Cancel Culture - Have We Cancelled Our Brains? (Don't Water Down The Sweet Tea)
I've reached the old and cranky stage of life, so when I started to hear the term 'cancel culture', I wasn't even sure what it meant or if I even cared what it meant. Maybe it was the name of a new boy band, restaurant, or worse, another flash-in-the-pan political stunt to further divide the country.
Turns out, the latter is pretty close to the truth. Only it appears to be gaining momentum instead of losing it, and while there are political laces running through it, I think it's more about pushing limits than an actual agenda or platform.
So I decided to crawl out of my self-imposed Covid/Introverted cocoon to take a deeper, and hopefully, more objective look at this social experiment that has gone terribly off the rails. To find what good may have been intended and to root out the useless and damaging elements that have come to define the cause.
So, you ask, what is Cancel Culture? Are we living in a 'cancel culture'? Or are we 'cancelling culture'? Or both? Here is a definition I found online:
The phenomenon of promoting the 'cancelling' of people, brands, shows, movies, etc to what some consider to be offensive or contain problematic remarks or ideologies.
On the surface, that doesn't sound all that bad. We don't need any more offensive or problematic ideologies floating around. I've been against those for years. So what's the issue then? Stick with me kid, and I'll tell you.
What Is Culture?
Let's back up a minute and talk about the meaning of culture. Before anyone can cancel anything, they need to know what they are cancelling.
Culture is a fancy word for the way a group of people live. It is their behaviors, values, beliefs. It is their customs, religion, food, social habit, routines.
It is the the groundwork for how we look at life, our views of marriage, family, even music and the arts. Some elements are more intimate and come from within the family unit. Others are more regional or geographically influenced.
It is how we see life and how we experience it. It is how we identify ourselves. Take me for example. I identify as a Southern/Christian woman. I grew up in the rural south. Grew up in church. Drove a tractor before a car. Worked in a tobacco field for my first job. And drank gallons of my Momma's sweet tea. (Mentally bookmark that statement, because I'm coming back to the sweet tea in a minute.)
Can Culture Be Bad/Offensive?
Wow, that's a tough question. Of course it can. And that's true for a couple of reasons.
First, there are bad people in every walk of life (culture). They do bad things. Say bad things. Create chaos. Does that mean everyone in that culture is on their side or is equally bad? Definitely not.
Second, depending on YOUR culture, there may be things in OTHER cultures you inherently find uncomfortable. My particular upbringing makes me sensitive to excessive foul language. Does that mean I judge everyone who curses as a bad person? No.
Does it mean I choose to limit my interactions with them? Probably. Or choose to limit my entertainment options to those more suited to my comfort level. Yes. But it also means, for those times when I encounter a less than ideal situation for me, I deal with it. I'm an adult.
It is not my place to cancel every person or situation I don't like.
So Who Gets To Make That Decision?
And there is the rub. The nag in the back of your brain. The shake your head moment. Who are these people deciding what is 'good' or 'bad'? Who appointed them the Grand Poobah of Conclusion to determine what is worthy to be seen, heard, remembered, acknowledged?
Are there things in the past that were/are hurtful? Absolutely. Are there things in the here and now that are damaging still? For sure. Have every one of us done things we regret? No doubt.
So who is responsible for righting the ship and staying on course?
If we are talking children, then it's the job of the parent. Hands down they are the ones to train their kids on both the good and bad of a history we can't erase no matter how hard we try. And they are the ones to lead by example so history does not repeat itself.
Sadly, many have not accepted that challenge. It's easier to let TikTok and Instagram do it for them. (And that is a topic for another day.)
If we are talking adults, which I'm guessing most of you are, then the decision and responsibility are YOURS. You have a brain. USE IT. Initiate common sense. Open your eyes. See what needs to change. Be a part of that change. But don't mindlessly follow the crowd just because it is easier than actually taking a stand and doing the work.
There are no brownie points for silent submission.
So Does Culture Even Need To Be Cancelled?
This is a trickier question.
There are hard nos when it comes to what is acceptable. Abuse of anyone in any fashion is one.
Racism is another. And racism was, in fact, the main catalyst for the trending cancel culture. It was decided that any and all things racist needed to be annihilated, destroyed, erased, CANCELLED.
And on its face value, I agree.
For a brief moment, I considered the title for this blog to be "My Racist Family". I love a good play on words, and it fit with my underlying message (which I haven't gotten to yet, sorry). But I KNEW that was not a good idea because most people would see those words and NOT see the forest for the trees.
So let me explain my rationale.
My son-in-law is a black man. I have a bi-racial grandson. That family unit is sensitive and aware of the problems caused by racism. And as someone who loves them, I am as well.
It is also fair to say that I do not always agree with every one of their sentiments or conclusions. But I always listen to them. I have learned things. I have recognized behaviors and attitudes on my part. I am trying to keep my fingers and heart on the pulse to be on the right side of the issue.
And we have worked our way back to my Momma's sweet tea.
Let's pretend for a moment we have a huge barrel of sweet tea. Delicious, ice-cold sweet tea. And just for today, that sweet tea represents the lessons we as a nation (or simply the human race) needs to learn about racism.
And we are learning. Our collective eyes have been opened to the injustices, roadblocks, inconsistencies, and struggles that bias, bigotry, and discrimination have caused. We are drinking the sweet tea.
Then cancel culture comes along. And it appears to be their mission to re-write history and make today the only day that counts. I am a product of more than just what I do today, the good and the bad. In fact, the person I am today is what I learned from both the good and the bad of my past.
With every new 'cancellation', the barrel of sweet tea becomes a little more watered down. It is becoming diluted with every new 'drop' and the much needed movement is becoming weaker. As such, it is becoming harder to swallow by those of us who want to learn from the knowledge of the sweet tea barrel.
We want to make a difference, but not at the expense of the useless and baseless trashing and bashing of things and people. There are enough real problems today. We don't need to borrow any from cartoons, ice cream trucks, or even insensitive, ignorant people who operated in a different time under different values. We can (and mostly have) overcome and bettered those values.
What Does All This Mean?
My Hopefuls, this has been a very long post. If you have made it this far, I applaud your diligence and patience. Part of it is I haven't written in a long time, and the other part is I just couldn't stop typing once the thoughts started flowing.
I do believe I am in a unique situation. I know I am from a generation that tolerated insensitive and inappropriate behaviors at times. And I am currently emotionally invested in making sure we/I do better.
But I absolutely do not need someone else to determine for me what part of history or current events I need to embrace or discard. Stay out of my sweet tea. I got this! And I'm hoping you do too!
I'll close with two additional statements.
The color of your skin doesn't protect you from being evil or cause you to perpetuate evil.
Victimization and being a victim are both generational curses that need to be broken.
Hope With Abandon