Don’t Be an Asshole

3 03 2017


It’s a somewhat crude term, I grant you, but we all know what it means. And it’s the right word for what I want to talk about, so I am going to use it.

I am not a Social Justice Warrior. I’m too much of a pacifist to be terribly warlike. My philosophy is simple: Don’t be an asshole. That is, do not be a thing which dispenses shit. Don’t be rude, cruel, offensive, dickheaded—all the things that one associates with being an asshole. That person who gets in people’s faces and gives them grief? Who pours out contempt on those he deems inferior? Who thinks only of what he wants and believes, and to hell with anyone else? Don’t be that guy.

Alas, some in the SJW camp carry it to extremes and, well, are kind of assholes about it. Please don’t be. If you see someone being bullied or abused, by all means step in to defend them. And it’s true, some of us might, from time to time, slip up and need our awareness raised. But it would be better if you did it without shaming and offending us in the process. Self-righteousness is an ugly thing. It tends not to create allies.

This philosophy covers a lot of situations. If you’re telling racist jokes at a party, you’re being an asshole. If you’re forcing your attentions on somebody who doesn’t want them, you’re being an asshole. If you are sticking your nose into people’s private business, passing judgement on them for who they are, what they do with which consenting adult behind closed doors, what bathroom they use, or what decisions they make with their doctor, you are being, guess what? That’s right. Don’t.

If what someone does, believes, or says harms no one and they are minding there own business about it, mind yours and leave them alone. If, however, they are being an asshole, it would be good to call them on it. Let them know that they are not getting away with it. People are noticing and they don’t appreciate it.

Of course, an asshole often doesn’t give a damn what you think. Goes with the territory. Not much you can do about somebody like that. No point in arguing with them. Just avoid them. They’ll find other assholes to hang out with and hopefully leave the rest of us alone. If not, well, we just have to do what we can to minimize the impact of their assholery. Just try not to be an asshole yourself in the process.


Then there are the really tough cases. Like religion. For example, folks like the Amish have got it right. They just want to be Amish and not bother anyone else in the process. Cool. This is what religious freedom is about—going about your Jewish, Catholic, Druid or Pastafarian business and waving friendly hellos to each other as you take your kid to soccer practice and do your grocery shopping. No problem.

Then you have your Evangelicals, and I’m specifically referring to the ones who get in everybody’s face and act like assholes. It’s built into their belief system; their religion is the correct one, and God wants them to spread it out into the world, including passing laws that conform to their beliefs and force everyone to salute their God. Never mind that other folks have perfectly satisfying religions of their own, or have elected to do without religion altogether. In order for these holy militants to freely practice their religion, they’ve got to impose it on others. So if we tell them not to be assholes about it, they scream oppression.

Christians don’t have a monopoly on this behavior. There are Muslims who just want to do their thing and get along with the neighbors. Good for them. They’re welcome to buy the house next to me and move in any time. But then there are the jihadists who will blow you up or do grievous bodily harm to you if you don’t lockstep with their version of Allah. Beheadings and the like is about the worst sort of asshole behavior there is. (Which is a cautionary tale about theocracies *cough* Christian Nation *cough*.)

The whole god thing doesn’t make sense to a lot of us, and so we’d just as soon not be swearing on Bibles or praying in school or having to obey laws based on the Old Testament. No offense, but it all seems nuts. Still, it’s not my business to tell you what to believe. So as long as you are not being an asshole about it, we’re good. Unfortunately, some Atheists are so convinced they are right and that religion is nothing but trouble that they try to argue it out of existence. In short, they get into people’s faces and preach as loud and obnoxiously as the worst televangelist. Don’t do that. Please.

So that’s what it all boils down to in my opinion. Common courtesy, actually. If you come into the library it doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative, deeply religious or not, I’ll greet you with the same smile and help you find the book you want, whether it is Fifty Shades of Gray or A Man Called Ove, whether it is by Bill O’Reilly or the Dalai Lama. It doesn’t matter who you voted for. If your car breaks down I’ll give you a ride. If you want to buy eggs I’ll sell you a dozen for the same price as everyone else. You can be a gun nut or a tree hugger. You can be a Free Stater or a Socialist. You can love sports or be utterly indifferent, a hiker or a hacker, a lesbian or a Lutheran.

Just don’t be an asshole.




5 responses

3 03 2017
Mary Jolles

Well said! People do become confused about when to speak up about someone else’s behavior, but the simple advice, “don’t be an asshole,” is sensible.

My rule of thumb about speaking to someone about something they say or do is to ask myself if what they are saying or doing is or can potentially hurt someone else (including myself). Nearly 20 years ago, on a trip to a conference in a van full of teachers, another teacher made a crude joke about gay people. After a few seconds’ consideration, I firmly asked the teacher to refrain from such jokes in the future because they were offensive. Since I was the principal, my words carried more power than they would have if I had simply been a fellow teacher, but the situation also demanded that I show leadership and set the tone for the group. There was about five minutes of silence after that, but I have always believed I did the right thing in speaking up. Yesterday, I learned that one of that van load of teachers finally had the courage to come out to colleagues.

3 03 2017

Good for you, Mary, speaking up when you did! You were in a position of leadership, and it made an important impression.

We all have to make tricky decisions about when to speak up and how to do it. It’s not always easy, and handled badly can do more harm than good. But damn it all, courtesy and consideration need to be the norm, and that sometimes takes peer pressure and stern reminders.

3 03 2017

Love it! Not to many people being assholes in public over here, thankfully (by that I mean the videos I see of people freaking out because their latte wasn’t hot enough, etc.). I have learned that if someone tells you outright that they are an asshole – BELIEVE It and walk away!
I know I can be one at some times, everyone can. I do try to keep it to a minimum and to not be defensive when called out!

6 03 2017
Kathy Berglund

No offense, Mel, but isn’t, “Don’t Be An Asshole,” the same as the Golden Rule?

6 03 2017

Why would I be offended? The Golden Rule is just yet another variation on a teaching that is found in damn near every philosophy and religion worthy of respect. I’m cool with all you Christians who practice it. Of course, some don’t, and they are assholes.

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