We are hearing a lot of negative press about the “snowflake generation” these days and I must confess that I have been guilty of joining in the mockery. It is hard to take seriously the growing movement for “safe spaces” on college campuses, “cry rooms” for those who have been traumatized by election results, “micro-aggression” awareness, “trigger warnings,” and the growing trend to silence any voice that isn’t saying what some college faculty member, president, or commencement audience wants so desperately to hear.
While I find the combination of all these trends and issues to be a sad commentary about the direction of our culture and of the freedom of expression, religion, speech, and assembly guaranteed by the first Amendment to our Constitution, I also find it a little too easy to join the chorus in damning the younger generation for their gross lack of wisdom and civic virtue.
I say that for two reasons …
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Two and a half weeks ago, my dermatologist performed a Moh’s surgery procedure on me to remove a patch of squamous cell skin cancer from the inside of the bridge of my nose. It really is more of a nuisance than a serious threat but the healing process has not been fun. It was painful at first and came with a swollen, partial black eye and an obnoxiously large bandage that blocked my vision. The big bandage took a week to get reduced to a large bandaid, and now I’m down to a small circular one that I almost forget is there … until I go out in public.
This whole ordeal has given me a new perspective, and not just on the issue of why we need to use sunscreen. I already knew that and have chosen to ignore it for most of my life. The bandage is a consequence of my bad choices and a reminder that I have made a lot of them. But the reason I’m writing this is because the bandage has also become a trigger for making me realize how badly most of us react to those who are different from us. It’s a realization that may even be uglier than squamous cell skin cancer.
It’s only a bandaid people!
Little kids stare at me like I have a third eye. Adults in the airport pretend not to look, but then I catch them stealing glances. It’s as if I had a giant growth sticking out of my forehead and it has made me think, “What if I did?”
What if, like the young man my wife and I saw in Times Square this week, instead of a two-week stint with a bandaid, I had a lifelong attachment to a giant growth that deformed my face and forehead? What if I had Down Syndrome? What if I had a speech impediment? In other words, what if I could never take the bandaid off? Do we even realize how much we can affect the personality of someone simply by staring at them because they are different?
I doubt it.
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If you’re as old as me, you may remember the annoyingly catchy commercials for Chiffon Margarine that assured us that “If you think it’s butter, but it’s not … it’s Chiffon!” The gist of the ad was that the synthetic Chiffon margarine was even better than nature’s butter. In fact, Chiffon was so good that the commercials also carried a tongue-in-cheek warning: “It’s not nice to fool mother nature!” Cute. Catchy. Comical.
Well, if fooling with “mother nature” isn’t “nice” when you’re talking about margarine, what kind of adjective should we use to describe our growing propensity to fool with human nature?
A friend of mine pointed out that she recently set up a new Gmail account. In doing so she was surprised to find that one of the inputs that is required (and that comes with the warning that you “may not leave this blank”) is Gender. The input field comes with the following choices: “Male,” “Female,” and “Other.”
Though this is trumpeted as a way to show respect and tolerance to our “transgendered community,” the truth is that this is really one of the most disrespectful and potentially harmful things that any of us could do to anyone. It is not loving to deny the reality of human nature. It is not loving to enable destructive behavior. It is hateful. It invites further destruction. It is no different than building a city below sea level, or excavating a basement under your beach house, or moving your family onto the rim of an active volcano, or building your house on a geological fault line.
Speaking of fault lines, our culture is teetering on one right now, and the way we respond may have ramifications far beyond anything we can imagine. We, as a culture, are not just fooling with Mother Nature, we are fooling with the most basic of foundations of our existence.
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