While I grouse to those around me that it’s too cold too soon, and too quickly (my mock orange was blooming late last week, for Pete’s sake), it strikes me that I don’t have anything much other than politics that’s been bugging me enough on which to write a whole column, and frankly, my eyes are rolling too much to write about politics right now.
That’s a problem. I’m supposed to be filling this space raht-cheer.
I could talk about the lack of civility, especially from people who aren’t interested in anything that doesn’t involve them being praised, and who spend the bulk of their days being angry. At what, who knows, but it really irks them no end. Ask them, though, and they’ll swear they’re happy. I don’t get it.
I ran into just that kind of person while getting gas the other day … or, I should say, was nearly run into by that person, parked at the time, who saw me about to pull in to one of the pumps and decided to suddenly reverse to try to cut me off. She yelled at me (something about me being entitled … boy, does she not know me) as I got out of the car, then sped away when I looked at her quizzically. Perhaps she was afraid I’d say something back.
If I had, it probably would have been something along the lines of, “I’m sorry you’re apparently having a bad day or a bad life. If I’d seen you before you nearly smacked into me, I would have gladly surrendered the pump because there are others open. But if it makes you feel better to be the injured party, go ahead. At least make an attempt to have a good day.” That’s if I’m not feeling the need to be extra-snarky.
Introverts generally don’t like confrontation, but some of us relish the opportunity to be snarky. We’re weird like that. Sure, sometimes it’s after the fact, but …
Honestly, I pity people who would rather fling insults and complain about the problem than see there are solutions (like, oh, I dunno, other gas pumps), and who see the world as “us versus them” (folks, it’s just “us”). There is a lot of bad that happens in the world, but much of what happens to us is our own doing. We get back what we put out there. If you abuse, disrespect, and harass others, it shouldn’t come as a shock when you’re not treated with respect or the slightest bit of courtesy.
But give a smile and a nod, and you’re a lot less likely to feel the need to hurry away for fear that somebody might say something mean to you.
Then again, maybe you haven’t had much of a chance to play victim lately, so …
I could talk about the difference between patriotism and nationalism. And there is a difference, despite what some might try to tell you; I’ll listen instead to authorities like Merriam-Webster … dictionaries kinda know about words. (For that matter, Difference Between does a good comparison as well.)
“Patriotism,” the older of the two, dates back to about 1652. (For a good laugh, check out Merriam-Webster’s Words At Play blog’s aside in the patriotism/nationalism entry on “quomodocunquizing clusterfist,” a phrase that appears with the earliest known use of “patriotism,” which can be found here. Just don’t ask me to pronounce it.) When “nationalism” appeared about 150 years later, the two words were used fairly interchangeably, both essentially referring to love of country.
But, as we know, meanings evolve through usage and time. Try calling a woman “hussy” (which originally meant housewife) if you don’t believe me. Especially if it’s one of the women just elected to Congress.
Since at least 1930s Germany, “nationalism” has largely come to signify movements claiming superiority of only one segment of the human race (ahem, an extremely white one in most cases), so excuse those of us creeped out by people declaring themselves nationalists.
Merriam-Webster writes, “There are still obvious areas of overlap: We define patriotism as ‘love for or devotion to one’s country’ and nationalism in part as ‘loyalty and devotion to a nation.’ But the definition of nationalism also includes ‘exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.’ This exclusionary aspect is not shared by patriotism.”
If this were a grade-school report card, “nationalism” would probably get a “doesn’t play well with others” note.
While “nationalism,” which tends to be used by movements with a political bent, isn’t always pejorative, Merriam-Webster says, “As a dictionary, we must weigh all matters of semantic and regional difference. Therefore we can offer no firm guidance as to whether or not nationalism qualifies as an insult across the board. We can, however, advocate for the revival of the tradition of insult with precision.”
I know, I know, that means thinking before speaking. We all must suffer for our art.
Or I could talk about Collins Dictionary’s newly released word of the year, “single-use,” searches of which it says have increased fourfold as pollution has become more of a political concern. This is the same outfit that named “fake news” its word of the year last year (never mind that it’s a two-word phrase).
For some of us, “single-use” isn’t a thing in a lot of cases. Some haven’t gotten out of the habit instilled by Grandma of storing things in margarine bowls, or re-using water bottles until they spring a leak. Some, on the other hand, barely use something once before throwing it away. I’d say we cancel each other out, but the amount of garbage in the landscape tells me otherwise.
I need a trash bag. And something completely nonpolitical to write about. Is that even possible anymore?
Before I go, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the death of the great Stan Lee, king of the cameos and creator/co-creator of too many iconic comic-book characters to name (I’m particularly fond of Iron Man and Professor X, among others). His sense of humor and creativity endeared him to multiple generations, and finding him in Marvel and other movies and assorted television shows could be a hobby by itself. I especially loved him as the FedEx delivery man in Captain America: Civil War (“Tony … Stank?”) and as the Watcher Informant in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.
That sense of humor would have come in handy were he around to see what The Gisborne Herald in New Zealand managed to do with his obit. In the promo box on the front page, the wrong Lee was named.
Apparently it was Spike Lee, not Stan Lee, who died Monday. Of course, Spike Lee is not only not 95, but he’s most definitely not an elderly mustachioed white man.
But I guess maybe you might understand the confusion (OK, not really) if you knew Stan Lee’s stance on racism. Still, I don’t think he ever made Malcolm X-Men.
That I know of.
Rest in peace, Stan.