As I was thinking about this post, I realized there was no way for me to write it without coming off as wildly hypocritical. I understand and accept this and hope that my self-awareness will lessen the blow a little bit. I am a giant, raging hypocrite, my friends; do as I say, not as I do.
This past week, I was looking at the Facebook page of an old high school classmate – Mr. Smith (of the Smith family I mentioned in this dream). I blocked his status updates years ago, when he first met his now-wife and began a series of public declarations of affection that I had no desire to see on my feed every day, but I still check on him from time to time to see pictures of his kids and see how he’s doing.
Ever since he got married, it’s been clear that Mr. Smith and I have very little in common anymore. However, a series of recent posts made me realize just how far we’ve diverged on our life paths since high school. Mr. Smith has never hidden his political leanings, but his life as an upper middle class suburban father and provider for his family seems to have strengthened his somewhat stereotypically conservative beliefs.
One post was of a video called “The Economics of Sex,” which painted the Pill as the true downfall of women’s sexual enjoyment and, in my opinion, declared men completely blameless for the increase in premarital sexual activity in the US. In another status, Mr. Smith complained about doing taxes, stating that it wasn’t fair that his student loan repayment tax break diminished because he “worked harder” (aka earned more in the past year). Finally, he shared a news story about an Olympian, who, at 23, is married with a child. The headline referred to said Olympian’s “alternative lifestyle.” Mr. Smith took great umbrage at this phrase, exhorting 20-somethings to “grow up” and crying that the media was biased against people who married young.
I unfriended Mr. Smith that night. We haven’t spoken in years, anyway, and I try to keep my list of Facebook friends to around 200 people, but I can’t pretend that most of my decision was based on his increasing show of beliefs that I don’t share.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. Goodness, what a boring world it would be if everyone thought the same. However, I do not approve of widespread beliefs that paint everyone with the same brush and place blame on those different from us. I think Mr. Smith’s recent posts, at best, show ignorance of individual differences and, at worst, hint of a blatant tendency to play the victim. I’m sorry, I just don’t think that the “liberal media” has an agenda against young, married couples with children. Ultimately, though, I think the posts lack compassion. And that’s what I can’t stand.
People are different. People suffer differently. You don’t know, Mr. Smith, why each woman chooses to have sex or go on the Pill. You can’t say that people who earn less than you just aren’t working as hard. It’s just plain rude to suggest that 20-somethings aren’t getting married because they refuse to “grow up.”
This kind of blanket thinking, suggesting that people’s problems are their own fault, because they just don’t know enough or just aren’t trying hard enough, is the same kind of stigma that people with mental illness face every day. I have been extremely fortunate not to have directly encountered many people who have shown such disrespect to me, my brother, or other victims of mental illness, but I know others aren’t so lucky. Please be kind. Please. Be compassionate. You don’t know what everyone else is going through; you don’t know why they make the choices they make, or why their paths are different than yours. Just give them the benefit of the doubt. The implication that you’re doing everything right suggests that others are getting it wrong. No one is getting everything right. We’re just all doing the best we can with what we have.