Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Have a Heart: Redux
Ever since I posted my Have a Heart rant, I’ve received many letters from people who objected to my written assault on a virtual stranger who laid his hands upon a friend to pray and heal him from a recurrence of cancer. (If you haven’t read the story yet, you might want to do so before continuing.)
I try to respond to as many emails as I can, and I must have formulated the same response to those who have commented on this story at least three dozen times. So since it draws so much criticism from those who read it, I figured I might as well make it official and post my retort here in perpetuity.
The common thread among those who speak critically of “Have a Heart” is the argument that Tim’s actions were harmless, that Mason should have just let it slide, and that he shouldn’t have let it “get” to him. And as I was critical about Tim’s deluded belief that Jesus would heal him, nearly all asked why I cared about what he thought would happen as a result of his prayers.
I’ll address each of these points in just a moment, but before I do, let me point out that the story was about Tim’s hypocritical logic and subsequent actions when a stunning case of irony turned the tables.
Any offense that Mason (or I or anyone else) took was completely incidental, purely anecdotal, and wholly irrelevant. But in response to my critics…
First, Tim’s actions were indeed harmless – but only in Mason’s particular situation. Mason is an atheist so nothing Tim said or did influenced him one way or another, but that might not have been the case if Mason were a person of deep faith, fearful of death, weak and in search (and in need) of divine intervention. (I’ll get back to this point shortly.)
Second, Mason did let it slide (as a favor to a friend), which is clearly stated in the story and patently obvious to anyone who actually took the time to read it instead of just reacting to it.
Third, saying that Mason (or I or anyone else) let an offensive act “get” to him implies that society should allow offensive acts to go unchecked. I dismiss all who make this claim as weak and as enablers of those who offend if they believe that claim, and (more likely) as hypocrites if they don’t. The rest is a matter of putting them to a test where the appropriate offensive stimulus is allowed to slap them upside the head.
Fourth, why do I care what Tim thought? Well, the answer to that question is the very essence of this rant. Read on.
The Dumbification of Society
We can probably agree that Tim’s actions (in this one case) harmed no one, but that doesn’t make it appropriate, reasonable, or smart.
Was it appropriate? Absolutely not! For one, he was little more than a stranger to Mason. More importantly, Tim knew that he wasn’t a Christian! He thought he was a Jew yet forced his act upon him without even asking if it would be okay. That made it wholly inappropriate and offensive even if it was harmless.
But you know what else would have been harmless? Tim could have dropped his pants right there in the middle of that crowded room, squatted over a bucket, took a shit, held it to the sky as an offering to Zeus, and asked him to cure Mason’s cancer. That too would have been completely harmless – albeit quite repulsive.
Sheer stupidity, even if the act and words are benign or well-intentioned, should NOT be tolerated. To do so is to enable and perpetuate the “dumbification of society.” I live in this world too, and as I am involved in mankind I am justified in being irked when stupid people do stupid things. If their stupidity soils the sandbox in which I must play, then I will give them a moment of pause as I see fit. You should thank me and do likewise. After all, you’re playing in the same sandbox too.
Imagine some guy who takes his own money and, for whatever inane reason, buys stock at its peak and intentionally dumps it all when it bottoms out. And just for kicks, let’s say he has no family to support and he’s free of debt. His actions are completely harmless, totally benign, absolutely legal, and he’s done nothing immoral by any standard of conduct. His actions are also profoundly stupid. Anyone who considers himself part of mankind owes it to society to tap this moron on the shoulder and set him straight. Period. If nothing else, don’t you think it might be nice to suggest he donate the money to a worthy charity instead of just pissing it away? Granted this is an unlikely occurrence, but it illustrates my point perfectly. An act may be harmless, but if it’s pointless or stupid it shouldn’t go unchecked.
But don’t think this stance is one-sided. Take it from a guy who’s done plenty of stupid things in his life – many of which were thoroughly harmless. I wish someone had slapped me upside the head and set me straight.
I could fairly argue that tossing another moronic act onto the growing heap of societal stupidity is harmful in a “big picture” kind of way, but I suppose some imbecile who wants to purposefully throw his money out the window (even at the expense of feeding a homeless person or sending a poor inner-city kid to college) isn’t the worst thing imaginable. So let’s look at something that is, shall we?
Back in June of 1999, a friend and former co-worker of mine died from a relapse of breast cancer. Rhonda and I met just over a year prior when she first came to work for the company. We bonded over our twisted and irreverent sense of humor and became fast friends. She (a mom and grandmother) was quite a bit older than me, but we saw each other as contemporaries and enjoyed the company of one another.
Shortly before joining the company Rhonda recuperated from a long bout with her disease. Medically speaking, she was put through the wringer: chemo, radiation, and a radical mastectomy. Fortunately, the battle was a worthwhile endeavor. Her cancer went in remission and she quickly returned to work and her normal routine.
A very common problem for cancer survivors is that many are so afraid of relapsing that they refuse to go for follow-up exams. The exams themselves are quick and painless. There’s a physical exam, some blood work, and one or two non-invasive diagnostics (like an x-ray or CT scan) to monitor the body for recurrence. But the fear of hearing bad news is too much for some to handle, so they shift into “out of sight, out of mind” mode. You know, ignorance is bliss. This was the case with Rhonda.
Further complicating this setup for disaster, Rhonda was a woman of deep faith and believed that Jesus was watching over her and that the prayers of friends and family would keep her health in good standing.
While I never met the “Tim” in her life, his (or her) actions were partly to blame for Rhonda’s premature demise. Yes, of course, Rhonda bore ultimate responsibility for her fate, but most people fighting a life-threatening illness are afraid, vulnerable, and desperately searching for a way to cope with the awful hand they were dealt, and justifiably so.
I’m not making excuses for her, but someone fed Rhonda a divine pipedream, and it’s hard for even the most devout people who aren’t in distress to turn down a favor from god. Avoidance is the worst possible coping method for those in this kind of predicament, and idiots like Tim serve up a heaping helping of avoidance to desperate, hungry souls.
Tim’s “laying of hands” seem harmless now? Um, I don’t think so. Was he well intentioned? I’m sure he was, but that’s wholly irrelevant. And I couldn’t care less.
There’s no excuse for allowing stupidity to go unchecked. Ever.
I constantly hammered at Rhonda to get her ass to the hospital, but she made up excuse after excuse, each one peppered with her self-reinforced delusion that the prayers of friends (and the watchful eye and loving heart of god) would keep her alive and kicking. I actually had to find her a local oncologist, set up an appointment, and threaten to drive 120 miles to personally drag her (by force, if necessary) to the doctor before she actually agreed to go. Eventually she did.
I’m sure there’s no need for me to finish this story as you already know how it ended for poor Rhonda. She was my friend and I cared for her deeply, but her stupid avoidant behavior probably contributed to her premature death. Shame on her.
I acknowledge that there were several factors that led to her demise, but know that someone just like Tim (and his “harmless” act) fueled an already unstable yet controllable fire. His pointless prayers fell upon death ears. Sadly, Rhonda was counting on them. Shame on him.
If more people gave others a moment of pause when they engaged in (even seemingly) foolish acts, the offenders might think twice before engaging in those acts again. Anything else enables them to continue on and reinforces their negative behavior, sometimes even with positive reward, although not in this one case. In Rhonda’s case it might very well have saved her life. I blame the idiots who numbed her fear of relapsing with prayers of healing. I suppose I blame Rhonda a bit too.