Washing mouths out with soap


It happened to me when I was a little kid. It was for being sassy about having to help with some pesky task – maybe drying a few dishes –when I wanted to go out to play. I was lucky that it was only Ivory Soap and not the harsh kind that was used on dishes and pans.

Fortunately, that happened to me only once, but my brother and I were often sent to our rooms for time outs to contemplate on our 5- or 6-year-old misbehaviors. As we got older and were naughty, we had to forfeit our allowances for the week, which hurt badly since our allowances were already pretty small in the first place in depression era.

Today, with social media and so many kids and adults too spending hours every day on computers and smart phones, what people think and do privately soon becomes everyone’s business or some version of it. From what I read, it sounds as if they are spending untold hours with gossip, bullying, and sending lewd photos of themselves for strangers to ogle. These are the pastimes of millions of people, who are squandering hours every day on social media. There seems to be no limits on the wasted time and half-truths and untruths that are circulated on it.

Freedom of speech is out of control. Even here off-the-beaten-track, I have seen some offensive examples of self-expression in print in the San Luis Valley. Washing out one Twitterer’s or letter-writer’s mouth with soap does not stop the flow.

Right now, I’m thinking especially about the deplorable Twitter that went nationwide from our very own Valley. Taking back what was said will not cleanse the foul impression it left. What cave had that guy been hibernating in?

A positive result of that episode was reading repudiations by other folks here. But how many people think ugly thoughts and keep their ideas to themselves or within a close circle?

On the wider scene, we are saddled with an occupant of the White House who spews falsehoods and capricious opinions as if civility no longer matters. His impulse to constantly shoot off his mouth on Twitter can have serious consequences.

These are some of the reasons why I don’t subscribe to social media. In my opinion, it is a dangerous plague that has infected billions of users and has left a stench polluting the air.

Which reminds me of the Tower of Babel. Most scholars and others consider it to be a myth or an allegory. But it’s worth remembering, because it teaches a lesson about today’s flood of babble on social media.  

As the Bible tells it, the tower was the work of ambitious builders in ancient Mesopotamia who aspired to reach so high they could see God. Riled up by this audacious notion, their ruler destroyed the tower and scattered the people into separate nations who spoke different languages and, thus, could not communicate with each other at all.

Still, without our own Tower of Babble, all sorts of important systems would break down and society would have a hard time functioning. A better idea, it seems to me, would be to let everyone speak the same language but try to communicate meaningfully, with charity and justice for all.

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