Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Facebook Effect

I have played with the idea of quitting Facebook for a while. I even wrote a post with that title over a year ago, but I didn't quit it then. And I haven't quit it yet. I guess I find value in the occasional amusing or informational post, or the update from an old friend or family member.

But Facebook has another function: an ability to offend, to incite, to betray, to reveal. I once told a friend of mine that I loved my extended family but that I didn't really want to know them any better than I knew them 40 years ago. I said this because I knew or sensed that we were very different people as adults, and that given the choice we would not be friends. So it did not occur to me really, that when I "friended" members of my extended family, that I would eventually see just how different we were. For the most part, my response to seeing their posts was disappointing: the nephew who loves guns, the neocon cousins who hate Obama, the aunt who prays to God to save us from our darkest hour (this right after the last election). I learned to take all this disappointment in stride, for the most part. But I must admit, while it didn't change my love for them, it did change  my like for them.

So perhaps what happened last week on Facebook should not have surprised me.  I responded to a post shared by my cousin's wife. It was one of those petty, foolish posts where someone is complaining because Michelle Obama and the girls were getting private ski lessons and the President was golfing, while people are struggling financially all over the country. I simply said that I didn't think any President ever took an oath of poverty--not Obama or Bush or Clinton, etc. That was it.

The next day, I was down 2 friends on Facebook. It took me a while to figure out who was missing. My cousin and his wife both "unfriended" me. I was dumfounded. I thought that kind of act was reserved for high crimes and misdemeanors in the social media world. What had I done? What had I said that was so offensive? I guess the point was that they only wanted comments that were favorable to their point of view. And I wasn't necessarily disagreeing with their POV, I was simply adding some perspective. But I guess that was not welcome. So it made me think, that maybe my cousin felt the same way--that he knew more about me now and didn't like me either. I'm not sure I reveal much at all on Facebook, but I probably reveal enough that he decided it wasn't worth keeping me as a "Facebook friend". But does this rejection of me preclude us from being family? Has Facebook's reveal now contributed to the end of a 50 year connection that we both valued, that happened once a year or so, when we got together and reminisced over things that happened when we were 10 years old? Maybe it was inevitable. Maybe everyone is easily offended in the age of social media. Social discourse is more of a drive-by shooting than a real exchange of ideas. If so, this loss is just one more casualty in the new era. I think I miss snail mail.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook--is that all we have to say?

Several days ago a troubled young man shot his way into a grade school and massacred 20 children and 6 adults who tried to protect the children. They were all no match for the high powered rifle that shot 45 rounds in a minute. It's designed to do that--to kill with a ferocity and velocity that far surpasses any need one could have or need in a civilized society. This is not wartime. This is not a third world country under a coup. This is the United States where "in guns we trust" seems to be the new motto.

So now come the requisite "special reports" by the networks, and the required visit of consolation my the President (his fourth in his presidency), the calls for prayers, the vigils, the tears, the one liners on Facebook, the finger pointing, the...on and on and on. And in the end, at least up to this point, nothing changes. We move on, we forget, we tire of the pain and tears, we want to celebrate Christmas with a clear conscience. So life goes on. And this horrific tragedy that is now our American life gets relegated to two words--Sandy Hook. It reminds me of how we refer to hurricanes. Remember Hugo, Katrina, Irene, Sandy, Camille? You may not remember the devastation they wrought if you didn't live there, so all you remember after a while is the name. Just like Columbine. We can't change the weather. We haven't learned to tame hurricanes, we can only prepare better for them. Will we learn anything from the memories of 26 people? Will we change anything? Time will tell. I'm betting I'll be writing another post in the not-too-distant-future about another mass shooting.

It's the guns, people. The guns.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

McCain is an Idiot--Again!!

In the wake on President Obama's re-election, John McCain is beating the war drum for divisivness again. This time he's trying to trump up charges (created by himself) that Obama's administration participated in a coverup regarding the tragedy in Benghazi, where 4 personnel died in an Al Queda attack. There doesn't seem to be much doubt that security issues there were  not adequately handled. But beyond that, does anyone else (besides me?) see this as simply an attempt to pull a "let's impeach Clinton" move against the success of Obama's second term? Shame on McCain and his toady, Lindsey Graham. Shame on them for ginning up this issue for their own political gain! Shame!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Full Circle

When I was almost 11 years old in 1968, my father packed up the car, the kids and the wife, along with all our hopes and dreams and ripped us out of the womb of LaGrange, Il. He sold us on the "better life" in Virginia with better schools, better people, better job, greener pastures, etc. We bought it. We believed it. We had no choice. We waved good-bye to the 15-20 kids surrounding our Oldsmobile station wagon on Stone Avenue and thought we were off on a great adventure. None of us said it at the time, but I believe every one of us thought this was just like a vacation--a vacation that would end and bring us right back home.

But it didn't end. And the moving on didn't end either. And we never saw the Stone Avenue kids again. I don't recall any of us acknowledging it, but I know we all carried a deep and lasting pain of missing our friends, and our way of life there. And later we would all acknowledge that we always wondered "Did we mean as much to them as they meant to us? Did we MATTER?"

Through the "miracle" of Facebook, we began to reconnect with old names, old friends. We "friended" some of our old buddies, but it felt superficial, a bit contrived. I never found my best friend, Peggy, online and no one seemed to know where she was, other than "California". But then, after much networking by my tenacious sister, Kerry, it all came together.

This year, on the weekend of the LaGrange Pet Parade, most of us reunited. And the last to arrive was Peggy. She didn't know me at first (because she had no expectation that I would be there), but when she realized who I was, she looked stunned, amazed, and very moved. We embraced warmly and she exclaimed proudly "You were my BEST friend." I replied, "You were my best friend!"

It all came together, the 44 years of self doubt, of wondering if we mattered. It was all answered in a simple phrase "You were my best friend!" Validation. Finally. At long last.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The "No Snow" Winter

So it's almost done, this climate changed version of what may pass for a typical winter in the future. Folks around here are still convinced that we'll have another big snow. I've been convinced since our very green Christmas that we weren't going to see snow again until next year. I hate that I might be right about this, because I was so incredibly prepared for this one. I bought everything related to rough winters that one could buy. A brand new snowblower, new XC skis and boots and poles, a heavy duty winter parka. I had salt in heavy supply. Had my snow shoes ready and waiting. Parked my snow shovel at the front door for the first chance to clean off the sidewalk.

And then I waited with nervous anticipation. Man against the elements. I live for this stuff!!

Truth is we did have two snows, one being about 6 inches. My luck? I was out of town for it and it was virtually gone by the end of a long weekend away. The other snow was just enough for me fire up the snowblower and discover how hard it is to run a straight line when you can't see the driveway lines! I spent the next 40 minutes making it all look like I knew what I was doing. I looked forward to the next snow where I could show my power machine prowess. But alas, it was not to be.

None of us knows, of course, if this is a sign of things to come. I suspect it is. I fear we will all be blindsided by climate events we never anticipated because everyone has been telling us that this change is years away. When they tell you the ocean waters are rising an inch every 5-10 years, you don't exactly lose sleep, ya know? But I don't think anyone anticipated tornadoes in New Hampshire or frigid cold in Europe or floods and droughts in the same year. The lake levels are falling in the Northwoods. Animals aren't migrating anymore. For years we feared that we would kill our planet with nuclear bombs. One big terrible apocalyptic rage that would leave the earth scourged and dead.

It could still happen, no doubt. But it might also be that man will not lose the battle against man, but against Nature. Perhaps she will have the last laugh. Nature always reclaims what is hers. And someday she will tell us it's time to pay.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks

I am now into the middle of my first series of art classes--4 classes down, 4 to go on drawing. Then I move on to oil painting. And I continue that as long as I want, and as long as I can afford it. At the risk of jinxing myself, I think I'm actually starting to get this creative stuff! Here is a charcoal of a bust I started today, followed by the Venus that I started in the last class and completed today:

I know they are a long way from being "real art", but they tell me that I have an ability to transform something I see into something pleasing on paper. But mostly, I am learning to see things differently, to identify values, shading, composition, and proportion. How cool is that? Woof!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Very Poor

When Mitt Romney uttered his now infamous line "I'm not concerned about the very poor," he revealed something about the way he sees America and Americans. Recently, the Republican party has accused President Obama of "class warfare" and attempting to divide the country along socioeconomic lines. What exactly did Romney do in his clear proclamation of how he sees the country? He said first that he was concerned about Americans and then he proceeded to divide them into 3 categories. If this is not classism, or identification of a caste system, then what is it? What's more striking (and disturbing) about it for me is that he also seems to be describing people as if they are fixed entities in these different classes. It is as if he is describing the "very poor" as a class of people who should be satisfied with their position in life and secure with their trusty government safety net. It is as if he is suggesting that these people do not deserve concern because, after all, this is their lot in life. He is referring to poor people as if they are not deserving of the same attention and concern simply by virtue of having LESS. As if they are undeserving of concern because they should not want for MORE, or do not want for MORE! He is implying that this is a class of Americans who do not seek the American dream, who do not strive to be a part of the middle class.

Yes, we can all argue that we know what Mitt really meant--he really meant that he wants to return the American middle class to its place of prominance in our society, the bedrock on which American productivity and manufacturing are built, the quintessential American dream. But that's not what he said. He said--he emphasized--I am not concerned about the very poor.

If he isn't concerned about them now, when are they deserving of his concern? What does a poor person have to do to garner attention from the would-be President? Does one have to fight and claw and become a part of the shrinking middle class in order to be a blip on his radar?

A government of the people, by the people, for the people. Do we really need to add "ALL of the people"?