Safe from caring?

All too often, I see people being cruel just for the sake of being cruel. Why is it now safe for people to behave this way?

BRATTLEBORO — I have been paying very little attention to the story of the five rich people who went down to view the Titanic wreck on the ultra deep submersible. I was pretty sure that they were already dead. At that depth any tiny thing goes wrong and it is pretty quick - like nanoseconds - and it is over. The pressure at that depth is immense.

I did, however, see the reactions of a lot of people.

Some people tried for humor and rarely succeeded, some people tried to be supportive of those families affected by the tragedy, some people offered prayers and the like, and some people just flat out denigrated the people involved, and others just getting in the face, so to speak, of anyone making fun of this.

Then came the news of what I suspected: those aboard were dead and probably had been since the moment that communication was lost - an outcome that was not unexpected by me and, I suspect, a lot of others.

And the reactions kicked up.

The ones that I found most interesting were those that said that, basically: These rich people got themselves into this. Why are my taxes paying for the search and rescue? We have many other needs for this money, and they can afford to look themselves, can't they?

Some of these posts played off Facebook's offering to those affected by disasters of any sort to create an instant update that marked themselves safe. Here, I saw people sharing a fake Facebook graphic that purportedly tagged them as “safe from caring about this.” This I found interesting as well.

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All these reactions got me to thinking about how we all deal with the very public way that things like this play out in our world.

I remember, for example, when Ronald Reagan was president and was shot in an assassination attempt. He was not my fave president, by far; I found most everything that he did reprehensible. Yet, when the news flashed over the networks that he had been shot, I had a sick-to-my-stomach reaction and was appalled that anyone would want to do that to another person.

And I remember when the Challenger blew up, 73 seconds into takeoff. I was at work, and the word went around very quickly. I was in disbelief. And gradually I came to know it was true, and I experienced the same sick feeling and sorrow for the people on board the shuttle.

These incidents took place before social media. Now, reactions have become much more diverse - and, in many cases, meaner.

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What is it about social media that lets some people just be cruel to others?

I am not talking about disagreeing with someone's post and saying so and why. I am talking about just being mean for the sake of being mean, of denigrating the people involved just because they are different.

Why is it now safe to do this?

Maybe because there is a certain distance involved so that no one can really call you out on it. And maybe because social media, by its very nature, clumps like-minded people together so that mean people can get reinforcement from one another easily.

All too often, I see people being cruel just for the sake of being cruel. I am really grateful that I have not allowed myself to behave that way for a long time. I really believe that indulging in this behavior makes them less of a person and more of an animal.

Let us be kind to one another. Let us recognize the humanity in one another - even when we disagree with or dislike the life that someone else is living. (Although, I note: Neither of those things are your business.)

We are all human. And while I will continue to call out those that I see spreading harmful and hateful beliefs, I will strive to recognize that they are just as human as I.

For, as Ben Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or we shall most assuredly all hang separately.” And with the state of our world today, that sentiment is more true now that it has ever been.

We must as a society be truthful and kind. That is the only way to save us all from our own destruction.

So I believe.

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