Posts Tagged: understanding

Hate is not okay

HateThe internet is overflowing with stories about the Orlando shooting yesterday at Pulse, a hot nightclub in the LGBTQ community there. Like always, Americans have differing opinions about what happened and why. Was it a gay thing? Was it a religious thing? Was it ISIS related? Was the shooter mentally unstable? Was he violent on a daily basis? Would the result be different if Americans didn’t have easy access to assault rifles? Should we ban assault rifles? Should we ban Muslims? Should we ban gays? Should we ban crazy people? Would changing any one of those elements make a difference?

All of this and more, I’m sure. Personally? I vote for banning assault rifles for personal use. Because, really? In what scenario does a private person need one of those things? When you’re living through a Hollywood-style apocalypse story is the only answer that makes sense to me. But I know a lot of people who disagree and think that placing any caveat on our 2nd Amendment rights will start a fast slide down a slippery slope. So…

Hatred, though. That’s the real issue, isn’t it? Somebody hates gays. Somebody else hates Muslims. Somebody else hates the Capitalist Pigs. We hate crazy people, disabled people, people with purple hair, brown skin, that dude with an extra toe. I’m willing to bet you can find an easy handful of Americans who hate at least one thing on the vast list of EVERYthing.

What I despise most about the internet, and our insta-news culture, is how every story is promoted with click bait. This inevitably leads to the following three (problematic) story writing rules

  • The story must be dramatic.
    • Drama sells. We want to read something exciting, right? Something to get our hearts racing, something we can have an opinion about. (Speaking of opinions, read this!)
  • The material must instantly evoke a strong emotion.
    • Love and Hate. If we’re talking basic human emotions, they’re it. If we’re talking emotions that are easily manipulated? You guessed it! They’re it, too. Now, love doesn’t sell much on the news circuit, unless you count baby animals being adorable. LOVE in the news, and most of the internet, is considered fluff. Insignificant: only relevant when there’s a spare corner or extra 30 seconds to kill. HATE, though. That’s meat and potatoes shit right there. If you want to sell a story, make it something everyone has a reason to hate. They don’t even have to be the same reason. Actually, it’s better if there’s a whole list of reasons to hate a story. You hit more demographics that way.
  • The concepts must be digestible in a three second eye-scan of the page.
    • This one drives me crazy, especially when it comes to social issues. They’re never simple. Bigotry, poverty, racism, sexism, extreme religiosity, etc, etc – none of it can be explained in a meme. And if you can’t explain a problem in three seconds, there’s no way the solution is simple either. Life is complicated (even on a good day), it’s multi-faceted, short term wins frequently lead to long term disasters, and ducking our heads in order to ignore these facts is absolutely unhelpful.

What’s happening as a result of our online culture? I’ll tell you. We are becoming an overly dramatic group of people who crave hatred and answers that require little to no thought or intelligence.

Hatred, though. We respond to tragedies like what happened at Pulse with more of it. We hate the shooter. We hate his religion. We hate gays for being the easy targets that they are. We hate the NRA. We hate the media for sensationalizing the very tragedy we spend 2 1/2 hours searching google, twitter, facebook, and the rest of the internet for information about. Our elected officials (BTW, I wanted to name them elected leaders, but I can’t.) jump on the bandwagon and make statements inflaming the hatred and promising simple answers. We hate them, too.

Are you noticing a political trend here? [[shudders]]

My answer is not LOVE. That’s also the easy answer, in my opinion. All you need is love? It’s a beautiful sentiment. First comes understanding, though, because I will never love racism, but I can understand the seeds from whence it stems. Same with folks who feel a need to buy a gun to protect their home and family. I don’t love their reasoning behind it, but I can work to understand it. I will never love the urge to cause a large group of people terror or physical harm and death. But I can try to understand how a person can reach that point. My point being it is difficult and almost impossible to hate a thing that you can understand. So I will always reach for a point of understanding.

Hatred, though… Can we just stop? Can we just, please?

If you know who I can attribute this photo to, please comment!

Death is not a spectator sport

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There’s a country singer dying in the national spotlight these days, and it has me shaking my head. I’d never heard of this woman before I learned she had cancer, before she and her husband started publicizing her death. To be quite honest, this kind of publicity feels very wrong to me.

It’s not that I have no compassion for their situation. Certainly a mother’s death will forever alter her children’s lives. Obviously her husband’s life will be forever changed. But why turn this private time into a spectator sport?

I’m sure some people believe this is a great way to begin to remove the stigma of death and dying. Americans have an unhealthy fear of death. Absolutely we do. However, I don’t believe that a celebrity taking her death public will change this perception. Our fear of death is much deeper than what a reality show treatment of the subject will fix. But she looks so pretty cuddling her child on her death bed. Of course she does. Those pictures are intended to be splashed all over the internet. She has to worry about looking pretty if that’s going to happen. Sorry folks, but if I’m worried about how I look while I’m dying then I feel like I will have failed at living. And yes, I understand that’s only my personal perspective, and there are a whole rainbow of others. My point is that the frivolity of looking pretty for the cameras at that time in my life sounds sad and ridiculous to me.

Others seem to believe that going public about death is an incredibly brave thing to do. I have a BIG problem with that. I used to be a hospice nurse. One lesson I learned during that time is that there are as many ways of dying as there are fingerprints. They are are real and valid ways to die. Some are calm and quiet, others are loud and confused, still others are ugly, and hurtful words are thrown around. Some deaths are awful to watch and some seem like the most natural passage from one stage of life to another. It’s hard to know what death will be like until it comes.

Still, is it brave to die publicly? Bravery is facing your fear and doing it anyway. So how is death brave? We don’t have a choice about it. Death doesn’t care. So this singer has found peace. That’s a wonderful thing for her and her family. But why should that make her story news? Many people struggle to find that peace until the day they die. Some may never get there and I guess that’s my biggest issue with this whole thing.

To me, it feels mean and hurtful to raise up one person’s death, above all others, to call it brave. Because if I die gnashing my teeth and cursing, will you dare to call me coward?

Birth and death are flip sides of the same coin. The act of birthing is anything but easy or beautiful. It’s painful and messy. It’s physically difficult. Death is the same. It’s hard and it’s heart wrenching. It changes those who witness it. But, please. It’s not brave. It just is. And settling with that in your heart is so much more important than looking pretty.

Momentary Lapses

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Have you ever blown a really important conversational moment? I have. I did it just the other day, as a matter of fact. I always feel terrible when that happens; probably worse than is actually warranted, but I carry that shit with me.

The other day, the conversation was me attempting to convey my condolences. I told an acquaintance how sorry I was that her Gran had passed away. Then I told her, “It gets easier.”

And that was my mistake.

No, it’s not a giant mistake and it wasn’t offensive, but it was trite and conveyed my intention in the smallest possible way that I’m embarrassed those words came out of my mouth. Because here’s the thing: It really doesn’t get easier. It’s never easy, any moment you remember that you’ll never get a chance to talk to or bump shoulders with or smell the particular scent of someone you love, those moments are always filled with sadness.

What I should have said, and would still if I could have a do-over, is that it gets less raw. That’s the real truth of it. Loss isn’t easy and it really shouldn’t ever be an easy thing to miss someone we love dearly. But it should become less raw, and thankfully it usually does.

Less raw? Yes. When you first lose someone, whether it’s from a death or from a divorce or a simple act of relocation, it leaves a ragged hole. It’s sore and throbbing and probably even bleeds a little bit, sort of like when you lose a tooth as a kid. But then a day comes, down the line, when you forget about the loss, so you poke your tongue into the empty space left there. And you forget because it’s not raw anymore. And maybe you can breathe a small sigh of relief.

So, here’s what I wish I would have said, in that conversation: I’m so sorry your gran passed away. I know you miss her and you always will, but I promise it won’t always feel so raw. One day it’ll feel good again to remember those times you shared together, whether they’re great times or completely ordinary ones. Until then just be gentle with yourself, your gran would have wanted it that way. And that part, luckily, will never change.

My Facebook addiction

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Don’t get me wrong, addiction is no joke. I have dear friends and relatives who have suffered with/through/around addiction and I know the heartache and struggles addiction brings with it. If you have or know someone with an addiction, get help! Start with a simple google search, like I did for this post, on “overcoming addiction” and go from there.

The rest of this post is not intended to be quite as heavy as life threatening addictions can be – it’s more a self-lament and, hopefully, step toward freedom.

I am a Facebook addict. Really. Checking Facebook is one of the first things I do in the morning and last things I do before bed at night. When I’m bored I’m most likely to grab my phone and tap that app, that beautiful, giant blue F. But I hate it, generally. I really do.

Everyone has an opinion about everything, but  more and more frequently those “opinions” are no more than a bashing of the opposition. That’s not helpful, nor does it further any sort of intelligent discourse. Then there are the cute dog videos and kitty pictures – I’ve been guilty of posting my share, plus a few of my adorable bearded dragons – these are mind-numbingly redundant; likewise baby pictures. I understand you’re newest bundle of joy just simultaneously turned 268 days old and spit up a Picasso-esque clot of pureed vegetables, but  we saw the same picture three times last week. Oh dear, the reposts, the political angst, the stupid memes!

I’m trapped, though. I am a co-conspirator to all things evil in social media and I hate myself every time I log in. So, it’s time that I figure my way out of it. Of course I started with some research about addiction.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is, in short, “an inability to consistently abstain” from a given substance, behavior, or activity. And by that definition, I am, indeed, a Facebook addict. I have gone so far as to delete the Facebook app from my phone, only to find myself logging in over Safari. In case you’re shaking your head, it’s okay. I am, too. I found some helpful information, though, when I searched the term “overcoming addiction.”

The top 10 google results included a few Christian-based advice sites, an article in Psychology Today, advice from Dr. Phil, and even a 13 Step wikiHow article. There was even a link to advice for beating your addiction to pornography… I chose not to click on that one. I’m no prude, but I’d rather not have that come up on my list of visited sites if the NSA ever takes an interest in my internet activities.

I’ll jump into the variety of advice with Dr. Phil. He’s a big advocate of self-assessment when it comes to addiction. One helpful question I found on his list was “What are you using your addiction to avoid?” Well that’s a loaded question, now isn’t it? My guess is most addicts aren’t prepared to answer such a question without a little coaxing. In turn, you may see my analysis of the question as a direct avoidance of answering it. And you would be correct. The truth? When I sit down and scroll through post after post of Facebook fluff, I’m avoiding my writing. I have some hangups about my writing and Facebook lets me ignore them. It also gives me a place to write silly little blurbs about some of the things that I really give a damn about, AKA the things that I should be turning into blog posts or articles or books. So yeah, it’s a place to hide from my fears.

There, I said it. And the Psychology Today article “Overcoming Addiction” reinforced that point for me when it advised that “the awareness of the relationship between addiction and symptoms of … anxiety is essential.” The more anxious I get the more likely I am to partake in my addicting behavior? Well now that’s a pattern I’ve seen before.

One of the more interesting revelations I had during my research was a kinship with the advice of Joyce Meyer on the Christian Post site: “True freedom is knowing who we are in Christ and that we are valuable because Jesus died for us.” Without delving too deeply into religious territory, I’ll rewrite that statement the way it sounded in my head – “True freedom is knowing who we are and that we are valuable.” To be brief, I am too much of a skeptic to be a good Christian (or any other structured religion) believer. Here’s the kicker for me: toward the end of the article this statement appeared, “Don’t try to do anything without praying.” I know prayer gives a lot of people strength and direction, but I’ve never found that, so I’m not a subscriber. Plus, I happen to believe that as I grow and improve as a person I am capable of what I put my mind to. Which is not to say I have any issue with those who are fervent believers. I like the gist of that quote, though. Having a deep understanding of ourselves and an equally deep trust that we each have our own intrinsic value is unquestionably important. Also, I’m pleased to know I appreciate good advice no matter whether I agree with its context.

Of course, there were some repeating themes, like, “the hardest part is deciding to change,” or “admitting you have a problem is the first step. ” True, but not very helpful in a practical way. wikiHow had some good advice in it’s 13 Steps. For example, “brainstorm a list of all the negative side effects” and “make a list of positive changes.” I like those. They’re good action items (for those of you in the corporate world, or up on the Top Ten Hippest Business Buzzwords).

One reassuring finding is that addiction has a genetic link. So when I claim to have an addictive personality, the Harvard Health article on overcoming addiction supports me in my belief. Why is that reassuring? Because what I’ve seen over and over again in my own family is this: addictive behavior isn’t the problem, truly. The problem lies in what you become addicted to and how that choice affects your life. There are far worse things to be addicted to than Facebook, to be sure, but I’d prefer to be addicted to my writing. That’s an especially helpful perspective to have since another recurring theme was finding other activities to replace or distract from the addiction you’re trying to break. I like the idea that the end result of my replacement behavior is the creation of new, never seen before material. Whether it’s good or bad is beside the point. To have spent my time in the research and then creation of a piece of written work that slakes my curiosity should prove to broaden me as a person. And that, ultimately, is what I’m looking for – to learn about life and my unique place in it. Is there any better reason to break an addiction than that?