“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
How bored are you right now? On a scale of absentmindedly channel surfing to reorganizing your kitchen cupboards for the fourteenth time. Where are you sitting? Somewhere in the middle? Like, what, mop the floors, or try a new banana bread recipe? It had chocolate chips so, you know, that changes everything. It’s a completely different recipe.
Today, I think I refreshed the recommended page on Youtube thirty-six times. It’s not a personal best but, the day isn’t over yet. Am I looking for something specific? Nope, I don’t know what I’m looking for but I keep looking. Do I have something better to do? Of course. Will that stop me from trying to break my record? It should. It really should. I should not, under any circumstance click…Thirty-seven. Damn it!
No self-control. I have no self-control. That’s my problem. My only problem? Oh, how I wish. Oo, maybe I can alphabetize my neuroses. That should kill a good two hours. That’s a conservative estimate, but I don’t want to peak too soon. If I do…Click…Thirty-eight. Come on! I wasn’t even trying that time.
I think my clicking finger has a mind of its own. Just clickity clicking all of over the place. I’m afraid of what it’s going to click on next. Maybe I should close my eyes just in case. There are some things you simply can’t unsee, and the internet is full of strange, weird, and un-unseeable things. I shiver at the thought of what will pop up on my screen if my clicking finger keeps this up.
Life is a bit dull, uninspiring, and blasé at the moment. Clearly! I may have a little too much time on my hands, but I haven’t stooped to an all-new low, yet. Refreshing Youtube thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, times isn’t a new low? Oh no, I assure you, I can go much lower.
I could, for example, go onto Twitter and join a cancel party. Jump in with all ten of my clicking fingers and have it. Fall head over toenails into the steaming pile of righteous indignation and build a catapult to launch the festering goop right up that mighty mountain.
Let’s topple a king. Let’s oust a queen. Destroy them, and tear them apart. Why? They did, said, or became something we can’t tolerate, abide by, or maybe they just smell funny. Does it matter? They’re wrong. We’re right. That’s all that matters. Burn the motherfu…
Sorry, that almost got away from me. Lost my head for a second, but I’m reeling it in. Inch by inch. It’s coming back. Nice and slow. Give it a spin, a good shake, and there ya go. My head has been screwed on, and it’s backward. Damn it! Give me a second. Just need to give it a flick and…Oo, it cracked! That felt good. Oh yeah, it’s much better now. Well, it’s facing the right direction so, yay.
It seems like these cancel parties are happening more often. Every day, every few hours, someone is being declared, “Over.” Is it boredom? Have we run out of banana bread recipes? Are our homes too clean so we’re forced to go digging through someone’s trash? Dig deep enough into anyone’s past and we’ll find something juice, smelly, and covered in maggots. They might not have a whole collection of skeletons, but there’s gotta be something to uncover and publicly berate.
I’ve scrolled through the hashtags, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand the culture. I don’t know why we feel the need to throw someone out and erase their entire life because of a mistake or stupid moment. It’s not simply calling out a wrong. If that’s what it was, then, okay, it would be justifiable or, at least, understandable. But that’s not what we’re doing, is it?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in consequences and we all have to face our own at some point. I’ve had to face the repercussions of my actions and choices. So far, knock on wood, I haven’t done anything dramatically idiotic and my sincerest apologies were enough. We do something wrong and we face what comes but when is it enough? When do we go too far? Is there a point where redemption is no longer possible?
But who doesn’t love a genuine story of redemption? A person does something that should, by all rights, be completely unforgivable. They face the fallout head-on. They do the time, in whatever way it comes, and then they dedicate their lives to making it right. Whether that’s by amends and forgiveness; or stopping someone else from making the same mistake.
There’s something so inspiring about watching a person go as low as humanly possible and then build themselves back up. Or am I just a sap? I get teary-eyed at the beer commercial where the puppy finds his lost horse friend and they reunite and… Sniff.
That’s the thing, I think. We’ve become so jaded that all attempts at atonement are seen as insincere or motivated by greed and self-preservation. We’re so wrapped up in the certainty of our piety that we can’t even imagine granting someone else the leniency, the forgiveness, we’ve received or needed. There’s no chance for growth or recovery. Their life has to be destroyed because of a moment, mistake, or ignorance.
If someone holds bigoted beliefs, for example, is there no chance that they can learn, grow, change? What about something like physical harm? Can we, as the perpetrator come back from that or are we doomed to live a meaningless, empty, shell of life? And if that’s true, do we have a right to life at all or, are we better off wondering off this mortal coil?
Before we continue, let me own my own misplaced piety. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, and you know what? It’s fun being on that end of a tweet. Typing words of condemnation sends this jolt of energy through my body. There’s a fire in my veins that surges out of my fingertips. It takes my breath away just a little, and it catches in the back of the throat. Jaw clenched, eyes narrowed, lips turned down in disgust. I’ve fired off a scathing rebuke with the appropriate hashtag.
Then I sat back, slowly exhale, and muttered, “They reap what they sow.” I’m so dramatic.
There’s a feeling of accomplishment. At least, in the face of this wrong, I didn’t stay quiet. I said something and therefore I did something. Online, sure, but it’s, well, something. Raise a glass to their demise, take a sip, and then look for another target. Let’s face it, that jolt of adrenaline doesn’t last all that long. The endorphins that surged a second ago fade pretty quickly. Without another hit?
While my current level of boredom hasn’t sent me online just yet, it has in the past. I’ve taken the bait. We all have, haven’t we? To differing degrees, we’ve all done it, but I don’t think I’ve #cancelled anyone. Not yet but it is tempting. When does that temptation shift between speaking up against injustice, to righteous indignation?
Maybe it’s the tone that counts more than the words. Then again, tone is hard to produce in written words. So much is left up to interpretation. So what then? Do we speak words of encouragement to the victims, instead of attacking the guilty party? Not giving in to herd mentality is a good start. Resisting the urge to pile it on can’t hurt. Supporting the person, or the group of people, who are taking massive hits goes a long way.
But here’s harder question: What about the person in the wrong? I don’t know if I have a good answer to this one. I hate to see an injustice go unchallenged. It’s so unfair. That feeling of helplessness is repugnant. But what about redemption? Is it still possible? Can sinners become saints?
Or, is all hope lost?
There has to be a glimmer of hope in their story because, without hope, there’s not much left. Whether they choose to follow the light is up to them but, it has to be an option. There needs to be that fleck of light, far off in the distance, otherwise what hope do any of us have? Redemption has to be a wish on a star for everyone, and not just the saints safe in their castles.
That has to include, and this is a challenge, the person who’s become the hashtag du jour. If someone can come back from something so big, so monumentally villainous, then a simpleton like me can come back from whatever I’ve done. Right? Like the time I spoke cruel words to a good person because I thought it was funny. Sure, I was young and stupid. Other young and stupid people laughed, but that’s hollow when I remember the look in the eyes of the person I hurt.
How about the times I didn’t show up when I said I would and let people down. The time. The Time. The time. There’s a list of things, moments, that I’m not proud of, and I’ve apologized as best as I could. But what if that wasn’t enough? What if my worst moment was caught on film and put out into the virtual world? What if I became that dreaded tag online?
That’s the problem with canceling someone. We lock them into a moment and brand them a sinner. We become judge, jury, and condemn them to a life of unknown suffering. How long did it take to come to that verdict? The length of time it took to write the tweet?
Oh, the arrogance! Who the hell do we think we are? Who do I think I am? What gives me the right to ruin someone else’s life while claiming the high ground? The high ground is a long way off from where I currently stand.
Don’t they deserve it? I don’t know but, if they don’t deserve the chance to earn their redemption, then who does? We’ve all done things we’re not proud of so, it stands to reason, that one of those moments will catch up to me, you, any one of us. If we can’t afford to give someone else an ounce of kindness in any circumstance, will it be afforded to us?
I’m not saying everyone will go from sinner to saint. The desire to change has to be there, and active steps have to be taken. We have to keep going, keep moving forward, and take advantage of every opportunity to make it right. There will be consequences, and we have to face them without flinching. Or, face them as best as we can without running away.
But once we do that? We should get the chance to write our redemption story and, with some grace, make the transition from sinner to, at the very least, a decent human being. After all, granting someone this opportunity now means that there’s hope for me, for you, when our fall from piety comes. For me, that’s the glimmer of hope I need to hold onto.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think my clicking fingers want to refresh the “Youtubes” one more time. It sure beats going onto some other platform and falling down a rabbit hole again. I suppose the allure of that temptation is proof that I’ve got a long way to go before I become saintly.
Yeah, I’m not holding my breath.