Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

We’re Done Here

I try to think of myself as a pretty good listener.

Partly because my early college years were so full of me bending friends’ ears so often, as I tried to navigate this or that social or academic minefield, that I’ve since wanted to try and make it up to them, by paying it forward.

But also, it’s not a bad quality to aspire to, just to deal with people well.

My goal – maybe not overtly, or always in the forefront of my mind, but still, my goal – is to try to see things from the other fellow’s perspective. It can be hard to reach common ground if you only stare at your own feet.

It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort. Even if you didn’t reach that common ground, well, Yoda was wrong: there is “try”.

I could say that the last month, or three, or eighteen, have been challenging from this perspective, upon my social media feed. But it’s actually not completely true, at least in this one regard: as it works out, the great majority of folks with whom I have Facebook Friendships happen to share a lot of my political views. Thanks to one thing and another, we seem to share the same attitudes about how you treat other people, even beyond the battle lines of modern politics. Politically, it is without question an echo chamber. But (and not every online outlet can lay claim to this) it’s also a place that I can visit which features a whole lot of sympathy and empathy, a whole lot of people showing support for each other. The concrete, actual world surely could use more of this.

I’m actually pleased to say that I have several friends (Facebook- as well as brick-and-mortar) who identify as Republicans – Eisenhower Republicans, to be sure, but it technically counts – with whom I regularly have constructive conversations and, just as importantly, I have a pretty good time hanging out with. Online or in person.

This is not about that.

This isn’t about party lines, and although you may have trouble believing it, it isn’t about the current occupant of the Oval Office either.

It took all of the most recent month, or three months, or really eighteen months. I was right on the verge, but several times I fought the urge. And tonight, I finally did it.

I unfriended somebody.

For a long time, I’d made a quite conscious effort – after reading one of this gentleman’s posts or observing whatever link was being proffered – to keep his contributions around. To not push him away, virtually speaking. After all, never a bad idea to see how the opposition is thinking, what their approach is – whether it’s politics or football or what. A new thought may occur to you … or at least you can use that “opposition research” to hone your argument.

And this gentleman’s posts and links had consisted of thoughts that I definitely didn’t agree with, but they were always fitting into one of two categories: earnest opinion about policy, or snarky remarks about folks on my side of the political aisle. The swings that he took were always metaphorical.

This little meme was different, though.

Not to fall into the “both sides are just as bad” trap – because I happen to believe that on a great many counts, in a great many ways, one side is in fact substantively worse than the other. But I do acknowledge that in the world of pointed snarky memes, one political side doesn’t have a total monopoly on the sort of meme humor that cuts pretty close to the bone.

I can appreciate clever a lot more than I can appreciate ham-handed. Although sometimes ham-handed has its place.

Again, the meme that finally caused me to pare down my list of Friends by one … was substantively different than the usual.

It was effectively a two-panel cartoon.  Panel #1 had a caption that read, “HOW PROTESTERS SEE THEMSELVES”, and the captioned image was a photograph of half a dozen people who clearly were part of some protest march or demonstration or other, protesting and demonstrating passionately.

Panel #2’s caption read, “HOW I SEE THEM”.

The image was of a series of speed bumps.

Whether or not you remember the recent terrorist attack in Nice, France, during which a man drove a truck straight through throngs of strolling tourists and killed many of them, doesn’t matter.

If you post that meme – if you attach your name to it, and thereby declare that you are standing behind the sentiment – then you are, very simply, advocating violence. Possibly lethal violence. You are saying that you think it’s okay to mow down other human beings with a motor vehicle. You are, further, making a joke out of it.

Aaaaaaand we’re done here.

I’m done with you.

Doesn’t matter whether you support Trump or Trudeau or a trumpet or a truffle. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a conservative or a conservationist or a concierge or a contra dancer.

I am done with you.

There are many more mature ways to express an opinion. There are many more humane ways to deal with other people. There are other people out there who are mature, or humane, or in many cases both, that I would prefer to deal with — whether I agree with them politically or not.

I won’t go to my unFriend’s house and throw things at it in order to let him know. In this case, he’ll only know that I’m done with him when it occurs to him that he hasn’t seen my posts in a while. (Given the capricious way that Facebook’s algorithms cycle people in and out of other people’s feeds, it may not strike him at all.) Social media allows me to excise his view of the world from my immediate daily awareness with a simple mouse click. No muss, no fuss.

I know; it’s a passive-aggressive way of dealing with this.

There are enough aggressive-aggressive behaviors in the world to contend with, which increasingly we need to address, though; and it’s not always crucial to fight fire with fire.

But I just don’t have it in me to try to engage with somebody who thinks people are speed bumps.

February 22, 2017 Posted by | current events, Facebook, friends, humor, Internet, news, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In the Bubble

Tiny update for those who have visited here since Tuesday’s election:

Regarding my thought, two posts ago, that “I think that in any case, I’m not in the right frame of mind, yet, to reach out and try to communicate with the People who will one day need to be reached” … yeah, two days isn’t enough time to get into that frame of mind.

A co-worker of mine said to me today, “good Lord, stay off Facebook for a week. It’s better that way.”

And, you will recall, on Wednesday morning, I completely failed at that avoidance. And I still am failing. But I think at least partly that’s because I have so many friends upon the Facebook machine who are hurting and angry and terrified, and are posting about it, and I don’t wish to ignore them or try to make myself feel better about the world by swerving away from friends.

There are people out there who don’t have that option because every time they step out into the world, now, they risk verbal and physical abuse, just for looking like who they are – or even for looking like who somebody else thinks they are.

So wouldn’t you think the exceptionally, extremely, very very least I can do would be to go and read what they have to say?

I imagine (with no malice whatever on my part, because he’s a fine feller) that my very well-meaning co-worker might say in response to that … you’re a glutton for what? Punishment?

No. I’m not the one who’s feeling the punishment.

And on Wednesday morning, I did step gingerly into the Facebook world, afraid of what I might find but somehow needing to.

And something that I found there in surprisingly great measure … yes, alongside the genuinely frightened and sometimes frightening status posts … was affecting in a different way, and caused me to post, myself, although in no way had I expected to be able to contribute anything.

There are times when it’s not productive to live in a bubble. There are times when it’s important to step out of your bubble, your comfort zone, and find out what the rest of the world is thinking – again, so you can engage them intelligently.

This wasn’t one of those.

My apologies to those of my set of Facebook compatriots who have already read this, but … in the spirit of clutching tightly to something, anything, remotely positive this week … and in the spirit of appreciating the moments in your life when it’s blindingly obvious that you’re surrounded by angels in the form of people who are well-spoken and thoughtful even when they ought to be panicking … who even seem to panic gracefully … who can prop other people up even as they’re needing propping-up themselves …

Here’s what I offered up to those angels inside my bubble, early Wednesday morning.

 

As it turns out, I have gone on Facebook this morning.

Didn’t want to.

Didn’t plan to.

My curiosity got the best of me.

As I was doing so, I forlornly hoped that it wouldn’t be the bad decision that I knew it would be.

Every instinct was telling me, no, no, no, don’t.

Because last night when I signed off, despair was coming off the screen in waves.

And today, the cold morning light was just that. The sky was flat and grey.

Every instinct was telling me, roll over, pull the blankets up over you, get a little more sleep.

But that wasn’t happening.

And my every waking thought about any earthly subject had been, for several hours now, considered through a new and distinctly not-very-rose-colored pair of glasses.

Every instinct was telling me, hunker down, protect yourself, go fetal, put on your crash helmet.

But something dragged me over to the computer and logged me in, here.

And I’m glad.

The despair, of course, is still there.

And I can only imagine what various segments of the population — among them some of my dear friends — are feeling this morning. Despair might be merely a starting point.

But the vast majority of the things I read this morning made me glad to have come here.

The things that I read … reinforced for me that I am privileged to be connected with remarkable people upon this little social media platform — whether we’ve been lifelong friends, or have never actually met in person!, or anywhere in between.

You wrote many things that I could not have written.

That I hope to write.

That I can’t yet.

And I’m not even gay, or Muslim, or Mexican, or African-American, or female, or a journalist. Or a parent who has to guide their kid in this moment.

So I have a certain amount of firewall that others don’t have.

But what was written here … what I’ve read here … will keep me from tipping over until the equilibrium returns.

I have gone on Facebook this morning.

Didn’t want to.

Didn’t plan to.

My curiosity got the best of me.

And I got the best of you all.

Onward ‘n’ upward.”

November 11, 2016 Posted by | blogging, current events, Facebook, friends, heroes, Internet, news, politics, social media, writing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lashing Out

So here we are, now just over two months away from a Trump Administration.

Regular readers of the Blogge will know that I’ve spent the last seven weeks recapping my activity upon the mighty Facebook, wherein every morning I have stood up in firm opposition not just to the campaign of the man who is now the President-elect, but in firm revulsion to the actual man.

What’s really frustrating is that all those haikus and all those links to articles and all those heartfelt-but-snarky memes and all those FB status posts of mine … fell on the ears of the already-converted.

And probably fell upon very very few of the People who needed to know what kind of star to which They were hitching Their wagon. Or, much more disconcertingly, the People who knew exactly what awful attitudes and behavior Their votes would sanction, not just in Their candidate but by extension in Themselves … and were okay with that.

And I live in a very very deep blue state, surrounded by other very very blue states. And so, from the relative safety and security and naivete of that bubble of belief that I was living in a country whose population was, by and large, decent … did I do enough, could I have done more, could I have done enough, did I have any hope of doing any more to reach the People Who Needed To Be Swayed?

And by “People Who Needed To Be Swayed”, I mean …

the People who don’t think They know any gay or lesbian people, so why should They care, and anyway they make Them feel icky, so why should they have rights? …

the People who don’t think women are any great thing to be respected …

the People who think anybody remotely brown is inherently inferior to Their white Selves …

the People who think it’s okay to discriminate against or protest against or legislate against or get violent against anybody who doesn’t worship Their particular version of God …

the People who think college degrees are for suckers, since They know what They know, and that’s enough for Them? …

I think that in any case, I’m not in the right frame of mind, yet, to reach out and try to communicate with the People who will one day need to be reached. And I don’t think They are, either.

 

When Snoopy stands on top of his comic-strip doghouse and reaches out a hand of friendship to the ferocious housecat next door, he does so while wearing a hockey glove on that hand. Which gets a laugh from the reader. And in the next strip, Snoopy promptly gets the hockey glove absolutely shredded by cat claws. Which also gets a laugh.

Right now, I’m not sure which character I am, in that little comic strip analogy.

Because … well, I’ll be honest. My version of reaching out, right now, today, only 24 hours afterward, to the People who have collectively caused my country to be prospectively led by an utterly dangerous person – and yes, it’s still my country, y’all, as much as it is yours, and we have to figure that out, too … well, my version of that reaching out might easily be characterized as lashing out.

And I’m not even a member of nearly any of those groups that the Vulgar Talking Yam and his Supporters will go after first. In the list of “First They Came For”s, I’m kinda low on the priority list. For the moment, at least.

See, there I go. Lashing out. It’s not something I’ve ever advocated. As a church-goin’, church-giggin’ person, it’s really not my top thing. And on the rare occasions in the past when I’ve done it myself, it hasn’t worked out well anyway. Frankly I’m just not that good at it.

So it’ll be a moment or two before I can come up with something constructive. I have no doubt that I will. But today may not be when it occurs to me.

Lemme get back to you on that.

 

So. Were my artistic expressions really enough?

Did they do any more than galvanize the already-sufficiently galvanized? Did they energize anyone to actually go out and vote, who wasn’t planning to anyway? Did they convince anyone who was a Bernie guy (person) (whatever) like me to go out and vote for Hillary, and not for Gary or Jill because in our admittedly flawed system a concentrated level of support for Hillary was the only realistic avenue for stopping the Short-Fingered Vulgarian, for the good of the Republic and for the good of the concept of civility and decency?

Were haikus really enough?

I’m worried that I know the answer to that question, and that it’s not the answer I would have wished for. And I’m worried that, in the cold morning light and with the sharp focus of hindsight, it’s been revealed unto me as exactly the tepid effort that it seems now.

Midterm elections are, at least so far as we now know, just two years away.

Thinkin’ that soon it’ll be time to get started on more than just seventeen syllables worth of outrage at a time.

November 9, 2016 Posted by | arts, civil rights, current events, Facebook, government, news, politics, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment