Here’s an important hypothetical Christmas question to consider:
If you were stranded at sea with little hope of immediate rescue and the only other person in the lifeboat was President Donald Trump, would you push him out?
If he tried to climb back in, would you beat him with an oar?
I ask this part because it’s common to have second thoughts after an impulsive act.
Now suppose, instead of Trump, the other person in the boat were Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Vladimir Putin, your ex-spouse or some reprobate newspaper columnist. Anyone you might hate for whatever reason.
My answer to the original question is that I wouldn’t push Trump out of the boat. Nor would I dump Hillary, Vladimir or even a certain ex-boss.
Bernie? Hell, I’d probably throw myself out of the boat.
Why? Because I wouldn’t want to risk the possibility of getting to know him well enough to afford him any mercy — which close proximity sometimes causes among humans.
Whoever said “absence makes the heart grow fonder” never lived in the world of social media. Absence — or distance, in this case — actually makes hate grow stronger.
When you don’t have to look someone in the eye, breathe the same air, discover what you have in common, or even rely on each other for survival, it’s easy to convince yourself that the world would be better off without that person.
I don’t just blame modern social media for this problem. Only that it has made it easier to broadcast our malevolent selves to the world. Humanity has always been contentious. The difference now is we have the ability to take our act into cyberspace.
Makes you wonder what some superior aliens in a distant galaxy might think about our behavior? Suppose they could tune into our social media musings and watch us like a television series.
ZYx-3.8 • “This is the stupidest world we’ve ever watched.”
Md9-xx • “Yeah, it’s gone downhill ever since they introduced religion.”
Horton-11 • “Let’s just cancel the damn thing.”
Being that it’s Christmas, I am working on forgiveness, charity and generosity. I’m not good at it. I’m six decades old and still hate my fifth grade teacher. I should be over it by now, but I’m not.
So far I have whittled my “push out of the boat” list to just 73 people. Sounds awful, but the number is down from its peak at 12,193.
Note: If you have to wonder whether you’re on the list, you probably aren’t. I’m not exactly shy about that kind of stuff.
Besides, we’re talking about your list. How’s it coming? Getting longer or shorter this Christmas?
It’s ironic that one of the most stressful times — outside of famine or nuclear war — is the season in which we celebrate a holiday that emphasizes the idea of becoming a better person.
Christmas, Passover, Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Eric Clapton’s birthday — these are all holidays or celebrations of spirituality. They mark times when we’re supposed to let go of the things that weigh us down and bring misery — greed, hate, sloth, disco, etc.
Kindness. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the rest of us. There’s no telling how close Horton-11 is to pushing the button.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.