"He's looking at me funny!"
"She's in my space!"
Anyone who was raised with siblings remembers these words, spoken with loud and victimized voices. Strapped in the family car, with no recourse to other forms of play, kids often took the easiest path of entertainment: Taunt a sister or brother without physically touching them. The favorite means was to place a finger two inches from a face while repeating, "I'm not touching you!"
These days, many of us, supposedly adults, seem to have regressed to child-like meltdowns. Perhaps it is the constant reminder of the number of covid-19 infections and deaths, wondering if we will become a portion of those statistics. Political leaders chastise each other for doing too much or too little to control the epidemic. The messaging seems to change daily: Wear a mask, or don't wear a mask if it upsets you. Shut down businesses; no, let them work. School children will be fine. No, they will only prolong this plague if they go back to school. We should be more restrictive. No, we should open up and learn to live with the disease. Or die from the disease. Hey, we're all going to die, right?
We go to a store, and we're told to put on a mask. We wear a mask in a store, and someone not wearing one yells and says you're a victim of a hoax. Don't wear a mask, and you are shamed as a contributor to the ongoing crisis. A business politely asks a patron to wear a mask, and the patron responds by sitting on the floor, screaming about his rights. It's not all about the virus. Political discourse has sunk to all-time lows in civil behavior. No one wants to argue in a calm and considered fashion. No one wants to hear facts that contradict their own thinking. Everything is "them or us," black or white, with no shades of grey. No one is willing to compromise. Let's just keep fighting. Let our emotions overtake our intellect.
No wonder we all seem to be so angry so much of the time. We never know when the next attack will come, or what the next outrage is we must endure. Perhaps that explains why the police are called when someone asks that a dog be leashed in a park. Does it also explain the shooting by someone because they were cut off in traffic? Ask a stranger for directions, and their reply is to pull out a gun and shoot. A wife stabs her husband because he didn't like the spaghetti she made. Someone took offense at being observed. Is that deserving of a physical beating, even to the point of death? Maybe we are all just looking for some reason to lash out, enjoying that rush of adrenaline and dopamine to make us feel better. The reward to the brain and ego is short-lived, though, once we realize the consequences of poor decisions.
Maybe we should all just learn to grow up again. Ignore the insult instead of responding. Reply with grace instead of anger. We can be vigilant without being vigilantes. A person's outward appearance does not reflect their character, so be slow to judge. People will cut you off in traffic, just let it go.
Most of all, maybe we should start living with the idea that something better is coming. Let's ride in the car without annoying our fellow travelers. We can get to our destination in a much better mood.
-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.