Category Archives: Social Rules

The “It Is What It Is” Cliché Comparison

 

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“Truth sounds like hate to those who hate truth” has to be one of the most meaningless clichés on social media. It’s clever, but meaningless, like a quick conversation at the coffee kiosk on an early Saturday morning.

I see it used by fundamentalists, by liberals decrying the prejudices of conservatives, and all manner of people who need a convenient way to stigmatize those they identify as their detractors.

“Any quote, axiom, cliché, or saying that can be equally used by polar opposites is meaningless in all contexts. It is the “it is what it is” of social knowledge.”

The Tenderfoot Allocation Hyprocrisy

OLD FOLKS BLAMING

A bit over-the-top, stereotypical, and harsh comment designed to derive a rise in people’s blood pressure:

Regarding those “Bring back home economics class so that millennials can actually learn something” memes… Given that 1/2 of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, I’d say that the problem isn’t young people not knowing how to change their oil, bake a cake, or sew a button. I’d say it’s the majority of their elders failing to understand real economics – or having practical views and solutions for pervasive economic policies that benefit everyone.

The younger generations didn’t get us to here.

We did.

The Unknown Life

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I was in a hurry, busily checking minor and mundane necessities off my mental checklist as I hurried through the building. The day was still unborn, and shadows blanketed everything that modern lighting couldn’t touch. To my right, a series of vertical windows rose above me. Ahead of me, someone sat in the shadows, in a small grouping of uncomfortable chairs, the type which serve their function but provide no real invitation to linger. His head was bowed, and his hands were clasped between his legs. His body language seemed to exude defeat. He seemed to be waiting for something unseen, an event to unfold, or for some greater force to expel him from his chair. The soft aura reflecting from the windows cast a curtain of gauze on the interior.

Despite my feet treading quietly on the institutional floor, his head rose, and he looked up. His eyes met mine. I noted a huge yellow, black, and discolored splotch around his right eye. His blond hair lay wildly around his features.

“Are you okay?” I asked, without even realizing I was about to speak.

“No,” he said, his voice cracking. Due to some triggered instinct, I realized that if he said a few more words, he’d likely either start shouting or sobbing.

I raised my left hand as if to stop him from speaking. “It’s okay.” I walked within two feet of where he sat.

“I think I need to leave before I react.” As he spoke, fifteen different scenarios filled the canvas of my mind. None of them were joyous explanations for his demeanor or appearance.

He fell silent in recognition of the fact that I knew what he meant without him saying the words of explanation. Because we’re human, it could only be one of four or five stories.

I removed my phone from my left front pocket. “Where do you need to be, other than away from here? By the way, my name is X.” I asked.

He told me. I typed the destination and found a ride that would be there in less than five minutes. I showed him the screen.

“I’m paying. Don’t stress it. I’ll go wait outside. When the driver shows, I’ll make sure he’s comfortable with it.” The young man nodded and didn’t speak.

As the sun burned the rim of the horizon, the driver pulled up. I handed him a tip and explained that someone needed a hand – and I was that hand. “No problem. He’ll get there.”

The young man slowly walked outside and opened the rear door of the waiting car. He did not look up, for which I’m glad. Seeing the side of his face again would undoubtedly cause me to commit the sin of asking questions.

“Thanks.”

Before he could say more, I said, “Pay it forward. You’ll remember this one day and have the chance to help someone.”

He shut the rear door and the car pulled away.

I don’t even know his name. But he knows mine. And that gives me hope.

An entire life, unknown and unknowable to me.

I fear we have things in common, though. I hope the young man’s journey is dotted with people interested enough to help him push forward.

P.S. I don’t deserve a pat on the back or words of encouragement. I needed this more than the young man did. Truth be told, my mind was filled anger that morning.

 

 

 

 

 

Extremely Unlikely Opinion

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Regarding ‘the’ video/picture. It’s easy for excessively wealthy people to overlook disregard from others. I absolutely guarantee you that if I had half a billion dollars, I could ignore the most heinous of considerations. You could call me anything you want, as well as vilify my very existence.

Let’s Trade

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I see so many social media posts from people advocating that young people choose a trade over college. These types of posts seem to be multiplying. It’s rare to see such a post from a young person, however. The memes annoy me a little, though, if it’s okay for me to say so.

Because I watch with a keen eye when my instincts get stirred, I turn my attention to note how much of people’s enthusiasm for a trade translates to their children or grandchildren. Whether it is my jaundiced eye or a convenient conclusion, my observations tell me that college is almost always the preferred ideal over learning a trade. Likewise, most parents don’t enthusiastically endorse the option of the military, either, even though it often provides multiple benefits for the person willing to choose it.

Ideology in the abstract is a strange, contradictory thing.

Why not both? Educated minds are to everyone’s benefit. What’s wrong with a plumber, electrician, or mechanic with a college degree? The odds we’re going to change careers several times increases with each generation.

A shadowy truth embedded in this conversation is that most people want careers that do not tax their bodies – and they wish the same for their children. It’s not a revelation of laziness. For some, it is a belief rooted in class distinction. For most, it’s merely reasonable.

It’s not denigrating to tradespeople to say that you’d like a job using your mental ability rather than your hands and back. Most technical trades take a toll on one’s body. Combined with long hours, a competent tradesperson is much more likely to harm his or her ability to do such a job well for their entire career. No one disputes that many people make an outstanding salary by choosing a trade.

Imagine a society in which 17 years of education is ‘free,’ rather than 13. How many would choose a trade if their educational path were open and guaranteed? How many parents would encourage them to select a trade instead of college? How many would embrace the option of the military?

I get that you agree it is a worthy choice to learn a trade instead of college.

First, though, let’s give everyone a democratic chance for college by making it universal for everyone. Afterward, we’ll see how many parents jump with joy when their children or grandchildren choose a trade instead of college. Or, let’s encourage everyone to do both. Getting an education won’t make you unable to learn a trade. You’ll still have the education – but more options once you’re finished.

I realize that there is an inherent imperfection in my argument. I’m not proposing an airtight, elegant solution – just a request that you think about the issue logically.

Our path toward college and careers itself is flawed.

As well as our thinking regarding the issue.
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Grammar Police Tripping Themselves

ERRORS GRAMMAR KERMIT

As a bona fide imperfectionist, I’ve spent time over the last couple of years preaching the futility of the bulk of our spelling and grammar rules. I’ve observed many lashings regarding language. One reason I’m careful of such hypocrisy is that we all make spectacular errors. Even using a professional version of Grammarly, I have to laugh at some of the glaring bits of stupidity that amazingly went past my eyeballs. Given that our language is needlessly complex on multiple levels, it’s a bit outlandish to presume you’re not making errors.

You are. We notice.

I’m throwing a caution flag at people who nitpick irrelevant errors of presentation.

I had a list of examples to include with this post. I opted to forego it though, in part because those wearing the badge of grammar police seldom have a light-hearted sense of humor about it.

As for me, I don’t mind when people point out I’ve made an error. They’re going to need a lot of free time though, given the volume of my nonsense and my lack of regard for errors when I make them.

Kvetch-22, Work Edition

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Last Friday, management put us in an impossible situation. It was a Kvetch-22. The details don’t really matter. It’s no secret that many people work in environments in which our humanity is an inconvenience.

Someone I work with got really angry and lashed out. I did what I do best and creatively turned it around on him. Because he’s a hothead, you can imagine how it escalated. Later, when I realized that he had fallen victim to being blind to how he had been manipulated by the circumstances management left us with, I reached out and apologized. We both then appropriately turned our disdain on the people who created the situation rather than each other.

Today, I presented him with a surprise gift. He opened it, his eyes went wide, and then he laughed. And then laughed some more.

I had printed a color 5 x 7 picture of myself making a god-awful face and smiling. In Spanish, I wrote: “With Love, From The World’s #1 A÷÷hole, X.”

Somehow, I don’t think he will ever forget my apology on Friday or the ridiculous follow-up today. Plus, he now has a beautiful picture of me, one suitable for a dartboard, the bottom of a urinal, or framing to put above his imaginary fireplace at home.
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The Vexation of Remembrance

 

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I’ve used this picture before. It seemed inescapable that I use it with this post, too.

 

Why does someone share opinions or ideas with anyone? Not just on social media, but in real life, either atop the peaks of success or attainment or in the valley of sorrows? It’s akin to attending a reception where the doorman punches each attendee in the face before entry and then demands $50 and an explanation regarding each attendee’s intentions.

It’s always a risk. There’s always someone fearful of the wrong opinion, a slight to one’s perceived reputation, or of secrets spilling out into the world. No one wants an unfiltered look at their heart laid bare for others to witness, even though the total of our words and actions does precisely that each day that we survive to walk the earth. It’s like a nude selfie after going to a pizza buffet. Our choices are plainly visible to anyone who bothers to examine us.

No matter the depth of gauze you might use to soften your sentiment or words, the truth is that each of us brings our baggage with us – and filters which bend our perception.

A few years back, a local writer who is now deceased saw me use a quote of Anne Lamott’s that I had written about over and over: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” It encapsulated much of the struggle he had endured trying to get his story out without bruising other people’s toes. He read one of my earliest blog posts, one in which I described a discussion I had with a cousin, one who attempted to defend the indefensible regarding my alcoholic and violent father.

The writer fell in love with Lamott’s words precisely because of their simplicity and unassailable truth. He said, “Holy #$%t!” when he read the link I sent him. “There’s no market for that, X.” Maybe not, I told him, but if someone’s writing for themselves, market and reception are distant concerns.

Here’s the excerpt from one of my first, and absurdly long, blog posts:

“…Years ago, a distant cousin in the family (who I will call Tom because his name is Tom) asked me what right did I have to talk about another family member’s misbehavior, especially the things that “ought not to be talked about.” He initially asked me in my Aunt Barbara’s living room. We were standing next to the stuffed mountain lion that stood guard there for as long as I could recall. I asked him where he learned the difference between what should and could not be discussed. He laughed when he realized that he was about to say “from family.” I then pointed out that despite the idea that things shouldn’t be discussed, somehow, through some mysterious force, everyone seemed to know all the deep, dark secrets, just in differing amounts. While probably no one knew everything, everyone knew something. I then went on to say that the things that happened in my life or that were done to me were MY life, too and that perhaps people should stop and think about the things they say and do, or to make amends at the point in their lives when they realized that they might have gone too far. Tom and I talked about dad’s legacy and how he and I had come to the point that dad would have been able to start a new relationship with me, given enough time – we just ran out of road before we could run the race. Tom was surprised that I could talk openly about some of the meanness of my father and still laugh and want to hear stories about the hell-raising, fun-filled dad. I told him that I would have loved for dad to have had a carefree life or to have been able to come to terms with his hateful way of drinking the world away. Mom and dad weren’t huggers, and they didn’t express themselves in tender ways. Had they been merely distant instead of angry at times, that would have been at least a step toward normalcy. I told Tom that it seemed deceptive for the older generation to keep some of the secrets because it kept us from knowing our parents and family fully, whether it be warts and all. I still feel that way. Tom walked away with a new perspective about me and certainly a different one about my dad. It was the first time he talked to me as an adult, and it was the first time that it sank in that the behavior that Tom loved in Dad from a distance also made him a monster to me, his son. I remember asking Tom whether it was a bigger sin for me to talk or write about my dad’s mistakes than it was for him to inflict violence on his family? Tom had no answer for that rhetorical question. (Note: this discussion would have been markedly different if I had truly known the depth of what my Dad had done in his life. I would not have been so kind.)…”

Regarding the above note, I included a picture of me when I was young. I edited it to protect the privacy and identity of another family member. The other family member wasn’t at the point in his life where he felt free to speak openly. Not publicly, anyway. It’s unavoidable to conclude that my carelessness in openly talking about “things that ought not to be talked about” probably saved my life, even if family members threatened, shrieked, and denied.

If you are sharing yourself authentically in the best way you can, I believe that silencing your narrative is a loss for everyone. So what if you don’t get it quite right? Which idiot decided that perfection is the goal of communication? None of us are going to feel exactly what we do today when tomorrow greets us.

It’s easy to pick and choose your criticisms, especially of anyone who shares stories. It’s why most people choose silence. Just as silence does not grant consent, it also does not convey honesty.

I don’t sit and spend hours taking the time to write what I clearly label as my opinion to seek sympathy. The stories, the opinions, and the words are mine to share. Hopefully, it is obvious that I’m not sending them as aimed barbs when I’m not. I am a fairly heavy-handed writer and it’s inescapable when I’m pointing the finger. The parts of my life I share are parts of my life, even if they intersect with the lives of others.

Also, I completely agree that we are all villains in someone else’s narrative. There’s no escape for me in this regard, either.

If my stories sometimes seem harsh, it’s only because the fury or depth of what I experienced is reflected there.

Life is both bloodied lips and serene sunsets.

Anyone who reads my posts knows that I have constantly asked that everyone take the time to write their stories in any way that they can. I put out in the world what I would enjoy hearing from others. We are all repositories of stories. Many are joyous and humorous; others are numbingly horrific. They are all pieces of us.

Each time I’ve shared a piece of myself, someone has reciprocated and reached out to share a bit of their humanity with me. I’m always surprised and humbled. It’s both a reflection of trust and an expression of the need to share with another person. It’s fundamental.

It’s also true that sometimes I’m misunderstood or my motives maligned. I can’t control the unexpected reactions, no more than my writing can alter one second of history. Writing about it, however, changes me. It softens the otherwise fall-without-a-parachute plunge that some days bring me.

 

 

“Unbelievable,” And Tangent Thoughts

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If you watch the Netflix show “Unbelievable” for no other reason, watch it to appreciate what compassionate victim-oriented police work looks like. It’s a show that I think most people will find something worthwhile to take away from it. Most people will cringe at the mishandling and neglect the subject of the series endured when she first reported the assault that is the focal point of the show. For those who have suffered abuse, they’ll likely experience some visceral reactions to it.

Merritt Wever stole the show, in my opinion, despite being paired with Toni Collette, who exudes authority and presence in this show. One takeaway from the show is the vast disparity in how different police jurisdictions deal with crime victims. You’ll get irritated and disgusted fairly quickly while watching the show.

Because shows like “Unbelievable” push me into tangents…

While the show gets a bit of the information wrong, everyone who watches has that moment when the show drives home the truth that police are 2-4 times more likely to be involved in domestic abuse cases than the general population. Many cases are not reported, while others are not pursued. (Much like the shockingly low numbers of sexual abuse cases that are ever reported.) Even among the cases prosecuted, about 1/2 of the emotionally disturbed police officers convicted of domestic abuse keep their jobs, at least in the past. The statistic didn’t surprise me.

The show also makes the point that those guilty of domestic abuse are much more likely to commit other assaults, too, but that’s another tangent.

Police also tend to suffer from alcoholism at a much higher rate than the general population. Obviously, much of it goes untreated and unaddressed. Baseline reports place the number at about 1 in 4. Most put the number between 1/4 and 1/3. The tendency for a given police officer to develop an addiction increases as his tenure on the job increases. More interesting are the statistics that measure what percentage of officers are using addictive substances while on the job. Police also have higher rates of suicide and divorce than the general population.

Of course, the majority of police are stable people. There’s always at least one person who dislikes the truth and resorts to the red herring of making the mind-numbing observation that not everyone can be lumped in with those with a problem. Duh.

Because I’ve been on the receiving end of a police officer who suffered from a mix of addiction and anger issues, I find this sort of thing to be fascinating. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that an officer needs help, the odds of the officer or his or her department insisting on correction is exceedingly low. The same is true for the cases in which officers are caught drinking and driving, theft, assault, or any number of other issues. Not only does it threaten the career of the officer, but it rightly sheds damaging scrutiny on the department chain of command for the city, state, or government who should be liable for any shenanigans. Police officers, whether on duty or in their civilian capacity, are much less likely to voluntarily submit to treatment, rehab or counseling than the general population.

Though I’ve mentioned it before, I have an email from a Chief of Police in the State of Arkansas. He flatly stated that there are times when he can’t teach his officers to do the right thing. (And, as a consequence, he also didn’t ask or require them to right the apparent wrong that had been done.) I’m not making it sound worse than it is. The email was an atrocious read, reflecting the deficiency of a system that shouldn’t have any. Periodically, I find the email and read it. It reminds how badly some departments are managed.

When I watch shows detailing police incompetence or misbehavior, I always find myself nodding in recognition.

P.S. This post doesn’t end with a conclusion or nicely-themed words. It’s just some thoughts that I had from watching the show “Unbelievable.”

X
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