Monday, September 14

To the Sylvias of the world: How to bother nobody

I was just thinking to myself, "Man, it's been way too long since I've witnessed a celebrity meltdown," and lo and behold Serena Williams and Kanye West both oblige. Fantastic! And of course, there's an ever-evolving and recurring series of dramas in the blogosphere involving certain Famous Bloggers. Oh, and senators who heckle the President mid-speech. And then the other day I read a post on Definitely RA that really outraged me—and I try to limit my outrage to really severe cases—in which a librarian, "Sylvia," couldn't contain her bitter, bitter attitude toward humanity in general, and dear sweet RA specifically.

On my lunch break, I was listening to NPR and heard a debate going on about whether it's fair to consider celebrities such as Serena and Kanye to be role models, and whether or not a celebrity's Public Apology After Doing Something Horrendous really covers over all manner of sins—like threatening a person just doing her job or stealing the limelight from a deserving honoree. Personally, I think the pair of them should take a page out of Chris Brown's book and go on Larry King wearing a bowtie and pretending to be contrite while also shoving off blame on That Terrible Childhood I Had. That's a surefire way to gain public absolution.

Let me just take this moment to clear something up.

Anyone in public life? ROLE MODEL. Anyone who deals with the public? ROLE MODEL. Anyone who puts themselves out there (even little bitty bloggers like me)? ROLE MODEL. Do you make money by pasting your image all over books, magazines, commercials, sportswear...? You get my drift.

If you gain notoriety for even the tiniest faction of your personality or rare talent—like being a sports star, or a performing artist, or even a blogger—your responsibility for being a decent person indubitably reaches beyond your private life and your own circle of friends and loved ones, and it extends to the viewing/reading/listening/cheering public.

Believe it or not, that's why I self-edit on this blog, and by that I mean I don't just say whatever I feel like saying and post knee-jerk reactions to things because This Is My Space and Nobody Else's! (I'll wait until the laughter subsides). No, really, I do. That's one reason why I don't use pseudonyms on this blog. I knew from the get-go that if I needed anonymity to write what I wanted to write, then maybe I should reevaluate what I'm writing. Did you follow that?

Note: I'm in no way passing judgment on people who do choose a certain level of online anonymity, mind you, because most of you are responsible non-trolls who just want to protect some level of personal privacy. And that's fine. Although we all know how I feel about choosing to be anonymous for the sake of being controversial a jerk.

I feel like I've gotten a little off course here, so I'll skip ahead to the point...

And now, The Point! Every single person in this world has the responsibility to every other person in this world to be decent, if not kind.

After I read RA's post, I shared my feelings with Noah, and he in turn shared a passage with me from Teacher Man that I had forgotten about. In this passage, Frank McCourt tells his students that "Little Bo Peep" is his favorite poem, and they don't believe him. But he's totally serious, and explains that it's his favorite because "Little Bo Peep backs off. … She trusts her sheep. She leaves them alone, and they come home. … while Bo Peep knits by the fire, happy in the knowledge that in her daily rounds, caring for the sheep and their offspring, she has bothered nobody."

Just don't freakin bother anybody. Don't hurl profanities at an unsuspecting line judge. Don't run on stage and yank the microphone out of a girl's hand and use it to declare her victory a sham. Don't beat your girlfriend. Don't be rude to library customers just trying to do the right thing. Or as Mary at FIT THIS, Girl! wrote, don't be "too easily annoyed at people who are doing their best" or fuss and complain about situations that are not a big deal. There are too many problems in this world, and none of them will be solved by people being jerks to other people.

Just. Don't. If you can't manage the Golden Rule, at least give this one a try: Bother nobody.


Maggie May said...

Kanye West has become an embarrassment to everything his mom worked for.

Dawn said...

I was pretty peeved at Kanye. Humility is a bit foreign to him, but humiliation seems to be right up his alley. An off night for him, to say the least.

HOWEVER, I got a warm fuzzy feeling from Beyonce's classy response. Maybe she'll take some time to sit down with Kanye and figure out what's eatin' him.

Nice post. You've inspired me to do one better and go out of my way to say at least one really positive thing to someone every day this week that I might normally neglect to say.

Anonymous said...

Well Said!!!!:)

Sandra said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Role models are human, and humans are imperfect, so I can accept that judgement errors will occur, and can accept an apology for a judgement error when responsiblity is taken.

Mr. West's and Ms. Williams' actions aren't judgement errors, though, but character errors. It was not an error of the mind, but of the heart. Apologies don't cover those dark spots. It takes actual change demonstrated over long stretches of time.

Excellently written post.

The Naked Redhead said...

Whoah, whoah! What is this POLITICAL DRIVEL? Are you some kind of crazy Libertarian? "Bother nobody"? :)

This article is so well put, Erin (though we that write under psuedonyms are really just trying to act like super heroes. Seriously, you should see my cape). I think the rudeness is disgusting...but I also think the Fake Apologies are disgusting, too. I just want, oh, I dunno, I little sincerity from people. Is that so much to ask? I want a boy to be genuinely sorry that he hit a girl...not sorry because it affected his record sales. I want a man to be sorry because he crushed a little girl's shining moment, not because he got booed every time his name was mentioned (or because his PR person told him to be).

Anyway, good stuff, yes please, I agree and all that. :)

Anne Dayton said...

Amen! And also, please don't hate me.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. While I agree that anyone in the public eye is a de-facto role model, I think that fame is a form of power and it quickly corrupts. Celebs of all types should get some sort of training so that they know how to handle their fame, and actually BE role models. Because, clearly, many of them are utterly lost once they get really, truly, inescapably famous and they flounder around looking foolish and getting lambasted for their amateur errors. I know, I know, they should damn well know not to beat their gilfriends and act like giant, malicious jerks. But some of the things we get all disgusted with celebs for doing? They are really not that bad. Many of them are things we all do on a daily basis.

HOWEVER, I cannot agree fervently enough that we should all - every last human on earth - aim for the golden rule, and that failing, just live and let live. Kindness is so simple yet it is the greatest gift we can give.

Erin said...

Maggie May—As a mother, I can't imagine her disappointment.

Dawn—Fantastic idea. P.S. I'm always open to positivity.

Sandra G.—How much easier would your job be if people would show a smidgen of self-restraint?

Christopher—I'm totally on board with your distinction between mistakes and character issues. As I've said to anyone who will listen, if Serena was upset about the call, I can understand a "Come on now!" kind of yell at a linesperson. But shaking her racket? Threatening? Cursing? Nuh-uh. And Kanye West? There's no reasonable excuse.

TNR—I often cajole myself for not being anonymous, for the sole issue of the cape.

Anne—Why on earth would I hate you?

Sal—You're right. I can only imagine how fame at notoriety changes things, and people in that position should definitely have professional assistance from someone other than a PR person regarding public image.

RA said...

I am downright blushing that you are indignant on my behalf! And that I am dear! And sweet! You must have me confused with someone else.

As frustrating as my library incident was, I was APPALLED at Serena Williams and Kanye West. Can you imagine what Kim Clijsters and Taylor Swift were thinking?!

Anonymous said...

This sort of thing is exactly why I generally regard major-league athletes with (at best) a dubious eye or (much more often) eye-rolling disgust. You get paid how much, to PLAY A GAME, and you're going to act like that?

(insert huffy sigh)

But then I read about Albert Pujols or Chris Paul, and I'm reminded that not every athlete is an a$$. Still, wouldn't it be nice to see salaries tied to character? Or just niceness? And that goes for actors, models, musicians, celebutantes, etc. too. Put the difference in a fund to go to worthy charities or something.

Anonymous L3

Erin said...

RA—That's the really bad part of this. Because it's easy to write people off as being jerks, but then the people their jerkiness has victimized are left feeling like crap.

Anonymous L3—It doesn't help that because they bring in money, THAT covers all manner of sins. (cough) Michael Vick (ahem) Manny Ramirez

Jen said...

Thought provoking :) I am trying very hard to teach my children to be nicer to each other - because if you can't do it at home, how on earth will you do it anywhere else? And it's a good reminder for me on a daily basis as well, to be kinder while out in the world. We're all just people, trying to get through the day.

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