I’ve written about it before, and if I weren’t too lazy, I could find it and link it. It is my mother’s knack for sorting the good eggs from the bad’ns.
This skill has been on my mind, because in today’s universe, or maybe it’s the California-tinged corner of the universe where I now reside, I’m not sure that’s considered a skill anymore. Somehow, it seems, it’s not politically correct or otherwise not cricket to call a person who whiles away their days behaving in a douchey manner a douchebag.
It used to be that if you called someone who stole your lunch money, called you names, pulled your hair or otherwise fucked you up in the schoolyard, a jerk and said you didn’t like him, you’d be an astute observer of human behavior. Now, there are bullying programs to try to reach the behavior and educate the assholes to stop being assholes.
The good guys, the victims, they are exhorted to not be judgmental, to examine their own behaviors, to show compassion and help teach the wayward fuckwads.
Yeah, here’s another idea, can’t I just tell you to fuck off and leave me alone?
Probably not hard to surmise that even as I approach half a century and think about how I want to live the waning minutes I have left, I still want to call a bully out for his horseshit. (By the way, my iPad just spellchecked that last word with an option of horses-hit. Trying using that in a sentence.)
Back to my mom, Pat. She was in many many many ways extraordinarily shy and/or reserved. She ate cold steak rather than “cause a scene” and send poorly prepared food back at a restaurant.
I witnessed her getting taken advantage of by the more sly and calculating and assertive in the world. For years at the school where she taught, a cadre of politically well-connected and outspoken teachers ruled the hallways. The rest of the teachers had extra bus and lunch room duty and no chance for any of the work that might garner extra pay. The power elite kept those gigs to themselves.
Over the years, she lost pooled sick time to slackers, while she herself literally never took a day of leave. OK, there was the one day, when my brother had appendicitis in Moscow, but that was only on account of the time difference for the frantic phone calls with our Russian-speaking family dentist to the embassy.
But, all at the same time, she was outspoken about injustice and bullshit when it was pervasive and hurt others. No underdog could have a stronger advocate in their corner to stare down anything from serious evil (like testifying in court for a student scheduling and physically abused) to petty misdemeanor.
In the latter category, I think she won this battle, but the memory is hazy.
For a school awards banquet one night, she was one of the teachers on the set up and decoration committee of parents and teachers. A couple of local moms, wanting to gussy up the auditorium had a brilliant idea — beautiful fresh flowers arranged in sprays and bouquets around the area. The source of the posies was none other than the neighboring cemetery. Their rationale, and by god it was the definition of rationalizing bad behavior, they wouldn’t be missed since the funeral was over and people had gone home.
Not being down with grave robbing and desecration and just general shittiness, I think old Pat succeeded in shaming them to put every stem back where it came from, in the dark.
Ironically, I wrote all of the above the day before M. was an invited speaker at a local high school tech club. In a swanky auditorium at the swanky community center in the swanky town, it appeared that the students had done everything themselves — from professional looking brochures, queuing up all A/V in advance and executing it behind the speakers and behind the scenes, and getting snacks catered by a local restaurant. At the end, they presented M. with a gift, a lovely orchid that was clearly alive, thriving and not stolen from a graveyard.
Anyway, I wish we could go back to the days of not pretending that we are all on the same page. Some people are not bothering to use facts when they argue factually. Some people like to blame and finger point. And some people are just fucking assholes, and we should be allowed, nay encouraged, to call them out.
Big asshole (Karl Rove) or small (line cutters and annoying colleagues), I know who you are and I’m not above calling a spade a spade.