Wednesday, August 27, 2014

close-minded liberal

"beware of half-truths. you may have gotten hold of the wrong half." - author unknown

the guy who sat next to me in my first year of law school once called me a close-minded (closed-minded?) liberal. it ticked me off at the time, but now that i am, ahem, older and wiser, i can kind of see his point. and while i'm still not sure that was a totally fair accusation, i think it becomes more and more true the older (and wiser ;)) i get. and i'm not necessarily bummed out about it.

let me back up a little.

i used to love a good debate. no topics were off limits. i would argue politics, religion - gays, god, guns, whatever. i was basically born this way. when i was really little the only other overtly political person i spoke with on a regular basis was my grandpa, and so at the time i thought i was a republican. as i got a little older my lefty leanings became pretty clear. i remember getting this sort of green peace book for kids, and my little sister and i would try to implement our planet-saving initiatives on a daily basis. reduce. reuse. recycle. write your congressman. save the whales. i was school president in junior high and we fought our school's sexist rules that boys couldn't have their ears pieced and girls had to wear wool skirts (instead of pants) in the winter. (and won, i might add.) i argued with the creepy abortion protestors outside our high school. i argued with my english teacher about what f. scott fitzgerald and maya angelou really meant. i respectfully disagreed with my religious conservative relatives about whatever chain email they had sent that morning. (jesus loves you, if you "like" his facebook page. members of congress make one billion dollars a year upon retirement. president obama is actually michael jackson). the first day of law school, one of my professors called me a communist. i am and always have been so passionate about my beliefs, and i truly thought that if i could just properly present my position, the other person would have to see it my way. "still not convinced? okay. i must not be explaining this correctly. let me try to say it another way."

even up until, like, a year ago, i couldn't not engage in a political debate on facebook. it was like this uncontrollable, physical urge. certain family and friends on the opposite side of the political spectrum grew to expect my vehement response whenever they posted about any hot button issue. and hey, theoretically, civic engagement and civil discourse are awesome and beneficial. but for me, personally, it really wasn't beneficial at all. i would literally make myself sick to my stomach stressing out over some stupid facebook discussion or the presidential debates or the latest coverage on Iran/Syria/Egypt/Russia/Ukraine/Gaza/etc. and what did i have to show for it? did my contribution draw anyone from the darkness into the light? nope. seriously. after 34 years of arguing, the only person i've ever successfully convinced of an argument is my husband, and that's probably only because he was trying to get me in bed. maybe i just suck at it! (arguing, not sex ;)) maybe i'm in the wrong line of work! but honestly, i think it's more because people are so entrenched in their beliefs that there's nothing anyone could say that would convince them otherwise. have you ever noticed that people glom onto information and experiences that confirm their beliefs, and discount anything that doesn't? with the internet and facebook fueling this confirmation bias, "facts" and "the truth" have very little to do with it. everyone thinks that they're right, and can find some purportedly irrefutable source to back it up. (on that note, a family friend posted this great, thought-provoking article from I F*cking Love Science: "No, You're Not Entitled To Your Opinion.")

and back to the close-minded liberal comment - is it so terrible to prefer the company (online and "IRL" [in real life]) of people whose choice in conversational topics doesn't make you want to stab yourself in the ear-hole with a spork?

i'm not even sure what i'm saying here. i am starting to sound like my mother, who, while very opinionated, didn't vote or give a rat's ass about "civic engagement." DM has made the same argument to me over the years, though i probably shouldn't say that publicly these days given the ironic fact that he is something of an expert on voting rights, ha! (i think he would say, in his defense, that local politics is where it's at.) i don't mean to imply that we shouldn't care about what is going on in the world, or that we shouldn't critically assess our beliefs and the underlying assumptions therefor, or that we shouldn't stand up/speak up for what we ultimately believe in. but i just don't think arguing about opinions on the internet is a useful tool for that type of examination and reflection.

i mean, there's something to be said for the internet, and the way that it has changed "the news" and reporting and the manner in which knowledge is distributed. it is a useful source for information. an unparalleled source. but i liken it to shopping at Ross or TJ Maxx or something. you have to sort through a lot of crap to find the good stuff.

and, sometimes, i just feel like i don't need or want that much information.

last week we were visiting family in michigan and i was sort of out of touch with the interwebs, but apparently a lot was going on because when i got back i was confronted with this digital diarrhea of everything i'd missed. war. ebola. ferguson. robin williams. tony stewart. shamu is still really, really depressed. and lest we forget the ever-lovin' ice bucket challenge. (and then there's the inevitable backlash: "why is everyone and their grandma doing the ice bucket challenge and no one is discussing ISIS's beheading of an American journalist or taking a child bride? why are we crying about a rich white guy killing himself when we just lost the first general since the vietnam war? don't you people know we're in the midst of a(n) historical drought?! 'cuz, obama.")

here's the deal though. i kind of liked just hearing snippets and not being under siege by a full frontal media assault. i've never been one of those people who gets off on the morbid details of the crisis du jour. i do not understand the people who want to watch the video of some guy getting hit and killed by a race car. i do not want to see someone get their head chopped off. i do not want to view gruesome photos of dead babies in gaza. i do not want to read the front page headline that robin williams hung himself with a belt because then i will be haunted by images i created in my crazy little mind. call me an ostrich burying my head in the sand, but i actually think the internet feeding frenzy on that type of stuff is kind of sick.

i understand the arguments on the other side - we live in our nice, comfy little world and sometimes we need to be shocked out of our complacency by the reality of what's really going on. (trust me. i know what's going on. and i am shocked as hell.) i don't mean to sound callous or ignorant. but, bottom line, i just don't have a lot of room for that kind of soul-crushing stuff at this juncture in my life. seriously, like, i can be driving home thinking, "life is pretty darn alright" and then i turn on NPR and three minutes later i'm ready to drive my car straight into the ocean. most of the time, i'm just trying to get through the day, you know? trying to maintain my sanity until bedtime. trying to take care of me and mine the best i know how. trying to find a little happiness where i can - sunsets, sand, sleeping babies. bourbon and brie. and i like my little bubble. it's nice there. i think i'll stay.

(of course, i say that, and then i happen upon some insane old quote from ann coulter and i become enraged and i want to go stand on a street corner with a campaign sign for the next 3 months: "it would be a much better country if women did not vote. that is simply a fact." what. in. the. actual. fuck. . . . sigh.)

if you DO feel like some edjamakashun, here are some of the super steals from the web, amidst all the ice buckets and baloney:

glennon melton from momastery's post on suicide and depression and mental illness in light of robin williams' death. i, thankfully, am one of those people who thought, 'why?! how?! and... why?!' but i thought this was very real and raw and powerful.


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: we need to talk about Israel

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization (HBO)

and these because they're a little bit funny.

mmmkay?
(but see this article in forbes, "think the ice bucket challenge is stupid? you're wrong."
and this ("the last ice bucket challenge you need to see" from upworthy.)
and this. i wonder if patrick stewart is accepting applications for friendship?
oh and of course we can't forget the fails.)
I know what i'm doing for Halloween

you're in luck, dummy!

the end.

until later.

aaaand later is now:

have i already basically said all of this before? it's hard to keep track. i feel like i only have seven original thoughts and every single post is just a variation on one of those seven themes. i am like a 90s sit-com. (< allegedly. the only way i could know less about pop culture in general, is to have been raised on an ashram in rural connecticut.)

ps, apparently, if i actually kept up with the news, i would have seen that there is scientific research to support my theory. see this article in the new york times - how social media silences debate.


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