I stated definitively that I would never “unfriend” someone on social media because of their political views. I’ll block you in a hot second if you can’t manage to be at least civil, but never because of views alone. I have to confess that there are more than a few people out there who are really putting my determination to keep my word to the test.
The simple fact is I mostly don’t care what your politics are. It’s not the basis on which I pick my friends. I do however, judge people who simply decide to abandon the best available science and the rigorous application of reason because those two elements don’t quite jive with whatever particular world view they’ve staked out.
Look, I’m not even going to argue we should blindly follow along in lock step with the pronouncements of the scientists and doctors. We should at least acknowledge that modern medicine has a pretty good track record of keeping most of us alive well past the age when our distance ancestors were food for worms. At the very least, our decisions should be informed by science – even if we just use it to acknowledge that there’s a price in lives to pay for rushing to return to business as usual – and no, I’m not making a judgement there, just admitting that it has to be part of the calculus.
I know no one ever likes the smartest kid in the class. That’s practically the classic American trope. I’m not saying you even have to like the scientists, but history tells me that we’ll ignore them at our peril. I’m not going to unfriend anyone because they want to trust in the blood of Jesus instead of the shot of antivirals… but you can bet your ass I’ve been muting people with wild abandon these last couple of weeks.
Yes, here we are in the depths of the Great Plague, but pandemics come and go. Partisan politics, however, is truly the show that never ends.
I was struck over the weekend by a friend’s short diatribe on Facebook. I should point out that I use the term “friend” here in the classical sense, meaning someone I know personally and whose company and biting wit I enjoy.
The gist of the post was basically asking “Who have you unfriended” because they don’t share your political opinion?
Well, uh… No one.
You see, I don’t have a litmus test or demand purity of doctrine or thought from the people in my circle. Knowing people of every stripe, from true-believing Marxists to free-booting capitalists, not just makes my everyday conversations more interesting, but it helps me refine and better understand my own beliefs. Not being stuck in a one-sided echo chamber where only one “right” answer is allowed makes me a better, more reasonable human being.
If the only way I can be your friend is to avoid any original thoughts and dedicate my waking hours to groupthink, I guess you’ll have to do what you have to do because I’m never, ever going to be that guy. The best I can promise is to agree where possible and respectfully disagree where not.
In any case, I’ll be the guy over here supporting independent thought – even (and perhaps especially) for those whose thoughts I find most disagreeable.
I was going to write a bit today about guns and violence or maybe about the Dow taking a 700-ish point stumble. I’ve covered it all before. It’s well trod ground and I’m not sure I have any particularly new insights to offer up for the discussion.
Then again, I don’t suppose having new information or insight is what having an opinion on the internet is about. It seems too be about determining who can shout the loudest and gin up the most favorable ratio. Mercifully I was born into a world where I don’t rise and fall based on my ratio and it’s not what drives my positions. If it were, God knows, I’d tighten up the focus around here instead of letting it just be a free flowing blast of whatever’s knocking around my head four afternoons each week.
I have friends on nearly every side of every policy position. As hard as some might find this to believe, I’m a bit like Switzerland. When it comes to who I choose to be friends with, I’m the soul of indifference about their politics, who else is in their circle of friends, or most any other discriminator that people use to decide who they want to spend time with. It’s historically also why I would never even consider putting more than about three of my friends in the same room at the same time. It feels like a brawl would be just about inevitable.
So here I sit, comfortable in my on positions, but always willing to entertain new evidence and adjust as needed – without feeling any need to jump up and down, screaming about whatever the new issue of the day is. As I’ve gotten older, the need to convince other people of my rightness or their wrongness has diminished considerably. It’s not so much that I’m not passionate about certain issues as it is not being interested in expending the energy necessary to cover the same ground three or four dozen times.
It turns out, in my advancing middle age, I rarely have the patience to argue… but don’t let that fool you into believing I’ve changed my spots or that I won’t rise like a sleeping giant in defense of my principles if needed.
I’m going to have to stop eating chicken. Every time I’ve had chicken for dinner in the last six months I’ve had these bizarrely realistic dreams. Realistic in that they feature almost entirely people that I know in the real world and bizarre in that the situations range from mildly entertaining to something just shy of horrifying.
Last night’s edition of What Chicken-Fueled Dreams May Come featured a long time friend of mine standing high on a rock outcropping overlooking a ten story building that disappeared into the darkness on either end of the dream frame. Flicking her wrist, snarling “fuck them,” the building collapsed in on itself, bursting into flame from the center out. The wind swirled in, feeding the growing conflagration. Her face danced, colored alternately in darkness in bright flicking oranges and yellows, while I stood gape jawed staring at the destruction.
I turn, my own fury rising, shouting over the now howling wind, “What did you do? What the fuck did you…”
Then she kissed me. Not the soft peck of a years long friend, but more a full body porn star quality kiss. Sure, I just dream-watched one of my oldest friends lay waste to everything in my field of view, but that part at least didn’t suck so much.
Then I woke up, safe in my own bed, and not watching the world around me collapse into flame and chaos.
Living in my head is awfully strange sometimes… but obviously chicken turns it into a raging dumpster fire. Good times.
1. UPS. I’d hate to think how much business I’ve pushed through UPS over the years. But gigging me for $5 to change the date a package arrives feels a little bit cheap on their part. Sure, it’s only $5 but I’m not sure what the difference is between delivering it “for free” on Friday or delivering it on Monday when I’ll actually be home to receive it – which is only an issue because *you* require an ink signature. I guess they do offer a free option of letting me pick up the package at a location an hour round trip drive away was supposed to be a helpful concession so maybe you’re letting me off easy. I don’t mind paying for a service, but I resent the hell out of getting nickel and dimed.
2. Disappointment. I know a lot of people, but there are only a handful that I would count among my closest of friends – the ones I’d go to the mat for with no questions asked or burn down whole cities for if they asked. You think you know most of what there is to know about them. But then there’s the day you realize you know nothing. It’s equal parts unnerving and sad and disappointing because though they may well go on being your friend, you’ll never see them with the same undiluted affection. Given enough time everything changes, though I wonder why it so rarely seems to change for the better.
3. Windows 10. Sometime in the dead of night Windows 10 was smuggled on to my work computer and promptly went about wrecking everything from my wifi connection to my email archives to my screen configuration and any number of small tweaks that I’ve made over time to make the archaic POS computer a little more usable day-to-day. Some things I’ve been able to fix on my own through the day. Other things can’t be resolved by anyone locally and must be corrected by the great network help desk in the sky… which means I might see resolution sometime around March 2019. Just once I’d like to get one of these official “upgrades” that didn’t end up giving me less capability and require me to spend inordinate amounts of time fixing things that it broke.
I got word a few minutes ago that an old colleague was no longer among our number. Normally that would be the end of the discussion, but in that most rare of workplace circumstances, Ron was not just a colleague and sometimes boss, but he was also a friend. He was the embodiment of a larger than life personality – the life of the part even if it were only a party of one. The world was brighter for his being a part of it and I find it dimmer now in his passing.
Ron was that most rare of creatures; he was a good man. If I were to live another lifetime I know that I would not look upon his like again.
1. Clowns. Ok, some people have irrational fear of clowns. Got it. But I’m not entirely sure why a handful of them standing along the roadside is being covered as a national crisis. I don’t see how they’re substantively any different than anyone else just milling around. Like those other non-clown idlers, as long as they’re not standing in my back yard or at my door, I’m not sure why I should care. Here in a few weeks millions of otherwise reasonable adults are going to get dressed up for Halloween and turn themselves loose on our highways and neighborhood streets. Just because the exploding population of “evil clowns” doesn’t do it under cover of a sanctioned holiday makes very little difference in my mind.
2. The level of discourse. I generally tend to shy away from political discussion on social media. I make an occasional post that reflects my opinion and leave it be. There are a few people however, with whom I can manage to have an actual discussion without turning on one another like slobbering idiots. Today I had one of those discussions with someone who I both respect and like very much as a person. We’re miles apart on many of the big issues of the day. When it comes to politics I think she’s a bleeding heart socialist do-gooder and she probably think’s I’m a hard hearted gun-toting redneck. We still find a way to talk. We’re still friends after all these years. That’s what the discourse in this country should look like. But it doesn’t. And that’s annoying as hell.
3. Seven millions of people. Seven million is the current estimate of people who could be without power as a result of Hurricane Matthew dragging himself up the East Coast. That’s well over and above the 2 million people who have been ordered to evacuate their homes. I won’t get into a discussion about the virtue of following evacuation orders, because frankly I’m not at all sure I’d be willing to just walk away from home and hope for the best under the same circumstances. That said, I seems very unlikely that there are seven million people out there well prepared for what’s coming for them. It’s going to be a rough couple of days… and for some of them a long couple of weeks or months if we have to figure out how to turn the east coast power grid back on.
1. The internet as everlasting know it all. I got a book recommendation from a friend earlier this week. I’m always looking for interesting reading materials so I saved the name and filed it away for my next visit to Amazon. The next morning of course, the book electro-magically shows up in my Facebook news feed as a “recommended buy from Amazon” ad. This is just all basically confirmation that the internet is a damned creepy place, even when you’re not getting catfished.
2. Picking your friends. Once again, the tide of “if you vote for Candidate X, just unfriend me” is upon us. Let the record show that I don’t determine my friendships based solely on an individual’s politics, orientation, gender, ethnicity, or any other single factor. Funny thing is, I don’t think of my friends as a group of one-dimensional elements so much as I do the sum of their parts. That means I can both enjoy their company and disagree with them on political philosophy all at the same time. Maybe it’s just me. With that said, the chances of me changing my mind on most of the issues I find important are slim to none. I will continue to post occasionally about those issues, but certainly not to the exclusion of all other aspects of life. Come to think of it, if my politics are the only reason you’re hanging on to me, maybe it’s best to just let go after all. There just can’t be much value added to friendships based on just one slim sliver of what makes a person who they are.
3. Rain. Seriously. I know I put down sod and the fact that I’ve had a good soaking rain fall on it 5 out of the last 7 days is like mana from heaven, but we’ve reached the point where I’d dearly love to see maybe an hour or two of actual sunshine. Preferably not when I’m buried in the back corner of a concrete building where exterior weather conditions are well-nigh unknowable. I know it’s a big ask – one the forecast says could be out of reach for the next week at least. I’m happy as a clam not to have to drag hoses all over the yard, but a few minutes of sun on top of my dome would more than make up for half an hour of watering duty on the afternoon of nature’s choice.
There are some conversations I only hear when I make the trip home to Western Maryland. This weekend, one of those overheard conversations started innocently enough – the usual checking in on mutual friends that happens when two people who haven’t seen one another in a while show up at the same place. It very quickly became obvious that it was a conversation better not had… because it went something like this:
Person 1: Have you seen Bob lately?
Person 2: Bob’s dead.
Person 1: Oh damn. What about Frank?
Person 2: Dead.
Person 1: What was his wife’s name?
Person 2: Bonnie. She moved to Florida and died.
Person 1: Pete?
Person 2: Stroke.
Person 3: Maybe you could just list the people not dead?
OK, so I made up Person 3… mostly because that’s what I was sitting there thinking while this conversation happened. It went on for another ten minutes, with every answer being that someone was dead, almost dead, in a nursing home, in a nursing home and almost dead, or moved to Florida.
I hate to think that in 35 years that’s the kind of conversation I can look forward to. In fairness, I’ll probably be one of the ones who has dropped dead by then so I’ll at least get to miss out on the most awkward small talk ever… and that my friends is the sound of going home.
Sometimes news hits you so hard in the head with a 2×4 that you don’t have any option but to just sit there and be stunned. Unfortunately you stay stunned only long enough for a deep, quiet sadness to rush in and fill the gap.
We kids of the 70s aren’t kids any more. We’re subject to the same laws of nature and time as all those who came before, but I never once imagined we could die. The reality, of course, is something completely different and made all the more appalling from its arrival on a crisp, clear, beautiful Saturday morning. Out of the clear blue, indeed.
Godspeed, Drew. The world is all the more dim for your passing.