Our intention this week is that we should expand our comfort zones and step outside the boxes we draw around our thinking. Laugh, if you can, whenever you can. Not the derisive laughter of the playground, but with humility. Laughter is good for the circulation, and it diminishes self-importance.
If you can’t laugh, then we hope that you get mad. Anger is caused by self-importance, but it is also good for the circulation. Circulation delivers oxygen to the brain, which enhances thinking – and diminishes self-importance.
Bushido is a Japanese term which describes the warrior code of the samurai. It allowed the violence inherent in the samurai lifestyle to be mitigated by wisdom. Bushido was characterized by values that were also once embraced by the west, such as integrity, honor, respect, courage, compassion – and self control.
Comedians have often used a caricature of the samurai and his Bushido code. Picture the John Belushi version of the samurai: self righteous, easily offended and given to dramatic demonstrations.
Which brings us to the present day, where we seem to have forgotten that Belushi’s character was meant to be a farce. Move aside Bushido, the warrior code of the samurai. Enter Bullshido, the worrier code of the snowflake.
Did I hear a few snickers (mainly from the right side of the aisle)? Not so fast! The right is growing it’s own snowflakes these days. Not only are we offended by the improper use of pronouns (he, she…they?), we are now offended by improper body posture (as in standing or kneeling). Social justice worriers who can’t change a tire (but who have memorized the entire menu at Starbucks) are ready to wear masks and attack people at rallies. Armchair quarterbacks who have never served anything but another helping at the buffet table now sit in judgment on ritualized patriotism.
In Bushido, worshipful attention was given to duty and loyalty. In Bullshido, we worship celebrities. From the left, we obsess on the lives and opinions of famous people who pretend to be other people. If they do this well, we call these pretenders “great.”
From the right, we obsess on the lives and opinions of people who play games: millionaires who run and throw balls and catch them (or kick them or hit them with sticks). If they are good at playing games, we consider these people to be “great” also, and like the celebrities who act, we believe them to be experts on life itself.
You might think that a culture which values benevolence and compassion would be fully engaged by concern for the thousands made homeless and destitute by the recent hurricanes. Not so. The high priests and priestesses of Bullshido have instead ordained that we focus our offense-ready attention on what happens at our gaming spectacles and whether someone stands or kneels during a song.
Symbols are important; somewhat arbitrary, but important nonetheless. The flag and the national anthem are, for many of us, symbols of sacrifices made in good faith. This is why that, as a former Marine, I choose to stand during the anthem. It is a personal choice.
But for most of us who have served or who do so now, “choice” is at the heart of the reasons for that service. Among the freedoms we value is freedom of speech and the right to dissent, and a civil society which prides itself on these things has no business dictating what we respect, or disrespect, or how we demonstrate those sentiments. We don’t like bowing to royalty in America, yet we insist on compliance to forms and practices in a public ritual? If you don’t bow to the Queen you’re being disrespectful. If you don’t stand for a song, you’re also being disrespectful?
On the other hand, the millionaire celebrities who play professional football are heavily subsidized, as is the entire “non profit” NFL, by billions of our tax dollars. (We get to pay for their new stadiums whether we watch football or not.) A football game is not a free speech rally or a demonstration. When the players take the field, they are at work, on the job. When you take a job, some of your rights are naturally constrained by your contractual agreement with your employer. These players are employed by the team owners, by the people who buy tickets, and by the tax payers who subsidize the whole enterprise.
Kneeling is generally considered to be a posture, not of defiance, but of prayerful attention. Kneeling at football games was first done to call attention to a perception by some African Americans that blacks are intentionally victimized by police brutality. The numbers don’t support that opinion, but the perception is important and worthy of discussion
Sadly, that important discussion has now been lost in the babble of Bullshido, the opinions of celebrities and the WWE style tweets of the social media president. The derisive howls of “racist” and “unpatriotic” are tossed from left and right, and we are distracted from historic human suffering and an economy poorly managed for the majority of our people.
Monday morning we woke up to tragic headlines from Las Vegas. Was the world due to end in September or has that now been pushed forward to October? The worrier code does not say. But as the tragic shooting is analyzed and recycled by media, new worries will merge with our ongoing concerns over terrorism, climate change and social injustice; white supremacy, Black Lives Matter, antifa and all the issues guaranteed to generate ad revenue.
Meanwhile, people will be hungry and homeless in Puerto Rico, and thousands across the nation will attempt to rebuild their lives, but those headlines will be pushed aside as we risk becoming caricatures of ourselves. There is nothing funny about that.