I meta joke once. It wasn’t funny.

As true with most of my personal guidelines, you don’t have to agree with me here. They’re mine, and I occasionally fail to follow them.

There’s a video going around showing the President saluting the Marines as he debarks from Marine One with a beverage in the hand he’s saluting with. Some people (G1) are saying that this reinforces their pre-existing idea that the President does not care about America and/or the military. Some others (G2) are saying that the first group has misplaced priorities and note that previous presidents haven’t always saluted, or saluted well. I’m not here to take sides.

I’m here to talk about our behavior, specifically talking about people talking about behavior and people talking about people talking about people’s behavior. I’ve made a general rule for myself: I try not to talk about the behavior of public figures that isn’t explicitly illegal or grossly immoral when they’re not doing whatever it is that makes them public figures. They’re entitled to their own lives and opinions. They’re fallible, and it’s only a recent development that we can document every failure, minor or major, that they commit. Any expectation that they should never be less than perfectly professional all the time is ridiculous.

The “Latte Salute” is the most recent example of why. It’s not important. Hours have been spent trying to make something meaningful out of it. Hours have been spent trying to say that meaning isn’t there. All of this time spent over something that took less than 2 seconds to happen and that no one involved took notice of at the time. The worst part is that it won’t change anything in a meaningful way. The people arguing about it aren’t going to persuade each other, and the people listening most likely had a favorite side that they stuck with. The President MIGHT be more diligent about it in the future, but G1 only cared that he made a misstep and G2 only cared that G1 was complaining. That lack of any potential productive change is what should discourage me from contributing, although sometimes it fails, and I end up talking about people talking about people talking about someone, incredibly far removed from the initial context, but just as angry as though I was the first one there. I don’t think that’s healthy.

Here’s a challenge for you:

If you’re in G1, explain what you think is going to change (other than making a lot of people as angry as you, maybe at you) by talking about it. What reasonable change can you or someone that you know make in order to make this better?

We need to be the change we wish to see in the world. — Mahatma Gandhi

If you’re in G2, explain what you think is going to change (other than making a lot of people as angry as you, maybe at you) by talking about G1’s behavior. If you think they’re a lost cause and don’t believe you can change their behavior, consider how you might make them more willing to listen in the future.

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

No matter which group you’re in, consider how you think the other group will be answering, and think about them when the inevitable next super-contentious topic comes up.

Be reasonable, and thanks for reading.