Although I’ve tittered at the media spectacle of Joe Wilson, Kanye West and others, I’m going to hold back on making any grand comments. I haven’t read the health care bill, nor have I ever been interested in the Video Music Awards.
I do think there is a general anxiety about the loss of order around us. To some extent we’re relearning and creating the etiquette, the simple rituals and courtesies, that order our common life. Gone, it seems, are titles and euphemisms. Instead, equality and directness.
The old school perspective was like so: honor the traditions of your fathers and mothers – they still make sense. Hold on to your principles. Respect the rituals that keep us gathered. Be loyal to your family and friends. Acknowledge that there are culturally holy places. Respect the role and office, even if you disagree with person holding it. Let there be civility.
Here’s the critique: sometimes etiquette masks and legitimates provinciality, ignorance and arrogance. It perpetuates injustice by evading simple issues of fairness. In these cases, speaking out makes sense, because the truth needs to be spoken. And the old school perspective is hard to maintain when money needs to be made at civility’s expense. Rudeness sells.
We need both reverence and the shock of truth. When we aren’t sure of what is going on, then we may respect the red lights, the stop signs and the social cues around us. Sometimes in the midst of disorder, being more intentional about respecting others is crucial. But when we need to make a change, speaking the truth is part of how we move forward.
Of course, sometimes we may be wrong when we speak. That’s another risk. But we can survive our mistakes because the tension between order and the catalyzing force of truth is held together by one thing: charity. It may not have been shared with us. But it is necessary for us to survive things changing, and the many mistakes we make along the way.
If we can’t show magnanimity even to our enemies, how can we move forward?
It is difficult to do such. However, the source of that strength is nothing else but faith that we have the strength to be magnanimous in the first place. And the faith that it works. Faith that love is what God wants for us, and part of his infinite beauty. Even Joe Wilson and Kanye West, though they broke the rules, even though they might be wrong, may also in time, be forgiven by God.
The media, however, not so much.