How many times have we heard those of power and privilege tell the people they’re walking all over to stop complaining because they don’t like hearing such hostility? It’s like whites in the 1960s reading about the latest race riot in the newspaper, sighing, and asking their black maid, “Why we can’t just all get along?” When the maid tries to calmly explain a few points that the protesters are making, then the whites make her and her comrades out to be rabble-rousers who can’t just be happy living in peace with their neighbors. Then the whites reply with something like, “Why can’t you just go back to being like you were 20 years ago in the 1940s when I was a kid? Growing up I never heard blacks complaining all the time like this. Why are you suddenly trying to make things so difficult for everyone?”
Thankfully, many of the proudest moments in America’s short history have come from the oppressed not bending under that social pressure heaped on them, even by others in their same circumstances. The ability to answer with an emphatic “NO” to the question, “Can’t we all just get along and let this be a time of peace?” is possibly the most important driver of social and cultural change in this country.
So this holiday season, when you hear someone complain about the latest Atheist billboard, or about the latest state to allow gay marriage, or about the latest union protest, or about the latest attempt to help poor people do a little better than just survive, be sure not to buy into the guilt trip they’re handing you. When you counter their hostile and petty complaint, a complaint completely devoid of self-reflection and richly steeped in apathy, do so knowing this is very much American, and this is how we make social progress as a society.
“Can’t we all just get along?” is perhaps one of the most dazzling combinations of ignorance and condescension going around these days.