34. What would Charles Ingalls do? (2014)

The less sense everything else makes, the more sense that question makes. To me, anyway.

When I take my blinders off and look at where and how we’re living, confusion and disillusionment are never far behind. There is a strange falseness to so much of it, but also a head-shaking amount of reality, and I’m not sure which is more disconcerting.

As I walked out the door of my apartment building today (it opens on to a relatively passive street and is directly between an antique store and a fancy hair salon) a guy spouted off “Watch where you’re going, motherfucker!” In his defense, I think he was partially kidding- though in bad taste- and also trying to impress his friend. It was dark out, and my luck being what it is, I firmly responded with “Watch your mouth. Let’s start over… ” and he immediately apologized and continued on his way.

The problem isn’t that he said it to me– the problem is that he said it at all. Opening that door could have been my neighbor’s parents leaving after having dinner together in his apartment, it could have been my landlord (old, but perfectly able to take care of himself I’m sure), or it could have been a girl that had just moved to the city, and being addressed like that may have really thrown her off.

Hearing a seemingly non-confrontational, preppily-dressed idiot fire volatile profanity at a stranger that he had not yet even seen was just another sad example of how far the little house has traveled from the prairie. Everyone finds their amusement in slightly different ways, but there are some birds that just shouldn’t be allowed to fly.

If by himself, I believe Charles Ingalls probably would have responded much like I did. If his wife or daughters were with him, or he witnessed the instance-in-question happen to one of the hypotheticals listed above, I imagine (enjoyably) that there would have been a simple yet thorough thrashing- both in the interest of defending honor and teaching a lesson.

In my opinion, that is right. You reap what you sow- or, at least you did when the world was still real. The de-evolution of personal accountability should not absolve one of repercussion for inappropriate actions. Charles Ingalls knew better 100+ years ago; I think often of the simple and timeless concepts that have been nearly abandoned, and how different the current world landscape would look if they were still even partially in play.

If Charles Ingalls owed someone something, or made a commitment to a project, he honored it- even if it meant being inconvenienced or putting himself in a sometimes far less-than-ideal situation. Injury, near starvation, sleeplessness, loneliness, physical hardship, compromise of convenience and comfort… Honoring responsibility always stood far taller than avoiding inconvenience. That, too, is right.

The few times in my life that I have gone against that notion are by far and away my most regretful. The part of you that entered into the commitment or took on the debt (financial, emotional or otherwise) should not be disrespected by the current, misguided version of you attempting to flee; personal safety and reasonableness considered, of course.

If he crossed paths with someone that was down, Charles Ingalls helped them up- even if he may not have particularly liked them or even known them. And if someone he cared for was down, all the stops were pulled out to right the ship- personal convenience and comfort aside.

None of that is antiquated, 19th-century nonsense or idealistic zealotry; just a semi-lost set of values that served many good people well for hundreds of years. Charles Ingalls was simply an easily-accessible example that resonated with me and made an impact.

The convoluted path of our progressive, modern world has undermined age-old tenets that set a bar so high that it has been able to fall this low and still be seen as acceptable.

Our forefathers deserve both a pat on the back, and a cover for their eyes.