I swear I’ll write about sports after this. I owe you one.
There comes a point where you just want to stop ruining people’s Sundays.
I gave my Twitter account an artillery round to the junk this afternoon after getting into a fight with people I really like over something that has nothing to do with us remotely. It was pretty exclusively my fault, as I was a complete asshole. The problem is that I really wanted to be that asshole at the time. I was spoiling for a fight.
I’m not trying to write a thinkpiece about How Social Media Changes Our Interactions With People or anything. This also isn’t a justification for quitting the Twitts because honestly who cares if I have a Twitter account or not? I’m trying to work out how I’m different than I was when I left my home town. This is going to get obnoxiously self-righteous. The back button is at the top of your browser.
Allow me to break some news to y’all: we are short of empathy in this place. I made the mistake of choosing a profession where that vacancy is on full display. I work in a poor urban school. I’ve spent not even two years in the place and I’ve found myself changed dramatically.
This isn’t a sob story about how we must save the children. These kids are okay. They are far tougher than you or I give them credit for, and they work about as hard as anyone. They are chronically underfed. Often many or all of their family members don’t speak English, forcing the kid to translate most everything that comes in the house. They can’t afford even basic school supplies. No one is available to help them with their studies because of the language problems. Often the parents work multiple jobs. Some of my kids go home and either become the primary caretaker of the younger siblings or go to work with their parents, doing their homework there. They pull their weight. Considering what these kids endure in everyday life because of the inequality in this nation, we should look at their performance academically as a miracle rather than as underperforming. There are no underperforming schools, only schools with stacked decks.
Well you work there long enough and it starts to change you. You start to look at things like inequality and get a little more annoyed. You become invested in trying to make the lives of these kids a little bit better. You get a little more angry at everyone else on their behalf. It probably isn’t far to go that way, but It’s a flaw of mine. I get angry pretty quick.
Then you run into the wall of that is the limits of human understanding. The problem of how people cannot comprehend how people could live different lives with completely different obstacles. Or the stunning revelation that because we are all citizens in the same nation, we are responsible for each other. Everybody told us to work together when we were kids. Apparently that all shut down once politicians convinced us to refer to ourselves as taxpayers. It’s an atrocious moniker and reduces all of us to a monetary amount. Who wants ‘taxpayer’ written on their tombstone? I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. You pay your taxes. You’re supposed to. We all are. We all pay our taxes together so that we can have roads and schools and such. We don’t hold our tax bill above our heads to impart some kind of hierarchy among us.
“I pay more taxes than you, so I have more say.” No, you don’t. You pay more taxes because you owe more to your nation. Those who have found wealth should use it to help everyone around them. Its the foundation of progressiveness. I tipped my bias, I guess.
Most of these problems would get solved with a little bit of empathy. Understanding that tax rates are not necessarily as important as poverty rates and that schools can be an instrument of change here only if given the resources to do it. Give until you ain’t got none to give. Then give your time.
It gets harder as time goes on to deal with the callousness of things in a professional manner. Pretty soon you want to start telling people to strap themselves to a rocket bound for the sun. You start to understand that you don’t change things by being polite and cordial. You have to make people uncomfortable somehow, in all things.
It would be great if we could organize to affect change, but that entire enterprise has been expertly dismantled. Even so, the crucial thing necessary for organizing is missing: empathy. We need to understand and show compassion for the strangers around us. We have been fighting inequality individually in our own ways for so long we look at each other as rivals instead of fellow citizens.
“Fuck that guy, he’s trying to take what I have left.”
“Why should that asshole get a pension?”
“If that stiff doesn’t have a job it’s because he isn’t working as hard as I am.”
“Maybe those suckers should have picked a different town.”
None of this is a new jam. Everyone knows this. I think my insulation to it has failed. I’m too close. This more than likely makes me a sucker, too. So be it. These are all my problems when confronting this stuff that I now see on the regular and frankly was never aware of before. I was a pretty sheltered kid. So now here I am, going to all these town meetings I never went to before and volunteering to stay after school to help folks and spoiling for a fight with anyone and everyone. I used to be cool. I used to play video games, people. Honest.
I’d rather not pick fights with anyone and everyone at all times, but it’s getting harder to turn off the switch. Twitter isn’t helping, and when I feel good after saying awful things to someone I like I should probably sit a couple of plays out, Champ. I’m not built for it any more. I’m having a hard time separating the walls between the abstract ideas we talk about when they all seem to have a common factor. Something can seem really small and insignificant to fight about until you trace it back to start.
I don’t think I’m doing anyone any favors anymore by hanging out. I’m killing the party. I’ll show myself out.
So I’ll start fights with people down here. I’ll be pointed with those who deserve it. I promise here I’ll write about sports after this.