Zero to Hate in a Flash

498296601_4f1f24bae4_zWhen my son was in day care years ago, he came home with bite marks all over his back.  I was shocked, outraged, disgusted.  Was he spending time with children or animals?  The caregiver patiently told me that it’s a phase that toddlers go through and that they were aware of it and working with the children to help them learn it isn’t okay to bite.  In a few weeks, my own son was biting other children and me, I suppose to vent his frustration. We got through it.  You can’t expect a small child to be rational, so you deflect and say no-no and wait for his little brain to develop some more.

I fear that our society is comprised of a bunch of toddlers, lashing out at-will and with great eagerness.  When news of the gorilla incident hit the airwaves this weekend, outrage instantly erupted against the kid’s mother, the zoo, the kid, the designer of the zoo and his or her mother, the manufacturer of the gun that killed the gorilla, the trees that line the road to the zoo … virtually anyone or anything was fair game for blame, attack, disdain and hatred.  Internet discourse is now the stoning of Biblical days. Kill the heretic that we only just heard about!  There is only Good and Evil and [insert here] is deigned by me to be Evil and must be beaten to a pulp.

We have heard all the theories about social media, the internet, video games, music, ISIS or  global warming causing our collective psyche to have a hair trigger, to go to the extreme on a moment’s notice, to riot at a political rally, to cyber bully just to get clicks.  All of those theories may have validity, but I’m sick of the excuses.  It’s time to take back our rationality.

Sometimes bad things happen and there is no one to blame.  I know, it’s shocking that I, an attorney, would be an advocate for the “shit happens” philosophy.  But sometimes, that’s what you’ve got to work with.  Tragedy occurs and there may not be a villain to attack.  Sometimes someone makes a mistake.  There is no bad intent, there isn’t even negligence.  It happens.  We may be sad and angry that a bad thing has happened, but there may not be a bad guy.

And get this, sometimes someone can have a viewpoint that differs from yours and it doesn’t make them a bad person.  It doesn’t make them stupid or irrational or bad.  It makes them human.  Here’s a shocker:  we can disagree without hating each other or threatening families and dogs. (Yes, this happens to people in the public eye everyday.  Their lives and those of their families and pets are threatened because they support a given candidate or cause.  What is wrong with this picture?)

Sometimes people do have bad intent.  Sometimes people are evil.  That’s why we have law enforcement agencies, a free press (well, if you roll all the news sources together we may approach some level of the truth) and a court system designed to ferret out people who do bad things or act recklessly and hold them accountable. I know, these institutions are not perfect and sometimes they make mistakes and are the wrongdoers.  I get it.  But let’s take a breath before attacking.  Let’s wait to learn some facts before assuming the worst.  Let’s consider that someone’s opinion is just that and not a plot to take our freedom.  Let’s turn our attention to mending the fabric of our society rather than leaving bite marks on each other.  Go to your time-out chair, people. 

 

 

 

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Trump: Waiting for Guffman

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Say what you will about the Donald, he has always been really good at being a caricature.  The hair.  The voice.  The casinos.  The bankruptcies.  The wives.  “You’re fired.”  And he makes a really good cartoon candidate.  I’m just waiting for him to let us all in on the joke.

When he announced he was running, it was a chuckle-worthy moment.  Yeah, right, this will be an entertaining way to kick off another long  campaign season.  True to form, he started saying things that were, well, shockingly wrong for most anyone to say, let alone a presidential candidate. Sexist, racist, thoughtless.  McCain isn’t a war hero, because he got captured.  Ship out all of the immigrants on day one.  All 13 million of them. We have an African-American president and we’ve never had it so bad.  Look at that face.  Who would vote for her?

At first, I thought he had dementia.  I mean, the things that he said were so unfiltered and bizarre.  Isn’t that what happens when someone starts to <ahem> lose touch?  I waited for his family to issue a statement that he was ill and withdrawing his candidacy.  Nope.

Ok, so maybe he isn’t sick.  He’s just full of himself.  He has been a business mogul and those guys get away with saying a lot of crap.  He has money (according to him, one of his most endearing qualities).  He has power and influence.  I’ve worked with guys like this.  They surround themselves with people who agree, people who pander, people who never, ever suggest that they may be wrong.  You ordered a double espresso, but you wanted a triple?  I’m so sorry.  The barista has been fired.

He’s a bully.  He taunts, embarrasses, belittles.  When he doesn’t know the answer (take, for example, any matter of international affairs), he pounds his chest and tells us Hilary screwed up and when he is the leader of all things, he will be so AMAZING, you won’t believe.

Rather than the public floggings that we have come to expect when a political type makes one small error of fact, people love his eccentricities.  They find his candor refreshing and freeing.  He is the antidote to the politically correct.  They seem to miss that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about most of the time.  They can’t see past his quaint, if offensive, views to wonder how his foot-filled mouth might be received by, say, Putin.

He leads in the polls, even now, after he claimed that thousands and thousands of Jersey City Arabs were rejoicing in the streets after the twin towers collapsed.  No one remembers the dancing Arabs.  There were no supporting press reports or videos.  The thing is, Trump is so convincing in his wrong-ness that even Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Governor, couldn’t immediately say with conviction that Trump is plain making  stuff up.

And so, I’m looking forward to the movie gotcha moment.  In my mind, he walks to the podium, not one carefully placed hair askew, grabs the microphone, turns to the cameras and says to the American people, “You’re fired!” He tells us that he did everything he could think of to make himself unelectable.  He said all the wrong things, made stuff up, insulted everyone and still he got the vote.  “What is wrong with you people, that you would endorse me as a candidate for president?”  Mic drop.  Exit, stage left.

“He’s teaching me to change my instincts… or at least ignore them.” — Sheila, Waiting for Guffman

BIcycle! BIIIcycle!!!

Every time I pedal up a steep incline, the only thing in my head is Freddy Mercury:  I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike!  I can’t make it stop.  It’s been this way for a few years now, and the more I ride my bicycle the more I hear Freddy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Queen.  Mr. Mercury was a musical genius.  It’s okay that he is hanging out in my head.  Once in a while, though, do you think maybe he could sing We Are The Champions? Just once? As an acknowledgement that I’ve paid my dues and had dirt kicked in my face, no bed of roses and yet I’m still here pushing this frickin’ bike up the mountain???

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Good luck to my friends taking on the Triple Bypass this weekend — you’re already champions of the world!

Speaking Emoji :-)

persons-0008Do you communicate in emoji?  Do you put little faces and dancing people in your texts?  Do you wish you could speak in emoji as well?  If your friend tells you she has had a horrible experience at the dry cleaner, do you want to be able to eliminate all those pesky words like, “Oh my gosh, what a jerk!  I can’t believe he wrecked your dress and won’t give you your money back.  That’s outrageous!”?  Wouldn’t it be much easier to say:160x160x34-angry-face.png.pagespeed.ic.10pTk_Rhec

I am a lover of words.  A wordsmith by trade.  A reader of books, for goodness sake.  I used to think that people who texted little sailboats and hearts were being a bit ridiculous.  I mean really, what is that about????  Are you 12????  But then, when my phone’s texting keyboard presented me with a menu of emojis, including little pictures of palm trees, I could resist no longer.  So much can be conveyed so quickly, and often better than mere words could.  Emotions require a lot of describing, but a smiley-face with a kiss is quick and to the point.  And a lot of fun.

I still have some uncertainty with this new language.  What about grammar and punctuation?  Do you put a period after the angry face if it comes at the end of a sentence?  Or is it, itself, the punctuation, used in place of an exclamation mark?  Some images, strung together, can read like a sentence.  Is it OK to insert words amongst the footballs and beer mugs?  Or should they be left to stand alone, speaking for themselves in their own cheesy language?  Is it sometimes bad etiquette to communicate with emojis, or have they passed from novelty into general acceptability?

Perhaps this is all just part of the disintegration of our society.  As we replace letters and words with pictures, we regress back to the language of cave drawings (which, frankly, are beautiful artistic works, and therefore have a huge leg-up on emojis … ).

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How Old Is Sting, Anyway?

Old enough to be a Kennedy Center lifetime accomplishment honoree.  I caught the end of the broadcast on CBS last night, after they had honored Tom Hanks, Lilly Tomlin, Al Green, and Patricia McBride.  I only saw the performances of Sting’s work by Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen and Bruno Mars.  I was blown away.

In this age of all reality shows all the time, when Average Joe seeks discovery on TV talent shows week after week, true professionals honoring one of their own washed the airwaves with their own glorious renditions of the work of an icon.  Spectacular.  Even if you aren’t a fan of Gaga or Mars, their tributes to Sting are worth a listen.  And, of course, Springsteen is the Boss.

The Man in Black and a 16 Year Old

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On a ski team bonding weekend trip last month, my son sang along with his phone as it played Johny Cash’s Folsum Prison Blues:  “When I was just a baby, my mama told me, son, always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns. . . ”  His 20-something coach looked up and asked why he knew the words to that song.  “Don’t you?”  my slightly disrespectful kid asked.  In his mind, Johny is so fabulous, he can’t imagine anyone not knowing the words to his songs.

He listens to hip hop and dubstep (are those different things?), country and classical.  He shares an iTunes account with his dad and plays gospel, “Oh Happy Day,” Bob Marley and Aerosmith. He hears a Hall and Oates song on The Voice and searches it on YouTube, downloads it from iTunes and two days later I hear him coming up the stairs singing, “you make-a my dreams come true.”  Ooo o.  O o ooo o.

Our digital world is changing the culture of music.  When I was young (I say, sounding like my grandma) we listened to whatever played on the radio, mix tapes (often recorded from the radio) and our friends’ vinyl collections over and over.  “Oldies” were for our parents.  Today, music is more fluid:  a new song samples a classic, and an entire generation is exposed to the beauty of Etta James.

This respect for artists of all genres feels new.  It gives me hope and confidence in a generation that is growing in its own direction, with its own culture, sense of style and appreciation for artistic talent, whenever and where ever it was born.

What to Make of Brittany Maynard and Robin Williams?

I know, I know.  This article is so three days ago.  As a nation, we’ve elected  a bunch of Republicans and voted on controversial laws involving women’s rights and recreational pot since Brittany Maynard died on Saturday. But I just can’t stop thinking about her, and the public’s reactions to her death compared with the reactions to Robin Williams’ suicide this summer.

Brittany Maynard’s very public decision and ultimate action to end her life before the cancer did was ground breaking because she was so public about it.  She’s not the first and she won’t be the last.  A lot of people have ended their lives before an illness does, they just don’t tell the world first.  Robin Williams’ shocking end was sadly not new to us.  We have said untimely good-byes to a number of beloved celebrities.  Both of these people decided to end their lives.  One, apparently, because he was clinically depressed and couldn’t find his way back.  The other, because she knew the torture that was coming and chose not to endure it.

Brittany has been characterized as both brave and cowardly, depending on the viewpoint.  A Vatican representative recently condemned her suicide calling it “absurd.” He is quoted as saying, “Suicide is not a good thing. It is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and toward those around us.”

Conversely, Robin was even further iconicized for his work following his death.  Reactions were filled with grief and remorse.  There was outrage at the news of the various medicines he was on and the likelihood that they contributed to his death.  We grieved for the greatness that was lost.  The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a brief article following the death of Robin Williams honoring him and calling him an “unforgettable clown with a heart of gold.”

So, both of them were ill.  Both of them chose to die.  One faced certain and painful death in her near future.  One, had he been able to escape from the dark world of depression, faced many more years with friends, family and opportunities to pursue his “mission in the world.”  Why are the reactions to their choices so different?

Incidentally, I use the public statements from the Catholic Church because they illustrate the bifurcated sentiments of many, not to criticize.  This is not an easy one to figure out.  At least not for me.

Top 3 Reasons We Love Top 10 Lists

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Trending:  Top [Insert Number Here] Things to [Do, Avoid] to Fix Your Life


I was surfing this morning, catching up on the latest meaningless must-know-now’s, and on one page I could link to these stories:

  • 10 Foods to Avoid
  • 5 Weird Reasons Your Teeth Hurt
  • 10 Home Remedies You Can Find in Your Kitchen
  • 14[!] Ways to Add Quinoa to Your Diet
  • 6 Times You Should Never Try to Be a Perfectionist
  • 3 Exercises that Reverse Aging
  • 5 Foods to Never Eat
  • 7 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Ears
  • 11 Tiny Life Changes That Will Bring You Major Bliss

I’m feeling manipulated.  Again.  Some “expert” somewhere (have you noticed how many on-line experts there are?) wrote an article listing the top 5 ways to get more links to your on-line article, and first on the list was to write your profound wisdom around a numerical list of something.  And now everyone is doing it.  Why?  Because it works.

What is it about seeing a number in a headline that makes me want to click on it?

1.  The idea that there is a discrete number of things that, if I know them, will make me better, smaller or happier is so appealing.  Really?  Only 11 tiny life changes and I’ll have Major Bliss?  Clicking and Reading Now.

2.  My teeth don’t hurt, but maybe someday they will and if one of the 5 reasons on that list will explain it, I’m clicking now.

3.  I don’t want to be the only one who didn’t know the 5 Stupid Things You Do in the Locker Room and do item 5 on the list by grabbing that beautiful, white, fluffy towel off the freshly folded pile and wiping my face with it.  Every one else has read the list and knows that the towel is INFESTED with nasty bacteria.

4.  As part of the Sesame Street-come-Letterman generation, I am obsessed with counting things.

And my list now exceeds the magic number of three.  It’s supposed to be the TOP 3 REASONS WHY, not 4.  Four is a bad number.  It’s either one too many or one too few …  back to the drawing board.