2013 Favs: Don’t Be a Jerk About It

Jerk

I’m an elected official, which is a spiffy way of saying that I’m a politician.

I am also a blogger.

It would seem, based on those two things, that I must have an opinion about every single thing in the known universe. But that’s not true. In fact, I actually don’t have an opinion about most things. I don’t care if you wear blue shoes or brown, if you shave your head or grow your hair down to your waist.

It matters not to me if you believe that the moon landing was a fraud or that your favorite food is spinach with Kool-Aid. We can still be friends, no matter if you love Bill Clinton or loathe him. Ditto for both Bushes and President Obama.

Here, for your consideration, is a small sampling of the things that I do not care about. Feel free to add your own list of what you don’t care about in the com boxes.

1. I don’t care if you wear a veil to mass. I’m not going to. But if you feel it’s a statement you want to make, whether it’s about sanctity, modesty, or fashion, then be my guest. I’m for you putting whatever you want on your own head.

2. I don’t care if you wear a beard. I only kiss one man and he’s the only man whose hirsutedness matters to me. The rest of you can go slick or bearded or some version in between. It is, after all, your face.

3. I don’t care if you think Halloween is verboten, or you’ve been designing your costume for months. That is your call.Don t be a jerk

Now we come to the I don’t cares with a caveat, and that caveat is, don’t be a jerk about it.

4. I don’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

5. I don’t care if you are a vegetarian or a meat eater. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

6. I don’t care if you are an atheist or an evangelist. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

7. I don’t care if you are gay or straight. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

8. I don’t care if you are a Protestant or a Catholic. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

9. I don’t even care if you are smart or stupid. But if you are smart, for pete’s sake, don’t be a jerk about it.

What, exactly, does “don’t be a jerk about it” mean? I could reference Jehovah’s Witnesses on Saturday morning. But, Jehovah’s Witnesses on Saturday morning do not even begin to sink to the level of self-righteous, mean-spirited, carping jerkiness that born again Republican/Democrat/vegetarian/atheist/gay/straight/protestant/Catholic/smarties can be. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses on Saturday mornings are, in my experience, unfailingly polite and soft spoken. I have never had one of them call me a single name for telling them that I can’t talk now.

The jerks I’m talking about have their pictures in the dictionary right next to holier-than-thou and cross referenced with bully, rude and vulgar.

The trouble in describing this particular flavor of jerkiness is that we’ve lost the common basis for what constitutes healthy human interaction. We can’t define it, so we also can’t define what it’s not. That allows jerkiness to reign supreme and run amuck and generally tip over tables and pour people’s beer in their laps and then tell them the whole thing is their fault since everybody knows that it’s “immoral” by the jerk’s code to drink Coor’s (Budweiser/Tap/etc) beer.

I think that the best way to handle this glaring lack in our common language is to go back a few decades, or maybe even a century or so, to resurrect the Victorian word “boor.”

Picture a Victorian lady with a plumed hat and gloves, carrying a frilly parasol and looking down her little nose at you and pronouncing,  “sir or madam, you are a boor.”

That fits, doesn’t it? It sounds so … entitled … when it’s contrasted with the relatively wimpy “you’re being a jerk” of our day.

And that is what’s lacking here. The jerks of the world have given themselves endless entitlement to practice their jerkiness on people who were minding their own business and didn’t ask to interact with them. They feel entitled to go banging into other people’s lives to throw insults and non-sequiturs around because … well, because they’ve told themselves they are entitled.

What we need is for nice people to get a little entitlement to match that of the jerks of the world. I don’t mean that we should join them in their behavior. I am not advocating that people fight the jerks by becoming jerks themselves. Maybe it’s time we just tell ourselves that we are entitled to, among other things, not listen to people just because they get in our faces and demand that we listen to them.

Maybe we should tell the boors, that if they persist in their boorishness, we won’t play with them anymore. They’ll have to take their toys and go play with the other jerks over in their yard with no grass and broken glass scattered around.

If, on the other hand, they can manage to stop engaging in their bullying, defaming, chest-pounding gorilla act and tame their inner jerk, they can come around.

I can do that, if you can. I can shut jerks down like slamming a lid shut. I can also let reformed jerks come play in my yard.

Because I don’t really care if someone is a vegetarian/republican/democrat/atheist/gay/straight/protestant/Catholic/smartie with a beard who wears a veil while putting on their Halloween costume to go denounce trick or treaters.

But I will not put up with them being a jerk about it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

    Awesome, Rebecca. Thanks.

    • hamiltonr

      Thank you Chris.

  • kenofken

    I won’t go so far as to say I care about facial hair, but I’ll just offer one observation/question. Why is that heavy beards are all the rage in major league baseball these days? I’m not a regular fan, but every time I watch a game at the tavern or someplace, the batting lineup looks like Taliban boot camp or Duck Dynasty!

    • Heather

      The “playoff beard” has been a tradition in NHL hockey for ages and ages and it seems to have spread. In hockey land at least, it’s apparently considered bad luck to shave during playoff season so you end up with some very scruffy looking players by the end of it.

      • PeonyMoss

        The idea behind the hockey playoff beard is that between practicing your hardest and playing the grueling NHL playoff schedule, you’re too busy to shave.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    “don’t be a jerk about it”
    What an absolutely meaningless and inane phrase. Given all the down arrows I receive and all the responces to my comments that get deleted, I must quite often be a jerk about it. LOL.

    • Dale

      Manny, I disagree with your first point. I think being respectful to the person or persons you are addressing is vital if the goal is anything constructive. If the goal of a discussion is simply point-scoring, then anything goes. But this is a form of aggressiveness which does not produce beneficial change.

      I do not get many down votes on Disqus. On the other hand, I don’t get very many up votes either. I think the reason for both of these things is that I strive to be even-handed, which is kind of boring to read and doesn’t get people excited (for good or for bad.) However, my desire in posting at Patheos is to share ideas with others and for us all to gain a better understanding of the world and the people in it. This can not happen if we do not treat each other with respect.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        So I guess you agree I can be a jerk..LOL. No I’m not offended. To my defense though, I think I’m usually respectful. I don’t usually get my comments deleted. But I do hold strong opinions and so I understand the reaction toward me. I’m not sure what you disagree with, that the phrase is meaningless and inane? In what way is it meaningful?

        • Dale

          Oh Manny, I certainly do not think you are a jerk! You have always been respectful with me, and my impression is that you have been that way with others, as well.

          I do disagree with your view that the phrase “Don’t be a jerk” is meaningless and inane. I think the phrase (Rebecca, please correct me if I misunderstand) refers to being respectful of the other person, even when strongly stating a disagreement with that person’s views.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Thanks Dale. Oh that’s not how I interrpret the phrase. I take it it as keep it to your self, it’s not for public expression.

    • Bill S

      I didn’t even know about the arrows. My fat thumb sometimes hits the down arrow instead of the Reply button.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        I just gave you an up arrow Bill. ;)

  • SisterCynthia

    Ha! I love it. :D Boors, indeed! ;)

  • Bill S

    You mean those posts that you deleted were because I was being a jerk? Who knew.

    I wish you had written this a long time ago. I could have saved a lot of wear and tear on my thumb. (Singular. I don’t know how to type with two thumbs. My left thumb always misses the right letter.)

    • hamiltonr

      Bill, most of your comments were posted. Some of them were deleted, usually because they were too angry or sometimes simply because they were either repetitive or you were putting up so many comments that it was going to discourage others from talking. I deleted a few because they were private messages to me, usually angry ones. (Which did not make me angry with you, btw.)

      I have always known that you are struggling. And I’ve always wanted to find a way to help you. You are welcome here. Always have been.

      • Bill S

        I have learned to accept that the Catholic Church is going to have more things to believe than I will ever be able to believe and is going to take more political stands than I am willing to support. Nothing would please me more than my being able to tell people I am 100% behind these beliefs and political stands but I can’t do that. The frustration with that has sometimes made for angry comments. But knowing that I can just say: “Jesus, I trust in you” and knowing that covers my misgivings about trying to consider myself to be a good full fledged Catholic puts my mind at peace.

        • hamiltonr

          Exactly. You don’t need to do anything else.

  • FW Ken

    Where can I get those mugs? I’d like them for my parole officers for Christmas. ;-)

    Maybe my boss, too.


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