Over the past few years, many people who kept their dark and crime-filled personal lives behind a flimsy curtain have been exposed for who they really are.
Many have lost their jobs, been subjected to internet shame, and some have even gone to prison. Finally, those who were wronged, namely women and people of color, were being seen and heard, and were starting to feel safe at their jobs and in their social circles.
Then came the new buzzwords “cancel culture”.
Cancel culture originally served a noble purpose; one of unashamedly unmasking offenders, both old and new, and removing all excuses for their shameful behavior. It brought awareness to abuse that people suffered, not to erase the past, but to get everything out in the open. It suggested the boycott of certain people or pieces of art who were no longer deserving of accolades. A beacon for many who have been suffering and shamed into solitude, cancel culture un-canceled those who had been silenced and canceled those who had caused the silencing.
Unfortunately, like many fads, a large community of internet vigilantes jumped on the bandwagon of ‘cancelation’. They started policing celebrities and art, not just in their public lives, but breaking into their private lives as well. They started taking quotations out of context and painting many public figures as villains who had their innocent statements twisted into words of malice. The real tragedy is when celebrities openly admit their past mistakes and try to make amends.
Matt Damon is a perfect example of this.
He admitted to the fact that he was not aware of the ‘f’ word as being derogatory towards gay people and had to be corrected by his daughter. He is a man with a long and deep liberal track record, an open supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, instead of applauding him for recognizing his mistake, apologizing, and promising to do better in the future, the online cancel community decided that he no longer has a place in the public eye.
With his celebrity, he created a foundation that builds the infrastructure and utilizes technologies that brings water to impoverished countries in Africa, South America, and many other nations. He has also participated in a slew of other charities that you can read about here. In other words, he has done much more than the internet vigilantes will ever do for their fellow humans. Do you really want to strip him of his resources that allow him to do this important humanitarian work? Is it worth it because of a simple misunderstanding that he owned up to?
Nobody should be punished for being human.
We all make mistakes, even those people who are now making the mistake of leading the cancellation parade. All of us have put our foot in our mouths at some time or another, but the important thing is not what we’ve said; it’s how we choose to move forward. It’s about taking responsibility for our past behavior, owning our mistakes, and making the choice to be a better person. We have turned into a society that condemns anyone who makes even the slightest misstep, when maybe a firm talking-to is a better step in the right direction. Does Matt Damon perhaps deserve a slap on the wrist? Probably. But, does he deserve to be canceled? Absolutely not.
Nobody should be punished for being human.
Putting people who have made truly innocent mistakes in this ‘cancel’ category is putting them on the same level as people who have been much more damaging and abusive. No matter how much you dislike what Matt Damon said, his sincere and apologetic comments are nowhere near what someone like Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein did. Yet, he’s suffering the same online punishment. Or, it might be trivializing worse crimes by treating them with the same malice as ones that are not nearly as severe, like Matt Damon’s. This is not an ‘if’ or an ‘or’ situation. It’s an exercise in discernment and patience. It’s being willing to accept people as being human, missteps and all. It’s really dangerous to be a public figure right now.
The heart of the problem lies with people who are choosing to take what they read online as gospel instead of gathering facts from different sources and making up their own minds for themselves. Gossip from friends and clickbait headlines are the most popular news sources, never mind the actual content. In reality, those are two sources that hyperbolize and exaggerate more than any other. I encourage you to use the computer in your pocket to go and do your own research when you hear something about someone. Make your own decision. Is what that person said or did really worthy of ruining their careers, relationships, and legacies? Is it worth taking hours out of your life to dedicate to ruining someone’s career?
There are some where the answer is yes. But, there are many more where that may be taking things a little too far.
Why choose your internet power to condemn and destroy people? Why choose to make the internet an even darker and more unsafe place? If you are so hell-bent on forcing people to act well, then you should lead the revolution. Show people how to treat others with respect instead of contempt and derision. The negativity is out of control. Why willingly spend your time in these black holes of hate?
If you have taken it upon yourself to participate in the cancel culture revolution, then maybe the responsibility is yours to be the example of good behavior.
Sure, it’s easier to troll and spew hostility at people you don’t even know. But, what happened to empathy? Compassion? Maybe it’s time for you to start practicing what you claim to be fighting for and show the world what it’s like to be a truly good human being. It has to start somewhere.