My daughter took a short road trip the other day. Somewhere along the way, she heard a bang like something hit the car, but she could see no immediate, visible damage from the drivers’ seat and it had no impact on her driving. Upon reaching her destination, she discovered that a front plastic headlight case was shattered; inside the wreckage, amidst broken pieces of plastic, she found a glass shard with a Guinness label on it.
So, piecing together what must have happened (as she is telling me the story) we determined that someone ahead of her on the highway must have lobbed their empty beer bottle out of their car. Not just being a jerk litterer and tossing it to the side of the road, nor simply unfastidious and tossing it into the back seat, but a full arm swing backward into oncoming traffic.
Upon which my daughter asked me, “How hard would it have been for this person not to be an asshole?”
This struck me as a profound question, but one that should be easy to answer with a simple “not very hard.” Given all the possible ways to dispose of an empty beer bottle, this person made a conscious, deliberate decision to be an asshole.
Upon reflection, this would appear an all too familiar circumstance. For example:
- Airplane passengers who refuse to wear a mask
- All those folks who think they are making some sort of statement by not getting vaccinated. I think the statement is “I’m an idiot.”
- Anyone who knowingly blows (or deliberately rolls) through a stop sign
- Highway drivers who remain in the left lane despite the half-mile of cars and trucks lining up behind then. (Having driven well over 3,000 miles in recent months, I can attest to the ubiquity of this behavior.)
- Privileged, entitled “Karens” who, when recorded acting like spoiled children who did not get their way, resort to shouting racial epithets
- Matthew Cawthorn, who publicly admitted that his office spends way more time trying to get press for him than on legislative matters
- Mitch McConnell, who now wants corporations to “stay out of politics” after spending billions of their contributions on Republican candidates
- Joe Manchin who is trying to enhance his chances of re-election in 2022 in increasingly Republican West Virginia by ignoring the will of virtually all the nation’s Democratic voters and a fair portion of moderate Republican voters by first vacillating, then hardening his position not to weaken the Senate filibuster
And, of course, the list goes on and on. I took a drive through rural Ohio recently. The number of Trump signs and flags (and I suspect stained glass windows) still up is staggering, along with the ever-present confederate battle flags. A new addition to these political shrines: “Fuck Biden” flags. I understand a single, simple Trump flag or sign. But the rest? As this is free speech I can object to it but cannot allow it to be suppressed. What makes these die-hard supporters assholes are not the signs or flags. It is the perpetuation of the bigotry, hypocrisy, and ignorance that many of those flags and signs represent.
And sometimes, just sometimes, the assholes get what they deserve. Admittedly not often enough. That guy who took a BMW for a test drive, drove to a bank, robbed it, and took the cash back to the BMW dealer to buy the car? He got caught. Yippee! Definitely a future candidate for a Darwin Award – for now we will have to be satisfied that his ability to reproduce his genes will be on hold at least temporarily, if not permanently.
The anti-vaxxers who get sick from COVID-19 and worse yet die from it? I know it might make me a bad person, but it is just pure schadenfreude for me. Their assholiness is manifest in the reality that they take innocents with them.
All this reflection on the topic has led me to revise my initial response to my daughter. While it should be amazingly easy not to be an asshole, the evidence suggests that it is, apparently, hard. How else can one explain the abundance of assholes in our midst?