Here Come the Judge

The new American past time.

Every once in a while I come across a topic that really sticks with me. It makes me think and re-think and re-re-think as I struggle to decide just where I stand on the subject. Sometimes I find myself back where I started; other times, I find myself moving away from my original position, but still within proximity; and there are those times when I am compelled by reason to change my mind completely on the matter.

At the local website for which I write, the Loganville-Grayson Patch, I’d intended to post a blog inspired by a fellow blogger, Kris Parker, and what he wrote this morning; something about the wrongful death suit that’s making national headlines. But then I got sidetracked by the scrolling comment bar on the Patch homepage; being the curious sort, I clicked on the link to Don’t Be Sucked in by Obama and Hanks Infomercial and gave it a read.

The word despair came to mind. Not because of Cynthia’s writing, mind you; while I don’t agree with everything she wrote, she made her case in compelling fashion, and one need only look at the comments on the post to know she hit a nerve. No, what despaired me was the never-ending-ness of the back-and-forth between people of differing opinions.

I’ve written about stuff like this before, but what really stood out to me today is the inescapable nature of judgment. As human beings, we can’t help it. Someone steps outside our realm of acceptability, and we have this keening instinct to immediate say something about the divergence.

Gay marriage. Abortion. Wrongful death suits. Obamacare. Religion. Gas prices.

You name it and chances are pretty good we can split the room on it within fifteen minutes, with a solid ten of those being dedicated to judging the morons on the other side.

We judge based on criteria such as logic; pragmatism; tradition; personal experience; religious conviction; philosophical conviction; regionalism; race; political affiliation.

We can take nuanced political arguments (or even broad political arguments) and turn them into ad hominem attacks within a single sentence.

And then we’ll judge those that disagree with those attacks.

And then we’ll judge those that disagree with our disagreement.

And down and down it goes.

Is it any coincidence that this show is one of the most popular on television every year? Or this one? Or that this one has suddenly taken off within the local consciousness?

And what do they all have in common?

Judgment. By professionals, but mostly by us, the audience.

There’s something to the notion that our national past time has become armchair quarterbacking, behind-the-screen judgment doled out in five little text messages or emails or phone calls, and then rehashed through social media like Facebook or the old-fashioned water cooler conversation. We are a nation of opinions just waiting to be exercised; and we accept more and more as grist for the mill.

Even as I type this blog, the thought races through my mind: you’re judging others for judging others!

Exactly. We can’t help ourselves. We can’t stop. I don’t think it’s merely a recent cultural phenomenon either; why else would the Oscars be nearly 100 years old? Why else would we construct Halls of Fame for everything from baseball to beach bocce ball?

It’s our nature to compare, to contrast, to evaluate and then to offer our thoughts on what makes someone or something what it is. And when exercised judiciously, judgment is what makes us the brilliant creatures we are.

And there’s the rub: who decides what judicious judgment really is? Believe me, once you put out there for public discussion the question of what foundation we as a human species build upon in determining right versus wrong, you see first hand exactly what I’m talking about.

So I’ll just leave it at this: if we all judge, who judges us?

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