For as long as I can remember, my favorite TV shows have been in two genres:
To me, these are the television equivalent of train wrecks. They are deeply troubling, and I know it is so very, very wrong to stare at them, but I just can’t help it.
In addition to these programs, in the last few years, I have found yet another guilty vice. That vice is the comment section of mainstream news websites.
Reading the comments attached to mainstream news articles is like sitting in the zoo and watching monkeys fling shit at each other. It’s fascinating, disturbing, and sometimes shocking.
After a few minutes of reading these sites, you quickly realize that the recovery of our nation is hopeless. We’re too far gone. We Americans long ago abandoned logic as the primary means of solving our problems, and we’ve replaced it with a pathological judgemental-ism which permeates our every interaction.
From the healthcare crisis to the foreclosure crisis to mass murders and everything in-between, the opinion of most Americans boils down to the following:
I’m great, and if you aren’t exactly like me, you are irresponsible, and thus deserve whatever bad thing happens to you.
Went bankrupt due to medical bills? You should have gotten better insurance … JUST LIKE ME!
Lost your house? You should have gotten a better job … JUST LIKE ME!
Can’t find a job? You should have gotten a better education … JUST LIKE ME!
Kid died in a car crash? You should have been a better parent … JUST LIKE ME!
Let’s face it, empathy and compassion are no longer American qualities. We admire money, power, money, greed, money, credentials, money, celebrities, and money. Kill or be killed, fuck or be fucked.
Compassion and understanding is for the weak, the powerless, the poor. The Finger Wag. It’s our new way of life.
News site commenters have the answer to any and all problems, and that answer is always and without fail … BE LIKE ME! “Since I don’t have this problem, it’s clearly all your fault, therefore I have no sympathy for you whatsoever. If you aren’t like me, you deserve to die.“
It’s such a primitive, simplistic, low-IQ solution to every problem, but it is, indeed, the American solution to every problem.
Once, a few months ago, I decided to participate in an online discussion. It was against my better judgement, but someone had sold me on the notion that Google+ was “exclusive”, so I gave it a shot.
In an article about the death of the bicyclist, I asked how licensing bicycles would have saved Michael Wang, a man who was killed on a bike while riding in a perfectly legal, responsible manner on Dexter Avenue. Since the fault was 100% that of the automobile driver, I didn’t understand the call to license bicyclists as a solution to the problem. I quickly got the following two responses.
“…what is your problem Seattle Rex? Licensing the entire world will not stop death and not doing it won’t stop death either…those two things are 100% unrelated… If they want to use the side of the road then they can use the pedestrian rules i suppose. But when i see a biker in the middle of the lane i am in going at bike speed or turning a corner on a red without even stopping…I think to myself, “How much longer until they get hit?” The issue isn’t the driver of the car in most cases that i have seen. The issue is the stuck-up biker that thinks they are somehow better than the driver and can make their own rules. Those are the people that scare me and should be receiving tickets. Get rid of those bikers and I bet the crashes that happen between cars and bikes goes way down because the rest of the bikers actually follow rules.”
Response #2 (sic):
“Self entitled non deserving bicyclists. It’s liek they do not realize the car is larger and heavier. Like on the water, the small boats yield to the large boats. Period. Want to know why? Because the big boats will squish the small ones. Bicyclists should realize this also. I ride mine on the sidewalk whenever possible because I am smarter than the people who get hit. I have never been hit by a car! Not even close”
Thus ended my brief foray into the world of online debate. It lasted all of five minutes, and when it was over, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I mean, I could see them trying … straining even … to form a logical hypothesis. You could see the wheels turning and the lightbulb flickering on and off … on and off. “I think I can, I think I can.” Alas, toward the end, the commenters simply succumbed to mental exhaustion, reaching the conclusion that “those stuck up bicyclists are dying because they are not as smart as I am.”
The lure of the finger wag proved too strong; too irresistible.
And so it always is. If you surf to your favorite news site, pick an article at random, and scroll down to the comments, you will certainly find dozens of examples of the finger wag. It’s at once amusing, while being a painful reminder that we are a nation in rapid intellectual decline.
Today, on Christmas, I sat down for a little light news reading, and while reading the comments with my usual shock, I kept getting a mental picture of what I imagined the commenters doing.
I took out my camera, enlisted the help of a friend, and attempted to translate the mental picture into a tangible image. This is what I came up with:
It’s a draft, and probably the first of many revisions, but it is a start.
In the future, when I see an example of the American Finger Wag, I may indulge my inner-child and go ahead and post one of these graphics as a response. I doubt the recipient will know what it means, and it will probably be quickly moderated out, but what the hell. We’re a Jerry Springer nation, and sometimes, you just have to pick up a chair and throw it. When in Rome.
If you would also like to use the Finger Wag, feel free.
Don’t say I never gave you anything.
Merry Christmas and remember, the big boats squish the small ones.