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Will Social Media Cause The Next World War?

October 1, 2012 2 comments

Or are we already fighting it and don’t even realize it?

After four years as a Facebook junkie, I’m moving into an introspective period about its value and how it has changed me and those in my life.

When I first joined, it was an oasis. Introvert that I am, I am not energized by physical interaction with people. I find conversation difficult because my head is always moving faster than the conversation and I have a hard time listening, which sort of defeats the purpose of verbal discourse. I often want to rewind the discussion to go back to an interesting point but by then we’ve moved on to talking about flowers and birds and cupcake recipes. Facebook allows me and others to address something that was said earlier so we can expand on it. This is like candy for me!

But on the shadow side, Facebook is a place for us to dispel our aggression on each other. As hard as we try to explain ourselves in civil terms, there is always someone (sometimes it’s me) who can’t stop their own train of thought long enough to hear what is really being said. Feelings get hurt, misunderstandings occur, and prejudices are inflamed; all the ingredients for a good feud.

Four years has allowed me to follow the arcs of growth for a number of people. Some who have been too shy to speak up in real life have found a forum for expression here and we have tapped into absolute gold mines of thought; the meek have inherited a whole new world. By the same token, those who have typically experienced great power in the physical realm have stumbled on an army of bully victims who now have at least a virtual shield against their wrath. No longer is the power one-sided. People across the globe are standing up and being heard and it is catching the bullies off guard.

What I have yet to get used to, though, is having to “listen” to the voices of the formerly powerful as they pull out their back-up arsenals of vitriol in an effort to regain their authority. The Bible gets tossed around like a hot potato and pictures of guns make a vain attempt to impersonate the real thing. Caustic humor is rampant as we try to impress our friends with our cleverness and end up stabbing others in the heart.

So my question is, will social media cause us to sharpen our blades or will it encourage us to lay down our weapons? Will those whose inclination it is to divide and conquer continue to feel further empowered by this anonymity or will they be healed by gentle encouragement to examine their thinking? Will we accept the responsibility not to just spew rhetoric and attempt to educate ourselves about what is true on a deeper level?

Bottom line, we know more about each other now than many of us ever wanted to. We’ve gone deeper and seen into the souls of people we thought we knew and in most cases found that we didn’t really know them at all, for better or worse.

Will social media cause, or will we use it to prevent, the next world war?

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Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

November 16, 2011 3 comments

If we let sleeping dogs lie, should we expect them to tell the truth when they wake up?

I’m feeling grammatically cheeky this morning, but this idea actually encapsulates what I’ve been thinking about lately. I am neither a historian nor a social scientist so I won’t even attempt to inject anything but my own observations into this, but it seems like a pattern is emerging.

Three things caught my eye on Facebook this morning. One read:

Everybody!!!!!!!, let’s do this. We should flood Facebook with this: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under GOD, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all”. RE-POST IF YOU THINK GOD, OUR COUNTRY, OUR FLAG, AND OUR MILITARY DESERVE RESPECT!!!!. Let’s just see how many people will!!!!..

Another said:

It is interesting to me that when you do something with a giving spirit, there are often those who need to search for an ulterior motive.  (Renee F.)

And the third:

On our way home …. a deer leaped out and landed on the car. What that did to the car and everything that involves is secondary to how we feel about the Deer. I’m still processing…and, finding that I’m afraid to get back on these country roads. (Michele S.)

What tied these three ideas together for me was their common theme of TRUST.

As we are wrestling to find a way out of the mess our economy has become and people stand in public squares all across the country to voice their disillusionment about it, the dog that is our collective conscience is waking up …. and it’s hungry.

A college community is feeling shaken to its core by the shattering of trust that has been accomplished by the revelation at Penn State of a scandal involving the sexual abuse of several young boys by a former coach of the football team. Though this is not the first time such an incident has happened in our country, it points to a much deeper issue involving our collective morality. A revered community leader has engaged in a most base violation of those in his care and yet he can’t bring himself to admit that his actions were wrong. Those surrounding him who were aware of the problem had a similar dilemma. It makes me wonder how this pathology of deception and abuse of the powerless has become so prevalent in our country.

Since 1954 when Congress changed the Pledge of Allegiance to include the words “under God”, our country has been in spiritual turmoil. A decade earlier, we had righted one of the most egregious wrongs in recent history with WWII but our victory had created a taste for rooting out evil. We began to see it everywhere and in everyone.  Fear of our country being overtaken by Communism resulted in this knee-jerk decision to amend the original Pledge of Allegiance, written by Francis Bellamy in 1892, in an effort to fend off Godlessness, like a necklace of garlic warding off a vampire, as though a profession of allegiance to God in the public square could force people to abide by the rules of the United States and by extension, the Bible. All it did was incite rebellion.

This rebellious pioneerism has come to define most Americans. We want to be free to choose our actions with a minimum of interference. When we feel our ideals are being compromised, we are allowed to stand up and protest. Too often, though, we have left the dog to slumber too long while our rights were being impinged, relying on the stink of injustice to reach its sensitive nose and bring it back to consciousness.

Now, the sleeping dog has shaken itself awake to the smell of what’s going on and it is snapping, growling, and barking at what has been happening to the freedoms in our country, a Constitutional Republic that had been formed in reaction to this very oppression by government that had demanded control over how people worked, worshiped, and contributed. It has become increasing clear that we have allowed the misplaced perception of evil to once again invade our trust and shake our confidence.

In the early part of the 20th century as America became more prosperous, we seemed to forget why we existed in the first place. We had declared that every man had the right to determine his own destiny, with the idea that if we all pitched in and lifted ourselves up by helping to fulfill each other’s needs, we could create something that had never existed before — an open society of opportunity, free of the constraints of an oppressive government that would demand to determine our course.

Little by little, as our country grew beyond our wildest expectations, we panicked and lost our ability to trust that ideal. Companies bought other companies in order to squeeze out competition and maximize profits. In reaction to unfair business practices due to the size and power of these organizations, we thought that if we created laws to dictate fairness and prosperity for all then everything would be made equal. We thought that if we told people how to behave toward one another, we could create an atmosphere of mutual respect, but we can see now that the corporations ultimately won out. The concentration of economic power we had so eschewed in our early years, then in the form of government, had become the kind of bully we thought we’d escaped by rising up against it. The accomplice was looking the other way as the abuser took advantage again and again of the little guy who had no say in the matter.

I don’t know what inspired the coach at Penn State to initiate the violations he is accused of, or who was the first banker to make the decision to sell and profit from a bad investment, but history reveals that if we get away with something once, we’re likely to try it again. If no one disturbs the dog, we have carte blanche to do whatever we want, right?

We can declare our allegiance to God, the flag, and apple pie in public all we want, but does that absolve us of what we do when we think no one is looking or does it simply cover up the misdeeds of some very unrighteous people, like the bankers and politicians in our country, buoyed by a lack of regulation that allowed them to flagrantly cheat their way to unprecedented personal profits at the expense of those who trusted them to be the backbone of our economy? Were the jobs of the other coaches at Penn State more valuable than the spiritual and emotional health of a young boy whose life would be irrevocably altered by their indifference? Did they forget to pledge their allegiance to a higher moral call or were they the ones shouting it the loudest?

We, the people, are feeling the visceral ache of a trust violated. In the wake of a violent raping on 9/11, we were encouraged to take a ride in search of prosperity on our bucolic country roads in an attempt to build a brighter future for ourselves and our families, but then a huge deer suddenly ran out in front of us and there was no way to avoid it. The peaceful grandeur that had been our country was suddenly laid across the hood of our common vehicle and we were faced with the decision to put it out of its misery or try to save it. Meanwhile, the vehicle is wrecked and we’re going to have to figure out how to get to work as we ponder whether the deer was being chased or if we had simply built the road in its way.

Our society, once based on mutual nourishment, not a commune but a community, has lost its sense of responsibility to the health of the whole and our appetite for hunting down evil has grown stronger again. When a neighbor comes to welcome us with a fresh batch of cookies, we immediately wonder what they want from us. When a friend is experiencing need, we think they must have done something to deserve that lack. We don’t want to get involved but we’ll throw money at a charity so we don’t have to look into the eyes of the homeless person that used to be our neighbor or get our hands dirty by touching theirs; we might catch their bad luck. And we definitely don’t trust the government to decide how to fix the problem. Everybody knows that dog is vicious and unpredictable….

So, if, as we pledge, we do trust in God, then we will do the right thing even when God and the dog seem to be napping. We’ll stop poking God awake and whining, “God, tell those guys to cut it out! They don’t love you as much as we do so they don’t deserve anything!” It seems to me, as in any good relationship, that God needs to be able to trust in us just as much, yet we’re too often proving ourselves unworthy partners. Are we honoring our own pledge?

In these struggling relationships that are eating away at our collective trust, will the Penn State victims be able to forgive their abuser and his accomplices? Will our politicians and bankers stop encouraging us to blame each other for our troubles when they were the ones speeding down the road in the car that hit the deer that got us into this mess? And will we be able to give of ourselves to those whose spirits are so diminished that they feel they have nothing to lose, with no questions asked and  no expectation of return? Are we willing to offer them a ride until the car gets fixed no matter how long it takes?

Oh hey, since the dog’s awake, I guess I’d better go feed it something nourishing. Wouldn’t want it to go in search of evil just to satisfy its appetite. Nice talking to y’all.

Let Me Introduce You To My “Family”….

September 18, 2011 6 comments

No matter where we come from, regardless of what was true for us growing up, we all end up with a family living inside our heads.

At least I do…

They are not real people, though they represent archetypes that we all recognize. The baby, the bully, the mediator….. You name ’em, I got ’em. Here’s the lineup:

Trixie is my inner child. She’s about 3, just learning to talk about the things she sees but can’t quite process. She only understands simple pain and simple joy. She’s full of questions and silly observations that mostly make people laugh. Her parents are:

Warren Peece, an old hippie activist who had his name legally changed to distance himself from his family legacy. He just can’t seem to stop being offended by everything that happens and speaks up whenever he perceives an injustice being done to powerless people. He’s not very good at constructively putting his efforts where his mouth is, so he married:

Anne Chovey, a reporter he met at a demonstration against some cause he can’t quite remember due to a previous propensity for illicit substances. Anne was that stable influence, like so many women are for their husbands. She has an uncanny ability to gather the facts and prioritize them, though she doesn’t do it unless she’s asked. And you know free-spirit Warren doesn’t want his passions made constructive. He’s simply acting out against his father:

Thaddeus A. Bunchable, a conservative blowhard, a “self-made man” who can’t stop spouting about how the world is going to Hell because of these hippie, Bible-bashing deadbeats who’ve never done an honest day’s work. He doesn’t want his hard-earned money going to bail out the lazy good-for-nothing welfare cheats who are dragging down the beloved country that he fought so hard for. And since he doesn’t believe in divorce, he has been married for too many years to:

Fritzi, a compulsive, unrepentant hedonist who copes with Thad’s chronic grumpiness by seeking out a party anytime and anywhere. Heck, she doesn’t even care if nobody’s around — she’ll have a party by herself, all dressed up with nowhere to go. Her motto is, “If life hands you lemons, make mine a Stoli Lemon Drop!” But deep inside, Fritzi is sad. Really, really sad. Usually after a bout of trying to entertain away her inner despair, Fritzi turns to:

Sister Ellen, a non-denominational nun that the whole family secretly goes to when the world gets too hard to take. Sister Ellen loves to sit with Trixie on her lap listening and laughing at the stories Trixie makes up about stuff; she understands Warren like few others, knowing that his heart is pure even if his actions aren’t; she respects Anne for being objective, but wishes her heart were a little more open to feeling something; she sees the pain in Thaddeus that can only express itself by lashing out; and she secretly idolizes Fritzi for being able to let it all hang out, even though she knows the exuberance is false.

This family, the family that is me, the one that is so dysfunctional yet so passionate, so hateful and hurtful and yet so kind …. is where I come from. They blame and forgive, dishonor and repent, yell and cry, but always come back together in laughter. They care for each other deeply, even when their words and actions seem to indicate otherwise. Time has allowed them to understand each other and give one another the space to work things out. It’s not always easy to bear witness to someone else’s growing pains, but they always manage to come back together when the dust settles.

I love my family, warts and all……

Educating our Soldiers

March 9, 2011 1 comment

My “Devil’s Advocate” self is on duty today to make a point.

For a couple of weeks now I have had the opportunity to hear firsthand about the “high level of intelligence” among the members of today’s military. An all-volunteer force, I’ve been told that these people are among the best and brightest to ever have served our country. With the promise of educational benefits, a full pension, health care for life, and a housing and food allowance, there are few personal needs to be concerned about so that our fighting men and women can concentrate on defending our country. Bless their hearts for being willing to put themselves in harm’s way.

But where did these “best and brightest” come from and how did they obtain that lofty title? Were they educated at the elite private institutions revered by the doctors, lawyers, or policy-makers that graduate from such respected proving grounds? A few were but not many of them. Not yet, anyway, until the GI Bill kicks in. Nope —  most of them were educated in our public schools.

I read a statistic that for every soldier that ever sees combat there are 12 others supporting him. Our taxes go to support cooks, medics, truck drivers, administrators, etc. If they devote a certain period of their adult lives to these duties, such support people will receive benefits for the rest of their lives as our thanks for their sacrifice. Even in times of relative peace, their willingness to be ready when called qualifies them for our eternal gratitude for defending our rights. These same people are willing to be yelled at, chastised, humiliated in front of their peers, all in the name of preparing them to be strong enough to do their part for the whole and support the others around them. They understand that the pointing out of their failures means that the man or woman next to them has a better chance of survival.

Back at home in the world they came from there is another group willing to sacrifice their adult lives for the survival of those around them: TEACHERS — the very people who create the setting for these “best and brightest” to develop the character to lead others. Along with parents willing to impart a sense of duty and service to others, these young people come up through a system that teaches them to learn not just for their own sakes but for the benefit of the whole.

And yet, many of us look at these educators and condemn them for giving our children failing grades. We stay up late with our kids to help them do their homework in order to prevent their being humiliated in front of their peers. How many soldiers’ parents walk into the office of a Drill Sergeant and say, “Stop picking on my kid!”

At the ballot box we decide that teachers do not deserve the same respect as our soldiers because they are not putting themselves in harm’s way. But are these people participating any less than those cooks, medics, truck drivers, and administrators who support our soldiers in battle? Did they have any less impact on their ability to survive in the midst of chaos? Were they not the first people to teach our children to think on their feet?

There will always be those who are a drag on the system, whether militarily or educationally, and it will be equally difficult to discharge either without good reason. We will all have memories of that teacher who “damaged us for life” or the platoon leader who screwed up and got half our buddies killed. But the majority of them will be willing to give the best part of themselves to make sure that those in their charge are as prepared as they can possibly be for whatever they face on the battlefield or in life.

I gladly pay my taxes with the expectation that the best and brightest are being cultivated to be better thinkers and more adept communicators so that our soldiers become great diplomats as well as fighters. In order to achieve that end, those preparing them need to feel supported with the same kind of appreciation for their sacrifice.

Today I support our soldiers and our teachers. Where would we be without either?

Why Sarah Palin Makes Me Want to Turtle-Up

January 27, 2011 9 comments

Okay, so maybe it’s because I grew up in an atmosphere where humility was the greatest virtue.

Or maybe it’s because I don’t like to fight (much).

Or maybe it’s because Sarah Palin has held up a mirror for me and I don’t like what is reflected.

Whatever the reason, when I hear about the news and views she generates, I feel like hiding. She scares me. I am not comfortable with bombast that encourages people to defeat others with “whatever ya got!” I’m not comfortable with it in sports, or politics, or work. I want to do the best I can but not for the purpose of dominating someone else.

But y’know what’s really true? None of this. I like to win. I don’t play unless I think I can win. I get my energy from the idea that my abilities can kick someone else’s butt. If I get a better offer, I’m outta here.  The only difference between me & SP is that I’m ashamed of it.

I am no different from Sarah Palin.

I surround myself with people who agree with me, whether I’m right or not.

I write a blog full of lovely, fluffy philosophical clap-trap that I expect people to read, whether they give a crap or not. Those who don’t like to fight me read it, sometimes just to humor me (no offense to those whose motives are more pure :)).

I toot my own horn as often as I can (hey, we trumpet players have to keep a “stiff upper lip”, right?). When I do something I think is amazing (like, the kind of thing others do every single day without recognition) I let the world know about it.

I argue just to win. I argue even harder when the other person is right.

I espouse opinions though I have little actual evidence to back them up. I talk too much without researching my facts.

Don’t mistake these admissions for humility — I hate having to make them. The truly humble person does so without need for reward or acceptance. I’m not one of those people.

So maybe I’m just jealous of her.  Maybe I’m more like her than I want to admit, spouting off my limited understanding instead of educating myself about other ideas — but she is making millions doing it.

If I could attach a sense of humility to any of this, it’s the recognition that I am no better than she is; I just see things from a different angle. I can’t simply make fun of her because she is willing to cheer for “her side” without admitting that I do the same for mine, if not quite so aggressively. Perhaps I look just as ridiculous to her as she does to me.

Gosh bless/darn the Internet for making it so easy for us to voice every opinion we have, knowing full well we’ll probably be singing a different tune tomorrow.

Where’s my shell???

The Things I Don’t Know Could Fill a ……

November 15, 2010 2 comments

So, maybe Melatonin is not my friend.

I tried an OTC sleep aid last night in an effort to get through the night without waking up anxious. I stayed asleep all right, but lived out the anxiety in my dreams instead.

What wakes me up most nights is the realization that life is passing me by and there is so much I’ve neglected to learn. Panic sets in when I realize I have no idea what I should have learned by this point. All I know is there’s a lot I’ve refused to study because I couldn’t sit still and focus long enough on something that had no discernible point. When I was diagnosed at age 35 with adult ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and was eligible for special work accommodations according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), I decided to TKO (Technically Knock Out) my WTFI (Will To Fit In). You can give me the quietest workspace in the world but I’m still going to want to wander around and chat. There’s no fighting it.

More than 10 years later, what really worries me is that I am no more intellectually superior nor highly educated than a certain former Governor of Alaska who is proud of her unworldliness, and I have far less to show for it. Back in the day when she and I were in our formative years (we are the same age), we had little more than our own small pond to swim around in. There was barely a means to connect with our friends who were only 10 miles away, unlike today when we can communicate with someone in Australia in a matter of seconds. Regardless of the physical size of Alaska, it’s still a small pond in the scheme of things. Clear across the country, my pond was no bigger but I had found a way to take up a fair amount of volume, just as she had. The main difference? She’s hot. I’m not.

So here I am living in Florida, an intellectual small pond but with access to the whole world, where I am at least hotter than Mrs. Palin temperature-wise. Yesterday I learned that Tampa ranks in the bottom ten out of 55 large cities for high IQs and their requisite jobs. Our area also boasts a population of less than 25% with college degrees. So with my 150 or so college credits, none of which combine to create an actual degree, I am sort of a big fish again… one that picks up dog shit for a living because I make more money doing that part time than most of the jobs I could have gotten full-time with my college education. And the commute is a lot shorter. Bottom line: shit is shit, whether it stinks or not. Might as well get paid respectably for dealing with it.

But when I get feeling arrogant about my intellect and the fact that I’m not using it for higher purposes, I remember a favorite quote from the movie, “Good Will Hunting”. With the exception that Will is a genius and I am not (quite), I can relate to him. I think Mrs. Palin probably can too.

“See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you’re gonna staht doin some thinkin on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And Two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library.”

Then Will’s therapist brings home the reality of that particular theory:

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.”

I learned yesterday that the story I wrote for the 3-minute Fiction contest on NPR didn’t win. I didn’t expect it to, and in fact it would be highly unfair if it had since I was being entirely cheeky about the subject. There are people who pour themselves into becoming good writers as was evidenced by some of the follow-up comments to the winning story. In my usual style of bouncing around and not committing my mind to anything for long, I don’t put much effort into the outcome of my output.

But I wrote about what I knew, about what affects me, and I will continue to do that for the rest of my life because it helps me organize my freakishly scattered thoughts. I could read all the books in the world but none of them would tell me what it’s like to be me.

Maybe someday I’ll publish a book about all the things I know…. but unlike Sarah Palin, I will be ever mindful that the book about all the things I don’t know can never be finished.

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta SPEEEED!!!!

November 12, 2010 1 comment

I knew when I woke up this morning from a dream about Tina Turner flying down the highway in a tiny convertible singing at the top of her lungs that I had successfully blown the carbon out of my spiritual pipes. BRING ON THOSE BETTER ANGELS!!!

Last night I was thinking about the phrase “hitting below the belt” which has come up a several times in the last few days. Politicians are doing it for political gain, I’m doing it when I lose my composure… which leads me to think that we have collectively fallen down into the basement of our chakra system.

Not familiar with the chakras? Basically, they are the seven energy centers of your body running from the base of your spine to the top of your head. Each regulates your physical and spiritual well-being. If you want to learn more right now, click here for a quick overview: Caroline Myss — Chakra System

When we talk about “hitting below the belt”, we’re talking about the area of the first and second chakras, our center of tribal identity, physical survival, and financial control. Right now, many of us are unable to function beyond this place as we struggle to regain a sense of foundation in our lives. Any ideas of altruism or high-mindedness are pipe-dreams.

So when I’m feeling frustrated by the weight of our collective despair, the only way I can move back up in my own system to the place of my heart and higher thinking is to find compassion for those who are so desperately afraid and stuck down in that place of irrational defensiveness. Thinking about cutting the military budget? HA! Not gonna happen right now.  Our enemies (and there are many) are just lying in wait for us to let down our guard. Arm yourselves! It’s every man for himself!

This kind of feeling can’t be reasoned with. It’s like trying to wake someone out of a nightmare without getting your nose broken. The fear that is usually trapped behind a veil of unconsciousness is shockingly real to many these days. So how do we convince the dreamer that the nightmare isn’t as scary as it seems?

Maybe it’s by gently guiding them back up the chakra ladder. It’s been said that the only way to make ourselves feel better is to do something for someone else. That action alone can take us out of our own despair and help us to accept responsibility for our own mistakes by having compassion for the mistakes of others. Forgiveness is a huge step that brings us back up into the area of our heart. When we are able to love those we believe have wronged us we are able to step forward together to repair the damage that’s been done.

For those of us who have known this place of hopelessness and have risen beyond it ourselves, it is for us to draw on that strength to help those who are trapped. It is not our place to disparage their lack of enlightenment and further crush their spirits. We are called to love them anyway, even as they lash out at us. What’s a broken nose in the whole scheme of things?

So go pick up your struggling neighbor in your soul convertible and take ’em for a pipe-cleaning, soul-cleansing, mind-blowing RACE down their spiritual highway!! And crank up the Tina Turner tunes!!!!

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