I’ve noticed the word “shaming” being used with more frequency. Body shaming, hair shaming, clothes shaming—it seems that no one’s personal attributes are above being ridiculed on social media. I’ve figured out that shaming is just another word for insults and personal attacks. I can remember when you got a smack on the head from your mother if you made fun of someone. Is it time to start doing that again with grown-ups?
I’ve seen co-workers laughing at online videos of people caught in embarrassing situations at the gym, the pool, the beach, a restaurant and just about anywhere else you can think of. These aren’t cute kitten or clumsy kid videos, either. Many are accompanied by disparaging commentary about the person’s body, hair, tats, piercings or speech patterns. I’d be willing to bet that many of these folks didn’t know they were on candid camera until someone told them that they’d reached a thousand hits on YouTube.
It's gotten so out of hand that I’ve seen shaming creep into legitimate writing. Recently I read an online story on a reputable news site. The reporter had covered a disturbance at a political rally and referred to one of the protestors as “fat and sloppy, with ugly piercings and long greasy hair.” Wow—I only use words like those when I’m describing a character in one of my books. If you’re writing an Op-Ed piece, it’s a given that you’re allowed some latitude, since you’re expressing your opinion, but in a hard news story? Perhaps this writer studied at the Bill O’Reilly school of journalism.
During the recent circus they called the primary elections, I was dismayed when I turned on the TV and saw a so-called grown man resort to name calling, insults and bullying whenever someone disagreed with him. This is something I’d expect from an ill-mannered child or a playground thug wannabe, but not a presidential contender. During the debates, I half expected the candidates to stick their tongues out at each other and respond with “Oh, Yeah? So’s your old man!”
It’s typical for a candidate to attack their opponents’ job performance and qualifications. This is all public record and its considered fair game. When did it become acceptable to make rude remarks about their eating habits, style of dress, speech patterns or worse, their family, spouse, gender or ethnic and religious backgrounds? There used to be an unwritten rule that these things were off limits. Apparently someone rewrote the handbook while I was out of the room.
I’ve worked with adults with developmental disabilities for 25-plus years and I’m sensitive to the way they’re treated in public. These people have rights and dignity like the rest of us and I tend to get livid when someone mocks them or resorts to name calling. Thanks to one of our presidential candidates, this is apparently acceptable behavior now. A recent experience brought it home for me.
We had taken a group of these special people to a local dinner theater, which we patronize several times a year. The night we went to see “The Wizard of Oz” had us seated near an older couple. No sooner had we reached the table when the woman rolled her eyes, groaned and loudly said “We have to sit next to those people?” To make matters worse, her husband was intentionally rude to one of our group, complaining that she was blocking his way to the buffet line. The fact that she was in a wheelchair with a portable oxygen tank probably escaped his notice. The manager saw what was happening and quickly intervened, offering the couple a table in a different part of the theater.
Not to sound like a Pollyanna, but I believe that everyone contributes something to the game of life and deserves common courtesy and respect. Wouldn’t it be nice if more people could remember that in their daily interactions with others? Even nicer if they’d think before they Tweet, or put away the damn cell phone camera when someone does something embarrassing. It might not be something they’d like the whole world to see.
Maybe we could start the Random Acts of Kindness party for the election. We might not get many votes and YouTube would take a hit, but it would be fun to try.
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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author, whose books range from romantic mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. His website is www.timsmithauthor.com.