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.


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