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By any other name . . .

Hubby and I were seated in a cafeteria, minding our own business and about to dig into our lunch. We were the only ones at the table and there were several unoccupied tables scattered throughout the large room. A man, maybe in his late twenties or early thirties, strode to our table and announced we’d have to move, that the table was reserved. I looked at him, looked about the room, examined our table and said, “Your name is not on this table. There is no sign stating it is reserved. I will sit here and eat every bit of my lunch. Then you can have the table.” Basically, I told him firmly to kiss off.

I awoke from my subconscious desire to stand against lunch-room tyranny feeling wonderfully empowered. Ha! I’d told off the impudent, sniveling brat! In real life I might have avoided the conflict, bowed to the eviction notice, and sat at another table. I considered how good it had felt, at least in my dream, to respect my needs and rights rather than apologetically cow tow to someone’s flippant desire for that particular table. It gave me pause, realizing I had learned something—I have gone through much of my life apologizing to and placating others.

One solution for moving from supplicant apologist to self-respect is to re-name the parameters. I am not an aspiring writer, I AM a writer. I don’t have a garden, I AM an earth production architect. I am not a housewife, I AM a high-level manager and domestic engineer. After all, it is en vogue to dispense with formerly accepted designations in favor of creative reclassifications no matter how ridiculous they may be. Much re-naming is done to avoid stigmas, but the stigma remains. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," Shakespeare wrote. It wasn't about roses, it was about the futility of changing a name without changing the associated attributes.

Balancing personal needs and rights with the needs and rights of others can be tricky. Most people figure out in kindergarten that harmonious existence depends on negotiating pieces of the proverbial pie as well as respecting the rights of others. The sociopath cannot or refuses to do either. He insists on taking the whole pie and if anyone gets in his way, they do so at their own peril. He kicks and screams and rails against the impediments to his ego-centric pursuits whether they be physical, philosophical, or emotional. The man in my dream loosely fell into this category; he had one intent, that of depriving me of my place at the table for his own selfish interest. My dream, it seems, was highly symbolic.

What shall I call this man? Mis-guided? Rude? Infantile? It’s not hard to find him (or her). For years I resisted aligning myself with the hordes on Facebook. Now that I am once again mired in the social swamp, I’ve discovered something very instructive; people define themselves by their posts. What they choose to post or repost says a lot about whether they are sitting at the table, minding their own business, or demonizing people who do not subscribe to a particular viewpoint. It is, for lack of a better example, telling people of differing persuasions they have no right to enjoy the lunch set before them. It is subtle (or maybe not so subtle) bullying. Otherwise good people easily succumb to this temptation, driven by what is probably a sincere desire to support their ‘side’, but failing to consider the overall effect. If they are preaching to the choir, it is done in vain, serving only to vent their wrath. If they hope to change someone's mind, it comes off as offensive and borish. It has exactly the opposite effect.

I'm not saying people who post insensitive content are sociopaths. I am, however, weary of the political nit-picking, of the memes taking quotes out of context, of citations from sources known for shading the truth by selectively leaving out critical information. It is why I see Facebook through a jaudiced eye. Bullying, by any other name, is still bullying. My solution to supercilious social bullying is to block the propaganda and eat my lunch in peace.

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