Last night I took in Peter Bogdonavich’s “The Last Picture Show” for the second time. It’s on Netflix’s instant streaming if you’re interested.

I love the film for its character arcs, its beauty, and its desperation. I also love it for moments like the one above, where Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) finally has his fill of the cavalier attitude the townspeople take towards death and tragedy. He’s exhausted from the hopelessness around him and almost – almost – takes it as his cue to pick up his life and move on elsewhere.

What really prompted me to share this clip, though, are the attitudes of the town elders to the prone body of the simple, innocent boy below them. The snide, cold, and passive-aggressive comments they make over the boy’s dead body are sickening, and we could take it as a sign of the cruelty of the older generation at the time of the film’s settings (the 1950s).

But that’s not true, is it? We see it all the time. We read it in comments responding to news events and hear it in real-life conversation at the dinner table, at parties, and at bars. There’s so much schadenfreude – the joy one takes in the suffering of others – that it’s almost suffocating, and it’s hurtful when I hear and see it done towards people I know, respect, and care about.

I suppose that old adage holds true: the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s just that lately, I’ve grown tired of being part of any conversation in that tone. I’m exhausted from listening to people who were never there tell everyone else what happened with a presumption of knowledge and expertise, despite their ignorance and lack of compassion. I don’t want to be the man who sees the wreckage and the body, figuratively speaking, and says “serves the boy right for having no sense.”

I want to be better than that.


23 Responses to He Was Sweeping, You Sons of—

  1. Chuck Miller says:

    Kevin –

    Truer words were never typed.

  2. Mary Kay Lisa says:

    Amen! Needed to be said!

  3. Ash Williams says:

    Great examples of this can be seen on the pages of the TU’s staff run blogs. Have a look at how commenters condemned the Price Chopper employee who mad a mistake in handling a customer complaint:

    There’s hardly a shred of compassion to be found there; is it so wrong to forgive somebody who screwed up?

  4. phoneguy says:

    Minutes before I read this blog I was at Bruegger’s grabbing a bagel. I went to the counter and the young lady behind the counter asked to help me. I placed my order and as she started to prepare the bagel the man standing about 4 feet behind me said to me, “did you just cut in front of me?” I said, “She asked to help me, I assumed you were already waited on.” After telling me I shouldn’t have assumed anything he proceeded to chew out the woman behind the counter. I said to him, “Dude, it’s a bagel, not a life altering event. Chill out. She made a mistake. Apologize to her, get your bagel, and go back to whatever job it is that I’m assuming (once again assuming) you hate.” As usual, I stepped in and said what I shouldn’t have but the point was well taken.
    When I was standing outside the guy approached me and apologized. He said “I really don’t hate my job, I’m just having a rough day there today.”

  5. Thanks for sharing that, phoneguy. A little perspective goes a long way.

  6. Mickey says:

    Kevin, I so agree with you that I am on the verge of avoiding reading blogs. You have given me a good reason to continue to read yours.

  7. Jen says:

    There’s many words running through my head, but I think I can sum them up by saying that I like this post. Thanks, Kevin!

  8. B.J. Hart says:

    Mickey, I too have stopped reading most blogs…I need to read nothing but stories backed by facts, to charge the ol’ batteries.

  9. Emily Lee says:

    My first blogging experience was with the TU and involved the tragic death of a teacher shot when he unknowingly walked into the wrong home at night and was shot by the homeowner.
    I could not believe all the horrid and sickening responses. People saying he was drunk, he deserved it etc.
    I was nauseated by the comments. I now avoid any blogs like this and refuse to respond to the pitiful, paranoid people who make cruel comments.

  10. CSSM says:

    I think you are beter than that.
    The fact that you want to be better than that kinda proves it.
    Being better than that is something that will last you throughout your life and extend to way simpler (and somehow equally as important) things.

  11. Ash Williams says:

    As long as Mike Huber and the other people who moderate comments at the TU allow — even encourage — hateful and disgusting comments, this will remain a problem.

  12. Teri Conroy says:

    I hear you, Kevin….The older I get the more I’m saddened by it. I think that outside world with those very sad people are what make me all the more grateful to have the farm (avoidance, I admit it). I think that’s why so many others enjoy it here too.

  13. countmein says:

    Thank you Kevin.

  14. Michael Rivest says:

    If I’m learning anything as I sail into my dotage, it’s the extent to which our views, values, practically every way we think is formed by our experience. It’s almost impossible to get people to put themselves in place of another.

    A great line from Solzhenitsyn (“Ivan Denisovich,” I think) comes to mind – “Never expect those who are warm to understand those who are cold.” Sad truth. At least Solzhenitsyn got famous saying things like that. I only get to write about boxing. haha.

    You’re good, kevin. You’re good. – M

  15. @Ash Williams
    Any given day, you or I may disagree with viewpoints expressed by dozens of comments. Like you, I wince and I roll my eyes and I wonder how in God’s name could someone seriously post this or that comment.

    I don’t think it’s realistic to expect an online community of this size, with nearly 400 bloggers moderating comments on nearly 200 blogs, to be homogeneous or populated entirely by readers who always behave as we’d wish. This online community reflects our offline, ‘real’ community.

    I don’t know that we’ve met, or if Ash Williams is your real name. Doesn’t matter. I’ll respect your right to privacy. I invite you to visit the TU and talk about our blogs. I’d like to hear your thoughts on how to make this online space a more civil community. If you’re interested in a discussion, call me at 454-5069 and let’s set it up. Thanks, Mike Huber

  16. Ash Williams says:

    Mike: I think we both know that you can look at the comment moderation and tell who I am, but thank you for respecting my privacy. I don’t feel free to use my name anymore.

    My gripe — as you may understand — is with the decisions you and your coworkers make about comments on the blogs you control. In my eyes, that’s where the very worst material tends to appear. Maybe that’s a flawed perception, but don’t you think you guys could at least try to set an example?

    Sure, I’d love to have a discussion, but I’m not convinced that you would.

  17. Michael Huber, says:

    I didn’t look at Kevin’s dashboard before I submitted my comment. Now that I have, I will continue to respect your alias/privacy. We’ve talked many times about blogs, and your gripe is of a personal nature. Still, you have my number, and you can use it whenever you wish.

  18. Ash Williams says:

    It’s gratifying to hear you say it’s personal. I thought it was just business.

  19. Michael Huber, says:

    Glad to correct your misunderstanding. Yes, I do believe your issue with our blogs is of a personal nature.
    If you prefer to remain anonymous, then you and I need to stop this talking in code and just move on. There’s no way to have a productive dialogue if your identity (germane to this issue) remains hidden. Best to let it go.

  20. Mike, You stole my right to report on my citys blog that I established for FREE due to your PRO Gay bias.

    That stinks dude.

    You wana talk about that?

    Silent no more.

    • Michael Huber, says:

      We took away your right to write blogs on the TU after you abused your privilege by sending a reader commenter a hate-filled email.

  21. Carl, I don’t think your problems have ever had anything to do with silence. Or restraint.

    Michael, Ash – Seriously, this type of back and forth in public just makes people ask what’s going on, scratch their head, and/or move on. Further comments from either of you on this matter would probably be best relegated to personal contact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>