Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Book of Faces

Since school got out, I made a brief first effort to catch up with a semester’s worth of neglect, but I’ve had to take a break.  The mountain of correspondence is large, and I am still all achy in the carpals from a hundred pages of paper-writing for finals.  So:  why am I wasting the life of my wrists to put out some jibber-jabber that won’t go toward meeting my obligations?

Facebook.

I avoided it like the plague during school as part of the great Bermuda Triangle of time-suck:  email, Twitter, FB (with the new outposts of Pinterest and Tumblr).  There was limited exposure if I clicked the wrong URL in my navbar or deliberately took a glancing break from a text that was reading like cold oatmeal, but aside from a few throw-away comments as I cruised the cocktail party, I’ve been off the stuff.

Returning was necessary.  Lingering was a mistake.

A handful of the better people — and I am not one to keep a mile-long F-list — have departed from, or significantly limited their exposure via, the book of faces.  What remains?  87% rock solid curmudgeonliness and 13% fun stuff directed at a subgroup, usually local friends, but shared with the universe.  Hey, fun party last night!  Hey, you gonna make it to practice?  Hey, does anyone know where I left my hat?

The latter posts never apply to me, since I am not within many hundreds of miles of anyone I know, but they read like poetry compared to the 87%.

A few people post only memes from Tea Party websites about how George Washington would have soundly thrashed Obama who is an Ungodly Commie.

Another few post only Marine Corps memes that offer either slavering obsequiousness or snide “You’re WELCOME” sentiments that are less oorah and more Kenny Fucking Powers.  (NB:  my family includes many servicemen, some of whom are Marines, and I have a deep affection and respect for the Corps.  But these memes are childish and narcissistic and I see a dozen a day.)

The liberal curmudgeons bring a whole lot of Debbie Downer to the party.    Example:  the Newton shootings don’t matter because Obama is killing children in the ME with drone strikes, and Obamacare doesn’t matter because other countries get to have universal healthcare, and OH!, eternal mourning that Obama won the election!  (Still with this, guys?  Would Romney have been better?  Your emotional FB postings will not cause a three-party system to spring up out of nowhere, you know.)

Then there are the conservative curmudgeons who are the exact opposite number:  the Newton shootings are a plot by Obama to revoke all private gun ownership, and we are saddled with Socialist Obamacare despite being a Capitalist country, and OH! things would have been so much better if Romney had won the election!  Sigh.  Yawn.

Minor-yet-vocal trends are usually individuals who have too much time on their hands and just spam the feed with random specific memes:  Jesus things (“Feel The Holes In His Hands and See How Much He Loves You”; abortion is evil because Jesus; when life gives you lemons, Jesus has the recipe for lemonade; etc.); emotional extortion memes (Do One Million People Have the Courage To Re-Post This to Show That They Love Jesus? -The Second Amendment?  -Our Troops? I Bet NOT!!!!); and random idiocy memes (“When I was a child, the streets were safe because our parents whipped our asses and now beating your children is frowned upon by libberrruls, so boys wear saggy trousers just like prison inmates who are ‘available.’  ‘LIKE’ if you got lots of spankings and grew up morally smug because of it!”)

Then we have the gun people vs. the anti-gun people spouting statistics at each other, fingers in ears and screaming defiance.  Yawn again.  But getting back to my main complaint, one of the other curmudgeons loudly protested this “debate” by threatening to un-friend anyone who posted gun-related comments on “her” wall from that point forward.  As you may surmise, no one was posting anything to her wall; she simply wanted people to keep the topic out of her feed.

Sorry, ma’am; that’s not how it works.  Go ahead:  block people for their opinions, or unfriend them, or hide their posts.  But no one should have to self-censor to please anyone else.  Not that I don’t self-censor all the time.  Anyone who wants to complain about my boring miscellany — odd music videos, tired old “What’s For Dinner?” meal pix, various quotes from movies and books — is free to block me; and yet I hope he or she will keep in mind that by posting the equivalent of bland small talk, I am containing my rage at the stuff I loathe.

This self-containment got away from me last night.  I snapped.  Someone re-posted an E-card meme saying, “I would like to thank those who came up with the phrase ‘Politically Correct’ for giving us a nation full of whiney-ass pansies who have no common sense nor pride!”  Since my grammar is less than perfect, I skipped the flaws of conveyance and ripped on the logic.  Guess what?  If the pale males with power hadn’t been abusive assholes, there never would have been a PC movement.  You can blame yourselves for that.

When a man my equal in age and inferior in intelligence thinks he gets to address me by my first name, or even by a dismissive diminutive, and yet expects me to address him as “Sir” or “Mister Whatever”, the PC movement starts making sense.  When people wave the flag and get all emotional about Traditional Family Values (TM), they don’t get to behave like rude, ungentlemanly scoundrels and then whine because some member of a marginalized group stood up and demanded to be treated with the same respect and civility as a member of the majority.  And when women, half the population, stand up and want to be treated like human beings, they are accused of trying to act like men, usurp the male prerogative, or get called ugly names.  All for wanting fair treatment.

And now the white males are whining about…other people whining.  I should have just said, “I dunno, Mister, that sounds pretty whiny to me,” and left it at that.  And though I ranted, it wasn’t a perfect or eloquent rant, nor did it vent my spleen.  All I can say is that I got it under control and left before I burned down the house.

I thought it would be a good idea to put FB on a back burner, but I have changed my mind.  Time to take FB off the back burner and put it in the bun warmer / crumb catching drawer under the oven, along with the strange pans that only get used a few times per year.  Whenever I feel like making aebleskiver, I’ll know it’s time to check Facebook again.

 

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SOCIAL WORK AGAIN

For the first time ever, I had a bad dream about my adored husband dying.  Normally I would never mention such a thing, being just superstitious enough to want those words kept out of the universe’s ears, so let me move on by saying that the point of this sad dream was that social work saved my life.  It gave me a support system, it gave me clients who needed me to show up for work, it gave me positive feedback and visible successes as a trail of breadcrumbs back to life – even though it was a life without my heart or self.  I never stopped being sad in this dream; never had a life of my own again.  All I did was throw myself into my work so I wouldn’t have to go home to the Honey-less house.

Thing next:  though I grew up in a home that emphasized self-sufficiency, my single working mother tried to hone discernment in her boy-crazy daughter (me) by teaching me to judge men, in part, by how they treat subordinates, behave toward the weak, and care for dependents.  On a date, how does he treat the server?  Does he big-dog other men, especially men of short stature or men perceived as socially less-than?  Is he dismissive of women who aren’t beautiful or young?  Does he mimic or mock people with disabilities or impairments?  Does he describe himself as a cat-hater, or hater of anything?  Basically, if this man esteems himself for being higher on the pyramid than other people, he is just a bully looking for an excuse.  Chances are good he doesn’t kowtow to those higher up the pyramid than he is, but he expects it from those lower.  Sign of a hypocrite and a scoundrel.

From a social work perspective, why can’t we judge a society the same way?  This does not clash with my bootstrappy childhood because even though we never depended on other people to help us up, we were deeply committed to helping out people who needed it, be they strangers or neighbors.  You work hard and plan well for yourself, but we all know that Mother Nature can wipe you out in a single day, a single moment, and you could be the one in need.  Users and abusers go to the end of the line or out the door – their kids don’t, mind you – but if you don’t give help, you don’t get help.  Again, why not judge society this way?   How do we treat our widows and orphans, our physically and mentally frail, our marginalized populations?  How do we treat the animals in zoos and factory farms?  How do we treat the children in our schools and streets?  How do we treat the populations we control, such as the jailed, the institutionalized, and the military?

Consider the high number of people with moderate mental illness who end up in jail because they can’t afford the treatment or meds that keep them functional, and end up shoplifting or squatting in order to obtain food and shelter and clothing – basic survival needs.  Life on the streets is not safe or healthy.  Neither is life in jails and prisons.  But incarceration offers food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, and a life out of the elements.  It’s cheaper to provide services outside of prison, and it’s fundamentally wrong to imprison people for crimes committed only for the purpose of survival, but that is not how we run things.

I love the United States and I am proud to be an American.  Individualist culture is my preference.  But individualism is defined by the divisions between people rather than ties that bind them, and it is a mistake as a society to let individuals fall into the cracks.  I have too much pride to enjoy living in a country where fat rich people can be chauffeured past starving homeless children.  This indecency is un-American to me.  We should care for our own.  If people are looked down on for living in slum tenements, but the people who collect their rent are not looked down upon as well, something is radically wrong.

As with individuals, society must be judged by how it treats its weakest members and those in its control.

Emotions: We All Have Them

To quote (or misquote) Neil Gaiman on Twitter:

Warning:  contains Me.

My first semester of grad school is wrapping up (I should be working on at least one of my last two final papers right now.)  My husband has been unemployed for five months, I have been unemployed for two years, and money is tight.  There is no medical insurance, and despair is setting in.  There are other things, lots of them, but this is enough to support my statement that I can not afford emotional excess right now.  I’m not prone to emotional excess normally, but much less so at the moment.

I have made a huge mistake, and that is trying to engage with internet-only or past-local friends on the topic of guns in the aftermath of the Lanza shootings.  These friends fall, with only a few exceptions, in two solid categories:  gun nuts and anti-gun nuts.  I am a pro-gun leftie who thinks banning all private ownership of guns is extreme, unnecessary, and probably impossible.  I also think that unrestricted, unregulated access to all forms of ordnance is extreme, unsafe, and irresponsible.

My mistake is being emotionally ragged, needing all the positive vibes I can get, and taking a chance on playing the calm, respectful devil’s advocate to both camps.

It turns out that gun nuts don’t want to be reminded that individuals don’t get to own bazookas and grenade launchers and cannons, and the Bill of Rights hasn’t withered because of it.  Banning assault rifles will not be a material abrogation of their right to bear arms.  They do not want to hear that urban environments are made volatile and dangerous by guns, and that many urban owners are scared folks with no safety training and no target practice.  They do not want to acknowledge that gun shows, private transactions, and gun theft are real problems.  They do not want to require mandatory safety training or proof of current training to purchase guns, nor do they want to put revocation of rights on the table for irresponsible gun use.  They also do not want to hear that the NRA is hurting the cause of responsible ownership by its extreme positions, or that they need to try to understand the anti-gun crowd rather than dismiss them all as ignorant reactionaries.  A lot of them are ignorant, but no one is educated by derisiveness.  Teach them.  Show them better if you can.  If you can’t, check yourself.

It also turns out that anti-gun nuts refuse to acknowledge that there is such a thing as responsible gun ownership, or circumstantially appropriate gun use for self-defense. They don’t want to hear that most gun owners have trouble-free experiences.  They don’t want to hear that there is no psych test that can screen out potentially dangerous people.  (Most so-called “crazy” people are harmless, or harm only themselves; most so-called “sane” people with no history of problems are the ones who snap under certain kinds of pressure; and anyone can game a psych eval with high face validity anyway.  It’s true.)  They don’t want to hear that all the regulations and restrictions being discussed might be great ideas (some are not), but none would have prevented what happened.  Reducing damage is possible, and it’s important that we pursue that.  (My insurance-worker past goes to the bone, and I’m all about risk management.)  But thinking, for example, that a gun safe can defeat an intelligent 20 year old with unlimited time and access to the safe is not rational.  They didn’t want to hear it.

I told them about growing up in the deep country where all of us used guns and no one got hurt, and they said that nobody hunts anymore.

I described having people try to break in, thinking deep country people who had no neighbors within earshot and no cops for many miles would not be able to stop them, and how the sound of a shotgun being shucked (and, once, a warning shot being fired) got them to move on when turning the yard lights on didn’t; they said it never happens.

I told them of my single working mom opening a gas depot on a trucking road at 3 a.m. and keeping her .22 handy until the other folks arrived; half were shocked that she didn’t either shoot herself or someone else, and the other half said she never needed it so she shouldn’t have had it.  (We keep a First Aid kit in the car, too, and we’ve never needed it, either.)

I told them about being out with a girlfriend (in the days of our young hotness) and having a group of guys making noise like they wanted to mess with us.  When they walked our way, making ugly noises, she opened the trunk of her car and displayed (not brandished) a high-powered handgun; they departed.  I was told, “You should have just driven away.  They would have just taken your gun away and used it against you — that’s how it happens.” Only if you are not willing to shoot before they get within arm’s reach, and that was not the case.  “No way were you going to shoot someone!”

Well, what about all the still-dark mornings at the bus stop?  What about all the crummy neighborhoods I’ve lived in?  What do I do if a guy, or more than one guy, wants to mess with me?  How do I outrun a van?  Sneering is all I got, and I really didn’t need it at the time.  I don’t expect my personal anecdotes to change anyone’s mind, but I thought that people would at least understand how a person they get along with otherwise might find guns useful.  Instead, I was told to ignore my personal experiences because irresponsible gun owners exist and plus, statistics.

This aspect of the hooraw is particularly hard for me, since I cleave hard Left.  Openmindedness, inclusiveness, and respect for difference is what it’s all about.  But lately, I’m getting derided and dismissed.  Contempt and sneering are  no fun.  They certainly don’t make me think, “Wow, I’m being sneered at!  They must be right and I must be wrong!”

This is like the conversations between steak lovers and morally indignant vegans.  The carnivores who chant “top of the food chain” at the top of their lungs are stupid to ignore issues of sustainability, animal welfare, or ethical slaughter.  The vegans who dismiss all consumers of animal products as murderous cannibals are stating that anyone who doesn’t already feel the way they do are cretinous savages incapable of reason and unworthy of persuasion.  There is no thought that someone else might be reasoned with, on either side.  Certainly there no attempt to get inside the other guy’s head and figure out why he feels the way he does — and certainly no acknowledgment that hey, if I had been in your shoes, I might feel the same way.  Scornful, simplistic rejections are so much easier than admitting the other guy might have a point.  Then we’ll actually have to THINK THIS THROUGH.

It’s so much easier to feel than to think.

I know this horrible shooting has everyone feeling emotional, and people need to work out their feelings.  But there is a difference between ventilating feelings (an unburdening that leads to relief and improved perspective), and narcissistic emotional indulgence (which gets you all worked up as you follow the emotional spiral toward hysteria.)  I’m seeing the latter on both sides, and it’s wearing me out.