Tuesday, October 09, 2012

What's That About?

Saw this bumper sticker the other day.  As I drove past the car, I exclaimed, loudly, "For God's sake!"  Which was rather ironic, I suppose.

I searched the interwebs and read a few explanations about this bumper sticker.  There was a whole conversation on the Austin, Texas Yelp site, which had the flavor of most anonymous internet conversations:

Lovely Lady:  I saw this bumper sticker the other day and wondered what it meant.

Wish it was Friday:  I was wondering that, too.

Big Dog:  I did an extensive search on Google.  There was a lot of BS, but I found this:  "This sticker originated at blah blah munitions company and they are praying for the safety of our snipers.  Those snipers save lots of lives, since they can make surgical strikes."

Fabulous Frank:  That sticker is not very Austin-y.  Give peace a chance, y'all.

Lovely Lady:  Oh, thanks.  I googled too and didn't find a good answer.  You rock, Big Dog!

Big Dog:  Frank, that's the problem with Austin.  We don't allow alternate opinions.

Barry the Welder:  Frank, you are an idiot!

Fabulous Frank:  I was being ironic.

It goes on.  I changed the excellent screen monikers and paraphrased the dialogue, but that captures it pretty well.  There was much more, but I didn't feel like reading to the point where the conversation devolved to pre-verbal grunting.  I no longer read the "Unfettered Letters" section of the Kansas City Star website, because it is simply a depository for hateful discourse, with the occasional salient comment.  I'm not willing to  sort through that much poop hoping for a pony.  There seem to be people with a lot of time on their hands these days--a lot of time, and not much love in their hearts, or at least in their fingertips, which is the problem here, exactly.

We have a multiplicity of opportunities for coarse discourse at our fingertips, and on our bumpers.  I'm not sure what motivates someone to put a bumper sticker on their car that says "God bless our troops...especially our SNIPERS!"  I do know that it is not a benevolent wish for the protection of American soldiers and marines who happen to be snipers.  The punctuation makes that abundantly clear.  This is a "prayer" for those who locate and destroy our "enemies" with precision.  It is a prayer for killing.  One could support it with a biblical argument, but not a gospel argument.  Yeah, I'm Lutheran--I get to make that distinction.  Thanks, Martin Luther!

I do have a few theories on what the motivation for this sort of hateful discourse might be:

Theory #1:  We really do believe that an American life has more value than an Afghan life, or a Pakistani life, or the life of anyone else who might be found in the crosshairs of a sniper's rifle.

Theory #2:  We no longer feel that anyone truly listens to what we say.  So we say it in such a way that it cannot be avoided.  We speak in sweeping generalizations, in shocking language, in profanity--in much the same way that a six-year-old will smack another child just to get attention.  We'll take the negative if we can't get the positive.

Theory #3:  We are becoming an increasingly polarized people who turn to hateful discourse out of anger at our lack of power, or perceived lack of power.

It could be any of those, or something else.  It's likely a hybrid of all three, added to the convenience of sharing our thoughts anonymously, semi-anonymously, or at least at a distance, on so many digital formats these days.  Like this blog, for instance.

So we have a problem and it is perhaps merely attributable to sin and therefore a part of the human condition, but I'm inclined to think there is a solution.  First we have to ask a few questions.  I would pose these:

-->How do we recover peace in our discourse?

-->How do we learn to speak out of love and not anger?

-->And when anger is unavoidable--when there are children going hungry in a prosperous country (or any country, for that matter), when American soldiers and marines are dying for reasons that seem abstract or fictitious, when the gap between rich and poor passes "obscene" and heads for "absurd"--when injustice is the order of the day, and we are obligated by faith and/or reason to speak out, how do we do so in a way that doesn't alienate those who really need to hear our message?

I am increasingly convinced that we need to stop and answer those questions, before we're going to solve much else.

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