Two events in the news lately leaving me disappointed – but not surprised – in the reaction of the American and the world populace. Ken Lay dies before going to trial, and Mel Gibson gets picked up for drunk driving and spouts a lot of anti-Semitic speech. The reactions of the vast majority of people to both events has been unbridled sadistic glee. In Ken Lay’s case, people were just sorry that he couldn’t spend time suffering in a jail cell for a while. In Gibson’s case, people were ecstatic that this “pariah” finally got caught with his pants down.
It’s funny – for all the speech about how we as a species are bettering ourselves, improving our capabilities, broadening our thinking and our horizons, there’s an awful lot of low attitudes and childish behaviors going on. I’m not really surprised at the reaction – the cynic in me has long ago given up the notion that people can ever actually be mature and civil toward one another. I recognize that people would much rather act like spoiled children than remember that everyone has faults, that none of us can actually throw that first stone lest we condemn ourselves, that if the shoe were on the other foot we would want a little grace and mercy extended toward us. No, instead we forget all that and heap condemnation, hatred, and bitterness on the heads of those who we feel have done wrong. It’s disappointing to see supposedly high-minded individuals forgetting their self-proclaimed high standards of living to wallow in the same mire as those who have already wronged others.
I don’t condone either Lay or Gibson’s actions. They both clearly did wrong and should have to answer for their decisions before the appropriate parties. I do think, however, that before people spout off their own brand of hate speech and express their venomous attitudes, they need to stop and consider if such behavior is actually good and right and appropriate.
Most won’t, though. Critical thinking is such a lost skill these days. I’m probably talking to a nearly empty choir loft.