Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Reverence Falling

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I've written before about how boring "irreverence" is becoming. It's no longer shocking; it's as empty as the eye-rolling of a teenaged girl in a parent-teacher conference. It's easy, now, because it carries no literal or figurative consequence for the irreverent person in question. I think, however, that it's bad for the world, in general. It turns our "dialogues" into little more than ad hominem matches. It makes us rude in groups.

I saw a meme the other day. The group that distributed it had a hashtag (or it was their name...I don't really care about being accurate, here) that called for President Obama to "kill himself". The meme, itself, called him an "asshole." 

In the world from which I come, you don't speak that way about the President of the United States (or even of your neighbor). Sure, you can hate his policies; sure, you have every right to point out when he is incompetent; sure you can rally against him in print or on screen. When we fall, however, to a complete lack of verbal restraint, we become inflamers of conflict and we lose all practical potential to change things.

Also, if there is one thing we have all but completely lost, it is a sense of ritual; of the special nature of a gathering of people for a purpose. I'm not ready to completely blame the defection from religion for this, but I do think it contributes. Many kids never walk into a church or temple or synagogue in which they are expected to show silent reverence...

I am really deeply sickened by the behavior of people at audience functions. The parents at my sons' band concerts talk straight through the performances and even as the band teacher is speaking. I recently played at a group classical guitar recital and as I joined the audience to watch those who played after me, I watched people texting and allowing their children to play video games and climb on the seats.

You'd think there would have been some sense at either of these performances of "reverence" for the people trying to make music. Alas, no. I like to give absolute silence to children pursuing music and to adults, on a stage all by themselves, who are trying to coax music out of wood and nylon.

I know it is dreadfully conservative of me, but I think the death of reverence and respect are making us treat everything and everyone around us poorly. We've gone beyond being simply informal into a disregard for everyone outside our own personal bubbles. Then, we demand respect and get offended when it is not given.

Some places should send us into a cathedral silence. Some people deserve respect and complete attention. I still believe that. 


  1. Completely agree. As far as Obama's concerned, I think some people dislike him because he's an intellectual who doesn't go for crass, crowd-pleasing gestures. And he's not a WASP. That seems to negate his many achievements, but I think posterity will be kinder to him.

    1. Yeah. Over here that not-WASPness is the source of much of his criticism, I think. There's a lot of really strong criticism ("Worst president ever") that I am convinced is racially driven, and I am not an alarmist when it comes to that. Criticize him. Sure. But "worst president ever"? That's silly.

  2. From an overseas perspective, Obama is one of the best presidents in my lifetime. He has pursued a wise and restrained foreign policy, helped the US economy bounce back from recession far more quickly than expected, introduced a ground-breaking reform to the healthcare system (in the UK we're baffled by people's opposition to it - our free healthcare system is far more radical than anything Obama proposed), caught Bin Laden, withdrawn from Iraq and brokered a peace deal with Iran.

    Bush, on the other hand, was reckless, plunged the economy into debt and embarked on a pointless, costly war in Iraq. But people still seem to love him.

    1. Your assessment is pretty much how I see it. There is a massively powerful conservative movement going on here and its subscribers seem to be more interested in their candidate having a certain John Wayne-ness, regardless of how he acts in his political or diplomatic roles. It's frightening. (If, for instance, Donald Trump is elected, I will be asking you to let me know if any teacher-affordable properties in your neighborhood go up for sale.) The though-free conservatism we are seeing is so different than any I have known. I am, in some ways, traditional in my beliefs, but I tend to think before drawing conclusions. I would never tie myself to a party or a school of thought. But what I am seeing from the conservative candidates is not good.