Into the Fray

I belong to several different online groups, especially on Facebook. They’re mostly book clubs, classic movie fan sites, and vintage photo connoisseurs. I’ve noticed that, especially in one of the vintage photography groups, people are becoming unnecessarily mean and argumentative. In this group, anyone can post pictures of anything vintage, whether it’s their family, celebrities, locations, etc. Someone posted a photo of Doc Holliday and “Big Nose Kate,” his girlfriend/wife, and there were people – you’d think it would be just men, but women as well – who jumped in to immediately say how much Kate looked like a man in a dress (she didn’t) and of course the comments spiraled out of control from there. Good grief! This Hungarian-born, frontier woman has been dead for 77 years. Let it rest.

In the same group, a controversial photo of Billy the Kid was displayed. It’s been authenticated, but some historians still have their doubts, which I won’t get into here. Still, it was as if some of the group’s members had been personally attacked or offended or perhaps had some vested interest in the origins of this photo for all the rage and insulting comments they were throwing out…directed at the photo, the original poster, as well as to those who mentioned, correctly I might add, that the photo had indeed been authenticated and even insured, controversy within the industry notwithstanding.  Nothing is as irksome as self-appointed vintage photo police.

Photos will be posted of family members and people will scream “Photoshop!” even though the photo is obviously old and photoshopping didn’t exist then. While it’s possible the photo was manipulated in the dark room all those 100’s of years ago, who the hell cares?  In any case, it’s the person’s family, so they would probably know if it was accurate or not. People will post old Victorian spirit pictures (which are well-known to be faked) and the commenters jump on those too – screaming, “fake, fake, fake!” As if no-one else had any idea and they are exposing some modern-day fraud. These Visual Vigilantes attack the original poster and anyone else who voices a positive opinion of simply liking the photo or thinking that it’s “cool,” or complimenting the dark-room work, regardless of whether it’s real or not.

Now I know the Internet, and Facebook in particular, is a breeding ground for arguments, but it has become increasingly apparent to me that people will indeed argue about anything and everything. However, it’s amazing to me that in a group that is supposed to be all about simple, innocuous, and light-hearted fun, there are those who cannot contain themselves. It’s as if they MUST be hateful, mean, and argumentative – as if they’ll implode otherwise, by containing all of that vile vitriol…like pressure-cookers left unattended. Or would they explode? Either way, it would be a big mess.

What is wrong with people that they can’t seem to find enjoyment in anything?  Perhaps arguing and being hateful are their forms of enjoyment? If so, our society is going to hell a lot faster than I originally anticipated.

 

 

Complimentary Insults

Are you familiar with “blocking” on Facebook? It’s a special filter you can set up on your profile that can, as Facebook works it, “prevent them [certain people you choose] from seeing things you post on your profile, starting conversations with you or adding you as a friend.” Normally, blocking happens when someone gets super pissed off at someone else. It’s a pretty severe move.

I can count on two fingers just how many times I’ve been blocked on Facebook, which I do like to pat myself on the back for just a little. It means I’m “playing nice” for the most part, or at least not angering others enough that they starting trying to do social media’s version of Eternal Sunshine. Overall, it’s an indicator that you like me, you really, really like me…sorry, channeling a little Sally Field there a minute. At any rate, just so you know, I can play well with others (gasp! It’s a shock, I know.) and generally endeavor to do just that.

I found out that blocking isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, though. The first person who ever blocked me was a now ex-in-law who was really better off blocked anyway. That particular instance of childlike behavior (and not on my part) made for a very welcome respite in my life that I have enjoyed ever since.

But recently, I got blocked a second time and this one isn’t going down so smoothly. Oh, I won’t dwell on it for long and the so-called punishment is not likely to change my behavior. However, it did have me shaking my head.

The person who blocked me is someone I thought I knew well – as well as you can know someone you’re only friends with online (and yes, online friends are still friends). We were more than just casual acquaintances even if our conversations were limited to text and emails. In fact, I had supported her through numerous “life is crazier than fiction” issues over the past two years.  I was there for her through a neighborhood bullying problem that got so bad she had to move out of the home she had just moved into only a few months before. I gave her a shoulder to lean on when her pets died. More importantly I stayed true to her when she was blindsided with a completely unexpected divorce.

After being there for her through all that—personal turmoil, death, the disintegration of a marriage—this person blocked me on Facebook. Do you want to know why? The reason she blocked me was over…wait for it…rehoming fees for pets.

You heard me right. Rehoming fees. I’m not using slang that you’ve never heard of. I’m talking about rehoming fees as in “an amount asked for by a pet owner or rescuer when they are adopting or readopting a pet to a home.”

Before going any further, let me say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it’s what makes the world go round. But, is it too much to ask that opinions are formed after doing a decent amount of research and communicating with experts who have been in rescue or in the field doing investigations? I’m sorry but if you’re not going to put in the effort to understand why you have a certain stance, if you’re basing your opinion on nothing more than air, you put animals at risk and that frankly, is unacceptable. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Well, you would be wrong.

You might think that because I am a) pretty passionate about animal welfare and b) able to be a teensy bit hot-headed when I’m on a good rant, that I was rude or sarcastic when arguing my case to this former friend. Fair enough. But you’ll be happy to know that that wasn’t the case in this instance.

I coolly and calmly provided my friend with verified information, links, research, and encouraged the person to write her paper — which was her intent for this whole mess — on the truth, rather than simply stick to her baseless opinion out of stubbornness. I won’t even get into the fact that she started claiming industry experts were of the same opinion as her (not saying I’m always right, but…) which was purely and simply a falsehood.  I gave her a good out, but she didn’t take it. Instead, she labeled me an “activist” of the wood boring variety (because I came out of the woodwork just to argue – ha!)  and summarily blocked me, giving me no chance to respond to her ridiculous claims. Isn’t that always the way?

And you know what, I’m okay with that. Oh, I’m not an activist.  But I don’t necessarily consider it the horrendous and belittling insult she meant it as either.  What I am is an advocate.  Hell, I’m proud to be an advocate. Her attitude towards me doesn’t change the truth or skew any of the concrete facts. She can keep her faulty beliefs and maybe one day she’ll be unable to avoid the fact that she’s telling a lie. God help the animals who get hurt in the process though.

And seriously, in hindsight, maybe this whole “being nice” thing is just too damn overrated.

 

common sense

Right Wingers

Somebody call the men with the white jackets to haul me off to the loony bin. I am certifiably insane. This is according to the rational, grounded, and downright pragmatic right-wingers who have taken to the saying “liberalism is a mental disorder.” Well, some of them anyway.

To be completely honest, if I must label myself, I guess I’d be classified as an “Independent with Liberal tendencies.” And like most of us probably do, I tend to surround myself with like-minded people. So my friends, for the most part, are left-leaning liberals or at the least “Independents.” Maybe it has to be that way…because some members of my family? Not so much.

I’ll admit, I personally find it very difficult these days to remain amicable with a certain someone who has drastically opposing political beliefs. I suppose I don’t have the patience I once had. Sure, people have always argued politics over a neighborly get together or family dinner. However it seems like in this age of social media people try to be as offensive and/or as argumentative about their political beliefs as possible. Oh, I know it’s not limited to one political party.

It’s as if these people are just begging to argue by putting up racist, sexist, homophobic or incendiary comments like the aforementioned “liberalism is a mental disorder.”  I think it’s fine for someone to have their anti-government sentiments and talk about it with other people who share their love of misogyny and assault rifles and their dream of a life in a doomsday survivalist commune somewhere deep  in the mountains of Wyoming. If someone wants to raise a Confederate flag and swear that the South will rise again that’s his or her own business. Just please don’t try to shove it in my face by forcing your views in such aggressive ways (i.e., stating that not thinking the same way is the side effect of a malfunctioning brain).

I can see doing that with strangers or people you don’t like to begin with. But family? Spouses? I mean, come on. Draw a line, people.

I have to say though; it does make me look at people differently.  I mean, I don’t care what political party you are or what issue you happen to side with – if you deliberately and very openly bait your closest friend or spouse or family member hoping to provoke a reaction solely for your own amusement or because you like to argue…there is just something wrong with you. At the very least you’re knowingly insulting them.  And that’s no better.

The Timeless Art of Debate

The timeless art of debate. At its greatest, it is a showcase of two opposing views finding mutual respect for each other’s perspectives and in the end each walks away not only swelling with pride at the affirmation of their own beliefs, but able to further understand the rationale behind their opponents differing opinions. At its worst, people call each other doody-head and stick their tongues out whenever they hear something they don’t agree with.

Oh, how I wish that second half wasn’t true. Sadly, even though that juvenile behavior is a shameful thing to see displayed amongst first graders, we adults haven’t evolved much past that either. Sure we gussy it up some and cover it in anger, but that’s all just smoke and mirrors to the reality that when we don’t get our way, some of us become assholes.

I’ve recently been noticing more and more that someone, let’s call him Joey, will start a conversation (either in person or on Facebook — that wonderful venue for open discussion) that promotes an idea that differs from what someone else, let’s call her Monica (I may have watched some Friends re-runs recently, don’t judge), believes. The back and forth starts and for some reason instead of staying civil, it turns into an all-out argument where both Joey and Monica are getting defensive and trying to cut down each other’s arguments by calling them unsubstantiated. Why can’t we all seem to remember that, hey, it’s FINE if someone believes something different from you? It’s not the end of the world people and I hate to break it to you, but what you believe is not always the only right answer.

Now, if we’re talking about a fact-based argument then it gets a little murkier, but it still boils down to the same thing: belief. Joey can substantiate his viewpoint and provide BBC links and NPR interviews and whatnot, but if it’s something Monica really doesn’t want to believe then all that “proof” doesn’t mean anything. She’ll just find her own proof or take the ace from her sleeve and point out that not everything that is printed is actually true (shocking, I know) and then we’re right at the beginning again.

I can speak from personal experience. Recently I was giving someone a little industry info that’s been gathered from years of extensive research, investigations and inside information. You know, the things I’ve seen with my own two eyes and talked about with people who were actually on-site. But I was re-buffed, doubted, and scoffed at because what I was saying hadn’t been published in the paper. “How can it be true if it’s not in the newspaper?” was the look I got in return.  Because the newspapers didn’t pick up the story it might as well have been a fairy tale.

Facts are still facts even though they don’t show up in the press. A tree still makes a sound when it falls and no one’s around to hear it.

Since when does public accessibility mean that something must be true? That’s like saying that just because Katherine Heigl has been in movies she must be a good actress. Visibility should not automatically bestow validity. Watch an episode of Friday Night Lights or Almost Human and try to tell me that Minka Kelly can act. Sure, she’s on screen but that doesn’t mean jack. Just because something can be seen doesn’t mean it should automatically be believed. Especially when dealing with the press.

So these debates keep driving and driving and driving themselves towards a cliff where both sides shut off from hearing what the other has to say. That’s when posts get deleted or comments dismissed that have anything whatsoever to do with a perspective that differs. It’s just so incredibly frustrating to talk to people who are hunkered down in their ideals and resist taking the blinders off.

Let’s really think about that metaphor. What if you actually had blinders on that only allowed you to see what’s directly in front of you? Sure, you may like what you see so why change? I get that. But think about how much you’d be missing without any peripheral vision. It’s like our mental peripheral vision is slowly going and we need to get it back before our tunnel vision steers us in the wrong direction.

nifty argument techniques

nifty argument techniques from the ever hilarious Dave Barry — sadly too many people take these ideas to heart

Political Dinners – Not for the Weak

Aaaah, a wonderful family dinner is at hand. Everyone is there, gathered around the table, raising their glasses, and basking in the warmth that can come from mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents coming together to break bread. These are special occasions where wine flows and hot food is kindly passed between generations. It’s a wonderful—wait, what did Uncle Bob just say about abortion—oh well, I’ll let it pass. Huh? Did Undergrad Nephew Drew just say what I think he did about gun control? Nevermind. Focus on the family. Focus on these rare moments when everyone I love is in—oh hell no Grandma did not just say that about Michelle Obama. I have to say something.

Does this situation sound familiar to you? It’s absolutely mind-boggling how politics can turn blushing brides and adoring grooms into Roman gladiators. Political stances have a way of worming their way into relationships and corroding them like no other. One simple statement that falls on the ears of someone who doesn’t agree and that person you look to for unconditional love in times of war and peace turns into an arch-enemy.

Worse yet is when some of these same loved ones try to bait you into arguing. They intentionally dangle that carrot in front of you, knowing exactly what buttons to push to make your internal pressure gauge slip into the red.

when politics collide

What is this affliction? I almost think it should be included in the DSM. Political Insanity Disorder or Righteous Stance Disease. Politics can turn people into Neanderthals. Or better yet, Neanderthal bulls crashing through the china shop of love. All to defend their perspectives and rarely understanding that it’s okay if not everyone agrees with them.

The most terrible part is that all this chest puffing and soap boxing is to stand up for someone they don’t even know! It’s as if their governor is closer to them than the person they supposedly love. The sad truth is that politicians…they don’t give a shit. Come on, I mean the only thing politicians care about is that you put their name on the ballot when you step into the booth. The rest of the time, they couldn’t care less about us, our situation, our family, or our well-being. For 99% of the time, we pretty much don’t exist to them…except to be used as pawns in their grappling contests for political power.

Politicians care about one person and one person only. I’ll give you three guesses as to who that might be. They certainly wouldn’t defend you to their family with the same vehemence, so why should you? Sadly, many people are willing to damage their relationships or at the least cause some seriously hard feelings with people they love…all because of the need to defend a person or group who really don’t give a damn.

So next time the steam starts to shoot out of your ears or you perhaps feel the need to instigate a politically driven frenzy within someone close to you, just try to remember that the person in front of you, the one you love, is the person who holds a special place in your life…they are the one who deserves your loyalty and care. Not some politician who doesn’t even know you exist and wouldn’t care even if they did.

I Have Political Views

artwork by Haley Wolfe — click on graphic to visit her site