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"I propose starting with me."

I live in a CityOfScolds. Any stranger will most likely receive a cold reception. Any neighbor might get burned. Judges seem to always be on duty to notice should anyone stray from somebody's straight and narrow, and it never seems to take much to be accused of stepping over some line, especially the ones only the judge ever knew were drawn. Such constant vigilance never was the cost of anything but sure and certain humiliation and ever hardening feelings, for we're all little kids stranded in big people bodies, mistaken for omniscient when only innocently faking it through. I seem certain to offend you as you seem equally certain to offend me. I feel well-justified in calling that foul, in exhibiting my very best scowl for you, though you always seem to me to be a tad too picky with me. Maybe that dog barking really should be prosecuted as the Federal case your reaction seems to indicate that it should be. Maybe my innocent inquiry broke every tenet ever known for propriety. Maybe your piety stands more than head and shoulders above mine. We each seem to have gone into the business of failing (flaying) to fix the recent past, aghast.

We behave as if we were each justifiably offended by each others' presence. We endlessly inconvenience each other.
Rather than accepting that we might be each other's keeper, we seem to behave as if we were each other's judge, jury, and chief executioner. I carry, but I conceal what I carry. A traveling neighbor checks into the neighborhood ListServ to ask if last night's storm caused any hail damage, a perfectly reasonable query given that hail damage here tends to be extremely local; just because there was damage over the hill never means that there was any here. Another neighbor responds by insisting that his is an improper question to ask in this forum, advising the poster to check with the NOAA website. A dozen respond by actually answering the innocent question, but not without defending his right to ask his question here. The tone of the thread transforms into adversarial quicksand rather than the more generous ask and simply receive. Such are simple questions left forever unresolved in this CityOfScolds.

When, I caught myself wondering, did the tenor of public speech start so closely resembling the dialogue of a gaggle of malevolently mumbling school marms? Did our Founding Fathers sit around Constitution Hall shooting spit wads at each other? Was Jesus H. Christ a secret scold? Buddha? Confucius? Plato? Aristotle? Mohammad? Moses? Do we now exhibit the net sum of our collective historical wisdom by writing up little verbal traffic tickets on each other? Do we change anything or anybody by focusing so diligently upon our fellows' shortcomings? Do we somehow elevate our own threatened egos by denigrating everyone elses'? Just what do we think we're doing here? Just where do we think we are racing toward, anyway?

Those of us who post on social media live in continuing mortal fear of the almighty troll, the all-knowing critic who seems sublimely comfortable pointing out our shortcomings. Let the auto-correct spell-checker misspell a word. Let a fumbling finger leave one out. Let anyone shout out an obvious joy, and some self-selected killjoy will appear, as if by evil magic, to present them with a bill already way past due, ignoring any good intention, to gift them with a hale, hearty Fuck You, hoping, perhaps, to elicit an equal and opposite Fuck You, Too! response. Then, whatever inspiration fueled the original post gets trampled beneath furious counter accusations. The road to Hell seems liberally paved with such speech.

Look, I understand that we live in extraordinary times. We enjoy the curious governance of the most inept administration in the weary history of our much-vaunted republic. We somehow received and accepted an invitation to move into the sorry CityOfScolds, and heaven help us all should we ever entirely lose sight of what was intended to bind us together. We were never secured by our gimlet eye, our bleating cries, or our ability to promote demeaning lies. Our temporary leader might subscribe to the most debasing alibis, but we do not need to also subscribe to that program. Remember? Our differences were supposed to make us stronger. Our foibles once helped us grow. Our shortcomings once seemed to be the stuff spawning ever loftier aspirations rather than degrading judgments. We can be better than our circumstances, and had better remember how to be. I propose starting with me. Let's see where I can go from there. I invite you to bring your 'I' and along with me. Maybe we could relocate ourselves out of this CityOfScolds.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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