By Michael Leppert
Happy New Year! While reviewing 2015 and taking a moment for a little self evaluation, I have come to the conclusion that I am a complainer. I originally wrote that I am a “professional” complainer, but that inaccurately implies that I am being paid for this. I am not. At least not yet.
Opinion writers, no matter what they label themselves, generally are motivated by some sort of complaint. Trust me, I have an arsenal of them. But lately it seems, everyone is getting in on the act. Honestly, it’s a bit of a competitive problem for me. Clearly, there is no licensing requirement to complain, but if people don’t start stepping up their game, maybe we should consider it.
Today I offer my advice on how complaining can improve. If you aren’t following these basic rules, I encourage you to reflect and self evaluate your strategy as I did. It is important that we do this well as a community, and as we start a new year, let’s get this American tradition back on track.
Here are 10 examples of guidelines to follow in the coming year:
1. The top political complaining rule is that if one doesn’t vote, they forego their political complaining privileges. Imagine if we enforced this one. Twitter and Facebook might go under! Here’s a thought, one should only be able to use a new “voter registration passcode” to gain access for posting anything political on social media. It can be renewed every two years, but only at the appropriate polling location.
2. All complaints must be accompanied by a proposed solution to the alleged problem. If they don’t, it’s not really legitimate “complaining” and is more aptly defined as “whining.” For example, we can’t “complain” about the weather, we can only whine. We can complain about a horrible city government strategy to plow the snow, but only if we have an alternative of our own. Suggesting the plows first clear a triangular path from my house, to my child’s school, and to my office before anything else might not count as a legitimate alternative.
3. It is bad form to complain about your seats at the Super Bowl.
4. Complaining about rush hour traffic while driving alone to work in an SUV having voted against a mass transit referendum is out of bounds.
5. Complaining about transgender people wanting to use the “wrong” bathroom only points out the stupidity of the complainer. Realizing there is nothing inviting about any public restroom is the first step toward better public restrooms.
6. I was introduced to a complaint technique this year called the “prebuttal.” This is a complaint issued before the complainer has had a chance to review the thing that provides the source of the complaint. It is only used when one knows he or she will be mad, but doesn’t have time to wait for the angering event to actually occur. As awesome as this sounds, the technique is always a complaining faux pas. Unless of course, the source of the prebuttal is President Obama, and the issuer of said prebuttal is any Republican.
7. Complaining about sports is almost always acceptable. The solution to the complaint can always be the firing of a coach or the benching of a player. And the golden rule here is that there is no such thing as a “good” referee. Referees can either be unnoticed or terrible, but never good. The only time complaints here are wrong is when the competitors are high schoolers or younger. Then we have to temporarily set a good example and keep quiet.
8. Like sports, the media is always fair game for complaints. The key here is learning what counts as “media” and what doesn’t. This column will likely be published in legitimate newspapers, but I am not the “media.” Access to factual information is like gold. The press is the only constitutionally protected profession and for that vital reason. Complaining with the goal of raising the standard of public access to accurate information is actually a civic duty.
9. Religious complaints are always off limits. All of the world’s major religions are based on goodness through their commitment to their God. People are flawed, but religions share remarkably similar lessons. Any attempt to complain or attack any of them is as stupid and wrong as the bathroom example in number five above. Never do this.
10. Donald Trump is the number one violator of complaining decorum. People who are as rich as he is are only allowed to complain in the rarest of circumstances. And he is way over the limit. After listening to him for the last several months it is clear the only way he could make America any greater, would be for him to permanently leave it.
So there you have it. This should not be considered the comprehensive list, or even the best 10 examples of guidance in the field. It is merely a start.
It is a new year and I can safely predict some fantastic complaining in 2016. But we need to unite as a community and commit to doing it well. There really are good things that can come from it if done properly.
I commit to set the best example I can this year by thinking through my weekly rants with diligence and thoughtfulness. Knowing of course that if I do my very best, many of you will be appropriately compelled to complain.