Nothing describes modern American society today so much as the term “constant childish conflict.”
From global warming to guns to immigration – and now even which bathroom to use – to be an American today is to live in a constant whirlpool of juvenile bickering, umbrage and tantrum. It seems you’re only doing one of two things today: You’re either giving offense or taking it. If you’re an accomplished multi-tasker, perhaps you can do both at once.
So we yell and point fingers and, if need be, run to the courthouse to get a judge to force our view of the world on someone else.
Sadly enough, our highest leaders are modeling such behavior more and more. This past week, the governor of North Carolina sued the U.S. Department of Justice over its opposition to the state’s “bathroom bill” requiring folks in that state to use the restroom indicated on their birth certificate. The Justice Department quickly fired its own lawsuit in return.
The dueling lawsuits may someday settle the apparent legal question: whether existing civil rights laws cover access to public restrooms by transgendered people, and those who simply identify as the opposite sex. I doubt it.
But the instantly contentious case is yet more indication that we are abandoning reason and compromise in this country.
Perhaps it was inevitable. My fellow travelers and I, the baby boomers, have long been coddled with such reassurances that “the customer is always right.” We’ve grown up with a creeping, unspoken credo that we – every one of us – can get our way. On everything. All the time. And the succeeding generation certainly hasn’t been disabused of the notion.
This is why you see the occasional video hysterics of fast-food customers going bonkers because their order wasn’t right.
Have we completely lost either the ability or desire to accommodate each other? Does that spiritually pointed “Coexist” bumper sticker – spelled with the symbols of the world’s great religions – also apply to American secular life?
Just look at the way we talk over and to each other – rather than talking “with” each other. If someone disagrees with you, you’re a hater. You’re phobic. And they’re just flat wrong. There’s no middle ground.
If global warming alarmists could stop calling the skeptics “members of the Flat Earth Society” for just a while, maybe some of the skeptics would come around. Maybe we could find common ground on the Earth: We don’t necessarily have to completely agree that global warming is real or man-made, but maybe we can agree to reduce pollution and boost green practices just in case.
There also might be common ground on the bathroom bill. A friend – a conservative friend, no less – suggested to me that perhaps even proponents of the North Carolina law might accept post-operative transgendered men using a woman’s restroom.
Likewise, it seems to me that opponents of the law could be more open to the sincere and valid concerns being expressed about letting men use women’s restrooms and locker rooms willy-nilly. We’ve already seen cases of peeping Toms. What might be next?
Of course, there are elements of society who will never, ever, agree to anything less than 100 percent of what they want. Unfortunately, it’s those intransigents who always seem to have the floor anymore.
This is a huge world. This is an immense nation with the most diverse population on Earth. Surely we can make room for people to be who they are – which is so American, after all – and still maintain as safe and sane an environment as possible.
But it’s so much more fun to fight!
Thing is, you rarely find compromise in a courtroom.
The immediate issue is the admittedly small transgender population. The more chronic issue is our intransigent population.
I went to visit another friend recently. After we briefly chatted about the business at hand, he stunned me with a question out of the blue:
“What can I do for you?” he said.
That stuck with me, because I thought it was subtly profound.
Mind you, this was not a retail interaction with a perky employee parroting the company greeting. This was a friend in a non-commercial setting. He didn’t want anything and he wasn’t out to grow his business or something. He sincerely wanted to know if I could divine anything he could do for me. No catch.
It left me wondering: What if we all adopted that kind of selfless, giving approach to all our interactions? It’s the essence of servant leadership, and it can be applied in almost all situations.
Try it on a friend first. Surprise them with “What can I do for you?”
I can promise you one thing. They won’t take offense.
If the movement spread, the term “public accommodations” might even take on a whole new meaning.