'Karens' Get a Bad Rap (Sometimes)

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

I recently witnessed an incident that shocked me in some ways and yet didn't surprise me in others, and which left me wondering how I should respond to it.

My home office is in the front of the house next to a large window. I see a lot of neighbors walk by and drive by each day, coming and going, along with the construction trucks and utility vehicles that are a regular fixture thanks to projects going on in the area.

Like most people, if I happen to see a car or truck I don't recognize slow down and stop in front of the house, I pay a little closer attention to it than I normally would a passerby.

It was Tuesday, and I was not having the greatest day in the world but was trying to make the best of it. As I sat at my desk, staring blankly at the screen in frustration over lack of creative motivation, I saw out of the corner of my eye a car drive up the hill and stop a car length or so short of a nearby street sign.

Curious, I looked back and forth and waited to see if the driver would get out or if they would drive on. A few minutes after they stopped, I watched a man get out with one of his floor mats in hand, which he shook out. Before he put it back in his car, he dragged it over the grass in my yard as though he was trying to clean something off of it.

Okay, I said to myself, that was weird but not the strangest thing I'd seen happen out there.

A few minutes later he got out again, this time with the other floor mat. This one had some paper trash that was stuck on it. He shook it out, too, and trash fell into the yard. My expectations were low at this point that he would have the decency to pick it up, and he did not disappoint.

I had the fleeting urge to confront him, but he was much bigger than me and possibly could have been armed. Plus, it's not like he had abandoned an animal in the yard or anything that would have warranted a face-to-face response (or a call to the police). Further, it's been my experience that littering is not the only type of thing that purposely inconsiderate folks have been known to do, so trying to get through to them is a pointless exercise.

And yet as he drove off and I thought on it some more, a part of me wanted to express my disdain and frustration in a public way, if for no other reason than to vent. I even considered going on the Nextdoor app, but what stopped me were all the times I remembered of people accusing others on the app of being "Karens" for having similar complaints about what they've seen happen in their respective neighborhoods.

SEE ALSO: In Defense of Karens

Honestly, the term "Karen" has become so distorted now that I can only guess as to what it is supposed to mean anymore. I mean, I think in its earliest incarnation it was to describe middle-aged "privileged" white females who felt it was their duty to belittle minorities. 

But over time - especially during the pandemic when people were nosing around in other people's personal business at the government's urging - it turned into any person who allegedly meddled in situations that were none of their business.

Now it seems to mean any person who complains about wrongdoing, perceived or real, in their community.

Like cancel culture, I think the term "Karen" has discouraged some people from speaking up and out in good faith about legitimate issues their neighbors and fellow citizens should be concerned about.

For instance, a couple of years or so ago I was perusing the Nextdoor app and saw that a person from a nearby neighborhood had expressed a legitimate concern about a homeless encampment that was growing in size and which the city didn't seem too interested in addressing. He wasn't ugly about it but had valid worries about how the issues we typically see crop up when homeless tent cities are formed could potentially spiral out of control.

I was amazed that around 50 percent of the responses  - and there were a lot of them - chided the man and those who agreed with him, calling them "Karens." They were told to leave the encampment alone, that the homeless residents weren't hurting anyone although they had no toilets, no electricity, and no way to dispose of trash and human waste in a safe and sanitary manner. They were also burning fires in a heavily wooded area.

Others suggested bringing food and clothes to the encampment and forming a human chain around it in the event law enforcement showed up to enforce city ordinances regarding homeless encampments.

I'm not a fan of picking on the homeless, and I can assure you that's not what the thread starter was doing, either. But things got so intense in the comments section of that post over a concerned member of the community expressing a very real concern that I think it was eventually deleted.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has gotten discouraged when they see people who are willing to start uncomfortable but important conversations about neighborhood goings-on get lambasted by obnoxious "woke" types who I firmly believe would have a fit and fall in it if those homeless folks who they say they care so much about started camping in their neighborhoods.

So who are the real problematic people here? Folks like that thread starter or those who melted down over what he had to say and who vowed to take action in the event the city proceeded to disband the encampment (which they ended up doing)? My money is on the latter.

Oh, and as to how I got my frustrations out regarding Mr. Litter Bug? A tweet - and this write-up, of course.

Flashback: Hard-Hitting Chicago 'Reporters' Gleefully Snitch on Neighborhood Ice Cream Man, Urge Viewers to Call 911



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