), some streets paved and others resembling moonscapes. Who’s in charge? You phone to suggest that recycling containers, logically, should not look the same as trash bins; no one answers your calls or email messages. Your public swimming pool closes on Labor Day while it’s still hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk, and the answer you get is “lack of funding.” A fire hydrant outside of Matassa’s Grocery Store on St. Philip Street has been leaking for four years and goes unrepaired. It’s too easy to become used to this and to suck it up as part of the price you pay for living in paradise. Or not.
Disillusionment can lead to complacency can lead to laziness; complaining can become annoying and fruitless; lack of results can leave a feeling of impotence, and you can just give the flip-up. We all suspect that, really, whoever wins an election is not going to fulfill campaign promises to make our lives better, safer, and more prosperous; that all of the idealistic movements in the world really don’t take root for decades, and then only when someone can make a profit from them. We all know that there are senseless wars, killings, slaveries, injustices, oppressions, and suppressions that are based solely on greed. We see the world in a mess because of the human condition of turning a blind eye to the future of this planet. I once had a young man tell me that his religion basically told him that he could do whatever he wanted to do, commit any level of inconsideration, as long as he was sorry about it sometime before he died.
So, how did we get here? Greed? Power? Spiritual amnesia? Psychic anesthesia? Name your poison, it’s all available as an excuse for not being right with the world. Four young men between the ages of 18 and 21 beat two tourists unconscious at 3:30 in the afternoon on a busy street and we’re all outraged. Question one: where did our children learn that this was acceptable behavior, and how did they learn to rob and injure so efficiently? A high-profile musician embezzles public funds and diverts them for his own greedy enterprises. A Louisiana governor cuts funding for higher education and finances his run for president. Parents beat their children to teach them “lessons.” Domestic violence and football games—refer back to question one. And us? When do we think about what we’re learning and teaching and how we set examples by our actions?
Here’s a sort of an answer: take responsibility for your behavior on a daily basis. Act as though you are going to live forever in this mess; start cleaning up and stop wasting time, your health, your mental well-being, your legacy. Pick up litter. Observe patience patiently. Don’t engage in negativity; say something positive to everyone you speak to. Tell the people you love that you love them. Practice the principles of right speech, right actions, and right thoughts. Don’t put up with bullsh*t. Consider you might be wrong. Give a damn. Well, what do you know? I’m preaching to the choir.