Social Distortion

I’m not spitting mad anymore. Now, I vacillate between amusement, dismay, happiness and more dismay.

I am happy with the outcome of Tuesday’s election. That’s about as much as you’ll see or hear me “gloat”. As I stated in my last post — everybody has a story that shapes their world view. Our stories are shaped by our families, our friends and our own experiences. And, these are quite likely to change as our lives progress. I had a conversation with someone recently who had never considered my position on the issue of health care simply because she had never been in my position — having a child with a complex medical history and making job decisions based on health insurance. At 24 and being a recent college graduate, there’s no way she could ever know the sleepless nights that a parent has wondering how to pay medical bills that aren’t covered because you’ve already reached your insurance cap. But, I appreciate that she acknowledged that and admitted that it shed a different light on her previous views. We had a civil, rational conversation in which minds were not changed but we treated each other with respect.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all of my interactions lately. Several of the blogs I read blame social media for the post-election ugliness that we are seeing (from all sides). We forget that there are actual people with actual feelings on the other side of our computer screen or smart phone. Even when we know those people personally and have an affection for them outside of this social media context, we forget that very often, they can see what we do and say, even if it’s not directly to them. And, hard as we try not to let it, it changes our relationships.

The day after the election, I posted this on my Facebook timeline:

I even tried to temper it with some humor…adding that I do draw the line at  baseball.  But, I still began to see my feed fill up with things that I can only describe as hateful.  And, then I go down this scary path of asking myself if I really can uphold this noble wisdom from Thomas Jefferson.

Social media tends to blur the lines of friendship, in my opinion.  In some cases, we think we know people better than we perhaps do, because we get peeks into their personal lives on a regular basis.  In other cases, we see different sides of people that we may not see in our regular interactions.  Both can have their pros and cons.  The biggest con that I’ve seen and experienced is that it tends to make people say and do things that they might not normally say and do in your actual presence.

I tend to use a lot of sarcasm and humor on Facebook.  I do this because 1) I tend to be sort of sarcastic in “real life” and 2) I am keenly aware of the incredibly diverse group of people that make up my friends list on Facebook.  By most people’s standards, I’m pretty much an open book.  I don’t mind if the Washington Post tells you which articles I read and I am not too squeamish about the pictures I post or personal information I give because I do it knowing that it’s there forever.  I have a list of people (mostly kids, including my own) that don’t seen certain status updates.  Before I hit post on any status update, I consider it from a variety of different standpoints because, as I stated before, I have a wide variety of friends who don’t always know where I am coming from.  And, I’ve had people ask…which is wonderful.  It gives me a chance to share my story with them and to also learn more about theirs.  And, I’ve never considered religion, politics or philosophy as a reason not to have somebody in my Facebook feed.

Until now.

In my “real life”, I tend to surround myself with people who I like and have fun with.  In a lot of cases, they are people who I align with politically.  In a lot of cases, they aren’t.  In some cases, they are people I align with from a religious standpoint (although I hate that word…. “religious”) and in far more many cases, they aren’t.  In some cases, they are people who’ve come into my life under a set of specific circumstances while in others, they are lifelong friends.  Whatever the case may be, they are people who I love for a variety of different reasons and every one of them drives me crazy from time to time (much less than the number of times I drive them crazy, I am sure), but I still love and cherish them because I have a relationship with them that is built on respect and admiration and authentic kindness.

The question is what to do with it?  The answer can’t be to just hide or un-friend them all.  It can’t be to limit my interactions to only those people whom I described above, because then nobody else would ever enter that circle.  I’ve been able to deepen relationships as well as get to know new friends in ways that might not have otherwise been possible without a platform like Facebook.  The wit and humor and wisdom from others isn’t worth giving up.  I guess I’m left with taking the advice I always give to my 13 year old:  “Just ignore them”.

The other day, I said “don’t be a jerk”.  Now, I’m just asking that you be kind.  Consider your words carefully because in the same way they can lift people up, they can also be very hurtful.

I used to like you, Tim Tebow

It’s been several weeks since I have posted and honestly today probably isn’t the day I should be dipping my toes back in the proverbial water.  I’ve had a fever for over a week and cough so hard I nearly pee my pants.  So, I guess that can serve as a disclaimer — or a warning.

I don’t normally talk about work online, but for the purposes of this post, it helps to know what I do for a living.  I’ve been a media buyer for 20 years.  Basically, when you see a commercial on TV or hear one on the radio, somebody like me has purchased that airtime.   I’ve worked for a variety of different clients over the years, but most recently I’ve worked for a political firm.  We represent political candidates as well as political action committees (PACs).   So….those ads that you are so sick of?  Firms like mine make a living making sure those ads are on the air.   I’ve had people say some rotten things to me about what I do, but I am under no illusion that anything I do personally has any deciding factor in any election.  What I do know is that I’m good at my job and I work for a decent company run by good people.

Working in this business has made me a little cynical about…well, everything political.  It’s also taught me to take things with a grain of salt and find the humor in it all.  That’s been a survival tool on Facebook in recent weeks.  I’ve done my best to ignore things that I don’t agree with and not engage in “debates”.  I try not to post anything that will be personally offensive to anyone.  I admit that I did laugh at and share some memes that came out about binders full of women and horses and boyonets.  There are some seriously funny people out there.  I was AMAZED at how quickly this stuff hit the internet.

  • Via Imgur, http://imgur.com/P5mk7
    and my personal favorite:
    Dirty Dancing quote used in Binders Full of Women meme after second presidential debate (via MovieHumor/http://bit.ly/Wlg8fi)
    In my opinion, these are funny.  They poke fun at the candidates and expose how insane the whole election process has become.  And honestly, if we didn’t have a filter of snarkiness to view this all though, how would we ever survive it?
    What I don’t like is when these memes become personal.  They attack people for their beliefs and make assumptions about people based on their party affiliation.   And, they are usually wrong.  We all have a story that shapes our world view.  I became accustomed to just ignoring this stuff.  And, then last night this started showing up on my FB feed in various forms:
    I will be voting early today — for President Obama — but it won’t be because I don’t have a job.  It’ll be because I damn near killed myself working my ass of during this election season and I’m taking a few days off to try and recover from pneumonia.  Yeah, that’s me taking it a little more personally than I should.  And, you might be sitting there wondering about that sense of humor that I was talking about earlier.  I just don’t find this funny.  I find it mean and offensive.  And not true.  And, it’s honestly the first thing that has made me spitting mad during the last several weeks.
    You vote for your guy and I’ll vote for mine.  But, for the love of the America that our Founding Fathers fought for and dreamed of, don’t be a jerk.
    *Yes, I realize that @thetimmytebow is a parody account.  If I have to explain the title, you aren’t going to get it anyway.

The Sheep and the Goats

Universal healthcare, lately refered to as “Obamacare”,  is a hot topic — especially during election years.  I am an unashamed, whole-hearted supporter.  I believe that access to affordable healthcare is a constitutional right — promised in the Declaration of Independence under “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  So, when things  like this happen, it crushes me.

People should not be in an ambulance, critically injured — and worried about how expensive medical care is going to be.

I don’t know Luke personally, but we went to the same church .  I know who he is and we have mutual friends.  I have had the pleasure of hearing him perform and he is an amazingly gifted musician.

My heart is broken that his family has to worry about medical bills when their only focus should be his recovery.  Not only that, because he is self-employed, their income source is now cut off and they have to worry about daily bills as well.

It’s not okay.

This man works as hard as any of us who have the luxury of health insurance through our employers.  Maybe harder.  He made a choice to use his resources to buy health insurance for his daughter, because that’s what parents do.

It’s not okay.

It pisses me off that healthcare is politicized.  Affordable healthcare should not be a political issue.  It’s a humanitarian issue. We have a responsibility to take care of each other.  Stories like Luke’s happen every day.

It’s not okay.

In the end, we all need to think about the fact that many of us are just one freak accident away from losing everything…from being dependent on the kindness of friends…and perhaps strangers…to make ends meet.  Even those of us with “good insurance”.  Unless you’ve had to use your insurance, you don’t really know how good it is.  I know a little bit about using insurance and my guess is that you’d be surprised.

If you have a few dollars and want to help this family out — in what is sure to be a long journey — you can help out here.

 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’   (Matthew 25:34-40 ESV)

Lessons learned from Dr. Seuss

I loved Dr. Seuss as a kid.  Some of my earliest memories were of my mother reading me Dr. Seuss books.  She will credit the books for helping teach me to read.  I loved the rhyming, silly stories and made up words.  But as I’ve grown up, I realize that the themes and messages from these books have made an impact on how I see the world and who I am today.  I started out thinking I would list my top 10 favorite Dr. Seuss books here, but realized it would take me forever.  Instead, here are my top 5:

  1. The Lorax.  I love the Lorax.  I love his sense of right and wrong.  I love that he recognizes the need to speak for those who have no voice.  I love that he sees the beauty of an unspoiled forest.  I love that he’s willing to stand up for what he believes in, even when it is the unpopular opinion.  But most of all, I love that maintains a hope for the future, even when it seems so dismal.  And I love that he not only believes that one person can change the world, but he empowers them to do so.
  2. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.  This is not a typical Dr. Seuss book.  It’s long and one of the few that doesn’t rhyme, which only intensifies the intellectualism.  But it tackles some of the themes that Dr. Seuss is so famous for: the innocence of childhood, the rejection of absolute power and the fantasic occurences that are hallmarks of Suess’ works.  It explores conflicting purposes of arbitrary (and perhaps ridiculous) rules.  And, while I have heard some criticize Bartholomew for being weak and not standing up for himself (quite the opposite of the indignant Lorax), I see him as showing a gentle obedience and politeness in the face of unfair treatment from an arrogant leader.  He shows courage and bravery as he faces punishment for something that is truly not his fault.  And at the same time, the executioner shows obedience in that he cannot do his job until Bartholomew’s hat is removed.  In the end, there seems to be a confidence that leaders—even non-elected leaders—will do the right thing.  There’s that hope again.
  3. The Sneetches.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of Dr. Seuss’ most under-rated books.  It’s a classic tale of two groups of creatures who are separated by class.  An arbitrary star on their belly makes one group think they are superior. The star bellied Sneetches control everything while the plain bellied Sneetches are social outcasts.   The message of tolerance is obvious.  But equally as important is the idea that the social divide that the Sneetches have created for themselves is ridiculous.  Add to it unfortunate truth that people sometimes profit from conflict and harmful products and you have a brilliant story, packed with lessons for everyone.  As a child, I remember feeling like a plain bellied Sneetch.  And, now that I’m an adult, I often still feel like a plain bellied Sneetch.  Dr. Seuss taught me that it’s okay to be plain bellied…and in fact, it can be preferable.  It is important to point out though, that the Sneetches did not achieve peace until they no longer knew who was who.  But, I don’t think that Dr. Seuss was saying that we should just assimilate and become anonymous in order to get along.  I think the lesson is that most of us don’t really know which we are — star bellied or not — even if we choose to identify with one or the other.  And when we can come to the realization that we all have insecurities and needs to be accepted, that is when we can begin to move toward tolerance.
  4. Happy Birthday to You!  It’s a simple message — we are all unique and should be ourselves.  I love the pictures, the use of color and the general idea that birthdays should be celebrated in an extravagant way. 
  5. Horton Hears a Who.  This was not a favorite of mine growing up.  I liked it, but it didn’t resonate with me the way some of the previous books did.  And after the movie came out several years ago, I didn’t like how it was being used to promote political messages that simply weren’t there. ( That’s not to say it didn’t have political undertones — but it was written in 1954 and was a commentary on post World War II occupation of Japan).  However, it makes my top 5 because of the way it has impacted my son.  While the message “A person’s a person no matter how small” certainly resonated with him, given his small stature, it was not the Whos to whom he related.  Instead, he was drawn to Horton…a gentle character who courageously stood up to a mob mentality to protect what he believed in.  Very much like the Lorax. 
And there you have it.  Out of 46 books, those are my top 5.  It’s painful for me to stop there because I really could go on and on.  But really, this list encapsulates most of the major themes that Dr. Seuss wrote about:  Be yourself (and don’t be afraid to be different).  Stand up for what you believe in. Question authority.  Use your imagination.  Be silly. Be courageous.  Be loyal.  Love your friends.  Stand up for them.  Always have hope.

In retrospect, it’s really hard to say whether or not my world view was shaped in part by the writings of Dr. Seuss or if I simply related to his characters and stories because of my world view.  It doesn’t matter.  I am glad he was born.  I’m glad he wrote whimsical stories that were fun to read.  And, I’m glad I get to share them with my son.  I know he will share them with his children.