Sometimes You’re the Bad Guy


internet rageMy summer mornings are perfect. I get up, work out, slam coffee, and then write for a few hours. It’s how I can rationalize devoting the rest of my day to baseball, reading, and hanging out with my weird family.

Sometimes I find time to take part in America’s favorite pastime, which is watching people be assholes on the internet.

Today on Facebook there’s a video of a drunk guy making a snide remark to an old woman on the subway. There’s another of a man jumping on a six-year-old boy in order to snag a foul ball from him at a baseball game. I have watched it three or four times and thought: prick.

The comments adjoining the video are filled with such fury that one would think it’s a video of Donald Trump kicking the crap out of Pope Francis.

This afternoon, I run errands. I get in the truck and enjoy the novelty of driving, which is a great deal of fun if you don’t have to do it two hours every day. I crank up the oldies station on the radio and swing the pick-up down windy Pennsylvania roads.

A block my from my parents’ house, a tree service truck blocks traffic by backing out of a driveway in front of the light. I am trapped waiting through two green lights.

In my acute aggravation I let loose on a braided hairnet of vitriol that would make Louis CK blush. I theorize on the tree service worker’s miniature man bits, suggest they have inappropriate relationships with their mothers, and hypothesize that they engage in a self-coitus only possible for French circus folk.

Before you furrow your brow, three points.

First, in no way do I engage these people. My windows are closed; it was simply a childish rant meant for myself. I even wave at the guys as I pass.

Second, while I can’t 100% defend my childish behavior, it was a combined storm of sitting at a light and the band Rush coming on the radio. Because if there’s one thing worse than sitting in traffic, it’s Geddy Lee’s voice.

Nevertheless, immediately after my rant I sheepishly look around to make sure there are no witnesses. The embarrassment would be intolerable. As I pull into my driveway, I realize that I was not just looking for a witness; I was looking for a camera.

The great American pastime has become getting outraged and offended. And if politicians and movie stars don’t satisfy our needs, well, we go and find it. There are pictures all over the internet of people whose parking job spans three spots, people who tipped a waitress poorly, or people who pick their nose and wipe it on a chair.

The videos are worse. There are drunk people saying appalling things, men giving the finger to carfuls of priests, and women throwing fits at drive thru windows.

Nowadays, if people aren’t being jerks, we simply set people up. I have recently seen a video where an alleged homeless man on crutches drops a handkerchief and asks random people to pick it up. Some people do, and we sit at home and get teary-eyed from their humanity. But of course, others don’t pick it up and are rude to the man. And then we shake our heads and grumble.

Um, doesn’t it strike anyone as odd that we are judging people for dealing with a situation created in a beaker? Moreover, a situation they didn’t cause or have any interest in being involved in?

Other points to consider.

These videos and pictures tell one side of the story and you don’t know the other side. Ever. Unless you were there and know all of the people involved, you do not know the whole story.

Two, and more importantly, you have been these people. Everyone in the world has been the jerk. Everyone. Even Gandhi probably shoved some guy in a cafe once. We get reamed out at work and make a shitty comment later to a stranger. We have a niggling medical issue – hemorrhoid, cold sore, stye – and snap at a nice old lady at the shop. A man finds out his wife is cheating on him and throws a fit at the 7-11 ten minutes later because they don’t have fresh donuts. And what would the caption read on that video?

Watch this fat asshole throwing a total tantrum because he can’t get his donuts.

I often see an older man while we’re walking our dogs. He’s a very pleasant fellow who always treats his dog with loving affection. To me he smiles, says hello, says hello to my dog. Last week I turned the corner to hear him shout in exasperation to his dog: “Would you just shit you little motherfucker?!”

Now, if someone videos him doing that, what’s the reaction going to be? Fair and balanced? Are people going to assume that 99% of the time he’s a nice man who just happened to snap?

I don’t think so.

We are too interested in being outraged and too keen on crucifying people for one time social infractions whose context we are oblivious to. And so these – probably relatively normal – people are perennially humiliated on the internet for all to see, the insult to that injury being that what they are now infamous for is probably something they don’t typically do.

What the hell is my point?

So I guess my point is that we’re all human. We all make mistakes and sometimes we’re the bad guy and sometimes that happens in public. And I know that when I watch some of these videos there is part of me saying, ooh, that could be me if the perfect storm of bad conditions were right. So let’s be a little more reasonable folks, huh? Let’s try not to be so outraged all the time and let’s let give people the benefit of the doubt.

Except for Donald Trump, that guy sucks.

Oh yeah, and Geddy Lee. But just his voice.

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