Ever Stare at a Schizophrenic? Want to Waterboard a Politician?

November 8, 2010

Stand in an elevator facing the people, not the door. Be middle class, refuse an education. Stare. Be honest. Don’t mow your lawn. End a conversation because it’s boring. Loaf. Say what you mean. Wear flip-flops to meetings. Follow your dreams. Deviate.

Last week I spent about 30 minutes staring at a German schizophrenic. He was sitting across from me on a train to the Dusseldorf Airport. Everyone else avoided him, presumably because they understood his shouts and murmurs, which must have been offensive as everyone moved away from him immediately.

He asked me if I spoke English. I pretended I didn’t giving both of us the freedom to gawk. He smelled, as homeless people tend to do, but as I’ve said before, I have this smelling thing. Good or bad, it’s an unappreciated sense. We’re taught not to stare at people particularly people who are down on their luck, those we’re taught to ignore. But because I was in a foreign country and incapable of understanding this fascinating man, I was uninhibited by the social norms that would have turned me from him at home.

I’m catching up on my Bible reading, just whizzed through the Book of Hosea and the Book of Jonah. Hosea is a softie who does everything God tells him to do including staying with a cheating wife, and Jonah does what he pleases but eventually goes back to God. Why do they do this? Because they’re supposed to. They’re told to go back to God. It’s the thing to do. It relieves guilt, consummates loyalty. It’s the norm.

So anyone who adheres to norms gets a pass but who creates those norms and why do we follow?

I don’t know who creates them (sociologist please), but we follow them because the repercussions for breaking social norms are difficult to endure. In some cases, the pressure expounded on these social outliers is so great it leads to suicide.

Unfortunately norms are homogenizing, they keep us from entertaining what we want to do and encourage us to criticize those who do differently.

I’m young(ish) so I’m supposed to network. I hate it. Listening to uninteresting, self-righteous professionals talk about their accomplishments is torturous. All I ever want to say is, “You’re uninteresting and I hope I never spend one more second with you even if you are one of the most ‘successful’ young professionals in the region.” But that’s rude. So I don’t network. I keep my mouth shut, fall in line.

Yesterday I watched “Meet the Press,” which always causes heartburn. Sen. Jim DeMint (R/Tea Party-S.C.) was asked how to right our country’s debt so we don’t have to raise the $1.4 TRILLION debt cap (shiver). Does he want to raise taxes? Cut spending? He said we can do both but refused to explain exactly how that might work. Due to time constraints, what have you, he got a pass.

We take this stuff in stride, take our grievances to the ballot box — what a joke — and accept these non-answers. I’d like to go live with a suggestion to waterboard politicians — a small incentive for details — but I don’t because of the kickback. The last time I said something moderately controversial in a blog titled “Please Just Shut the F%*& Up,” a narcissistic Midwestern mayor got himself in a tizzy, complicating my job for about a month. (If you’re interested in this piece, let me know. I’ll send you an email.) On this one, the personal repercussions were minimal, but because I cantered outside of the norm and spoke my mind rather than following the path of the “objective journalist,” I couldn’t access resources I needed. Really? Because of an opinion? Perhaps a new(ish) idea?

I give major props to columnists and individuals who put their opinions out there without any excuses. Since we’re so politically correct and hold so tightly to this idea of being normal, this is a rarity. We don’t like to rock the boat or confront the mighty social norms.

So, did Hosea and Jonah profess loyalty to God because it was easy? Is religion a norm? Do people do it because it’s easy, because they’re afraid of social repercussions? Before getting defensive, think about it. Do what I do. Tell people — without apologizing — that you don’t believe in God or go to Church. My guess is that the person will either pity you or try to save your soul. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not normal.

(Interesting side note: “Are Independent Thinkers Mentally Ill?”)

Stopping Point: The Book of Micah

*FYI, I’ll be publishing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I need to make up for last week’s absence.

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5 Responses to “Ever Stare at a Schizophrenic? Want to Waterboard a Politician?”

  1. marg said

    Two things:
    1) I *think* you meant “Jonah”…not “Noah”.

    2) I found it interesting that you feel the need to apologize for telling someone you don’t believe in God or go to church. *I* feel the need to apologize when I tell people I do believe in God and do go to church. I imagine people pitying me…thinking I need a crutch or that I am delusional. It is definitely not easy to proclaim faith in God in a country which seems to be bending over backwards to erase God wherever they can.

    • thumpme said

      I stand corrected. Jonah is what I meant to say. My mistake.

      As for apologizing, I never apologize to people for not going to church. I was saying that when pressed, some people apologize for their views/beliefs. My challenge was to avoid apology. I don’t think anyone should apologize for what they believe and I’m pleased to know you’re strong in your convictions as I imagine that difficulty runs both ways.

  2. marg said

    Ah! I should have read what you wrote again. Now I stand corrected. I guess the “do what I do” part didn’t register the first time. :o)

  3. […] is a modern day prophet. Like prophets, psychics predict events. People listen to the predictions they like and ignore those they […]

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