Category Archives: Social Rules

The Rain Baptizes Indiscriminately…

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The late October weather had finally succumbed to the pattern nature intended. It was raining lightly when the man started walking and the temperature had dropped to the low 50s. Leaves left in clumps would cause his footing to slip unexpectedly as he glided across the pavement. The rain had baptized everything overnight.

Although it was lightly misting when he started, the rain had strengthened as he trekked across the innards of the city on a lazy Sunday late morning. His glasses began to look like the upper glass of an aquarium, beads of water obscuring both lenses. The man removed his glasses and headphones as the heavier rain fell. He continued on his way, head up, and frequently smiling though, as the brisk walk was even more enjoyable in the rain and cool air. Except for a couple of other older people enjoying the solitude, the man was left to walk in peace.

A couple of blocks away from the main street, vehicles were hastily exiting the modern and imposing protestant church. Its structures had made tentacles toward the sky and the surrounding urban landscape. Its recent history was one of success if such things were measured by the weight of the coffers and the number of worshippers filling the seats. The local eateries would soon be flooded with those who had just finished their services. The man could almost imagine each driver licking his or her lips as their respective stomachs rumbled. (Faith is difficult with a distracting appetite.)

The man neared the intersection blocked by a canyon of repair and excavation in the middle of the street. He passed a beautiful vintage theatre being remodeled as he approached. Its marbled exterior shone against the graying air. A large white Tahoe SUV approached from the man’s right. As both the SUV and the man reached the intersection, the driver’s window of the SUV lowered. A middle-aged man leaned toward the opening.

The man already had his polite “No” ready, as he imagined the man leaving church was going to offer him a ride, given the weather.

“You’re going to catch a cold, walking in this rain and cold,” he said. Without further comment, he put his window up and drove across the main street, leaving the man momentarily surprised by the driver’s words.

The man shook his head and couldn’t help but laugh, wondering to himself how the driver thought he might have survived so many decades of living if he truly had no understanding of the weather and one’s health.

As the man made his long return back down the main street, he drank in the birds chirping in the newly-installed trees lining the road, the darkened storefronts, and the myriad signs each business chose to place in its windows. After passing the excavated canyon in the street from the other side of the road, he could hear voices as he approached the corner storefront on the next corner. Outside, he noticed a table placed perpendicular to the front, with a flat propane-fueled stovetop next to it. On the table were covered dishes of food, plates, and various cooking items. Even at a few paces away, the man could feel the warmth emanating from the cooktop outside. Above it, the man noted that the storefront had been converted to a Spanish-speaking evangelical place of worship. Just as he crossed in front of the open door behind the cooktop, a small older lady stepped away from the inside wall where she had been leaning.

Looking inside, he noted row after row of metal chairs, some of them occupied by people, all of them animatedly talking to one another. The small lady bid him good morning in Spanish, then English. She waved her hand across the table and asked him in the softest voice whether he was interested in fellowship or perhaps a meal – or a snack to take with him as he walked.

Despite the chill of the air, the man felt his heart beat palpably in surprise from the woman’s kind offer. He took a moment to catch up to the surprise of her offer and then declined. “No, but thank you so much. You don’t know how welcome such an offer is. If you will permit, I will drop by some other day and join you all for conversation and several bites to eat.”

The lady smiled again and told the man, “Anytime. Where there’s food, there’s always an open invitation.”

As the man walked away, his feet seemed lighter and his heart unburdened.

He wondered how such a small place could easily put into practice one of the most basic principles of all the compassionate prophets: that all religion makes its appeal through an offered hand or warm smile and never through accusation.

In peace, he went; so too, that you might as well.

No Law Against 365 Days of Xmas Decorations

Please forgive my passive-aggressive, tongue-in-cheek commentary…

Off the wall observation: Springdale has no law which prevents someone from leaving up holiday lights all year. So, if the POA/HOA doesn’t have one either, this means that I am perfectly fine installing the gaudiest, ugliest, flashiest nonsense that I wish to- and never, ever remove them, no matter how pitiful they begin to look or how many passers-by become strangulated by their hanging presence. This also means that those neighbors who have already decided they were going to do this starting last year are free to continue to do so.

I’m torn about this absence of a rule requiring holiday displays to be removed after a certain period of time. On the other hand, though, it presents a lunatic such as me plenty of room to make the city of Springdale regret this oversight. Who among us doesn’t want to see all the reindeer and a 9-foot Santa 365 days a year?

PS: I’m going to sneak over to a couple of houses and ADD lights to those they left up last year. I might even fix the string of lights a couple of houses down which shorts and arcs sparks across the guttering from time to time. It’s pretty at night, though, so maybe I won’t.

John-The-Catalyst’s Lesson For Today

Note of warning…The following is a paraphrasing of something that will either turn on a bulb on in your head or trigger mild irritation. Either way, listen closely to the revelation buried in your reaction. X
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From John-The-Catalyst

The fact that you take a moment to bitch about what someone is wearing, the way they do their hair, sing, dance, or how they choose to speak is proof beyond a doubt that you believe that what other people think truly matters.

It’s the only logical continuation of your complaint.

If what other people think truly doesn’t matter, then exactly who are you complaining to and for what reason?

Your words of derision don’t reach the person you judge. Their lives continue on, pursuing their own chosen course.

You, though, have appointed yourself to be the arbiter of taste and decorum. To deny this is to misunderstand your own words and motives.

Even if you do tell the other person of your thoughts, anyone free of external validation will recognize your pettiness as just that. Anyone wounded by your words was already suffering – and your efforts have made the world incrementally worse by your presence in that moment.

If you don’t understand your own motives and self, who is the greater fool: he who wears clothing which doesn’t meet your approval or he who fails to see himself as a unique creature with free will?

Face facts. You judge the clothing, style, and bearing of another person to improve your own self-image for a brief and fleeting moment. It escapes from your grasp as soon as you utter the words.

The very nature of your words implies a superiority of perspective, if not worth, between individuals.

It is the most inauthentic to way to proceed in your life. You’ll feel powerless to stop it and perhaps to even try, even if you recognize the futility of anything except humorous observation.

All of us look and sound stupid and uninteresting to someone else. As you lean over to whisper a comment regarding another person, be assured that on the horizon stands your judge, barbed words at the ready.

An Anecdote and Some Thoughts

 

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This morning, I walked on the Elm Springs side of town. Because a social media friend reminded me of him yesterday, I listened to Ludovico Einaudi, a neglected Italian pianist and musical friend I discovered 3-4 years ago. I walked westward for a while and when I looped back, I cut through along Oak Grove road. There’s a beautiful white-planked country church about halfway down the road, and I wanted to see it in the mysterious hours of the morning. Along 48th Street, the next streetlight in front of me went out, probably on a timer, and everything turned to black. Until Macadoodles way ahead, the entire swath was empty – and mine. To my right was the huge expanse of undeveloped land next to the interstate. To my left, more empty land. I turned down my music and stood in the middle of the road in this darkness, watching the bullets of traffic hurl along the interstate, each one undoubtedly destination-focused. After a minute of observation, I turned Ludovico up and continued along the urban sprawl. Even though I had meandered much longer than I intended, I walked across the interminable Wal-Mart perimeter, going down the road which warned, “Street Closed” by way of traffic barriers. I ignored them and walked along the dead end avenue. It ends abruptly fairly close to the interstate as it travels parallel to it. Dawn and I had visited this terminus shortly after the road was constructed; it still has an other-worldly feeling to it in the dark of night. Coming back, I watched the silhouette of a Wal-Mart worker as he used a jabber to collect the never-ending trash from around the store. Even though I was just a dim outline to him, he waved toward me and I responded by waving both arms above my head for no reason whatsoever.
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If you ever feel life is too short, ask a friend who is “taking a break from social media” about his or her reasons. The explanation will be so tediously long that you’ll beg for the sweet release of death.
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“The hurricane became disorganized and weakened, then wandered off course and disappeared” would be an ideal way to describe a typical day where I work.
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Grammar is the comfortable refuge of anyone choosing to write ideas as if everything is “bcc.”
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Also, as the frequency with which a person uses “bcc” increases, so does the likelihood that you should NEVER take this person to an amusement park or with you as you try a new restaurant.
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It’s either comical or tragic to realize that the highlights of your life could be used exclusively as a blooper reel for a documentary on the human condition.
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Never start a fight with someone who has one twitchy eye.

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Minimalism isn’t about taking things away. It’s about posting pictures of exotic living rooms you’d never want to be in, at least judging by 90% of all minimalism websites.

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Part of my healthier eating plan includes potatoes. Potatoes are the bath towels of Xmas gifts. You love them if they are disguised as french fries or buried in sour cream but otherwise, meh. But I love them unconditionally, even in raw chunks. Sliced and roasted though, potatoes are the platform which propels this simple food into the realm of ‘gourmet.’ I’ve eaten so many potatoes in the last few months that I thought I was buying marijuana, as they have names that vegetables shouldn’t have: Yukon gold, Russet Burbank, Duke of York, Kennebec, and… Laura. And then I see news stories like this one, which make me an amateur in spud consumption by comparison: Man Eats Only Potatoes For a Year.

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It’s strange to confirm what I’ve known for a long time: it’s a waste to feel impressed with most people, as they are literally ‘winging it’ about much of what they seem to know and certainly for the decisions they make. We have so much self-doubt only because we know the gaps in our minds and life, while those same chasms in other lives are mostly invisible to us. These sort of revelations also tend to trigger disillusionment toward those we hope might help us live happier lives. There are many people out there to learn from – but beware, as the number of delusional ‘one-answer’ folks tend to shout the loudest from the highest podium.

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I’ve had this crazy idea for years that radio stations should intersperse songs with fascinating bits of trivia or news, very short in length – and not just about music, but about the world, arts, history, and people. I think it would be a spectacular thing that would lessen the monotony of over-the-air radio and get people to talk about different things again. For example, after a Beiber song, we should hear a short anecdote about how to apologize.

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A wise man once said, “To do two things at once is to do neither.” I can see that you agree with this idea; yet, you’re probably reading this, making coffee, and juggling live otters as you nod your head. Isn’t it amazing how we know these simple things and spend our entire lives fighting their application?

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From The Book of Platitudes, Chapter 5, Verse 2: “Thou shalt not assume the role of superior, even when circumstances apparently warrant it.”

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Contradictory Law of Argumentation: As you get older, you inevitably realize that almost all arguments are pointless and stop participating. Logically, then, at some point, only those who haven’t learned anything are the ones still arguing.

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I love you all, but…: expecting people to stop putting their feet on the dash while in the car is pure fantasy. We can’t even get people to stop drinking and driving – much less waving guns in the air from road rage.

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“Your god is a TV channel, one filled with word static and droplets of fear. Mine is the one granting us complete autonomy of this universe, to understand it or not, improve it or don’t, and to stop squandering every opportunity to move forward.” – John The Catalyst

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Of Protests, Kneeling, and Democracy

A large group of several hundred protesters gathered near the intersection of Edinger and Bristol, at approximately 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night. Protesters gathered to voice their dissent over the election of Donald Trump in Santa Ana early tonight. The protest took a violent turn when protesters began lobbing mortars at officers later in the night. Police used non lethal weapons to control the crowd, who were throwing bottles, mortars, and other objects at officers. Santa Ana PD was assisted by multiple agencies from around Orange County.

You’re one of two people: the man shouting or the man covering his ears.

Everything we’ve achieved in this country resulted from those shouting and seldom from those who seek silence or conformity.

The status quo favors those in the majority, those holding the reins of power, and those with the gold.

Shouts and powerful whispers threaten all three. The shouts aren’t simply demanding more. They demand equality in every respect – and not simply in the material realm, but in the spiritual, and in the minds of men as all of us conduct our daily affairs.

That such an action would threaten democratic ideals instead of reinforcing them is one of the most quixotic and incomprehensible lines of reasoning I’ve ever encountered.

That the majority grumbles in response is one of the most viable signals that words or actions of protest committed peacefully are striking at the heart of their discomfort.

It is only through discomfort that we might collectively agree that we have stepped off the path that should guide us. Democracy is always an uneasy alliance of interests. We should beware of anyone who falsely claims that those who seek change are lesser citizens. These allegations tarnish those making them.

This country belongs to all of us, not just those displaying a glib grasp of patriotism. Those who are shouting are doing us and democracy a great service, even if we find ourselves in a position of discomfort.

We are a nation of better ideas. Let’s hear them and those who aren’t satisfied with where we are.

Despite my fair skin and privileged life, I tend to find myself leaning to hear the words of those who are kneeling, shouting, or trying to tell us something. It’s the least I can do, literally. Learning and growth only occur through challenging all our supposed truths.

Hyprocrisy Corollary Observation

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This post isn’t going to be particularly popular because it jabs at each of us as we struggle with the dislike we feel toward other people’s need of self-expression – and their opinions, heartfelt or whimsical.

Because we are trapped inside our own worldviews, it is an alien thought to us that things which we find to be ridiculous or nonexistent matter to other people. Often, we challenge even the other person’s right to voice their praise or displeasure, so certain that we don’t look and sound equally preposterous to others with differing frames of reference.

It is a weakness many of us share as human beings. As people take action and express ideas, observations and yes, even complaints, we react, often collectively and with great venom and glee in our condemnation of it.

Like it or not, this is hypocrisy in its most crystalline and maddening form.

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The Friendly Racist On Social Media

Because I’ve wearied of both trying to shorten this post and get it right, I’m going to do what I often do: put it out there and let anyone who finds anything of value read it. Others will snipe it, and perhaps rightly so.

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I have a smiling friend from high school on social media who posts only clever anecdotes and innocent life commentaries on his own social media… Behind the curtain, though, I see his handiwork of prejudice and harm. Most of the time, he’s subtle, cleverly ensuring his remarks don’t go wide. The time I spent learning to follow the breadcrumbs with FOIA requests and ancestry leads me to the clues he’s left behind. Although he’s clever, he’s not patient. His impatience and intolerance draw him into diatribes he might otherwise avoid. I don’t actively follow his lashings. The news tends to draw him out, especially as tempers flare. It’s a sceanario I’ve seen play out a dozen times this past year.

Especially over the last year, I’ve had friends get caught in the crosshairs by “Robert,” as I’ll call him. They’ll struggle to understand why he’s turned on them or chosen them to blast, all the while keeping his own page clean of controversy. If they attempt commentary on his social media, he immediately lashes out at them for being childish or failing to understand the etiquette of social media. Robert is not the only one – there have been many. Once I explain to my friends that Robert’s goal is simple intimidation and to delete his comments, ignore him, or adopt his tactics back at him, most trollish behavior fades and they move along to new victims to intimidate. Weirdly enough, almost all of these people are white males and members of what I term the “Black Sock Mafia.”

Robert keeps his own space free of controversy and lashes out at anyone who brings up anything controversial, even if he first introduces an implied bit of hate. He visits other people’s spaces, though, and lectures all of them about how wrong they are, their ignorance, and how as a rich white man things have become really tough for him in this modern climate of minority over-sensitivity. Because his ego and identity are secret and invested in something he can’t easily admit in public, he faithfully learns the code and lingo of those who possess intellect and free time afforded by a privileged life. His words become his dagger and he jabs frequently, assuming no one is following his trail. He’s wrong. He’ll drop the veneer if he’s talking to people one-on-one and assumes they share his closeted prejudices. He will take a moment sometimes to bash those who use social media to discuss controversial topics; yet, paradoxically, he will visit other pages and relentlessly hammer the person on their personal space. He’s also one of those who visit news sites and groups to spew his fervent brand of prejudice.

Most such people who comment angrily on their friend’s social media invariably do the same on fringe new sites or groups. They need an outlet, especially one in which like-minded people can slap one another on the back and egg on their imaginary quest to make the world look like the faces they see in the mirror. If you are methodical, you can find the crumbs of their visits and tally them up for an accounting.

Robert and I share a friend I’ve known most of my life. Our mutual friend is oblivious to the racism in the heart of my high school social media friend. It seemed like the prejudice would be obvious to anyone observant but I’ve found this to be untrue for many social media users. One of these days, Robert will be in one of those instances like the tiki marchers in Charlottesville; it’s inevitable as he seethes in discomfort at being told “you’re wrong” by those around him, even if many don’t know or pretend to not know how deep his hatred goes.

So I wait, knowing that the backlash against racists and ignorance has him fuming. As many of us know, most racists have convinced themselves of their own practical prejudice; their prejudice is rooted in reality, or so they believe. Their fervor will eventually boil over.

I take note of instance after instance of those times when he simply cannot resist the temptation to insist that racism isn’t real and that minorities are their own worst enemy. He circumspectly runs across the line implying that other religions are somehow the center of a monetary conspiracy. Innuendo is his most frequent ammunition. It’s rare to find a case wherein a racist holds no beliefs regarding the other usual suspects in the minds of prejudice.

He would never pick up a tiki torch and march with those who proudly identify themselves as known racists. His brand is more insidious. He won’t hire minorities unless he must and he subtly steers claims of such prejudice back toward those questioning his increasingly visible motives. Any opportunity he can seize to belittle anyone of color is his for the taking.

The next-to-last paragraph was added after Charlottesville. The rest was a post I’ve rewritten a few times. I was right. Once the events of the weekned subsided, I saw that Robert couldn’t help himself. His anger became a fire that he insisted on unleashing. His racist brethren, albeit of a lesser intellectual stripe, had been revealed as debased human beings and his wrath became unleashed. But his own social media? Only rainbows, talks of wife and family, and details of his life, all presented in a new row of deceit.

Over the last year as Trump’s ascendency became pronounced, I’ve outed many racists to mutual social media users. They display the symptoms of being gaslighted – but once I let them in on the secret of the person accosting them, they are thankful and can sometimes even laught about it.

Knowing a person is racist is different than suspecting such a thing to be true. The label, once proven, grants us power over the racist. I almost always tell people of my discoveries privately because it’s no use starting a word war that will only escalate. People learn at their own pace if they ever learn at all. A very intelligent racist tends to have a long memory for grudges, too. I usually start by asking my friends if they generally trust their instincts about people. (Each of us sometimes speaks lazily or crosses a line – these instances don’t count as evidence of prejudice if they are singular or negligent in tenor.)

After observing people like Robert punch at a social media friend, I reach out and subtly point out that they are being gaslighted or treated like a lesser person. I use the list of logic defects to specify how they are being mistreated. Finally, I point out issues of common courtesy and respect. Most people get the message after a few such encounters and up their deamnds for the closet racist to go away if he can’t behave. There’s a ball of fire and smoke before people like Robert walk away. They need people to know that they have been wronged. Despite their constant nagging about victim behavior, they’ll play all the cards before finally shutting up.

If you have social media friends who do this to you, don’t ignore your instincts. You’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. We let these things pass out of courtesy, usually avoiding the reality that our collective pass at calling them out is only worsening the soundtrack of prejudice in their head.

 

Locals Underestimate The Minority

Recently, I had a friend severely underestimate the minority population of a local town. Before saying anything I of course looked up the information from three different sources. The % of minority population was markedly higher than even I had supposed.

I knew my friend was wrong in the assertion, though, even before verifying. Latinos had arrived at that town in force even 20 years ago. Jobs drew them there, even if the locals greeted them with distrust and frowns. Economics opens most doors in both directions, even if guests must ignore a few grimaces.

It’s common for the majority to severely misjudge the presence of minorities or minority viewpoints. Until they hit a critical level which impacts them, they tend to fail to appreciate that the fulcrum is moving underneath them.

Even though I’m a white male in my early 50s, it is a delight for me to see the region being renovated from the inside. I do not share the apprehension and fear which seems to have invaded so many of my contemporaries. The new faces, language, and cultures only serve to widen my world, not shrink it.

I hope the fulcrum shifts sufficiently underneath so as to make the minority overtake the majority in this region. This world belongs to us all.

Yet Another Take On “Leave If You Don’t Like It…”

It’s disappointing to see those who believe their claim to action bears more merit than those who arrived a year ago, either from New York or Somalia. The time your feet have graced a particular plot of land does not constitute a greater constitutional right to one’s opinion or the exercise thereof.

You have seen the rants, the ones telling us who disagree with their heritage arguments to get out of their country as if their claim to these lands is greater than that of other people with whom they disagree. It’s such an over-the-top denial of how democracy works in this country. It’s also an unwise way to live one’s life.

All such irrational demands are directed at minorities or at least the minority opinion. This is doubly dangerous because only resistance to the status quo has ever resulted in progress or improvement in our overall human condition. We don’t advance through universal agreement. Only rigorous and constant challenge has ever yielded gains to all of us as a group. It’s the reverse of angrily storming out of a room in a rage because in this case, you are insisting that the person questioning a perceived wrong be ejected from the room.

You, of course, can blithely pretend that we all don’t play for the same team and that things we do or allow to continue have lasting effects on members of our team. Whether this team is a family, a town, a state a country, or a planet does not negate the fact that harm to any is harm to all.

Beware the danger of assuming your current status has anything to do with the superiority of your moral position or the rightness of insisting that things continue as they always have.

If you are part of the majority, a warning bell should sound in your conscience in those circumstances wherein a minority accused you as a group of insensitivity. Each of us, regardless of how we came here or when, have the right to the same seat at the table, without qualification. In a democracy, you must accept the pinch you might feel as newcomers come to expand your culture and heritage. It’s easy to accept the validity of another person’s viewpoint if they share your color, religion, and language.

It’s illogical and harmful to resort to a demand that other people either leave or leave the argument solely because it strikes you directly in your comfort zone. if nothing else, these United States are dedicated to the principle that all who come and participate have a voice. It is up to us collectively to change our minds as circumstances change. It’s important that one does not poke a finger in the eye of a group of people as they insist that their viewpoint is incorporated.

History is not as straight or logical as you would insist it to be. It is an error to presume that you understand history sufficiently enough to believe that human nature has shifted accordingly. When you find yourself in the majority preaching or insisting that a minority is imagining that racism, prejudice, or harm has befallen them, there’s a great danger that you fail to see what it evident to observers.

Lest we forget, Native Americans walked these lands for millennia before we came here. For whatever myriad reasons we eradicated them from these places. As modern Americans, we should not succumb to paralyzing guilt for what happened but we should feel accountable to honor and cherish the idea that we should never slide into a situation that in any way reflects what we did to our own indigenous people here in the United States. It is only because we are indeed capable of equal brutality that we must be vigilant to protect everyone in our society.

Those cherished things you feel so protective of, the ones erected to ‘honor’ those who fought on the wrong side of history, they are merely things. As a swastika evokes violent emotions in the hearts of Jews, so too can granite reminders inspire anger, shame, or degradation in some members of our society. It is quite unbecoming for the majority to deny that the minority experiences negative emotions in response to relics of our brutal past.

If enough people insist that we need to move forward, we owe to ourselves and them to be better human beings, even if we feel a pinch for doing so.

Confederate Stones, Withering Trees, and Change

Observing the long view of history and social forces:

“A city or town isn’t the past, who founded it, or who once lived here. It’s who is here now and the children they’ll have. Those who were here first have no greater say in its disposition than those who moved here to be one of us. It’s one of the most overlooked lessons of history. A family changes as it accepts new members and towns can be no different. Roots grow into trees and those trees must adapt to the changing environment or wither to become the firewood for those who need it.

You can fight change with all your vigor or you can understand that all things perish, even ones carved in immortal stone. The things that we hold dear are not things at all. They are flesh and blood, love and hope, compassion and intellect. Those things which do not advance us and bind us together must be willingly set aside in favor of the great invisible.

Nostalgia for the way things were is the most human of traits. But we must always remember that we share these fields and places with those who look upon us with new eyes. Even our children will one day peer back with wonder at the things we valued over one another as people. As we are renewed, so too must our attitudes flourish, blossom and envelop those who do not share our history and culture.”

Peace