Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hey Facebook friend, you suck!

My wife asked me the question last night, "Is it just my imagination, or are people getting angrier on Facebook?"

To my credit, I didn't say "Of course not, stupid head.  What kind of dumb question is that?"  Instead I thought about it.  And we talked.  And we discussed the past week I thought back and the troubling response to two of the most important news stories of the past year.  

One was the Aurora shooting, and the other Chick Fil A's founder coming out against gay marriage.  

Please know I'm not making light of the Aurora shooting, but I found it interesting that the two things that got my blood boiling were the death and injury of dozens on one hand, and a guy who makes chicken sandwiches telling me more than I really want to know about his opinion on a subject.  

For the record, I'm not anti-gun, but I do think there is a place for discussion of possible limits and or tighter regulation of certain types of firearms and ammo.   And I think Chick Fil A has well staffed friendly restaurants that serve a great product, but find Dan Cathy's misguided and sad, and Chick Fil A's reaction to them an exercise in horrid PR.  

Of course, these were not the kind of statements that wound up on Facebook.   The Aurora shootings sparked a series of e-cards, photos, and postings that drew lines in the sand on the gun control debate.    The Chick Fil A postings trashed Cathy, his company, and his religion in the basest of terms, or made it clear that eating a Chick Fil A sandwich was the clearest way to make a stand against "godless liberals."    

And so I posted posts of my own, and responded with anger to the posts of others.   And I felt good for about five minutes.  

But I also had thought the same thoughts as my wife.   Is the Internet getting angrier?   Am I getting angrier?   Why is that?   Some of my rantings were on the posts of friends that I've had for a long time.   These were people I like and respect, and with whom I've had wonderful conversations in the past.

I think I've figured it out.  

Facebook and other social media allows us a freedom most of us have never had.   It allows us to get our beliefs and thoughts out in their entirety when WE want to.   We feel safer in that we find others around us with the same beliefs and we enjoy the fact that we can say everything we possibly need to say without interruption.  

But when we do say these things, we forget that others don't necessarily want to hear them.   The topic is in their face whether they want it or not.   And our primitive instincts of fight or flight kick in.   We can ignore you, unfriend you, leave Facebook, or we can take you on.  

I suspect that the feeling that the Internet has become angrier is because those who are smart have taken flight.   Those of us who remain are the angry ones who just enjoy the fight.  

While there is nothing wrong with sharing your views, even strong ones, we lose the verbal and visual cues that serve us well during a conversation.    When we talk face to face about something, we can read a room before we introduce a topic into discussion, and we are forced to confront a very real reality that doesn't exist on the Internet, you have to shut up at some point.  

Think about it.  If you're talking about something controversial in person, eventually the other person(s) involved will get a word in and you'll have to listen.  If you shut up and listen, they'll likely punch you in the nose or walk away.  

You also are forced to see and hear the cues that reflect the conversation is offending someone, hurting someone's feelings, or is simply too heated.    You see the person in front of you, and realize that they're someone not much different from you, and not simply an anonymous entry in an online world of oversharing.  

I say all this knowing I've done my part to lower the bar in online conversations.   I know my anger has bled through into situations where I should have kept my mouth shut.  But I'm realizing that all of this anger and strong reactions really has no good impact.    People who love guns are not going to hear my side if I post a snippy picture.   Dan Cathy isn't going to suddenly embrace gay marriage if I grab another guy and kiss him in a Chick Fil A.     All any of this anger and conflict does is reinforce the idea that we're right and the angry guy across the computer screen is wrong.   And none of it is good for the blood pressure.  

So think about what your mom used to say, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

And if you don't agree with me than you're a jer......  Ummm.  That's okay too.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Job Creators"

One of the primary talking points of the past several years for the GOP has been that Democratic taxes and policies hurt the "job creators".    These people are apparently the wealthy among us, or at least the businessmen and business women who would be more than willing to hire everyone if only their taxes (or threat of taxes) weren't so high.  

But let's think about that for a second.    Think back to the 2000s.   Or even the 1990s.   

How often have you called or chatted with customer service for a company and been transferred to someone with a thick accent named "Eddie"?    When you do call, do you reach Eddie right away? Do you have to wade through an automated system?   Do you get encouraged to visit a website?  

How often have you visited a store and easily been able to find someone to help you?   Even in one of the country's biggest employers, Walmart. 

When was the last time you picked up a piece of clothing, electronics, appliance or housewares that said "Made in the USA" on it?   

People are an expense.    American people are a bigger expense.    They are a "cost center", not a "profit center."   While I don't doubt that there is a sense of patriotism in most American CEOs, the reality is that most look toward maximizing profits in ways that don't favor creating jobs in this country.     Even in the best of times corporate leaders are looking for ways to cut costs.   If they can move a job overseas or better yet, eliminate it altogether, they will.    Sure, there are always exceptions,  but in a day when the short term Wall Street health of a company overrides any sense of duty, or even long term sustainability, the people that the GOP likes to call "job creators" will always be "profit creators" first.  


Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Leaning Tower of SCOTUS

I'm convinced that my civics class was bogus.  Back in the '80s when I was taking the class in Middle School, I distinctly remember that Supreme Court Justices were appointed for their tremendous judicial expertise to make rulings on court cases that make it to the highest court in the land.    These rulings were to weigh the laws and issues of the land against our constitution and legal precedent and to help better interpret these rules for society.   

I distinctly remember getting the impression that among these men (and later women) were some of the finest legal minds of our day.   They were chosen for life and were to bring an impartiality to the proceedings.      

Fast forward 30 years, and we're shocked, SHOCKED! that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States has decided in favor of the affordable care act because of our knowledge of his political leanings.     That great legal scholar Ted Nugent has called Chief Justice Roberts a "turncoat", while great defender of the constitution, Rand Paul has insisted "just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so."  

To me, the most shocked or surprising thing isn't how Chief Justice Roberts ruled, but that we're shocked by it at all.   

After all, what good is a Supreme Court if we can say with great certainty how certain justices might rule on an issue?   Is it the job of a member of the Supreme Court to have a rigid worldview that colors their decision based solely on their political leanings?  Do we benefit from a court that is essentially as stacked as our legislative bodies wind up being?    Should we be happy at the politicization of what is probably the most important check on the powers of our President and Congress?   Should we not hold the members of the court and the process that picks them up to a higher standard?   

Nobody can truly know the motives of John Roberts here except for John Roberts.  Is it possible that Roberts for once has put the duties of the court over the duties of his alleged political leanings?   Is there some sinister back door reason that he ruled this way?   And most importantly, wouldn't it be great if people from both sides of the aisle could respect a Supreme Court decision on the merits discussed within rather than weighing in based on how far left or right you believe a justice sits?   

I know I'm a dreamer, but I'd love to see our Presidents, Congress, and pundits and politicians start focusing for the need for integrity and deep thinking within the Supreme Court.    I'd love for my daughter to grow up in a world where the decision is much more important news than the political leanings of the justice that made it.