How did we all get so … vulgar? Certainly the Covid pandemic has imposed incredible stressors. So has racial unrest, wildfires, and divisive politics. But hard times used to bring out the best in us. Something changed.
I can remember sitting with one of my Reading Buddies at a local elementary years ago. On the table before us were some Dr. Seuss books. On the wall above us was the familiar district-wide banner declaring “Hands and Words are Not for Hurting.” I asked Billy, a first-grader, what he did over the weekend. “I watched WWF wrestling on TV!” he beamed. I knew pro wrestling had become popular again, but I was weak on the particulars. I asked him the name of his favorite wrestler. “Undertaker!” he snarled. “Is he one of the good guys?” I asked with naivety and a bit of hope. “Heck no, good guys are weanies,” he snapped. Startled, I asked him what he liked about Undertaker … his answer knocked the wind out of me. “I love Undertaker because he beats up the good guys and smacks women around!” So much for Dr. Seuss and the banner on the wall.
Many would criticize Billy’s family for letting a 6-year-old watch crap on TV. And that is part of the problem. But the larger fault lies with society. Which means us. Somehow we’ve let the loud, the boastful, and the vulgar become the popular traits. Not just on TV, but in music, film, news shows, video games, politics, sports, and reality soaps. The bad guys are cool, the slashers are heartthrobs, the cheaters win. And, quoting Billy: “the good guys are weanies.” The world has always been full of cruelty and selfishness, but art and literature would call us to noble aspirations and a higher good. The good of the ‘we’ was above the cravings of the ‘me.’
Perhaps the saddest mirror is social media. So much potential for good (and it’s there) … but such a bullhorn for harm. Instead of Billys watching Undertakers to get vicariously high by a third-party trash-talkin’ beat down, people can now get into the ring and slug away themselves. Friendships broken, teen suicides up, a nation divided. It will take a counter-revolution … and each of us doing what we can. I resolve to resist. It will be hard … vulgar is so easy.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8