I’ve been compelled to write about this topic for a couple months since our wise editor at Lowcountry Weekly posed the question in her Facebook feed: “Will there be a golden age of mercy and forgiveness?”
Firstly, why should there be? Yep, you read that right. Why shouldn’t we usher in an Old Testament-style eye-for-an-eye legislation? Does this sea change have the same effect of the pendulum in Edgar Allen Poe’s famous short story, The Pit and the Pendulum? I’ll leave the reader there for now, their abdomen exposed to a sharp, heavy blade inching its way down from the pit’s cold, stone ceiling.
So, why has cancel culture popped up? What pandemics have been allowed free range of our society to warrant such a swing of the pendulum? As foretold by the title, cancel culture seems more like a cancer to me. One little letter can make the difference. Throw a bunch of poisonous chemicals and radiation at it and perhaps the host survives. Perhaps not. Who really cares? Why should we care what happens if we’re offended, we just want it gone, eradicated, swept off the face of the Earth only we chosen few deserve to walk upon? Pluck them out! Pluck it! Pluck you very much!
Let’s get serious for a minute. Cancel culture is a purely natural reaction to being ignored and pacified for far too long. Oh, abuse exists alright, but it’s the real and/or perceived neglect of decency that’s the worst part. I mean, an anti-lynching bill was introduced around the end of World War 1, taken up by the juggernaut that was our 1st Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and we still haven’t had anything meaningful passed. (Over a century, if your math is as bad as mine.) Some still think Colin Kaepernick was disrespecting the flag that protects his right to peaceful protest of police brutality. Of those people that were and are offended, there’s a significant portion that doesn’t care what he was protesting or if he had a point. They want no explanations. “Shut the eff up and throw the effing ball.” Stop reading if you haven’t already, not talking to y’all. Also not talking to y’all on the other end of that same spectrum. You only want your pound of flesh and damn the consequences. Scorched Earth is how you shorten wars, not build brotherhood and sisterhood.
While we’re cancelling, I’d like to cancel the driver’s license of those that don’t understand merging. Those that won’t turn right on red. Those who drive slow in the fast lane. I don’t understand how someone thinks it’s fine to pull out in front of a fast-moving vehicle and go super slow. I assume they think it’s cool since they’re only going a short distance. I’ll include those that won’t drive a consistent speed. You’re worse than slow drivers. At least the slow drivers know who they are. Yes, let’s cancel their collective licenses tout de suite. No three strikes, you’re out, just BUH BYE!
Each will have to give a bit to meet in the middle, but proliferating the problem by mocking genuine ignorance is no way to go about things. Memes such as, “Oh, we can’t pass gun laws because it treads on your liberty? Tell me more about how we must regulate marriage and vaginas.” (Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka has his sardonic expression looking on.) While memes such as this may be funny and true, it is not helpful.
If you have read my column before, you’re probably waiting for the esoteric turn about now, so here it is: I sense alternate realities all the time, but one that can be viewed on Netflix gives me hope. Bridgerton features a diverse cast that calls very little attention to its diversity. The actors are just the actors. Servants could be black or white or mixed while the same is true for the upper class. Female roles are stronger and more fleshed out. Simply put, it’s refreshing in its anti-clichéness while telling a heck of a compelling story. I submit that alternate realities, by definition, also mean alternate possibilities.
Now, to very real life, we see that Derek Chauvin is, at least, so far, being treated much differently than the Rodney King cops from 30 years ago. This also gives me hope.
Really, I’m talking about all that have been marginalized. Females, for example, were once on equal footing, but we began to fear their feminine power. Thus, we have black marks like the Salem Witch trials. Do those marginalized groups have different souls? Are they really more or less than us? Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I submit that we need diversity to make the whole—to make the “New Earth” or this “5th dimensional paradigm” we claim to seek.
Back to ignorance. Ignorance can be a just excuse as long as genuine strides are made on the group or individual’s part to alleviate said ignorance. I have great gratitude that I am not as ignorant as I once was. Yes, it’s work, but it’s worth it to be a human that the “other side” will want to associate with, potentially be friends with, and then ignore or become blissfully ignorant about said “otherness.” That’s some ignorance I’d like a second helping of please. Let’s intend to enter that “alternate possibility.”
All that said, some people or groups do need their platforms curtailed or cancelled—excised out by skilled surgeons. As with surgery, it should only be a last resort, however. Otherwise, the danger of an itchy trigger finger when triggered, is becoming the ignorance we hate. How to begin? Don’t watch. Don’t attend. Don’t spend.
A way to examine, in ourselves, where we might begin is to meditate on where we may feel superior to others. Not talking about the kind of superiority that is measurable, like driving a golf ball farther than your playing competitors, unless you think that makes you a superior person. If so, that’s as good a place as any to begin. There’s a fine line between cockiness and confidence that must clearly be defined in the individual to have a frank discussion with yourself. It’s a process, not a destination. Once we allow mercy and forgiveness within ourselves as individuals, we can truly usher in a Golden Age.