Stand in the Light: My Thoughts on All the Controversy

People take umbrage at being told what to do. No spouse likes to be nagged about mowing the lawn even when the grass obviously needs cutting. No smoker likes to be told where to smoke; no motorcyclist likes to be told to wear a helmet; no homeowner likes to be required to meet building codes. No teenager likes to be told anything. People don’t like to be told what to do even when they might otherwise choose to do those exact things. They might do them out of common courtesy or a sense of safety or countless other logical motivators, but they resent being told, and in their resentment they don’t do them. How does that make sense? What the heck is ‘umbrage’?

If you look up ‘umbrage’ in a dictionary, notice the definitions that mention shade and shadow. Being told what to do overshadows one’s own judgment. The shadows are not where ruggedly individualistic Americans like to stand. Most people enjoy a day in the sun. Even if someone doesn’t like to dwell in the spotlight, he or she feels resentment at being pushed offstage into the shadows.

Now consider reason and emotions. Healthy, rational people know right from wrong. Right is superior to wrong, existing in an accepted hierarchy in our thoughts. But human emotions enter the same, single-threaded hierarchy of thought that includes ethical decisions. We are single-threaded, after all, not the great multi-taskers we might like to think we are. Pride and justice get shuffled together, a most unfortunate force-fit.

A person knows right from wrong and orders them appropriately. Then someone comes along and tells that person what to do. Regardless of the command or even the legitimacy of its authority, the order comes from outside one’s own mind. Determinations of right and wrong now have to cope with the intrusion of the command. Even if a person would normally elect a particular course of action, he takes umbrage at being told to do something that would otherwise appear just and right. In response, he or she may change a just decision to reconcile it with what pride has decided. Commands overshadow autonomy. People take umbrage. Pride goes before the fall.

No one likes to be told what to do. That’s why leadership is an art and marketing is a challenging profession. Both can persuade people, and both can exploit trust and credulity. People in positions of power can cajole others into forming opinions they might not have developed on their own. This is the basis for mob mentality. So before joining a mob that says something like, “You can take my gun when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers!” Or, “I’ll honor my ancestors with the Confederate flag if I damn well please,” think again. Is everyone as responsible as you are with a gun? Are you really proud of your ancestors who fought for the right to own slaves because they took umbrage at being told slavery was a federal issue rather than a states’ rights issue? Or do you love your ancestors blindly because they are family, and your allegiance to them is the emotion that dominates reason when you are told a flag you don’t find personally offensive shouldn’t be displayed?

Instead of taking offense at being told what to do, think about the right thing to do. In the end, do what’s right, regardless of whether someone told you to do it or not. That’s a great way to step out of the shadows and be your own rugged individual American person.

 

#controversy #Confederateflag #integrity #ethics #don’ttellmewhattodo #don’ttreadonme #guncontrol #racism

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