I’m a bit of a news junkie. I get most of my news from newspapers both at home and abroad. But, I will admit that lately I’ve had to take news breaks because it’s become frustrating and ugly.
This is not a post about the news. I won’t write about politics, nor will I push any agendas. No, what I wanted to write about is how our level of discourse has coarsened. We think attacks are funny or honest. Hateful speech tries to masquerade as free speech. And we’re the lesser for it. What’s worse, we’ve become inured to it and therefore can’t tell anymore if we’re hearing or participating in honest debate or mean-spirited jibes.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way to know the difference? Or better yet, a fairy tale way?
Charles Perrault was a writer of French fairy tales based on his study of early folk tales. One of my favorite stories was called Les Fées, or The Fairies. Later it was called Diamonds and Toads in the English versions. Simply, the story is about two girls and a mother who favored one over the other. Of course she preferred the nasty daughter and the nice one was treated terribly. The younger one was sent to fetch water and was met by an old beggar woman who asked for a drink. The younger, good daughter was more than happy to help and was rewarded by the beggar (who was a fairy) with the gift of jewels and flowers falling from her mouth when she spoke. The mother sent her favored daughter to do the same, but her ill-tempered responses earned her a curse–to speak and have toads and vipers fall out of her mouth.
I won’t ruin the ending (mostly because the happily ever after for the good daughter is questionable from a feminist POV), but I think you understand what I’m advocating. Whenever we want to reach for a ugly comment imagine a toad oozing its way out of your mouth or a viper spitting venom at the person you’re addressing. And when you instead reach for a kind remark or a engage in an honestly civil debate, jewels and flowers will fall at your feet.
In other words, will you choose diamonds or toads?