Civility Redux.

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We leave this tiny blue dot to small hands. Let’s keep that in our thoughts and actions. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Let us talk you and I. Let us sit and converse about a subject of our choosing. One that maybe we differ on opinion. We may raise our voices, we may shout with glee, and laugh or giggle at our comments. We may get serious, may glower at each others points, wave a dismissive hand.

Yet, we will not make it personal. It will not spiral into name calling, or shouting in anger with our faces red and spittle flying from our mouths. We will not threaten each other with bodily harm. We will not seek vengeance against opinions that differ from ours.

Because in our discussion? All points are welcomed. The silly, the insane, the humble, the thoughtful. We are ignorant, and being ignorant? Is a good thing.

Ignorance is lack of knowledge. Everyone is ignorance on one thing or another. It’s part of being human. We can’t know everything, even those of us who are well versed on many subjects will admit their ignorance on a subject they know little to nothing about.

One thing that defines a good conversationalist, is knowing their ignorance, and doing something about it. Listening to others points of views, then doing a little research to find out more about the subject. Then the conversation can begin anew, with more detail to discuss the point.

On the opposite end of ignorance is stubbornness. Those that stick to a point despite evidence to the contrary. On opinions? This is fine. This is your opinion. Have at it. Yet on those subjects based upon facts and knowledge? The easiest way to deal with those that remain stubborn on the subject it is to remember the line from Max Ehrmann’s poem, Desiderata.

“Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.”

And with a smile and nod, bow out of the conversation. For it is better to let the conversation die than to argue with a fool. That fool being you, who is arguing with someone who will not see reason. We’ve seemed to have lost this train of thought in the social media age.

On Social Media.

If for some reason you believe the current troubles with civility are new, sorry, history is not on that side of the argument. Ancient Egyptian artist use to draw very unflattering pictures of their bosses to show their displeasure. Ancient Greeks and Romans wrote nasty, but very witty, comments about those who displeased them. When the printing press came along, that just upped the game. Pamphlets and even books were dedicated to tearing down ones foes. And let us not forget one of the most famous smack down letters, The Declaration of Independence, which, when it comes down to it, was a ‘stick it’ letter to King George III of England.

Yet with the advent of social media, our desire to shame those we do not agree with, to slam those who have different opinions has reached new heights. Gone are the days when you had to wait for the printing press. Now, the simple touch of the ‘Enter’ key will suffice.

Social Media is just a tool, it is not the cause of uncivil behavior, just the enabler. You can hide behind a false name, a fake account, and lash out at those you disagree with. Things can be said that you would probably never say to someone’s face in person. You may not even know the person. Personal attacks are rampant, with the full knowledge that accountability is not there.

Those who seek popularity or attention from social media can be the targets of the most vicious attacks. With horrible consequences as stories of online bullying and suicides from social media attacks grow.

The issue, is simple. It’s fast and numerous. Back in the day, bullying was only done by a small group, at school, the neighborhood, or work. It was more personal too, you knew your attackers. Unfavorable as it was, you could avoid those bullies. Now? They come from all over, nameless, faceless voices over the internet. While you may have had five to ten bullies at school, now there are hundreds who pile on you.

Of course Politics are going to enter this conversation.  

(Full disclosure: I love politics.)

In the United States of America politics are nearly a sport. We have our sides, many of us root for our team as we oppose the other side. It gets heated, and this is not new at all. Over our history we have had some doozy of arguments in the realm of politics. Many with disastrous consequences. In truth, the lack of civility in politics is common. Yet as of late, it has spilled over from the usual ‘rooting for our team’.

Enter the world of social media. President Obama was really the first social media president, and he was pummeled many times on social media, most stories were exaggerated claims to make him look like a tyrant.

Social media existed prior to 2009, but really took off during the Obama presidency. When President Trump came along in 2013, social media was in full swing. And things got weird quick.

So, if the other side won, do you think social media would be kind to President Hillary Clinton? Probably not. This begs the question, what will become of our next President? President 46? Will they get a pass on social media? Or will erroneous stories abound? I think if the trend continues, the next President is going to be tar and feathered every day they are in office, probably even after they leave office. In politics, civility is not just lacking, nor dead, but a zombie horde that hungers for brains of the masses.

Our Conversation. 

Let us talk you and I, but let us avoid those subjects that might cause our stubborn sides to come out. So, we will not talk politics, we will not discuss climate change, nor shall we immigration. And, for the love of God, we will not discuss plastic straws. We shall not converse about Monsanto, nor abortion. Let us…well, let’s just not talk at all shall we? We shall not discuss those things that matter, those things that need our attention. Because we can’t talk. We can post memes to show our dissatisfaction. We can go on our Senators and Representatives Facebook pages and call them names. Saying vile things and even making personal threats. Because they aren’t human are they? They lack feeling and compassion because they have a different opinion than ours. We’ve become the zombies, and they have become the tasty treat for us. We do not offer our opinion, or a solutions or ideas. We offer contempt, hatred and damnation. How dare they, whoever they are, have a different opinion than ours.

Discussion is dying, and not a slow death, a quick one.

This is the price we pay for being uncivil. We shut down discussion and discourse. We stop the exchange of ideas and thus turn our ignorance into stubbornness. We are slowly killing ourselves because it is more entertaining to be snarky than it is to offer solutions.

And finally

On social media I came across a cartoon. The cartoon was about a jeopardy style show where the correct answer was wrong because it offended another player. A social commentary on how our culture is changing. Honestly? Sometime being offended by other’s opinions is a good thing. It makes your defend your opinion. As long as it is done in a civil manner, there is nothing wrong with it. So, I leave you with my answer to the post:

Offend Me.

Tell me I am wrong. I want you to articulate your argument so it challenges my status quo.

Never shy away from an argument (good discussion). Don’t be afraid to make your point.

I will not learn from stodgy ideas I have accumulated over these 55 years on this world. I will only learn when others challenge my point of view. And have me defend my views.

Be Nice. Be Courteous. Understand not everyone shares your views or opinions. Don’t succumb to pettiness and name calling.

Rise above that.

Challenge Me. ALWAYS.

 

Of course, this post is just my opinion. Tell me yours.

 

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A little Fake News is good for the soul.

If of course, you believe in that stuff.

 

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Grandma certainly does have big eyes, and dog breath. / Gustave Dore – Wikicommons

 

I saw a post on Facebook fishing for followers. Can’t say I blame them, if you are in the blogging/media world you want followers. So you drop a snazzy headline, jazz up the article/video and wait for the fish to bite.

Of course, I bit. The headline was “How to spot Fake News”, with an emphasis on fake articles from the 2016 United States Presidential election. The Russian influence.

This article actually disappointed me. Not because it was about politics, and how the Russians used Facebook post to Fake News, but because that was all they talked about. As if the political aspects of Fake News are the most important aspects.

Yeah, well, of course it is important. You can argue the case that political Fake News is damning and hurts a nation. But what about all the other fake news? You know, the stuff people rarely even bat an eye at that it might be fake?

There is a name for that type of fake news, dozens of books, movies, t.v. shows, all that very popular stuff.

Folklore.

Or urban myths, tall tales, or jocular tales to entertain, and sometimes scare the bejesus out of you.

Some stories are meant to anger you, work on your emotions, and get you mad enough to do action.

Like this one below, meant to have you boycott Pizza Hut. A quick google search and you’ll find the story is a hoax meant to illicit anger and resentment. Nothing in the post is true, not even the owner of the post.

 

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This tale is meant to incite anger. / KidZond.

 

Years ago you would hear these stories by word of mouth, then came along email, and finally, social media.

The surprise of these stories is not their absurdity, nor how well they take a truth and twist it, but how eagerly people are ready to believe it. Many of us do, I have bought into some. It happens folks.

See this one below? Seems like a wonderful idea. And guess what? It actually works! But…yes, there is always a ‘but’ with these, this is not the 10-14 hour version. This is light it, and probably burn up really quick version. As the fire will go up the feeder logs before they can roll into the pit. In other words, you’re creating a bonfire in the form of a ‘V’.

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Now a real version of a self feeding fire pit does exist, but it takes a lot of hard work and skill to build. Knowledge and a bit of elbow grease to get it to work.

This? Is not it.

It is however, a self feeding fire pit. So while the picture doesn’t lie, it neglects to tell you the outcome. You are supposed to be able to ‘set it, and forget it’. Instead you will probably need the garden hose to put it out before you ever get a chance to truly enjoy it.

If of course, you believe in that stuff…

 

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Of course the worst Fake News out there are the medical claims. This fruit will cause (or cure!) cancer, diabetes, scurvy, kuru and possibly, if you are lucky, improve your sex life.

90% of us just make a sour face and scroll on. Then there are those posts, like the one above, that put you at risk if you follow their advice. Snazzy graphics and sketchy statistics lure you in.

Consider the current situation in the United States. There is a flu outbreak, it is all over the news. Two strains are being talked about, some 37 deaths reported so far. People are concerned and rightly so. The Flu is a dangerous thing.

Most of those who have not already gotten a shot, would be thinking, about now is a good time to get one. Then, while scrolling down on their Facebook feed, they run across something like the screen capture above.

That’s when it falls upon the individual to figure out what is what. Is this serious? Are those facts true? Wow, what in the heck have we been doing to ourselves all these years! Why would anyone EVER get a Flu shot?!

50 Million.  

That is the number of people who died from the Spanish Flu. That happened a 100 years ago, the outbreak started in 1918.

Some 500 million people, or about a third of the world’s population at that time, became infected with the Spanish Flu. It was devastating.

Consider this. The CDC estimates some 291,000 to 646,000 die of seasonal Flu outbreaks world-wide in modern times, some 100 years after the Spanish Flu outbreak. Also consider that the vaccine for the flu is readily available in most developed nations.

Kind of shoots the hell out of the idea that vaccination is a bad thing doesn’t it? Yeah, sure, we’re talking a 100 years time, a particular nasty outbreak in 1918, no guarantee that another nasty outbreak will not occur in the future. Yet…

Do you really think not getting a vaccine is the best route? That vaccines do not matter? What about Polio? Small Pox? Measles?

This type of fake news preys upon those with a predisposed bias. Those who are wary of shots, doctors, medicines and well, the government.

Now, before you write off this Fake News, take a look at the bottom of the above photo. This is my screen capture. At the time I did this 1.1 million had viewed it. 32,000 had shared it. How many believed it?

Little Red Riding Hood was tricked by the Wolf, she was saved by the handy axe-wielding Woodsman. Snopes will help, but having a skeptical mind and good research skills will help you in this social media age.

Folklores of old usually had a ‘Moral of the Story’ part. As in, don’t walk in the woods alone. Never talk to strangers, be mindful of your surroundings. These were stories that taught children that the world is full of deceit. Best to be mindful.

I told my eldest two folktales throughout their childhood. I tell my youngest two these tales also. I feel these tales have lessons we have seemed to have forgotten in this day and age. As we plod along on social media, absorbing story after story, and our children are right behind us. Now is a good time to harken back to those old tales, to read them, and to listen to the moral of the story.

Good lessons in this day and age of Fake News.

 

Further reading and sources used in this blog.

[All opinions expressed in this blog are the authors alone. Unless the Reptilian Overlords have taken over my mind.]
https://www.snopes.com/search/
https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/how-to/a19409/this-self-feeding-campfire-will-burn-all-night/
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm
http://www.history.com/topics/1918-flu-pandemic

 

Millennials and their love of Net Neutrality.

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Photo by Rama. Wikipedia Commons.

 

Have to admit it, getting older has its perks. The biggest perk is what my father used to say to me all the time when I did something stupid.

“I’m not smarter than you, I’ve just lived longer and experienced more.”

Which, to my chagrin, was true. Enter a point I was trying to make to a group of Millennials this week on Facebook. The subject? Net Neutrality. To this up and coming generation, it is the end of the world. Big corporations are now going to ruin the internet with fees for every click.

(I probably will owe Google/ Comcast/ and Joe’s ISP Services a few hundred by the end of this post.)

While I could argue the pros and cons of Net Neutrality in this blog post, I would rather concentrate on the Millennials reactions, here are the highlights:

I was called stupid.

I was called a Rich Repugnant (I assume Republican)

I was called ‘tinfoil hat wearing Nostradamus’ (My personal favorite)

And incoherent.

I will give them credit at insults and tear downs. By far, they are superior to my abilities. Which was sort of my point in the back and forth. I was in their territory.

Consider the stylish computer at the top of this article. I learned about computers on one of these in my Senior year of High School…back in 1982. It ran on DOS, and only DOS. My smartphone can do more than that old personal computer. Yet at the time? It was cutting edge.

As a Baby Boomer I grew up with 3 network channels, newspapers and the radio. Research meant going to the library. A lot of time and effort had to be put into knowledge. In my childhood, and even into my twenties, the world was a very small place. You learned patience, not because you wanted to be patient, but you had to be.

Want those pictures of a night out with friends? Take them to a little booth in the parking lot of the nearest K-Mart and drop off your film. Come back in a couple of days and pick up your prints. Oh, you are going to have to drive over to your friend’s place to show them. Mail a print if they were visiting from out-of-town. Hopefully your finger wasn’t on the lens, retakes and do overs didn’t happen back then. The inventors of Instagram weren’t even born yet.

So, am I another older generation whining about the softer younger generation?

No. I am not.

I love this day and age. This to me? Is just flipping awesome. You have no idea, unless you are of my age or older. Even Generation Xers can’t really relate. They had Cable and Atari games. For me, and many of my Baby Boomer friends and relatives, this is an amazing time to be alive. It is the capability to have knowledge at the tip of my fingers that still gets me. I so dearly wish I grew up with this technology.

However, if I did, would I have as deep of an appreciation for it as I do now? Doubtful. I never appreciated indoor plumbing. Never thought much about the automobiles my parents had when I grew up. Color Television was cool when we got ours. Yet we always had a television in my house (B&W T.V.’s were very common up until the 80’s). My parents, even with T.V.’s, still listen to the radio often.

There are many things I grew up with that I took for granted. My parents thought they were marvels. My grandparents were even more in awe by modern inventions. Then again, they thought my parents were soft. Guess when you remember when automobiles first came out, and you didn’t have to hitch up the horses to the wagon to go to town, those who grew up with automobiles would be ‘soft’.

Millennials, and I have two of them myself, grew up with immediacy. The world was at their fingertips almost at their beginnings. Oh, they remember flip phones, and when smartphones came out. Most, however, can’t ever remember not being around computers. If not at home, certainly in school. This is a generation that has grown up with the internet, everything that has the utmost meaning to them came from the internet. They connect with friends via the internet, they find love through it, they find causes to believe in. It has, by default, become their Sacred Sanctuary.

My little ‘argument’ on the Facebook post was a little experiment into the psychology of Millennials. While I am not a professional in mental health, I am a curious person. I purposely found ways to politely antagonize those Millennials into defending Net Neutrality. While I made some good points, I have a confession.

I really don’t know squat about Net Neutrality. Just a tidbit here and there. And honestly? I am not that concerned. I do not believe my internet bill is going to skyrocket. Nor do I believe innovation will be crushed by corporate giants. Sorry Millennials, I have been around too long. I’ve seen this before, and I can promise you, you will see it again.

What I do believe is that Millennials see Net Neutrality as more than a cause du jour. This is tantamount to Tipper Gore’s desire to ban Heavy Metal, or banning the Beatles Music from radio play. The internet is their “Everything” and those who dare to curb it, charge for it, or defy it, they…well they will face the wrath of a Generation.

Bad Word.

curse words kz

By Js Kendrick

 

Do you say bad words? I do. I do my best not to let those words fly in improper places, but on occasion it happens.

On my local news feed was a NBC story (A Today Story) about a woman who thinks it is fine to curse around her children. And you know the internet loves a good story. So guess what was trending? Some 67% of all respondents to the Today article believe you shouldn’t curse in front of children.

But it got me thinking. Cursing is called ‘Bad Words’ in my household. Bad words are a little paradoxical to me. A majority of my bad words wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow of the local pastor. I of course use euphemisms. Honestly I use really bland euphemisms.

That doesn’t fly with my youngest two children. Alexis and her younger brother Nick, don’t let me get away with it.

“Bad word Daddy.” I will hear Alexis say chiding me.

“Seriously? Flipping is bad?” I ask puzzled.

“Yes.” Nick will say in agreement.

I guess I shouldn’t be upset, they’re actually agreeing for once. Yet ‘flipping’ is my harshest euphemism. Dumb, Stupid, Idiotic…they weren’t too sure on that last one, but they caught the inference. Those words get me into far more trouble. They of course, understand the meaning behind them, however context still eludes them.

Cursing, even euphemisms, at children is never acceptable. Even the mother who thinks that cursing in front of children is okay agrees with that point. Most adults do not react well to being cursed at, especially if they are driving down the road weaving all over the place as they text and you are just trying to remind them they only get one lane at a time.

 

“Curse words are used by people of lower intelligence, because they can’t articulate properly” – My Father.

 

That is how I grew up. My father was from the Greatest Generation (you know those guys from Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor?). He was very stern about cussing. We weren’t allowed, and if we did, well we got a lecture. But my brother asked me a question not too long ago.

“Hey did you ever go to work with dad?” He asked. “Did you hear his mouth?!” leaning forward for emphasis. I smiled at this memory.

“Yeah, I went to work with him when I was 12, that was interesting, I think I learned more curse words that day that I ever knew existed!” I said to my brother. We both died laughing.

Yet it was the truth. The man who told us that cussing showed that you had a lower intelligence, could make a sailor grab his dictionary of ‘Curse Words and Other Sailor Profanities’ and flip through it quickly to keep up with him. Only at work. I never heard him curse at home. Basically, my father was a hypocrite when it came to cussing.

[Editors note: United States Navy personnel do not have such a book.]

Cursing for me was always tricky. For years I worked in an industry that profanity wouldn’t go over well, we typically had customers come through our shop, so cussing at my work project usually went over poorly. Customers frowned upon that sort of thing. Especially if it was their project you happened to be working on.

Now I work in the trucking industry. Basically truckers own the rights to ‘Curse Words and Other Sailor Profanities’. It’s almost a second language to us. Coming home from work I have to shift gears, on occasion I miss a gear. (Trucking Joke there).

[Editors note: Truck Drivers do have such a book.]  (okay, no we don’t.)

I do my best, but on occasion a bad word slips out. Usually it involves pain, fast, unexpected pain. And I get the look.

“Daddy you said a bad word.” I am told.

“Yeah sorry, but I just cut off my leg with this axe.” I say in my defense.

“Still a bad word, Mommy! Daddy’s bleeding on the floor, can you get a band-aid?” I hear.

[Editors note: That didn’t happen.]

But you get the point, bad words are not allowed in my house. Except when their older sisters come over. My little ones say nothing as their older sister engage in foul language. I tap it down when it gets a little out of hand. Yet there are the looks, then I hear about it after their big sisters leave.

Oddly enough, well I guess so far, I have not heard little repeaters. Alexis and Nick will overhear those words, yet never repeat. Actually the answer to cursing at home or not to curse at home has little to do with the words. It has to do with how you accept and deal with the words. It comes down to your own households moral compass. Even if they are said, and you let it be know it is improper, kids will pick up on that. If you find it totally acceptable well…you’re going to hear it. That doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen. Trust me on this, your child will curse at one point. You may or may not hear it, but it will happen.

As for the article and the trend du jour I have the answer that my brother always uses. They aren’t my children. I have my own to worry about. While the internet and social media debate this topic, I have to deal with the word ‘Poop’.

[Editors note: Poop for some reason is not considered a Bad Word in my house, it’s just too flipping silly.]

 

 

For those interested, here is the original Today article.

http://www.today.com/parents/mom-says-it-s-fine-curse-front-your-children-t113761?cid=sm_npd_td_fb_ma

Is that a butt?

Alexis Self Portrait

Alexis, Self Portrait.

By Js Kendrick

 

So…I came across a butt tonight. Kind of took me by surprise actually. I had originally planned to write about kids asking those “Why is the sky blue?” questions, had a funny story about my second oldest, Kayla, when she was about 8 asking me where blood came from (specifically where did it originally come from. Bone marrow, apparently, was not the answer). I had a cute angle and all. Needed a picture to go with it. So I searched my photos.

That was a mistake.

“Whoa wait! Is that a butt? Are you bleeping serious?!” I said to my laptop as I looked at the picture. My laptop didn’t answer me, just sat there on my kitchen table, showing me the incriminating evidence. I had to cock my head sideways to make sure I wasn’t overreacting. No, it was a butt.

This wasn’t a cute butt, nor a sexy butt, not even a famous butt. It was a blurry butt of my daughter Alexis. Taken a good year or so back. I have a hunch she had help from a certain little brother. That or she understands my phone better than I do, which wouldn’t shock me either.

This butt must go!

Of course I deleted it, noting the message popping up warned me it would be deleted off my cloud too. You’re darn right I want it off the cloud! ‘Click’ / Delete.

Then I scoured the endless photos I have. I have quite a few photos, no, I have zillions. Quite a few of them blurry and well of very odd and artistic angles. Mostly close-ups of my younger children. Some of stuffed animals and of course of our two cats and dog.

I didn’t take those pictures. Yet I looked at them. I wondered.

[Cue Gears Grinding in my head].

“So…they take my phone to play games, then take pictures, make silly videos, and this stuff is synched with my cloud, which is synched to my laptop…”

I had blurry butt pictures. They are getting smarter. This is a major issue with children, the older they get, the smarted they seem to get. Damnit.

“So what will they do next? Start uploading pictures to the web? Um, can they do that? Not sure I could.” My brow furrowed. The gears ground to a halt.

Okay I’m pretty sure I am safe for now. They do have tablets, yet we of course put blockers on them. Even on my phone, for say YouTube. And we try to keep on top of it, but yeah, they are getting smarter. So…yeah, going to have to figure it out.

This is not my fathers camera. My dad had a Polaroid. It used film. If I took a picture I used film, that was found out. That went over…poorly.

Now, I can take as many pictures as I want on my phone, same with their tablets. My little Nexters have their Millennial siblings beat hands down. I was freaked when my older two played games and talked to strangers (They called them ‘other players’ sure…) and used web cams. They were over 18 at the time, still, dad here.

But what now? They are only 9 and 6. What do I have to combat in 5 years time? We already do all the ‘internet safety’ discussions. The ‘sometimes the little skits on YouTube that feature little toys are not always meant for little eyes’ talks.

We do our best, be as vigilant, as parental, as possible. Then I get photos of blurry butts on my phone. Seriously?

I should point out that I am a big believer in technology. I find it fantastic. I can get the weather anytime I want, know what is going on in the world, converse with friends that live thousands of miles away, read about anything and everything. For me? A baby boomer who grew up with 3 channels and computers the size of warehouses? This day and age is just…awesome!

Except for blurry butts.

Blurry butts I can do without.