You’ve never heard of the Stupidity Vigilante, and that’s ok. He was my alter ego, and I killed him slowly and quietly. The world is better off for it. Trust me.
Here’s the history. I am from the middle of nowhere, raised in an evangelical Christian home in the rural United States. We were not “poor,” I’d say we were lower-middle class if I had to guess. I’ll put it this way – the kids I thought were “rich” turned out, with some perspective, to just be normal suburbanite families with more than a few hundred bucks in the checking account.
I was raised with the sensibilities present in the 1980s in southeast Texas Christian homes:
- Satan is real and coming to get you. So is the USSR.
- Everyone is wrong/worthy of either contempt or sympathy – except us (especially people in the big city (Houston), the North, on TV, other races, other nationalities, other religions…that’s right, God planted the entirety of his wisdom in southeast Texas).
- “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love,” thus you absolutely cannot outwardly express your anger, frustration, and angst, lest you be the reason that someone is denied entry through the Pearly Gates. Christians are loving, so turn the other cheek, give them your cloak…and suppress the shit out of that anger.
One other interesting, possibly related fact: my family talked to me as if I was the Second Coming. I was the first-born child of the extended family, and my family invested very heavily in my ego. I was convinced that God himself had chosen me to do something massive in this world. I was poised for greatness, and in comparing myself to those around me in a small sample size, I became emboldened to pursue greatness.
I head off to attend college in the big city, where I’m exposed to a few realities:
- There are different ways of seeing the world besides mine.
- I’m not as smart or capable as I thought I was (which was one notch below “godlike”).
- There are a lot of people from the middle class and above (especially above) who get to do and say whatever they want in this world without fear of real consequences. Some call it “sense of entitlement” – I’d say it’s being emboldened, generation after generation, by never getting called out, and being reinforced by looking around at their peer group and seeing the same boldness.
- There are people in this world that will kill you – literally – for being confrontational or rude. And if they won’t kill you, they certainly won’t stop and weigh the pros and cons before they act out against you.
Somewhere in all of those murky dualities, a fantasy was born.
Drawn from the pages of righteous assuredness and loud street-level retribution….Scripted from the lines of isolationist fear and entitled suburbanite rudeness…Molded from the regrets of a failed would-be hero…
Enter: The Stupidity Vigilante.
The Stupidity Vigilante is an equal opportunity hater. If you are stupid, you are in his path, and his path is wide and painful.
If you are rude, if you cut people off, if you park across 2 spots…watch out.
If you bump into people to get where you are going without saying excuse me….watch out.
If you talk on your phone in the movie theatre…watch out.
If you do anything that annoys the Stupidity Vigilante…
SV will ram your car. SV will horse-collar tackle you in the street. SV will snatch your phone from you and throw it 100 feet away, then karate chop you in the teeth.
I relished the idea that a vigilante could exist that would make people have consequences for their lack of civility and respect for others. I thought that the lack of consequences was the root cause of their disrespect for their fellow man, and if we could just add in consequences, all would be solved. Those who suffered the consequences would learn, and those who witnessed would learn by proxy.
The Stupidity Vigilante was my hero, and my alter ego. I fantasized about dishing out retribution for all of the wrongs that no one was calling anyone on.
I used to often pipe up with, “Now see, this is where the Stupidity Vigilante would…”
One day, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “God damn it with the Stupidity Vigilante, it’s just you bitching about stuff. I’m tired of hearing you bitch about everyone who does anything to annoy you.”
She was 100% right.
What I came to realize, in the days and weeks that followed, is that the answer isn’t dishing out consequences to those who deserve them.
The answer isn’t stifling your anger, as my mother would have you do.
The answer isn’t “letting them get away with it” or “pretending you don’t care.”
The answer is this:
- Remove expectations from your life. Stop expecting others to be kind, unkind, socially conscious, oblivious, or anything else.
- Replace those expectations about others with expectations about yourself. No matter how anyone acts toward me, I can expect myself to act with grace, civility, and love. And I can hold myself accountable, with grace, civility, and love.
- Replace the need for consequences with the assumption of positive intent. Assume that the bad actor didn’t wake up today intending to piss you off. Assume they are acting that way because they need more love than they are getting…don’t add to it by meeting their hate with more hate.
- Replace stifling your anger with accepting and examining your anger. Don’t stifle – it’s ok to be mad and offended. Just examine it. Don’t waste the opportunity the universe has presented to you.
And with that, the Stupidity Vigilante died. For he was stupid, and thus had to do himself in.