DID YOU SEE THE PICTURE? – RICH PASCHALL

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall

When Eddie went into the army, Marge and her husband Edgar decided to leave the Midwest and head for Arizona.  As each year had past, Edgar found the winters increasingly difficult and the summers impossible.  When the spring and fall brought allergies on and the summer humidity brought breathing difficulty, the decision was easy.  It was time to go south.

Marge received a transfer to a Mesa, Arizona store and Edgar was sure he would find work if only he could breathe easier.  They took their daughter with them, although she had reached 21 years of age.  She did not know what she wanted to do in life and a change of location seemed like a good idea.

Eddie had worked for two years after high school and then decided the army would be his best start in life.  After the army, he would use his benefits to go to college and make his life better.  While in the army, he lost weight, matured and became a handsome young man who made his parents proud.

Even though Marge was a rather conservative type, she learned to use social media and followed along on Facebook and twitter hoping to see more of Eddie.  He was on Facebook, but actually used it very little.  When he posted some pictures from a Middle East cook out with his fellow soldiers, his proud mother shared the pictures all over the internet.  Eddie did not post much after that.

Marge spent some time each day, and much time on her day off, posting on Facebook and reading internet articles.  She would “like” things she thought were good and sometimes comment on postings and news stories.  Although she did not consider herself very political, she did seem to agree more with Republican postings than anything else.  Her friends started avoiding posting political items to her page.  It was better that way.

Whenever Eddie was on leave from the service, he visited friends in Chicago and then went on to Phoenix to see his parents.  When Marge would ask Eddie what he did in Chicago and who he saw, she got vague answers.  Eddie said little about his personal life.  He told next to nothing about friends or the service.  His mother thought it was just a phase that young men go through.  She figured he would tell her a lot more when he got out of the army.

When he was nearing the end of his time in the service, Marge asked Eddie if he would join them Phoenix or return to the Midwest.  He told her he would move to Chicago.

“Chicago!” she exclaimed.  “Why do you want to move there?  It is not safe there.  It is expensive to live and the job market is not the best.  You can get a job here.  I can help you.”

“I want to go to school there,” Eddie explained.  “I have friends there.  I will get a job, don’t worry.”  He spent months assuring his mother he would be fine until the day came when he got his discharge and went home to Chicago. Eddie saw his mother’s Facebook postings on a regular basis and that only convinced him to keep his personal life to himself.

He got an apartment, a job and made friends.  He enrolled in a city college with his army benefits and was happy with his life.  He assured his mother that all was well. After following along on Facebook, Marge decided she did not like the direction the country was headed.  She did not like the liberal policies and she would definitely vote a more conservative ticket.  It was easy to find friends online who agreed.

One day, an old friend from the Midwest called Marge.  She was excited about the latest news and could not wait to talk to her old friend about it.

“Hello Marge, you must be so excited.  I must tell you I was so surprised.  Did you see the picture they just posted?”

“Picture?” Marge asked.  “What picture? What are you talking about?”

Her old friend just laughed.  “Why, the wedding picture of course!  Did you know they were going to city hall?  Did you know which day it would be?”

“Who are you talking about?” Marge demanded.  A long silence followed while Marge’s friend wondered if the whole matter was actually a secret.  It seems that Eddie was tagged in pictures by others, but he had posted nothing himself.  The friend thought carefully about what to say next.

“Oh, it is something I saw on Facebook.  Perhaps you should go look at a few pictures that Eddie is tagged in and we can talk later.  OK?”  After some vague promise to call back soon, the old friend hung up and Marge raced to her computer.

The PC started slowly and Facebook seem to take extra long to load up.  It was no different than usual, but this time the wait was maddening.  Finally Marge got online and found the pictures that her old friend referred to.  There was Eddie at City Hall getting married.

Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto

Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto

The fact that Eddie married without telling her in advance was upsetting.  The fact that she did not know the other person at all was also upsetting.  But the most surprising part of all was that the groom took another groom.  Her handsome, white, middle class son had married a handsome Hispanic man of about the same age.  In one picture, they were looking deep into one another’s eyes as if they were truly in love.

Marge was stunned.  She had no idea that Eddie was gay or loved the young man she had seen in the photos.

After she stared at the pictures for a while, she started reading back through her Facebook posts and “likes” to see if she had said anything negative about Hispanics or gays.

Related story: Seeing Things Differently

FACEBOOK REVISITED by ELLIN CURLEY

I wrote a blog a few months ago when I first started using Facebook. I wrote about how disappointed I was because I didn’t feel as ‘connected’ after joining Facebook as I had hoped.

I realize now that my problem was that I didn’t really understand Facebook and had unrealistic expectations. My friends had told me that they felt much more connected and less isolated on Facebook. I assumed they were talking about emotional connection. So I naïvely expected to become more involved with my Facebook friends lives. To me, that meant regular comments, back and forth about our families, careers or hobbies, etc. I envisioned something more like texting, but with a wider range of people. I said I was naïve.

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That’s how it may work for some people, millennials in particular. But my ‘friends’ are mostly in the Baby Boomer demographic. Some people post vacation photos or the odd family photo or announcement. Some even post about a particularly memorable meal. I see some cat and dog videos and photos and many wonderful humor posts. But mostly I get articles. And most of these are ‘political’ news items.

I’ve now developed a more realistic relationship with Facebook. I read it to find articles I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. I truly appreciate that. I also enjoy the comments my ‘friends’ make about the pieces, although I don’t usually read through the endless comments and rants written by strangers.

I particularly like the Facebook feature that tells me when someone has liked, commented on or shared an article that I have shared or posted. It is very gratifying to get a ‘like’ or a ‘share’ from someone. It’s like having a conversation about the piece and agreeing (or respectfully disagreeing) in that wonderfully bonding way. That actually does make me feel ‘connected’ on an intellectual level.

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One of the major criticisms of Facebook is that you only talk to like-minded people. For me, that’s a plus. I read actual newspapers so I’m exposed to plenty of opposing views. I don’t need Facebook for that. But for those who rely solely on Facebook news, the lack of divergent views and ‘facts’ is a serious problem. On the other hand, I don’t understand why anyone would use Facebook as their primary news source. It’s content is fairly random and it is not designed to be comprehensive or unbiased, like a newspaper.

Now that I understand Facebook’s limitations and have adjusted my expectations, I am a big Facebook fan. I have interesting and intelligent Facebook ‘friends’. So I get to see a lot of fun, interesting, funny and informative things that I otherwise would have missed. I also get to share things that I find interesting – mostly articles from reputable news sources and funny videos and photos. And I get to learn about other people’s pet issues, just as they get to learn about mine.

I’m not really more involved in anyone’s life, but I am sharing mutually enjoyable content. It’s not what I went in hoping for. But Facebook has added an unexpected dimension to my life. For that I say, “Thank you, Facebook!”

BE NICE. STOP FIGHTING. FIX THE WORLD.

What’s wrong with this picture? Other than you know … that face. When I found this on Facebook, it gave me pause for thought.

trump-division-facebook

I am not a fan of Trump. However much I dislike his politics and pretty much everything he stands for, he is not why we this country is divided. We were divided long before Trump. Basically, this country has been divided to one degree or another — usually more rather than less — for our entire history. What Donald Trump did was successfully parlay our existing divisions into his victory. He used our prejudices, bigotry, hatred, distrust and willingness to believe the worst of others — and turned it into political capital.

We let him win. Collectively. We allowed this to happen. 

Trump did not create the divisions. We did that ourselves by allowing partisanship to infiltrate every aspect of American life. Trump is the payback and our punishment. Karma is a bitch.

We should think about this. If we want a less divisive political system, what do we need to do to achieve that? If we want to live in a less angry society, how can we make that happen?

dwight-david-eisenhower-quote-i-do-not-believe-that-any-politicalWe might start by being nicer to each other. We can be civil, kind, polite, and friendly. Personally and online. It might catch on and become a trend. Obviously, it’s not a panacea. It can’t fix what’s wrong with the world, but it’s a start. Baby steps.

Next, it’s time to start letting go of old grudges, philosophical differences, and meaningless principles. We don’t only fight with “the enemy.” We constantly fight with each other over all kinds of nonsense.

It’s reminiscent of the battles within anti-establishment groups of the 1960s. Wrangling about every stupid little thing splintered us. Groups which should have been pooling resources could not let go of petty differences. Today, either no one can remember what the fighting was about … or it seems so trivial, it’s hard to believe anyone cared.

It’s Big Picture time. We need to define common ground — not our differences. Because there will always be differences. If we let our division define us rather than the stuff we have in common, we will never win.

Living in Israel, where government is via a parliamentary system, I always wondered how the religious right got what they wanted while the rest of us — center to left liberal majority and not a small majority but a huge one — seemed to not count, even though we vastly outnumbered the right. The answer was simple. Obvious. They stuck together presenting a solid wall. Whereas what the rest of us had in common was not being them. To effectively work as a power bloc, you have to find the core issues, the stuff that really matters to everyone — and let the rest go. Otherwise, we will lose. Again.

FIND ME ON FACEBOOK – ELLIN CURLEY

I just started using Facebook. I know. I’m way behind the curve. I resisted getting sucked into the social media scene because I didn’t feel any need for it. But … it crept up on me.

I text and email close friends regularly. I also talk to them on the phone as often as possible. I am a big phone fan. To me it’s almost like being with someone face to face. Probably better these days because in person you have to watch people check their emails and Facebook pages while they talk to you. On the phone you can still imagine that your friends are paying rapt attention to everything you’re saying.

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What got me excited about joining Facebook was a comment by a friend who had recently joined and loved it. She said that it made her feel much more connected and involved with people. I wanted some of that.

I’ve only been ‘using’ it (participating in it?) for about a month. At this early stage, I’m mostly reading other people’s posts. So far, I’m just not feeling it. I’m not sure what I should be feeling. I reconnected with a few people from my past and reignited an old friendship that I’m very glad to have back in my life. I’ve seen some photos of kids and grand kids that I would not have seen anyplace else.

But I’m also seeing lots of photos of people’s meals and the restaurants they’re eating them in. Lots of sunset pictures too.

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Mostly I’m reading or watching links to articles or videos found elsewhere on the internet. Many are very interesting, as are the comments. Many reveal the issues and political views important to the people I know. Yet somehow, this isn’t making me feel more connected to the people who post them. Maybe I’m a narcissist, but watching a video someone shared or posted to everyone online doesn’t feel personal to me. I don’t feel personally connected when I read an editorial in the New York Times, nor do I when I read it on Facebook. Just because someone I know posted it doesn’t personalize it for me.

facebook_logo1

I think I am too steeped in ‘conversation culture’ – the old-fashioned art of communication which seems to be disappearing at warp speed. At least texting still feels like a conversation, however truncated or stylized. To me, Facebook feels more like parallel playing than actually relating. I see it as another source for material to read online – with the added benefit of being able to share things I find interesting as well. That should be enough for me, right? I simply have to alter my expectations.

Now please ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ this with as many people as possible!

IT WASN’T ABOUT SLAVERY? YOU SURE ABOUT THAT?

I have been a-wandering in a strange, alternative universe called Facebook. It’s a place where anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

At some point yesterday evening I stumbled into a heated interchange that started with the potential candidacy of idiot doctor Ben Carson and roamed far afield.

Flag on the harbor

confederate flag

At some point, someone averred: “In this country majority rules, so if most of the people in a state want to fly the Confederate flag, they can. It’s IN THE CONSTITUTION.”  Along the way, someone else suggested the losers of a war don’t get to fly their flag. The south lost the war (a point often overlooked in such discussions) and they should get over it. 

I asked if the majority in a state favored slavery, would that be okay too? Most of the combatants in this discussion said yes, which proved my fundamental point. That I was interfacing with morons.

No, it isn’t in the Constitution. There’s nothing at all about flags in the Constitution. Not a word. Nothing guaranteeing rights pertaining to flags. As far as the other stuff goes, the Constitution is not designed to protect the rights of the majority. Quite the opposite. Its intent is to protect the rights of minorities because otherwise, you have tyranny.

Sorry. I digressed.

This brought a flurry of rebuttals and name-calling, brought to a head when someone offered a golden nugget.

“The Confederate flag was a battle flag and had nothing to do with slavery. In fact, the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. It was about taxes.”

Although I know arguing with idiots is a waste of perfectly good time I could productively use playing mindless games, I had to say something. There is so much historical evidence proving that the Civil War was about slavery and nothing but slavery.

United States Slave Trade

United States Slave Trade

The Civil War was predestined and the framers of the Constitution knew it. Our founding fathers made a deal with the devil to allow slavery. If they had not, there would never have been a United States. The Constitution would not have passed, might very well never have been written.

Slavery was the burning issue during the constitutional convention in 1788 and it tore the country apart a mere two generations later. They knew it would. The guys who wrote the Constitution may have wimped out, but they knew it wasn’t a real solution, just a band-aid. They also knew the issue would come to war and blood and death. It was that kind of issue.

To declare otherwise is plain ignorant. There are lots of aspects of history that are disputable, but this isn’t one of them. There is too much evidence in the form of diaries and writings — not to mention correspondence between famous guys like Jefferson, Adams, and Washington.

Sometimes, I think Americans must be the happiest people on earth, because we are surely the most ignorant. (And we know ignorance is bliss, right?)

constitution_1_of_4_630

My statement was quickly swallowed by passionate southerners declaring I was an out-of-control left-wing lying Yankee liberal socialist commie. I retreated to a stupid pop-the-bubble game and the battle went on without me.

Why do I bother?

DID YOU SEE THE PICTURE?

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall

When Eddie went into the army, Marge and her husband Edgar decide to leave the Midwest and head for Arizona.  As each year went past, Edgar found the winters difficult and the summers impossible.  When the spring and fall brought allergies on and the summer humidity brought increased breathing difficulty, the decision was easy.  It was time to go south.

Marge received a transfer to a Mesa, Arizona store and Edgar was sure he would find work if only he could breathe easier.  They took their daughter with them although she had reached 21 years of age.  She did not know what she wanted to do in life and a change seemed like a good idea.

Eddie had worked for two years after high school and then decided the army would be his best start in life.  After the army, he would use his benefits to go to college and make his life better.  While in the army, he lost weight, matured and became a handsome young man who made his parents proud.

Even though Marge was a rather conservative type, she learned to use social media and followed along on facebook and twitter hoping to see more of Eddie.  He was on facebook, but actually used it very little.  When he posted some pictures from a Middle East cook out with his fellow soldiers, his proud mother shared the pictures all over the internet.  Eddie did not post much after that.

Marge spent some time each day, and a lot of time on her day off, posting on facebook and reading internet articles.  She would “like” things she thought were good and sometimes comment on postings and news stories.  Although she did not consider herself very political, she did seem to agree more with Republican postings than anything else.  Her friends started avoiding posting political items to her page.  It was better that way.

Whenever Eddie was on leave from the service, he visited friends in Chicago and then went on to Phoenix to see his parents.  When Marge would ask Eddie what he did in Chicago and who he saw, she got vague answers.  Eddie said little about his personal life.  He told next to nothing about friends or the service.  His mother thought it was just a phase that young men go through.  She figured he would tell her a lot more when he got out of the army.

When he was nearing the end of his time in the service, Marge asked Eddie if he would join them Phoenix or return to the Midwest.  He told her he would move to Chicago.

“Chicago!” she exclaimed.  “Why do you want to move there?  It is not safe there.  It is expensive to live and the job market is not the best.  You can get a job here.  I can help you.”

“I want to go to school there,” Eddie explained.  “I have friends there.  I will get a job, don’t worry.”  He spent months assuring his mother he would be fine until the day came when he got his discharge and went to Chicago.

Eddie saw his mother’s facebook postings on a regular basis and that only convinced him to keep his personal life to himself.  He got an apartment, a job and made friends.  He enrolled in a city college with his army benefits and was happy with his life.  He assured his mother that all was well.

After following along on facebook, Marge decided she did not like the direction the country was headed.  She did not like the liberal policies and she would definitely vote a more conservative ticket next time.  It was easy to find friends online who agreed.

One day, an old friend from the Midwest called Marge.  She was excited about the latest news and could not wait to talk to her old friend about it.

“Hello Marge, you must be so excited.  I must tell you I was so surprised.  Did you see the picture they just posted?”

“Picture?” Marge asked.  “What picture? What are you talking about?”

Her old friend just laughed.  “Why, the wedding picture of course!  Did you know they were going to city hall?  Did you know which day it would be?”

“Who are you talking about?” Marge demanded.  A long silence followed while Marge’s friend wondered if the whole matter was actually a secret.  It seems that Eddie was tagged in pictures by others, but he had posted nothing himself.  The friend thought carefully about what to say next.

“Oh, it is something I saw on facebook.  Perhaps you should go look at a few pictures that Eddie is tagged in and we can talk later.  OK?”  After some vague promise to call back soon, the old friend hung up and Marge raced to her computer.

The PC started slowly and facebook seem to take extra long to load up.  It was no different than usual, but this time the wait was maddening.  Finally Marge got online and found the pictures that her old friend referred to.  There was Eddie at City Hall getting married.

Photo by  Giovanni Dall'Orto

Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto

The fact that Eddie married without telling her in advance was upsetting.  The fact that she did not know the other person at all was also upsetting.  But the most surprising part of all was that the groom took another groom.  Her handsome, white, middle class son had married a handsome Hispanic man of about the same age.  In one picture, they were looking deep into one another’s eyes as if they were truly in love.

Marge was stunned.  She had no idea that Eddie was gay or loved the young man she had seen in the photos.  After she stared at the pictures for a while, she started reading back through her facebook posts and “likes” to see if she had said anything negative about Hispanics or gays.

HATE, ANGER AND SOCIAL MEDIA

A Firestorm of Misinformation, Rich Paschall

There are always items in the news that bring out the social media commentators.  There’s the economy, Obama Care, and campaign finance laws.  There are Pipelines and Trade Agreements.  There is religious freedom and freedom of speech.  It is that Freedom of Speech thing that lets the haters and misinformers run rampant on the internet.

© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.

© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.

It seems a lot of people have time to create graphics with so-called information and historical quotes (internet memes).  Some are very artistically created with nice pictures of a president or other important historical person in the background.  If you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter enough, it seems some of these historical figures are speaking out of both sides of their mouths.  One of my favorite internet memes states “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true. – Abraham Lincoln.”

Many of the quotes are easily disputed.  I like to type the first phrase of an internet quote or meme into Google search to see what I get.  Sometimes I immediately get proof the quote is false.  Sometimes I find the quote is true, but it was said by someone else.  It seems popular to attribute interesting political and social quotes to George Carlin, even if someone else said it.  Do we think a quote is more believable if a more famous person said it?

I have often seen a quote attributed to former President Jimmy Carter.  It says “If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don’t.”  While it seems like something Carter may have said post-presidency, he did not say it.  Yet, it is frequently re-quoted all across the internet.  Many sites will use it to drive home their point by indicating what this thoughtful and highly regarded human being has to say.

It was actually said by comedian John Fugelsang (Snopes.com here).  I guess if the quote comes from a comedian rather than a former president, it is harder to beat people over the head with it.

In addition to a simple Google search for the quote or alleged fact, you can go to websites dedicated to debunking internet stories.

The most popular is Snopes.com.  It calls itself “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.”  It has to work extra hard to keep up with the mountains of internet crap published daily.  Still, I usually find out whether some really convenient quote to prove a point is actually true or false. Usually they are false.

Tech Republic has a list of the Top Ten websites dedicated to debunking internet rumors and hoaxes.  Snopes leads the list but you will find other reliable websites that can help you quickly deal with stories on Facebook that seem too convenient in proving a biased point of view.

Despite easy access to the truth, haters choose to believe whatever is posted on the internet if it can be twisted to support their position. They then take the misinformation and share it with their friends, who in turn do the same. I like to post an article or link into a comment under these false memes, but it does not seem to matter.  Comments continue to be made after mine in support of the lie, as if posting the true story meant nothing. It is infuriating, to say the least.

The anger and hate behind the false stories and memes was out in full force recently due to some “hot button” topics in the news.  The confederate flag debate was raging following the murder of nine black church-goers in South Carolina.  Haters from both sides condemned the “opposition” for their point of view.  While one side says the flag represents slavery and racism, the other claims the flag is a historical battle flag, part of their heritage. The name calling continued for quite a while.

Bringing out more internet lies than you can count was the historic Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.  We previously looked at the legal aspects of the case in It Is So Ordered.”  But not many respondents on social media were interested in the facts.

Celebrants quickly hailed the decision as if their social pressure brought about change, rather than coming as a result of well argued points of law.  Detractors saw this as the downfall of society and many Republicans vowed to have such a decision overturned by some undetermined method.  Apparently they are unaware that the Supreme Court has the final word on Constitutional law.  That is probably why we call them the “Supreme Court.”

With homophobic commentary out in abundance, never was so much hate poured out in the name of God.  I had reposted some Facebook comments by Fr. James Martin, SJ on my facebook.  I had noted he had linked to some thoughtful articles on same-sex marriage.  He asked people to respond to the court’s decision with love. You know, “love thy neighbor.” 

He did not come out in favor of the decision, he just asked us to love one another.  What did he get for his trouble?  The haters let him have it full force.  They advised him “you’ll be spending your eternity in hell.”  I guess there are bad consequences to preaching love.  The next day, in response to another posting calling for love and understanding, the good Father had to add to his facebook post “NB: No ad hominem. No uncharitable comments. No homophobic comments. One to two posts per person.”  Nope, that did not work for him. 

The bad part of social media is the ease in which hate, anger and lies are spread. Impressionable people can find support for their misguided thoughts, and feel they have backing for whatever hate or heinous acts they perpetrate. While we all support the idea of Freedom of Speech, it is safe to say our founding fathers had no idea how quickly lies could become accepted as truth.

And all of this happens in an era where the truth is so easy to find. If you are interested in truth.