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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Here’s a statement for everyone to digest: You are not me.  Seems like a simple concept, right?  Clearly, it is possible for both of us to be standing in the same room and, at the same time, to be standing in two different places.  Obviously, based on that experimental fact, you are not me.  Furthermore, because these rules apply, we can determine that I am also not you.  This much we should understand.  It all seems rather simple, doesn’t it?  It appears though, that on many occasions, people have a great deal of difficulty distinguishing “themselves” from what we might call “others around them”.

We often ask ourselves “Why would someone do X, Y, Z?”  (Where X, Y, and Z are self-affecting actions, and not people).  That’s a normal question to pose to oneself; it’s natural, and that’s fine.  It is when we stray away from this self-regulated questioning of another’s self-affecting actions or ideals and enter into a domain which desires a regulation or alteration of an outsider’s actions or ideals.  It should never be up to me to decide what you do with yourself, or what you think.  And that goes for you to me as well.

Anytime you think or say, “You know, if I were you …”, you’re missing the point.  Nobody cares what you would do.  I don’t want you in my shoes…that’s why they’re my shoes.  Get it?  Injecting an opinion that begins with the fragment above suggests that what you would do is the ideal way of handling a given situation, when in reality it might just be an alternative way of handling a situation.  It’s an insult.  More importantly, very rarely does this conversation lead anywhere positive.  After introducing an opinion like this, the conversation either turns into a) a personal defense of the actions in question or b) nothing.  A simple and sarcastic, “OK, thanks for your input.”

Most notable offenders of the IIWYS (If I Were You Syndrome) include politicians, sportscasters, mothers, opinionated people (other than ourselves, of course), and radical social and political groups (which, of course, are everyone else’s groups.  “We’re not radical; we’re supporting a worthy cause, Comrade!  Hand me my sickle!”)  Sportscasters flail on the air (“You know, if I were Bobby Valentine here, I would have…”), parents make a career out of it (“If I were you, I wouldn’t major in…”), and lowly businessmen get fired for it (“Excuse me, sir, but if I were you, I would…”).

The idea that people do not care about the opinions of those around them is not the point I am trying to make here.  Frankly, I believe that people just do not like to be questioned regarding matters of the self.  This notion of “self” is what separates you from me, and me from anyone else with whom I come in contact.  It’s what makes us special. (Cue cast of Full House, soft piano music and suggestions of getting “some ice cream sundaes”.)

I think we should allow (and perhaps encourage?) people to make decisions different from ours, regardless of how we feel, regardless of what we would do.  Good, bad, it doesn’t really matter; the actions of those around us are what continue to define our culture.  If people were concerned with what everyone else would do in their situation, we wouldn’t be able to share stories, for we would know the endings.

In short, many people in this country have yet to realize that it is the differences (not similarities) between us that make this a wonderful place in which to live–even in this time of great social strife and confusion.  We’re often hell-bent on looking for our similarities when we should actually be focusing on our differences, our uniqueness. Granted, we all sing to the same flag, we all eat the same food (for the most part), we all share pompous opinions about Europeans and the same unruly sense of befuddlement regarding our Neighbors to the North, Eh?  But really, it is time we once again focus on America the Melting Pot, and slowly stray away from this “We, the Americans” idea—even after the recent social tension.  The concept of Americans as a people falsifies what makes this country so unique, so…American.

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