I’ve heard this aphorism many times and it has always been ascribed to Oscar Wilde. But Wilde didn’t say it and in fact, no one lays claim to it.
Nonetheless, it’s true. For reasons beyond my grasp, no one seems to hate you more than the people to whom you have done favors, especially when you weren’t even asked. Gratitude seems to be the one emotion human beings can’t find in their emotional bucket.
For many people, where gratitude would be the logical response to a kindness extended for no better reason than friendship or love, the recipient, unable to respond in kind, grows bitter, angry and comes up with a thousand reasons why you really did it. You were jealous and were thus proving yourself the better person. You were backstabbing your “friend” by making them look needy (never mind that they were needy). You were making yourselves look good while making them look bad. And that’s merely the beginning.
And this is how, by being kind and supportive, you wind up with an enemy for whom you were nothing but gracious.
I’ve had it happen several times, though most of the people apologized eventually and admitted they behaved badly. I just don’t know why people act like that. It baffles me. I am, if anything, overly grateful for kindness extended and often almost shocked. It is so rare.
Gratitude is the rarest of friendly interactions, so don’t be shocked when you do your bestie a favor and you get anger and bitterness in return. It makes no sense, but it’s such a common response.
People aren’t logical or sensible.
And now, some classic quotes from Oscar Wilde. Some of these you probably already know. Others you may not know or have attributed to others.
This is the stuff of which memes on Facebook are made!
On this very hot day in July, thoughts tend to turn more to cold showers than romance … but it will get better.
By Monday, the heat will break and then it will be a normal hot summer. Or, so we hope. Because the weather has not been anything like normal in quite a while and I wonder if it will ever be “normal” again.
Garry had a prescription to pick up in town. No big deal except he wasn’t feeling good and just wanted to get the errand run, come home, and crash on the sofa. He couldn’t get into town. On the Sunday before Veteran’s Day a parade was in progress. He asked the local cop how he was supposed to get into town.
“You can’t,” he said.
“But what,” asked Garry, “If this was an emergency? I mean, I need my medication.” The cop shrugged.
“You’d still have to wait till the parade passes.” Garry didn’t like the answer, but there wasn’t much to do about it. He went to the other grocery store, the one just across the border in Rhode Island, picked up a couple of things and came home.
“I couldn’t get to Hannaford’s,” he said. “There was a parade.”
I nodded. “Veteran’s Day.”
“One of the problems of living in a small town.”
“What, you never tried to get somewhere in Boston on Patriot’s Day? Or any day when the Red Sox were playing? How about when President Clinton visited the North End? They closed the entire city. You couldn’t go anywhere until the Secret Service cleared the area.”
Garry grunted. “Still,” he said, “What if I needed those pills and it wasn’t just a refill?”
“If you were that desperately sick, you’d be in a hospital, not on the way to the pick up a prescription.” He harrumphed.
“Did I ever tell you about the day I had to sign for my new car in Jerusalem? I had just gotten to Israel and it had taken me a little while to get everything in order. I had ordered my new car, a white Ford Escort. I absolutely had to get to the Ford dealership, sign the papers and give them money.”
The dealership was across the street and down the road from the King David Hotel, so I hopped a bus. The bus stopped about 100 yards before we got into town. A policeman came to the door, told the driver he had to stop. We were told to get off the bus. We weren’t going any further.
“But,” I said, “I have to get to the Ford dealership. I have to sign for my new car and give them money!”
The policeman shrugged. “Your President is here. Anwar Sadat is here. Begin is here. You can’t go.”
I looked around. There were snipers on the rooftops. The area was crawling with Israeli armed forces and the secret services of three countries, all of whom looked ready to shoot me. It was a lot of firepower. I decided I’d rather not be a target.
“And that is when,” I told Garry, “I knew I absolutely, positively I was not going to sign those papers or make the payment on my car.”
“You win,” said Garry. “You trumped my story.”
I remembered watching the cars sweep by, the big black limos each carrying a head of state with the flags of their respective nations affixed to the front. I caught a glimpse of each man as they took those corners at remarkably high speed. No one was taking chances. It was such an optimistic time in Israel. Everyone thought we would have — at long last — true peace. Not a cease-fire, but the real deal.
Moshe Dayan — Israel’s negotiator — was glowing. Carter was smiling. Sadat looked content. The crowd cheered for each car as it flew around the corner. Then, gradually, the military withdrew. The road opened up. I went home to return the following day. That was March 26, 1979.
On October 6, 1981, Sadat would be assassinated. Ten days later, Dayan would be dead too. Technically it was his heart and cancer but I knew it was the same bullet that killed Sadat. When they shot Sadat, they killed Dayan. And killed the hope of peace.
Under the weight of the Iran Hostage Crisis which dragged on for years, Carter’s presidency would be in tatters. The optimism of March 1979 would be replaced by sadness, bitterness, and pessimism.
But for one bright afternoon, a day on which I absolutely couldn’t get where I needed to go, Jerusalem was full of joy, hope, and celebration. And I had a new car waiting for me at the Ford dealership across from the King David hotel.
We make laws. We enforce laws or try to enforce them, anyway.
We’ve done such a great job trying to enforce stupid, meaningless laws while doing such a poor job enforcing more important laws, we’ve got millions of people in prison for doing nothing much — while corporate killers laugh among themselves.
Laws don’t apply to them.
In fact, we do not and could not actually enforce every law we make. The only way a nation can exist is when the population — which is to say most of its citizens — have a fundamental regard for law and carry with them the belief that order is a good thing.
Without a citizenry who respect the law, you have chaos, disorder, disunion and ultimately, the worst kind of tyranny. No country can maintain a police force to make everyone do the right thing. Most people do the right thing because they understand it’s right. That’s all the reason they need.
I don’t need enforcement. I get it. I understand. Probably, so do you. That’s the basis of a free society.
We should be crying out for mature, educated, reasonable men and women who can work together even when their parties utterly disagree about pretty much everything. We need people who care about the people they represent. When governments don’t care for people and stop believing the good of the nation supersedes their personal squabbles, it’s the end of democracy and freedom.
After that, the only way to maintain order is for everyone to be afraid, which is the definition of a police state.
If we can’t find bridges to cross, we have no government. We can make all the laws we want, but unless people believe in law and for the most part, live within it, life as we know it is over. The reason this — or any country — works is that most citizens do “the right thing.” They don’t need a gun pointed at them. There aren’t enough cops, guns, or prisons to make everyone obey if no one cares.
We either learn to behave like civilized people or it’s back to the dark ages — a world where only “might makes right.” But this time, we’ll have mobile phones!
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