“I have no interest in being constantly catered to or forcing my beliefs on others,” confesses a former conservative. Recently I found my way to his web site via a blog post called “Things I Can’t Do Anymore.” http://formerconservative.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/things-i-cant-do-anymore/
One of the things this particular individual can’t do anymore is feel a sense of entitlement. That’s not something I hear very often. When I track the battles of the Entitlement Factions in this country I think of the exhausting, high-maintenance people who show up at family holidays or who highjack other people’s parties. http://www.elenalouiserichmond.com/2010/10/the-harp-that-hijacked-a-party/
It was the word catered in the above quote that caught me, having, as it does, an association with food. It took me back to childhood meals when my mother was the center of attention. She controlled the conversation even when the rest of us sat in the dining room and she was in the kitchen rescuing her Parker House rolls from the oven. She carried on a (full voiced) monologue of her own without reference to the conversation in the dining room.
Back at the table she interrupted whoever was speaking in order to introduce her rolls which were a bit brown around the edges but most of them turned out all right there’s butter and jam —Elena what did you do with the raspberry jam?–oh here it is now where were we? Everyone dutifully took a Parker House roll, passed the basket to his neighbor and waited for my mother to introduce her next topic.
The lull pushed her into a supervisory position: “Elena aren’t you eating any peas? Mrs.Snodgrass can I pass you the gravy oh you don’t? Dad here’s the potatoes why is no one eating the salad did I forget the dressing?”
No. Mom. The reason no one is eating the salad is because currently no one wants to. People are eating what they want to eat. It’s not about you.
That’s what I want to say to groups of people who privilege their own entitlements and prescribe the country’s beliefs and activities: It’s not about you. You can want what you want for yourselves, but that’s it. You don’t get to force feed the rest of us your salad and dressing. There’s nothing more exhausting than to be around someone who can only get what she wants by making everyone else do what she wants.
I once spend two interminable weeks with a family whose main entertainment was parsing what and wasn’t sin and how to make something that seemed like sin be something that technically wasn’t so they could commit it with impunity. The woman was reading a book that was going to tell her, me, and everyone else in the world if it was a sin for Christians to drink alcohol.
In those days I didn’t say things like, “Go ahead and commit the sin and go to hell. It couldn’t be any worse than what you’ve got going on here.”
We’ve got people whining they can’t have their crèches in public places. Meanwhile someone else complains that the people in her office are all talking about what they are giving up for lent and they aren’t even Christians. Lent doesn’t mean anything to them. Evangelicals say they are discriminated against in college classrooms. Everyone is someone’s victim.
These are worthless preoccupations and alienating pronouncements. But I expect people have always been this way. It’s just that in the past it was confined to the dining room and one could ultimately get away from it by going to college (a private liberal arts one like Whitman College in Walla Walla). Human beings are never going to feel, think, or behave in a unity of spirit. No one is going to get everything she wants. Kindness matters. And not sucking the life out of holidays.