Not Social Media

Recently I have been watching social media and the disruption to our social fabric. This isn’t of course new, it is though greater, larger and more ugly. Once upon a time Facebook and others like it came along and invaded our consciousness, invaded our lives in ways no one then could have predicted back in 2004 when Facebook first hit the internet with its innocuous and simple strategy to connect us with family and friends. Today, we are not only connected, we are divided, fighting over politics and anything else. Families are falling apart, lifelong friends are participating in virtual battles reminiscent of WWF cage matches, friends and strangers alike joining in or sitting on the sidelines with popcorn to see who will be emotionally destroyed this time. There is no room for the moderate in this new virtual reality, it is all or nothing proposition in every discussion, every issue must be pro or con, no middle ground is accepted.

I find myself at odds with the world these days. I live in the grey, not black or white, not pro or con, not yeah or nay. I am not a willing participant in the battles any longer, valuing my relationships far more than the debate I once loved. The joy of the examination no longer exists as it is no longer a literate, civil or educated one. I am no longer willing to participate, not with family and friends who I have loved for most if not all of my life. Now and then something so offends me I will offer up a thought, an opinion and then almost immediately regret it. I nearly always  find myself dragged down in the muck, mired in name calling and character assignation (mine) until I bow out of the conversation, defeated by the sheer ugliness of the attacks. These always end with me wondering how my friend or family member could sit back and allow these strangers, these new friends of theirs to attack my character and intellect without mercy simply because of my disagreement with a position. I am stunned by the vitriol within the virtual world of social media. I am brought to my knees some days, but truthfully over the past ten years this has been escalating, the introduction of social media and our ability to sit behind a computer screen to communicate without repercussion has shattered previous norms. I am always hurt by the unwillingness of my friends and family to stop the attacks, I always assume it is fear that stops them. Fear of retribution or ridicule from these friends with very specific and often extreme views.

Are we all becoming more extreme?

I constantly ask myself this question. Is social media enabling extreme views to flourish?

Another thought is, are the extreme views we see today new or simply the manifestation of what has always been part of our social fabric given a new and more anonymous outlet?

If the second question is the more closely aligned with the truth and we as a nation, as a people, are showing our true and terrible colors to the world then our descent from the ‘greatest’ nation to something less than, is well deserved. If on the other hand, social media simply provides an outlet for all the worst and is not representative of us, as a people than still we fail but we have the opportunity to redeem ourselves.

Still it seems I am at odds. The problem is, I am uncertain who I am at odds with. Am I at odds with the majority, truly I hope this is not the case? Am I at odds with friends and family who I have known a significant part of my life, I don’t think this is true as most are like me reasonable, moderate and intellectually curious? Am I at odds with those who I have politically aligned with for a significant part of my life, for better than forty years in fact. Am I at odds with the majority of my gender? Who and what am I at odds with and how in the hell do I resolve these strange disparities in thinking after all these years.

Truthfully the gaps I have found between myself and those who I would normally consider my political allies have too often become great chasms as the current environment has demanded ever more worshipful adherence to a party line moving further and further toward extremes. There is no room any longer for moderation, freedom of thought or thoughtful thinking. Any challenge is considered traitorous and opens the challenger up to being pilloried in the public square. Nevertheless, I continue to challenge. I continue to ask questions. I continue to think freely rather than being led like a lemming to the edge of the cliff. I continue to seek the best answers, no matter where that answer comes from and look for how to fix problems in the best way possible for the nation, not just for those I consider allies and friends. I still believe we have a nation worth saving for all of us. Perhaps I am naïve, yet I believe all our citizens are worth saving and while some are certainly worthy of demonizing based on their horrendous behavior, they are nonetheless part of the fabric of this nation and we must find the means to deal with them within the bounds of our laws, our norms and our hopefulness in a better future.

Someone close to me is convinced this terrible we find ourselves in today began with Barrack Obama, he has his ‘facts’ to show how this is the truth, how the election of this ‘inexperienced’ Senator from Illinois was the source of all our problems.

Someone else close to me points to Donald Trump and says the terrible is laid directly at his feet and prior to him, the nation was not this bad. She can list all the points she has that makes this true and stands firmly by her ‘facts’.

Someone else I know says Bill Clinton’s presidency and the investigation into Whitewater and then later the Monica Lewinsky scandal are where the Terrible began, where the nation experienced the first great divide. Where the polarization of the body politic first happened and that we have never truly recovered.

presidentsI think we must go much further back to find the initial cracks. The first crack, when LBJ signed Civil Rights and the parties shifted. The next with Nixon and the Southern Strategy. The continuation with Reagan and Trickle Down Economics, shifting wealth from the middle to the top creating larger and larger gaps in income each decade since. Barack Obama’s election simple brought fear to the surface, fear of other and fear that what White Folks had been hearing for years was coming to fruition, they were no longer the dominate majority. With the election of Donald Trump, that fear showed its ugly underbelly, it is manifest across the nation and of course vibrant and quivering on Social Media.

So back to where I started, does social media provide or enable a disruption to our social fabric, to norms and values? Are we enabled by the anonymous nature of social media to act on our worst nature? Do we reveal in it or is it simply easier to allow are worst angels their flight wings.

If the above is true, do we have the ability to stuff the ugly and terrible back into the box or is this it, the electronic version of The Purge where friends, family and imperfect strangers attack driving those they disagree with off in virtual bloodletting frenzies.

Godless Liberal

The other day I was called a “Godless Liberal”, not for the first time, during a political debate; I pondered this for a few minutes before I responded. I understood my opponent was angry with me, furious if truth were told. If we had been speaking face-to-face, I suspect the ‘Godless Liberal’ would have been accompanied with finger pointing and looked something like this:Anger

GODLESS LIBERAL

Before I go on, by the way my response was “Yes, but you will never understand the nuance.”

Perhaps the words I used were too big, maybe he didn’t understand them. Whatever the case was, the discussion went downhill from there, the content of his argument went from senseless fiction regarding the state of police violence to comments regarding my gender and my relationship to canines (Fucking Bitch was one of the least offensive but most frequently used).

The entire exchange got me thinking about the state of our national conversation, not from a political standpoint, not from what we see in media but, from how we speak to one another. It got me thinking; outside the usually polite boundaries we maintain in professional settings, we have none anywhere else. We are perfectly comfortable with name-calling, crossing any previously established boundary to disparage our opponent and we have not the least amount of shame in our behavior. What made this complete faceless stranger feel comfortable denigrating me in the most sexist terms?

Just to keep this all in perspective, he continued to pound me and everyone else with his moral superiority based on his Christianity, which apparently also magically infused him with intellectual superiority as well. I was frankly astounded.

Right-wing-Christian-hall-of-shame

Of course we only have this group of truly wonderful examples to compare him with.

 

That said and his point made, he viewed me as ‘outside’ and unworthy of anything approaching civil discourse. I did not surmise this, he told me he was under no obligation to treat me with respect as I was a ‘non-believer’ and bound for Hell.

Morals, Ethics, Principles, Values, Scruples, Integrity

Do these words have real meanings anymore? Can we say with certainty all societies have something akin to moral structures members willingly agree with and abide by? When my little friend called me a Godless Liberal, what did he really mean? Did he fully understand or was he just parroting mindlessly what he heard from others. Was this his only answer when he was no longer able to debate the issue at hand?

The question of Godliness and Godlessness, religious affiliation, worship both what and how, whether we recognize them or not, have been taking center stage in our public life for decades now. Though we are enjoined from doing so by our laws, even by our Constitution and by implication by our Bill of Rights, we judge each other by a set of Principles. Whether we subscribe to a ‘religion’ or not, we nonetheless subscribe to a common set of Principles, though some may be more porous, more flexible within the context of our day-to-day lives.

I have been thinking about this all week. This is what I have ultimately come up with, tell me what you think, am I right or wrong?

Morals: Primarily derived from religious thinking, all societies have basic frameworks that seem to be consistent though some are more deranged than others in their application of the rules.

  • Don’t be dishonest (Lie, Cheat, Steal)
  • Don’t be promiscuous and be faithful in your marriage (don’t covet either)
  • Don’t murder (killing might be okay though for the right reason)
  • Be compassionate to those weaker than yourself (feed the hungry, care for the sick and aged)

Ethics: Primarily defined for businesses to operate in the marketplace, organizations establish these to clarify the rules and ensure everyone knows them. Personally, I think in many cases Business Ethics are the organizations smoke screen but that is just me. I have seen these few from past employers they have rarely been adhered to.

  • Don’t pay bribes (Influence peddling)
  • Respect for individuals (Civil and Human Rights)
  • Respect for local culture
  • Respect for environment
  • Deliver profit to shareholders

Principles, Values, Scruples & Integrity: I have combined these because they are all personal in my mind. We develop personal and interpersonal relationships within society and with individuals, how we interact is based on our own evolution. Despite what some would have us believe we are not born Principled or with Integrity. When we come into the world, we are nothing more than empty vessels waiting to be filled.

I essentially filtered the 10 Commandments down to three (similar to George Carlin) and then added one of my own. Most religions agree with these as foundational notwithstanding the simpler language I used. I find myself in a quandary as I consider the issue of Morals, Ethics, Principles, Values, Scruples and Integrity –

OpEdStarting at the reading of my four Commandments, I walk the walk every day. Thus, I have Morals.

If I read my Ethics, as a businessperson who has worked in a variety of roles for Fortune 100 companies and as an Independent Business Owner, I walk the walk and talk the talk. In fact, I have been in trouble for doing so in the past. With this answer in mind, I am also a person of Ethics.

Continuing with my reading through the last group of definitions, I know my answers and believe I am a person of Integrity, a Principled person.

Godless, perhaps if I apply the definition as society does it this is true; I am not religious only spiritual. I do not subscribe to any religion created by man to control society, engineer preferred outcomes or oppress entire segments of society by gender, class or in some cases race. In fact I don’t just not subscribe, I reject.

Liberal, indeed I have been an agitator, a protestor and at times an ‘in your face’ type of Godless Liberal. I am now and have been since I was old enough to understand the difference a Progressive Left of Center Liberal.

Being a Godless Liberal wasn’t an illegal or immoral political stance last I heard, in fact some of the greatest men and women of history were staunch Liberals, including our own Founding Fathers. It seems we have lost our way. Stoning, burning at the stake, dunking have all been outlawed in the US of A for many years now; with Godless Liberal and public Slut Walking making a comeback, I have to wonder what is next?

Jingle This

Linda1We are coming onto Christmas 2014, only a day away before some of us begin to celebrate with family and friends. For others, this is a time of sadness, a time of loneliness and harsh emotional undoing. For some of us it is a time for introspection, of considerable thought about where we are, who we are and what we might want for ourselves and those we love.

For me, this past year has been a roller coaster. Don’t mistake me, I love roller coasters; hell, I miss roller coasters. The day my doctor said, ‘it is probably a bad idea for you to ride roller coasters anymore’, I wanted to weep. That was many years ago, I have ridden a few since that day and discovered much to my chagrin he was right; don’t you hate it when that happens? There are many things I could say about this year, some I believe I will keep to myself, forever and ever, amen; some, I will say because it needs to be said and some I will say only if and when the opportunity presents itself to say to the person who needs to hear it.

This though is about the holidays, specifically this is about Christmas and the changing of the year. It is also about what I have observed.

First, people are insane. For the most part, people are downright crazy mean. Why is it the season that should bring out the best in people brings out the nastiest and ugliest in people? I mean really, will little Tom or Sally just DIE if they don’t get that latest toy under the tree? Did you really just shove that woman to grab the last one off the shelf at Wal-Mart? Are you really in such a hurry you cut off that woman with three children so your azz could have a parking spot closer to the door? Did you truly just say to the elderly couple in line ahead of you, ‘can’t you move any faster?’

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Gawd, you people suck so badly it is difficult for me to even believe we are related somewhere back in time. Do you know what else is difficult for me comprehend?

download (1)Next on my list, the just downright mean and nasty across social media right now, really people give it a rest would you please. We all know what you think on any give subject, but must you spew your bile all over everything at this time of the year? Worse yet, must you do it all over everyone else’s timelines and pages? Honestly, if you disagree with someone is it impossible for you to do so with civility and common courtesy? Better yet, how difficult is it for you too simply move along? I will admit, I love a good debate as much as the next person but if the only thing you bring to the table is fictional talking points made up by some squirt mouth in the backroom of Faux, The Heritage Foundation or WorldNet Daily then please do us all a favor, keep it too yourself. I truly am all for diverse opinions and mixed government, fully in support of a true democratic solution (which we do not have today). Nevertheless, at this time of the year, you know ‘peace on earth and goodwill to men’, is it imperative you beat down those who think differently from you?

I have deleted and blocked more people on Facebook and other social media sites in the past five weeks than I have in the entire past year. Is it, is it me or them?download

Finally, let us for just one minute talk about your religion, it is after all one of the cornerstones of your life; right? After all, you have spent the better part of the past several centuries trying to enforce your morality, based on your religion on others. You have done this enforcing and force-feeding through wars, legislation and just plain simple making it miserable for everyone around you who doesn’t believe like you do.  Now frankly the insane part of this is, you are all nodding your heads right now and thinking to yourself, ‘Yeah, those f’ng (insert other religion here) sure are a bunch of Fundamentalist / Extremist / Terrorist / Nutjobs’. The fact is, all of you all are exactly all of those things if you can’t leave well enough alone, can’t leave other folks alone to believe what they choose to believe and can’t see for just one minute, you can’t be the only ‘right’ way if there are over four thousand (4,000) other ‘right’ ways out there right this very minute, all of which believe they are ‘right’. So give it a rest, would you please.

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By the way American’s in particular, no, no, no! America is not and never was intended to be a ‘Christian Nation’. It was intended to be a nation of laws. While the majority of you may be Christians, this does not change the Declaration of Independence and its intent, it does not change the Constitution and its intent. It also does not change all of the writings by those who wrote those two documents on their intent regarding the Nation and its relation to Religion, read up on this if you have any questions. Your desire to bend history, making it more palatable to your desires is both pitiful and frightening. Pitiful because it shows the shallowness of your intellect, frightening because it shows your willingness to sink our nation into ignorance to achieve your goals.

Those are my three peeves as we come into the holiday season and the New Year. Do I think it is getting better? No, in fact I think this nation is sinking fast, compassion and empathy seem to be in short supply and ignorance is on the rise, even celebrated. As a nation, we seem to have lost something, perhaps it is our soul. I am saddened by the great chasm dividing us as a people.10402430_10205015207440428_9211021343351180985_n

For me? I am going to try to do better this coming year. I am going to try to visit you more often. I am going to try to write more frequently, spread my wings to more subjects and see the world beyond my backyard. I am going to try to engage my community and do more than speak.

For the season? I will be with my family and I hope all of you will be with those you love. I am going to try to remind myself to tell those I love, whether family by blood or by choice that I love them and am grateful to have them in my life.

So with that off my chest and out of my system.

holidaygreeting

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