When Good People Do Bad Things- Elaina Portugal
August 6th, 2015
On a recent trip to New York, my family and I encountered women, clad only in g-strings, parading down the street in body paint. Most of them were painted in patriotic colors or were in the process of being painted by passers-by willing to pay for the privilege. Some of the women had headdresses on, but none of them held a sign or gave any indication why they paraded around so…patriotically. I snapped a few pictures. The tourist in me wanted a few keepsakes to show back home, but I didn’t think much of the situation until a couple of women wrapped their arms around my husband and son’s arms and asked for money to have their picture taken with them.
Let me be clear. I had no issue with them wrapping their arms around my husband or my son. We were in New York, on their turf, and their bodies were painted. As a woman, I was incensed at their request for money. If they had been fully clothed, they wouldn’t have asked for money. It was their nudity, and that felt like a slap in the face to the feminist in me. My mind went down all sorts of dark paths: objectification, prostitution, marginalization of all the hard work women have put forth in our fight for equal rights, and the list went on. I judged them without asking about their purpose. I made assumptions about their behavior based on my own perceptions and a whole lot of ignorance.
Shame on me. Why shouldn’t they be able to ask for money the same way others dressed as SpiderMan or Captain America asked? Why did I view that as an assault on feminism? I”m sure many would view that as equality. Perhaps their presence had a deeper meaning. Maybe it was political. Maybe it was about freedom. I’ll never know because I was too busy judging. Good people do bad things, and I was bad for judging them.
One of the things I find most interesting about human nature is our need to rubberneck. Good people do bad things, and most of us want a front row seat. Some of us even carry stones. Social media gives us that front row seat to people both near and dear who’ve messed up, and strangers from around the world who’ve been unlucky enough to have their misdeeds splashed across our news feeds. Even in my own little microcosm of a world, everyone rubbernecks and wants to know what’s going on and who did what to whom. Theories are proposed, shared, and often become a truth whether or not any reality exists, in exactly the same way I made assumptions about the naked women of New York.
We all have those moments of weakness, or of need, or a moment of such abject loneliness or pain we do something to fill that void, soothe that hurt. Maybe it’s anger. Maybe we are at our wits’ end and our patience evaporates. Maybe we need money. Maybe we even mean to hurt someone in that moment, needing revenge, needing to cause them as much discomfort as they caused us. Whatever the reason, we snap and do something we shouldn’t. Perhaps, once the intensity of emotions subside, we’ll feel bad we hurt people with our actions, and maybe not.
We make judgements about lives and actions that are none of our business. Why? Is it our need to be seen choosing what we think is good and choosing what we think is right that makes us so vocal in our condemnation? Do we want our peers to think our moral compass and character is better than the poor fool who messed up? Do we feel better about ourselves when we perceive others’ actions as more egregious than our own?
Good people do bad things.
That doesn’t make us bad.
It makes us human,
and WE are ALL human.
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