Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who Do We Think We Are?


In today's society, everybody has an opinion on ... well, just about every imaginable topic.  With the help of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, surveys, comments, and posts, we can declare our opinions on everything from Whitney Houston's death to troops in Afghanistan to child-rearing to product reviews.  We like things on Facebook, we retweet on Twitter, and we comment on blog posts, news articles, and video clips.

These constant opportunities to share our opinions have caused me to wonder ... who do we think we are?  Why is it that we even have an opinion about, let's say ... Whitney Houston?  For the vast majority of us, we don't know her.  We've never met her or held a conversation with her.  We may have seen her in concert or in a movie or read about her in those oh-so-reliable tabloid magazines, but really ... Why would we ever presume we could voice a reasonable opinion about her?  Yet post after post on news articles about her death proclaim loud opinions on who she was as a person, the actions she took during her life, the cause of her death, and even the reaction of the public to her passing.

And the funny thing is, we're so very definite about our opinions.  We speak as though we know.  And what we know, even though it generally only applies to our very limited view of the situation, we present as gospel fact.  After Madonna's Super Bowl half-time show, for example, strong opinions were running rampant across the world wide web ...
The whole halftime show was a bunch of crap, like most American "entertainment" these days...
I believe that she is the least talented yet most (in terms of dollars) successful entertainer in history - with perhaps the exception of Mick Jagger, whose Stones continue to rake in millions despite not having done a decent album since Beggars Banquet. Yet another stupid half time show. 
Personally, I think she did a good job performing the halftime show. Yes, maybe she is trying to do things that she did 25 years ago but what the heck, doesn't everyone try to turn back time at one point.  
This was the most excellent and unexpectedly subversive Super Bowl halftime show in years.
Again, who do we think we are?  After the hours of rehearsals, thousands of dollars, and the collective energy of hundreds of people who put so much into this twelve-minute performance on national television ... how can we have the gall to definitively state whether it was good or bad?  Especially while sitting on our sofas, enjoying football food, and having absolutely nothing to do with any part of the production?  It's not the "I enjoyed it" or "I didn't care for it" opinions that get to me, it's the ones that state with such confidence, "It was crap."  Really?  What qualifies us to make such a statement?

It seems to me that we've lost the art of being polite, politic, and knowing our place.  If we don't know Whitney Houston personally, we therefore shouldn't comment on her personal life.  If we have no idea how a major entertainment production is put together, perhaps we shouldn't judge it as fully 'good' or fully 'bad.'  But, most of all, we should know our place.  There was a time when everyone in society knew their place.  We spoke of things that we were knowledgeable about and listened to others when they were better informed.  We would never dream of offering an opinion about something that in no way concerned us.  And it wasn't considered unpatriotic to keep our opinions to ourselves; it was considered polite conversation.  Do we even have 'a place' anymore?  And if we do, would we even recognize it if we saw it?

Just because we have the right to free speech doesn't mean we are obligated to spew every thought that enters our heads.  And why must our opinions so often be negative to the point of scathing?  If we don't like something ... well, okay.  Could we just not like it without declaring it (and everything associated with it) complete crap?  Is our need to express our opinions so strong that we completely negate the need for civility?

In my happy place, sharing opinions would be reserved for times when they would be helpful, insightful, or otherwise informative.  Our likes, retweets, and comments would be utilized to empower, encourage, or educate.  We would reserve our passionate responses for things that matter ... civil rights, stopping abuse, hunger, illness, and other societal issues that warrant passion and action. And patriotism wouldn't be measured by how loudly we express random opinions -- just because we can -- but by how we represent the country that gives us those freedoms.

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