Monday, February 16, 2009
Putting On a Snark
As someone who is not beyond getting a bit snarky from time to time, I always have to ride my tongue with curb bit and spurs. As I've always maintained, there are times when harshness and severity is appropriate, as well as times when it is not appropriate or necessary. It takes wisdom to know the difference, and all of us blow it from time to time. Getting snarky is also quite a bit easier when it's on a computer screen and not face to face (although I've met people who relish direct combat a little too much, too).
As a brief example, I am going to post a comment someone from overseas made in response to a post I did, which touched on race relations in the United States. I was trying to make the point that things have improved greatly here from what they used to be. The commenter then posted this:
This is ridiculous. If you seriously think America, or the world for that matter has moved on from racial prejudice you are deluded.
After being told I was delusional, I responded with some mild asperity. But what if the young man's comment had run like this:
Sola, are you suggesting that America and the world have moved on from racial prejudice? If so, I strongly disagree and here's why . . . etc.
I would have replied:
Oh, no! I didn't mean to suggest anything of the kind at all. Of course racism still exists here and elsewhere. But here in the U.S. there has been a tremendous improvement from the way things were decades ago. Our recent election is a case in point.
See what I mean? I guess that's what Scripture means when it says a "soft voice turneth away wrath." It is possible to express disagreement with someone without gouging their eyes out and impaling their head on a pike. Now, as I said, sometimes it is necessary to ratchet things up. Scripture does talk about "reproving severely" on occasion when merited.
I like sharp, witty polemic as much as the next person, and I'm not averse to taking the paddle off the wall and using it briskly on a gluteus maximus. I just don't think it needs to be a template reaction.
Postscript: I know there will be some who might accuse me of trying to have it both ways, ignoring the nuances of what I am saying. For those, I close with this little exchange from "The School for Scandal," a stage play from 1777 written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan . . .
MARIA: For my part, I own, madam, wit loses its respect with me when I see it in company with malice. What do you think, Mr. Surface?
JOSEPH SURFACE: Certainly, madam. To smile at the jest which plants a thorn in another's breast is to become a principal in the mischief.
LADY SNEERWELL: Psha, there's no possibility of being witty without a little ill nature. The malice of a good thing is the barb that makes it stick. What's your opinion, Mr. Surface?
JOSEPH SURFACE: To be sure, madam, that conversation where the spirit of raillery is suppressed will ever appear tedious and insipid.
MARIA: Well, I'll not debate how far scandal may be allowable, but in a man, I'm sure, it is always contemptable. We have pride, envy, rivalship, and a thousand motives to depreciate each other, but the male slanderer must have the cowardice of a woman before he can traduce one.
And with that little sally, I retire from the field for the moment.