There is a quote going around that goes something like this, “I’ve never met a successful person who leaves their shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot.”
It troubles me. The quote, that is. I mean, when people leave their shopping cart out, it bugs me too, but not as much as this quote.
For one thing, it’s ridiculous. I either know or know of many people who, by most standards, are successful and they wouldn’t hesitate to leave a shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot. That is, if they found themselves in the unfortunate situation of actually having to push a shopping cart themselves. If you haven’t learned this yet, I’m sorry to report that there are a lot of successful people out there who are jerks.
But there’s a deeper problem here. The statement is intentionally ambiguous, and its corollary is that unsuccessful people are lazy. That’s why they’re unsuccessful. They are the scourge of successful people because they do insolent things like not put their shopping carts away.
Now, someone might say that I am missing the deeper meaning of the statement, which is that if you are considerate and earnest then you are already successful. Success comes from polite behavior not materialism or wealth. To which I say this: bullshit. Although I do believe that success has nothing to do with personal wealth, that is not what that statement implies.
If the intent was to refer to a more spiritual meaning of success, than it would not be so cryptic. The person who made the statement would have either been clear about what he or she meant or not said it at all.
It’s a dog whistle, pure and simple. It is disguised as a Delphic statement playfully revealing one of life’s many secrets, but in reality it perpetuates the fantasy that we all operate on an even playing field, and it exploits the frustrations of hard-working people. So, when we see that single parent trying to wrangle three screaming kids and get her baby home before his bargain brand diaper finally bursts, we can confidently shake our heads in disgust when she desperately leaves a shopping cart in the space next to her. Her plight is her own damn fault.
Look, I don’t like it when people don’t put their shopping carts in the corral. I put them away without even thinking about it. Will I ever be in a situation when I’m so desperate that I shove the cart onto a median? I hope not. But I can’t say for sure.
But this post isn’t really about putting shopping carts away. It’s about statements that allow people to be cruel without repercussions. It’s like throwing a stone and then hiding. Or getting caught throwing a stone and then claiming you didn’t mean to hit anyone with it.
It is the cowards way, and we have someone running for the highest office in the free world right now who has based his entire life and career off of statements like these. It allows him to wink to his supporters out of one side of his face and out of the other side roll his eye dismissively at his detractors. They are statements that allow his supports to say, “You’re just twisting his words around. That’s not what he meant. You’re being too P.C.” while at the same time knowing deep down that he will promote all the bigotry and injustice that their fear and hatred crave.
Don’t buy into statements like these. Don’t promote them. And certainly don’t speak them. Consider the corollaries and implications. Don’t feed hatred or intolerance. Starve them.