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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Vampires Suck!

 

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Although Vampires exist in many forms, a Child Vampire is always creepy. / Photo by KidZond.

 

“A story about vampires? Oh Jon, come on! Everyone’s writing about vampires! Vampires suck!” my brother said to me.

“Actually they are writing about Zombies.” I said in a rather meek come back.

However, with my brother’s assessment of my future novel, he raised the specter of my Father’s Ghost. It’s a dumb idea, Jay is right, everything there is to say about vampires has been written. What could you possibly add to the genre?

Suddenly it was pointless to move forward with my novel. So, being this conversation happened in June of 2017, the opening pages of my novel, all 22,000 words, sat on my laptop, collecting electric dust, and I moved on to other projects, other ideas. Original Ideas. Because, well, you need to be Original right? Right?

Nothing is Original. Not really.

So, my Father’s Ghost won again. I shelved the story and went on to other projects. Yet I kept thinking about my vampire story. In my mind I was adding little details, dropping plotlines, adding others. Thinking on it the whole time I was working on ignoring it and being ‘original’. Yet, nothing is original. Not really. Most stories are based off of other stories. Even Dracula was based on a Balkan Legend and a popular story from Stoker’s time, The Vamprye. 

Most of us believe a great story is original, but when asked, the Author often cites one or more sources as their inspiration. Either a story they had read, heard about, or one, recounted to them. Usually the story is a mishmash of previously known stories, with their own spin on it. Grimm’s Fairytales comes to mind. Shakespeare was well-known for taking popular legends and turning them into plays.

The concept of having to be original is, honestly, a little over the top. Yet, some storylines, genres, can beat the proverbial horse to death. Vampires have been mostly played out.

I accepted the fate of my novel, it would sit on the electronic shelf forever, never to be printed out and have me cuss over the editing process. The story was doomed.

Inspiration comes to you in the strangest ways.

My life has taken a few twists and turns since I had that conversation with my brother. I had written a few short stories, polished a couple of others, was in the market for Writing Competitions to get my name out. Yet I had to deal with a busy social year in 2017 and the discovery of my youngest daughters Autism.

During all this I changed jobs. Going from moving semi-tractor trailers in and out of docks for a Gum Factory, to doing the same at a Potato Chip factory.

I seem to be attracted to snacks companies.

And it was at my new job, that I saw something that gave me inspiration. Next to the Potato Chip factory is a Metal Work Shop. The shop causes some consternation with me and my colleagues. Huge metal plates, and small bits of metal litter the drive next to ours. Both plants share a common driveway. We have to be careful not to run over a metal scrap or drive into a huge steel beam. Yet the Metal Work Shop made me think…

“You know, if the zombie apocalypse happens, I would come here to outfit myself. You could make any sort of weapon out of this scrap metal.”

And of course there were potatoes to eat. And a nice National Guard Armory nearby. What a great place to hide out when the poop hits the rotating oscillator…

…or a great place for two child vampires to hang out.

You see, my story isn’t original. But it’s mine. It is my take on vampires. It may follow certain guidelines, certain rules of a storyline, but it’s mine. And that is where I vanquished my brother’s advice and my Father’s Ghost this time. Because while vampire stories have been played out. Glitter & Sparkles, Day-walkers, Assassins of Werewolves and even Diaries. No one has read mine. No one has seen what I have to offer. So, with a new angle, a fresh view, a great idea for a location, I wrote 4500 words of my tale last night. More to write tonight. And the next day, and the days to follow till I have the tale told.

Now, it may end up on the electronic bookshelf. It may die during the editing process, or suffer a worse fate. Sitting on the Cyber-Bookshelf without any takers.

But it will be done. I will have told my tale.

Because I have my story to tell, my version of vampires. Characters for you to explore, to laugh with, cry with, hate and love. It may revolve around vampires, but it will be the characters that drive the story.

While vampire tales are not original, my take will be ‘original’.

See, I let self-doubt and the fear of being lost in the crowd stop me from writing my novel. I was held back because I feared my brother was right, that my Father’s Ghost was right. But they weren’t.

Each of us, whether you are a published author, or a wannabe like myself, brings our own unique perspective to our tales. So, don’t be afraid to write what has already been written. Some of the best novels, best movies, even best t.v. shows are new versions of the same tired genre.

It’s not the lipstick on the pig that matters, it’s the shade of lipstick that matters.

 

A little on the quirky side.

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Alexis behind a Unicorn Mask. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Like any parent, I have a lot of hopes for my children. You bring these little persons into the world and try to teach and guide them so they can stand on their own. You wish nothing but the best for them, and wish with all your heart, that they will succeed in their life better than you. You’re fearful of the world, and what the world may do to them, but you know if you give them the right tools, they will be just fine.

Yet when you have a child with High Functioning Autism, the fear is magnified a hundred fold. The deck is stacked against her from the start.

We’ve only been on this rollercoaster of learning about our Autistic daughter for a little less than a year now. Dozens of meetings with doctors, counselors, school staff and reading. A lot of reading and research. At times for me, the challenges of giving my daughter the tools to have a happy healthy life are daunting. It can make you feel very small, very ignorant, and very angry.

Anger is my biggest problem. Most people don’t see my anger. I’m usually considered a jovial guy, even when subjects come up in the course of conversations that normally piss everyone off, I’m the guy who takes it all in stride.

Except when it comes to my kids. I’m very defensive.

Yes of course you should be defensive of your children. I’m not a helicopter parent, more of a military drone style. I’ll let it go on for a bit, then come in low with missiles ready to fire and blow you up verbally. It’s not a good trait, I don’t like being like this. But, it’s my kids. Still, until my wife pointed out that this drone style of attack wasn’t helping the situation, I had been lashing out.

She was right of course, I was wrong. I ran afoul of my own passion to defend my daughter, just to exacerbate the situation. I need to find a way to redirect, to work on getting those who can understand Alexis, to understand. Those who are incapable…well to just let it go.

Fairy Brides are Quirky.

For years I have been an avid Folklore buff. Mostly British folklore. In those stories that I have read and re-read, I have run across the Fairy Bride. A quirky set of tales that have not made it to Disney yet. Yet these tales help put things in perspective, and makes me wonder if Autism was a foundation for the tale.

Fairy Brides are a big part of British Folklore. A man meets a beautiful woman and marries her on the spot, so to speak. Yet his bride is quirky, she has trouble adjusting to the mortal worlds social norms. Fairy Brides tend to cry at Weddings, and laugh at Funerals. Much to the consternation of the mortal husband. They do socially inept things that often cause the husband to have to admonish his wife, to try to change her, mold her into being a ‘Good Wife’. Often the story ends with the Fairy Bride leaving the husband, his life now in ruins.

While the moral of the story is one about the fallacy of Love of Beauty alone, (for Fairy Brides are the loveliest of creatures) it also makes me think of Autism. A woman, from another plane of existence, has to adjust to a world that just doesn’t make sense to her. A world that demands she conform, behave as they expect her to, not as she is. Yet she never does, and in the end, goes back to a world that makes sense to her.

This is a problem I face with Alexis. Not so much her, and her autism, but to how others react to it.

Some people just believe that we are bad parents. That we need to correct her more. Others feel she is conning us, twisting things around so she can get her way. They get confused by her actions and react badly because they just don’t understand that she does not think like they do. That social norms they take for granted, are not to be found with her.

Now while some will learn, other will refuse to. No matter how I explain it. Even if I say those infamous words “Don’t take my word for it, read this…” , they still are locked into their opinion that this is some sort of great game to Alexis. That she is a puppet master and we are merely puppets.

Of course the part that really gets my proverbial goat is the “Fix it” or “Grow out of it” mentality I run across. Those who believe they can fix Alexis’ autism by doing this or that. Or that she’ll one day just grow out of it. She won’t. This is her, it is how she will be for the rest of her life.

And that is when I call for a drone strike, lashing out verbally against those who think this is all some sort of game.

And, I have to stop that.

Because my wife was right, lashing out isn’t helping me, her, or our daughter. You can educate people, help them understand that Alexis isn’t being a brat, it’s just that she thinks in a way that you can not fathom. I need to just learn that not everyone will get it, not everyone will accept her, and that my job as a father, and our job as parents, are to work with her to help her understand that not everyone will understand.

Our hopes are to give our HFA daughter the tools she needs to lead a good life. To enjoy family and friends. To have the career she wants. To teach her that although like a Fairy Bride in the mortal world, she can learn to adjust to our theoretical “Neural Typical” world, and still be herself.

Because like a Fairy Bride, with all her quirkiness, she is the Most Beautiful of Creatures to us.

The Inexplicable.

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Statue of a child reading to a dog. / Photo by KidZond.

 

So now what? It happened again, as it has happened before. A person with a grudge, or madness, or maybe just disconnected with humanity, took innocent lives.

Pundits abound, and yes, even me. Yet don’t expect answers from me. I don’t have any, only questions, many questions.

The first question I have is Gun Control. Logically, and let’s be real here, logically we should have stricter gun control. National Registry, more in-depth background checks, maybe even restricting who can have guns. You can’t possess alcohol in the United States until you are 21. Smoke until you are 18. Defend your Nation until you are 18. Why should children touch weapons until then? Logical question.

But we know the answer. Whether you are “Pro-Gun” or “Anti-Gun” the ability to control some 300 Million firearms is daunting, if not impossible. From lawsuits to skirting the law by schematics, to definitions as to what exactly is a dangerous firearm. Gun Control, as noble and lofty as is sounds, is impractical for prevention of gun violence.

The 2nd Amendment needs to be repealed argument comes up. Considering that we only have 27 Amendments in our “241 years” as a nation, should tell you something about how hard that would be. Yes some Amendments have been repealed, but the 2nd Amendment? That is not going to happen.

Of course Mental Illness has entered the discussion. With many using Mental Illness as a foil to this scourge just like others, who use an inanimate object as the foil. Obviously the teen in Texas had to be mad, because sane people do not just kill people. So goes the argument. Yet many suffer from mental illness and live out productive, well-adjusted lives, never once posing a threat to others, much less themselves.

And whether those who perpetrate these crimes are mentally ill or not, labeling a whole group, or suggesting this group alone is responsible, is damning to our society. Especially to sufferers who want nothing more than to be accepted. Try telling your boss you take medicine for depression and not have them start to ‘watch you’. Bantering about mental illness as the sole cause is absurd.

Then there are those who say it is societies fault. That if we just had fathers in those children’s home, or if we didn’t have video games full of violence, they would grow up just fine. However many people grow up in broken homes. Homes filled with violence, drugs, and alcohol. Yet they do not go out and murder people.

You could say this is all due to a lack of Faith. That God has been stricken from the classroom and demeaned to the point of being called a fairytale, and this is the root cause. However it was religious zealots who took down the Twin Towers in New York City. Jim Jones, David Koresh, and dozens of examples exist to say that Religion doesn’t prevent mass killings. Of course Stalin wasn’t a very religious guy and he murdered millions. Individual shooters in recent events have not professed great faith or lack there of.

 

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Daniele Crespi – Cain Killing Abel/Wiki Commons.

 

One possibility to this issue can be found in an old archetype story from the Bible. The story of Cain and Able. The ‘First Murder’.

In the story Cain’s offerings to God are rejected. His brother Able’s are accepted. This implied jealousy finally drives Cain to murder his brother Able.

So the story goes.

However the story has other meanings that are missed. At one point, God warns Cain that Evil is ‘knocking at the door’ (paraphrasing the passage). God tells Cain to be wary of his feelings and attitude. Cain, ignores this and slays his brother.

And while there are many other metaphors that can be taken from this story, this warning from God stands out to me.

See, when it comes down to it, it is the individuals decision that casts the die. They are the ones that plan out their heinous acts. They are the only one who readies themselves. Who, if so inclined, has to confront what evil they plan to do. And if they have self-doubt, or find their humanity, and sanity to turn away from their deed, change their own mind and stop themselves.

No matter what we do as a society, what laws we pass, amendments we repeal, court ordered mental evaluations, those who wish to do harm to others, they, and only they, can stop themselves.

This doesn’t negate our responsibility as members of society. We should be vigilant to stop those who wander the path of Cain. We should exam all avenues that can prevent these terrible crimes, to protect the innocent, and make us safer.

No one political or ideological solution will solve this. Blaming others to make sense of these tragic events does not one damn bit of good. Finding solutions to stop future tragedies is not based on Gun Control, 2nd Amendment Rights, School Security, Mental Health, or Legal solutions. It is based on all of these combined, working in concert, to solve a greater issue. Stopping the inexplicable, less we find ourselves wandering in the land of Nod forever.

 

[Opinions expressed in this Blog are the Authors and the Authors alone.]
https://www.npr.org/2016/01/05/462017461/guns-in-america-by-the-numbers
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cain_and_Abel