I’ve been alive for forty-seven years so I am at best on the downhill portion of life, mortality wise. That’s a drag. I hurt more in the morning. I want to go to bed earlier. Many of my feats of strength and skill are behind me, often both unremarkable and unrealized at the time of their accomplishment. But longevity does come with a bit of experience and, I hope, wisdom. I need all I have of both because I am in uncharted territory. If the truth be told, so is almost everyone who missed both the Great Depression and the Spanish Flu Epidemic.
The world seems newly upside down with every turn of the twenty-four hour news cycle. COVID-19 related deaths are around 206,000 worldwide as of this writing. Some nations are wide open, some are locked down. Here in the United States, New York City looks like a dystopic movie and most places are under “stay at home” orders, while in my home state the Governor apparently thinks you should get a tattoo at your favorite massage parlor with those nice folks you met on the flight from Wuhan. US unemployment is projected to trend at 15% for 2021, 5% more than the peak of the 2008-2009 recession. If those unanticipated bizarrities were not enough, I can’t even count on previous constants. Liberals who regularly demand a national minimum wage and a guaranteed basic income are suddenly dismissive of people whose survival turns as surely on their need to work as their ability to wait out a viral contagion. I’m guessing the Venn overlap of people affected by both arguments is pretty wide. On the other side of the street, conservatives for whom “it’s a life not a choice” are suddenly maybe OK with launching a few Grandmas into the great beyond if it means we can get back to business. Further confusing me, some Liberals suddenly fell in love with the 10th Amendment’s restriction on Federal power while conservatives who asserted minorities, “should just follow the law because these inappropriate protests aren’t helping” are suddenly playing dress up in “Operator Ken” attire, strapping on off-brand AKs, and marching on State Houses of Government. What’s next? Plagues of frogs? Locusts? A four-hour period without Facebook telling me “Doug Kiesewetter updated his story”? I grow more confused daily.
But there is one thing I know; one constant that remains through all of the past, current, and future uncertainty: You are a hypocrite and so am I. Maybe hypocrisy is too heavy a charge to lay at your feet. Maybe you’re just inconsistent. But I am regularly a hypocrite and I think if we’re all honest, we’ll each own it. And in acknowledging that none of us is wholly right or wrong, that our reality intrudes daily upon our ideological purity, and that all of us are just trying to figure it out the best we can, we will all be better for it and maybe come to understand one another a little bit as we collectively turn down the heat.
We’ve arrived, together, at a place where we will say things to other citizens in a virtual domain we would never say to their faces. Pre-internet, my father would say someone who acted in real life like many of us do online had “come un-slapped.” He had a cure for that problem that can’t be implemented via Wi-Fi. Maybe our world is better for that inability. But we’ve become undeniably electronically uncivil and we can certainly choose to figuratively slap some sense into ourselves now. I’ll start.
I’m Worth, and I am a hypocrite.
I am a small and local government advocate; a freedom loving, rugged individualist. I think the government should stay out of our business, our pockets, our homes, and our lives. Well, except for National Parks. I am big fan of the government owning and maintaining huge tracts of wild land for the enjoyment of the citizenry and protection of wildlife. But other than that, I am a lover of freedom who thinks individual and corporate land owners should be able to do what they like on their property. I mean, unless it pollutes the water or air or affects my view or makes traffic worse or forces me to get a reverse osmosis water filter installed to hopefully clear out the toxic chemicals an upstream corporation put in my kid’s tap water. So, I guess the Environmental Protection Agency is cool. But otherwise, I say shrink the size of government and get it under control. That is, unless my Senator can come up with a little pork to fix the erosion situation at my beach front condo in the most threatened building on the most threatened beach in the United States. Surely it was an unintentional oversight when the Founding Fathers left “and bail Worth out of that condo nightmare he created in 2006 through a series of poorly considered decisions” out of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” So anyway, yeah, about your taxes going to that Federal beach money? We cool, right? I’m good for it down the road when your house floods or the tornados come or the wildfires burn you out. My point? We are complex humans living complex lives, thus inconsistent on our best days. Most of us are hypocrites and in that common hypocrisy, I find hope.
If I am a hypocrite and you’re a hypocrite and we both admit it, maybe we can establish some common ground, no matter the issue. Maybe we can acknowledge that, at least in our heads, there is some flex on issues we just can’t bend on when we are explaining them to some ABSOLUTE IDIOT in the comments section of a story designed to drive us to post an emotional response in the comments section. Maybe we can try honesty, like, “I get it man, you have three kids and you’re scared you are not going to be able to make rent. That’s understandable and I’m sympathetic. I’m also scared I’m going to drag home a germ that kills Grandpa Frank, you know?” Maybe we can acknowledge that behind the avatars, behind the screen names, behind the three line bios, there are complex, feeling, thinking humans who would likely help you change your tire on the side of a dark road or hold your hand in the back of an ambulance or carry your soon to arrive baby’s furniture into your house for your pregnant wife because you’re in Afghanistan (thanks, Robert). We can choose to reject the simple characterization of the entirety of others as the things we find most objectionable about them. Maybe someone disagrees with you on something you hold as critical. That matters. Politics do actually affect lives for good and ill. But they’re really just things we deal with as we move along to a common destination that will leave us as nothing more than a memory and our reputation. We already know we’ll be remembered as hypocrites. Will you be remembered as an honest one?
Russell Worth Parker is a career Marine Corps Special Operations Officer. He likes barely making the cut-offs in ultra-marathon events, sport eating, and complaining about losing the genetic lottery. He is an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and graduate of the University of Colorado, the Florida State University College of Law and the Masters in Conflict Management and Resolution Program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Special Operations Command, the United States Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.