Browsing through social media, a place that has caused me more anger than “real life”, I saw someone say that people don’t wear masks because we live in “AMErica”. I chuckled. It was a bit clever. I enjoyed it. But this idea stuck in my head, for all the wrong reasons. It made sense. It was witty because it was beyond true. We have become a country that is more concerned with our own self-serving purposes than helping our neighbors. It’s about selfies to show off “looked cute, might delete later” for the sole purpose of likes and compliments. It’s about taking a photo of you helping someone, when it was just a photo op without any real kindness or intention to help. Once the camera is off, they go back into their luxury cars proud of their “good deed” plastered all over social media.
Think about this for a minute: What issues have been caused by this “Me First” approach? I’ll go with the obvious one first: the pandemic. “But I don’t want to wear a mask. I’ll get asthma if I do and I searched around 20 different websites before I found the one unscrupulous medical ‘professional’ to prove I’m right! You’re all sheeple that are being controlled by the fear-mongering liberals. Don’t wear masks! Don’t follow guidelines!” Spoiler: I’m no medical expert, but they said the longer that people had this mindset and did whatever they wanted because it’s “Me, me, me”, the longer we stayed in this mess. This “Me First” policy has kept us in this situation where over a half a million people in America died and still following these same guidelines a year later. It just involved people doing something for the greater good to get over this quicker, but freedoms and liberties or something. Whatever. Me First.
In a lesser, but equally important context, the concept of offensiveness. When Dr. Seuss’ estate stopped publishing books that even the author himself said was racist (also key point here: the estate stopped publishing the books not the government), it suddenly became this “I don’t see how this can be offensive.” “I don’t find it offensive at all.” First of all, I didn’t even know those books existed until this happened and I’m willing to bet most of the outraged people didn’t either. Secondly, if an Asian person (like I don’t know, my husband) points out why it’s offensive, I believe him. When your kid is called “chinky” or won’t get played with because he’s “Chinese looking”, I understand why that imagery of Asian people is offensive. When I pointed this out on Facebook to someone who says “I’m not sure why an Asian guy wearing an Asian hat eating with chopsticks” is offensive and people still don’t get it, it’s because they don’t care to get it. Because the fact that it’s offensive to someone else is irrelevant to them. Because it’s “Me First”. They were told to be offended by people being offended and by golly, they are going to be loud and ignorant about it!
I don’t remember it being like this growing up. But now I realize why my heart gets happy when I see something on social media about how someone bought their coffee order for them or paid for their breakfast tab at a restaurant. It’s because at some point, we have become so numb and oblivious of this descent into selfishness and self-serving ideals that these stories of people just being decent-freaking-human beings is hero-worthy these days. These people are being kind, and are rightfully complimented for their anonymous good acts. Hilariously, the biggest people applauding these special moments are the people who seem to be mostly about “Me First”. Do as you say?
The point is, we can be better than this by listening. Maybe instead of just letting someone tell you “cancel culture” (hilarious note: think of all the banned books in predominately Republican states before ranting about cancel culture), maybe take some time to see maybe why someone finds it offensive. Because it matters to them. Even if it seems ridiculous to you, maybe there’s a valid reason that you didn’t consider. Maybe if medical professionals say “wearing a mask would end this thing”, you should just suck it up and wear a mask. Because freedom doesn’t mean that you get to tell everyone else to eff off because you don’t want to be told what to do. Imagine the crappy world we’d live in if that were the… oh.. wait.