DON’T TAKE THE BAIT – RICH PASCHALL

Keep Right On Going, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


If you are a fisherman, and perhaps even if you are not, you can understand the frustration that comes with the sport. That is, you go out knowing fish are swimming all around you. Maybe a lot of them and you are ready to reel them in.  You bait the hook and drop it in amongst all those lovely fish and you wait … and wait. Nothing happens.  It is as if Charlie Tuna or some holy mackerel was there, warning off all the others to avoid your bait.

“This is good bait,” you may think.  “It is big and tempting and the sea creatures should flock to it,” but they just smirk and swim off to visit other old timers to see if their little fishes are off in schools somewhere else.

Avoid the bait

This is how we should be too.  We should stop taking the bait, but sometimes we do anyway. The consternation begins.  I am talking about social media and social conversation.  There is always someone lobbing bait in the water. It’s up to us to keep swimming.  No good comes from getting hooked.

It would appear that many throw out the bait on Facebook or Twitter — or whatever platform they prefer — knowing they will start an argument amongst friends and acquaintances.  In this politically charged “us versus them” environment fostered and encouraged by 45 and his ilk, there are always those waiting for someone to take the bait. Their posts can be filled with political arguments.  None are worthy of the time, but some play it like a sport.  It is almost like taking your boat out on Lake Michigan hoping to land a big one.  You are likely to end up with carp or alewives, of course.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Whether you are posting something in favor of POTUS or against, there is someone ready to take the bait and tug on the line.  While an astounding number of people are not in favor of the current pretender to the throne, he still has some rabid supporters who are willing to dangle the bait or take it themselves and the battle is on.  These battles of back and forth with the fish can get rather rowdy and sometimes Facebook or whoever has to step in and stop the battle from going on.

Soon after the terrible display of hate in Charlottesville, I posted a brief piece I saw about how the USA helped defeat the Nazis in World War 2.  I thought it was important to remember (or to learn) what that was all about.  I know exactly what my parents would have thought of recent events.  My father fought in World War II.  It is terrible, in my opinion, that people would carry the Nazi flags on our streets after the 1940’s but perhaps some forgot.  I had no idea I was dangling bait for the alt-right.

What followed my post was a long series of comments by a few people who conducted a mean-spirited, name-calling “debate.”  I could not keep up with it or monitor the frequent comments, which apparently turned threatening.  After someone complained, Facebook stepped in and removed the most egregious comments.  At my first opportunity, I removed the post completely.  History really is not debatable nor is it worth threatening someone, but that’s the road we’ve gone down.

Due to my stance on some topics, or my willingness to take the bait on a few occasions, I guess I have lost a few friends.  I can’t say it really bothers me.  If you are that bigoted, whether your opinion is based on some misinterpretation of history or the Bible or some other religion, I guess it’s best I swim on by. I’m too old to have this stress in my life.  Be careful. You never know when some fish might pull you into the water.

Until recently, I used to get together a few times a month with someone I have known since childhood. He’s a bit right of center politically, but we had mostly avoided political arguments. That changed in the current social climate. He has taken to dangling bait.  I was playing along for a while, but I now see the futility of this endeavor.

It will start with my friend saying something about 45 or other right-wing topic.  I might respond, “As a former military man, how do you feel about 45 making comments about North Korea that also seem to give up military secrets?”  It is a reasonable question, I think, but it only proves that I have taken the bait.

“What about Obama?” he might reply.  “You never said anything about Obama when he was in office.”

“Yes I did,” I usually point out.

“I never heard it.”

“You never listen to my side.”

“And what about Rahm (Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago)? What about that?” He will say in a voice somewhat louder.

“What does this have to do with 45 and North Korea?” I may inquire to try to steer the conversation back around, but it’s too late.  I am already on the line.

DISASTROUS? OR JUST UNFORTUNATE?

SAVE ME, THE WOLF HAS ARRIVED!


One of the things about social media is that whereas in the past we complained to our friends on the phone or over the fence, these days we complain to the immediate world. What used to be unfortunate and inconvenient … and sometimes “Wow, what a bummer!” has become “OMG the sky is falling.” It’s not that personal disaster is gone from our lives, but everything is now a disaster. Nothing is merely annoying, inconvenient, or frustrating. Everything is terrible, catastrophic. Mind-blowing. Calamitous.

I know people who are online every single day telling the world which fresh disaster has afflicted them. It is “the boy who cried wolf” writ huge and sometimes with international implications.

The result is exactly the same. At some point, “the world” just stops paying attention to the latest calamity because you can’t tell the difference between this calamity and the previous calamity. When everything is a disaster, ultimately nothing is.

I think maybe we should all tone it down. Try to determine which of our messes is a genuine killer … and which ones are just unfortunate, inconvenient, annoying, aggravating, frustrating. Which ones need the SWAT, the police and fire department … and which need a good friend, some excellent coffee and maybe top-quality cookies.

If we could tone down the note of hysteria that seems to accompany so many posts on social media, I think it would help calm us down. It doesn’t mean we won’t have some serious problems. We have plenty of really serious problem — personally, nationally, internationally  — but wouldn’t it be easier to sort them out if we weren’t hysterical all the time? I think the U.S. has been in a state of national hysteria since last November. I get it — really, really get it — but I have come to recognize that the frenzy isn’t fixing anything.

Nobody is thinking anymore. It’s all railing at the heavens.

THIS WHEEL GOES “ROUND AND ROUND”

The wheel of meanness, bad manners, incivility, and cruelty just keeps rolling. Here’s an example:


“If you don’t approve of my having my dog in my bed, too bad. The dog lives here and you don’t.”

On the surface, sounds okay to me. I’ve got dogs. Mostly, they do pretty much whatever they want. So as far as I’m concerned, she can sleep with her dogs. She can give them their own place at the dinner table. Her dogs. Whatever she wants to do with them, short of cruelty, is fine.

But … what’s the point of posting this? Are you intending to make anyone who doesn’t sleep with their dogs feel bad about it? Are you angry because your friends have criticized your sleeping with your dog(s)? Is this a big problem in your life? In which case, maybe you need more dog-sensitive friends?

Or are you trying to shame me (who you have never met) for not sleeping with my dogs?

The dogs favorite game is to stand on the top step as I slowly move on up the stairs. They think being above me is hilarious. Maybe it is.

We do not sleep with our dogs. We adore them. Play with them. Overfeed them, then feel guilty about it. Take the best care of them we can … but sorry, we are not sharing the bed.

Is this okay with you, whoever you may be? I mean … is it okay that I have enough trouble breathing without another hairy body or two in my bed? That my back is bad enough without trying to twist myself around two dogs?

Every time I bump into these “memes” on Facebook, I wonder if people understand how rude it is. Do the posters understand other lives may be different and questions like this — which remind me of the old classic, “Do you still beat your wife?” — are intended to make other people feel bad? That other people have their own issues and stuff like this sounds mean-spirited and petty?

The unpleasantness of social media is infecting our world. It’s like a disease and it seems to make many people think that however they feel, right this minute … they have the right (First amendment?) to blast it all over the Internet. My question is why so many people on social media are consistently bitchy to everyone? Not confining their ill-temper to the people at whom (presumably) it was really aimed, but targeting every person who directly or indirectly comes in contact with their timeline.

What’s with the constant snarky, nastiness? Is there something wrong with being nice to other people? Would a dollop of kindness and civility ruin someone’s day?

I’m weary of everyone accepting the overall meanness and unpleasantness as “normal” for this world. Just because you have a right to do it and can’t get locked up for doing it, doesn’t suggest it’s a good idea. It’s not a launch code to go bomb the world with your negativity.

Everyone has a right  to many things, but what’s your point? What are you trying to prove? To whom are you proving it? All I get from it is that you have bad manners. It doesn’t make you more free, brave, or independent. Just nasty.

What this makes you, is RUDE.

ROOTS: ROOM FOR REALITY?

I’m not thrilled with news. Any news. I can’t abide right-wing lies based on the exact opposite of what happened, especially when they are talking about things through which I lived and have seen. For shear blatant not-even-a-hint-of truth lying, they are the winners. But the left of the aisle crap is only nominally better. They may begin from a hint of truth, but then take some minor thing and blow it up to something gigantic. Put up a headline on it which sounds as if something astounding is about to (or just did) happen. So whatever it was, it ends up a total lie.


At the root was something real, but the result is nonsense.
I would have to be a fool to believe it.
At this point, I don’t believe anything.

My personal political allegiances are not news. I don’t need news organizations to approve or disapprove on my behalf. That’s not the point of news.

I want information, data, and facts based on a recognizable reality. I want the news to give me an informed, intelligent, and preferably neutral idea of what’s going on. I don’t want overblown headlines about how Trump is about to be impeached. Because he isn’t about to be impeached (yet) and anyone with half a brain knows that. I don’t want shouted headlines about stuff that isn’t happening and will never occur. Nor do I want distorted stories which only make the stuff in which I believe look stupid.


I don’t want right-wing “summaries” about news that never happened and will never occur.  I don’t want left-wing fairy tales, either. 

It’s hard to find believable news from any source. I don’t trust anything from any form of social media. Each has its own version of what they think I want to hear. I don’t want to hear what they think I want to hear. I want to know what happened. What was seen. What was written. Then I will decide what I believe.

In today’s world, is there room for reality?

We’ve been watching a PBS series about World War 1. It was a terrible time. It was also when many of the myths, fables, and lies with which we are now living, began. It was the time when we started thinking we were fighting for democracy, and that somehow, we were “the right country” to defend democracy everywhere. It wasn’t true then. It isn’t true now.

We have been believing those same lies since 1914, the beginning of the breach between our political halves. It was the start of what we see every day in 2017. A hundred years of lying. Wilson could have gotten everything he wanted from Congress including the League of Nations, but refused to accept it because (are you ready?) the “deal” was offered by the wrong party.

Bringing us to today. News agencies? Please get off your soap boxes. Give me facts. That might be a start to a better world. For everyone.

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!”

STAND UP FOR TRUTH

This the season to spread stupid rumors. It keeps coming up. I get madder each time I see it.

This is the season to spread the rumor that there’s a war against Christmas. That the same cabal consisting of “them – the unnamed conspirators that are doing bad things” want to ban the holiday. That there are movements afoot to make Christmas trees into “holiday” trees and thus ban Christ in Christmas. Worse, that people will get angry and maybe sue you if you wish them a merry Christmas.

Has that ever actually happened? To anyone? Anywhere?

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It has never happened to me. I am not a Christian, but I like Christmas. It’s a nice holiday with pretty decorations, terrific music, and great lighting. Good food and drink and friends getting together to celebrate. What’s not to like?

I am an equal opportunity greeter. I will greet friends and strangers by saying whatever comes to tongue first. I have been doing this my entire life. Not once in all these decades has anyone objected to being wished Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday. Because people are not anti-Christmas. There is no war on Christmas.

There is a Constitutional, entirely legal (obligatory) separation of church and state. It suggests putting a crèche in the middle of town might be in poor taste or outright illegal, but is not a war on anything. It’s protecting my right to not be Christian while simultaneously protecting your right to go to the church, synagogue, mosque — or none of the above — of your choice. Separation of church and state protects all religions and non-believers equally.

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If you want to a crèche in the middle of town, ask the nearest church to put one on their property — if they don’t already have one (and I bet they do). Enjoy it at the church because that’s where it belongs. It’s religious iconography and is entirely acceptable in a religious context.

The United States is not a Christian country. It is religiously unaffiliated. Even though the majority of the population may profess to be some kind of Christian, this includes millions of people who never go to church. One of the many thing that are protected is your right to say your are a Christian or anything else without actually having to do anything to prove it. Freedom of religion is a wonderful thing. It means the government has no stake in your personal belief system as long as it stays personal and doesn’t involve bombing other sects or non-believers.

Which means you can say you are a Christian, never go to church at all, complain how Christianity is being threatened by the “freedom and politically correct cabal” (who don’t exist) and no one will ever ask you to show your bona fides. It’s a great constitution we have. If we ditched everything else but kept that first amendment, we might just be okay anyhow.

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If there’s a war on anything, it is on my right to not be Christian. Enforcing the first amendment is not a war. It’s what keeps us free.

Speaking of the first amendment, there is no law anywhere against greeting anyone in any manner you choose. The first amendment also protects your right to free speech including saying Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Or nothing at all. Whatever. It’s all good. I suggest the following response to any seasonal greeting: “Thank you!” Accompanied by a smile. Because someone is being nice and you should be nice, too. Now … that wasn’t so hard, was it?

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Despite Facebook, there is no war on Christmas. No war on free speech. If you spread the rumor that this is true, who knows how much damage you can do? Unless that’s your intention, don’t do it.

No matter what you believe, it’s time to stop sharing, tweeting, and re-posting stuff that’s supposed to be true without first checking to make sure that it is true. How about we stop letting other people’s opinions substitute for facts? How about not passing rumors? How about we all make a commitment to fact-checking as a matter of course? Because the damage we do by spreading lies, rumors, and half-truths — intentional or not — is incalculable. This is something you can do to make the world better without getting out of your recliner.

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If you don’t have time to check the facts, do not repeat it, share it, re-post it, publish it, or in any way pass it along. Unless you personally have checked the facts, assume it is not true. The world will be a better place no matter what politics you favor.

This is not an “us versus them” issue. It is a true versus untrue issue, a fact versus fiction issue. It affects everyone — including your children and grandchildren. Stand up for truth!