Monday, January 23, 2017

The Joy of Trolling

Most of us can’t stand trolls on the internet. Posting comments and replies just to provoke a fight or to demean someone isn’t cool. Most trolls are sexist, racist, homophobic assholes. As John Oliver pointed out for us on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, some even terrorize people. But sometimes, trolling can be hilarious. Oliver has trolled a number of institutions with hilarious hashtags. His protest against elitism at Yankee Stadium was perfect.

Yes, sometimes, it’s fun. I do try to go after ideas rather than attack people. Some of my Facebook friends may remember a post where I wasn’t such a gentleman. . .

But I really wanted to talk about substance. I just acted like an asshole for a moment. I can take ownership of my failings. It’s sad that the post lost me some Facebook friends, but, as the Bard would have said, I’m a grown-ass├ęd man. I can lie in that bed.

Since the election, though, I’ve tried to limit my comments and replies to posts that I don’t agree with on social media to statements of fact. I don’t argue nearly as much as I feel the urge to. I’m a work in progress, but I know most arguing on social media doesn’t result in changed hearts or minds. People just get pissed off, and I’m sure I’ve pissed lots of people off.

I do have a little social justice warrior in my heart, and it often shows. I also have a sense of humor. So, I try to make my trolling funny. Funny to me, anyway. I know my jokes don’t always get the laughs I think they deserve. Then there are the jokes that absolutely deserve laughs but still get me blocked on the Twitters.

Let us go back to the beginning of 2016 when Esquire said the at Tila Tequila could be the best follow on the Twitters for the year. I started following her, and it was entertaining. For those of you who don’t know, Tila Tequila is a rather empty-headed former reality TV star who’s dabbled in the pornography and crowdfunding her lifestyle and who apparently has Nazi sympathies. She also thinks the earth is flat.

She’s rather disconnected from reality, at least on social media. . . well, very disconnected from reality on social media. I really started paying attention during the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. day last year. I was under the weather and thankful for entertainment that required little more than holding my phone. She tweeted weird things about existing outside of space and time, and I decided to reply to every one of her tweets.

At first, I just started saying absurd things to her. I can’t see what she said anymore because she blocked me. I remember one person replied to both of us that we were going to hell. I tried not to take that personally, but it did hurt my feelings. Then, she started tweeting about going back in time to the 1960s. I’m not sure if she was tweeting from via mobile data or a wi-fi connection, but her tweets were still making it back to 2016. Her cell phone bill must have been outrageous.

In honor of MLK, I suggested that she go to 1968 and stop the assassination. Can we not agree that this would be a noble act for any time-traveler? I would gladly forsake a day off to save the life of such a great man. She had nothing to say about this, and then, well, I got greedy.

Call me crazy, but I figured that if she’s going back in time, maybe she could go kill baby Hitler. I didn’t know about her political leanings at the time. It just seemed like a good idea. Hell, killing baby Hitler may have even changed events to such a degree that she wouldn’t have had to go back to 1968 and stop MLK’s assassination. How could anyone not take advantage of that? Well, I guess I know why she didn’t kill baby Hitler now.

Feeling a sense of urgency, I kept replying to her tweets with encouragement to go back and kill baby Hitler. Indeed, the Twitters hashtag “babyhitlermustdie” is solely populated by my more than 50 tweets of encouragement at Tila Tequila to do just that. Perhaps it was her fondness of Hitler that made her block me, or perhaps it was a pro-life sentiment.

If she felt uncomfortable killing a baby, I suggested an alternative. . .

I may have crossed the line there. I’m not sure. I do know this. If harassing a Nazi sympathizer by suggesting that she take advantage of her time travels to kill baby Hitler hurt her feelings, I think I’ll still be able to sleep at night.

Now, I need to find another idiot to troll.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Let’s Take a Step Back

Just for a second. I know I wrote a couple days ago about how we need to move forward, but some things are getting out of hand. As protests around the country continue, violence has also continued. While I have no problem with people protesting and demonstrating — the right to do so is in the First Amendment — violence will do nothing for us.

And as some protesters in Portland, Oregon have already been raising money to help cover the damage caused by the few violent ones, the violence is continuing. And others, like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly are suggesting that a civil war may be brewing.

Let me be clear about something, the left wing in this country cannot engage in a civil war. You know those 300 million or so privately-owned guns in this country?  We don’t have them. Violent protests about the election are pointless. They can only serve to undermine any potential progressive agenda. If you want to show the world that you don’t agree with the results of the election, do so peacefully, and then we need to take a step back and choose our path forward.

Have a Plan

Aside from letting our President-Trump-fearing allies around the world know that the election results don’t sit well with the American left, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plan to move forward. And make no mistake, just protesting won’t be enough. There’s nothing that can prevent Donald Trump from becoming the 45th President of the United States, other than members of the Electoral College making an unprecedented turn to vote against the people of their states. Don’t bet on it.

We must have a productive plan to deal with what could very likely devastate progress that’s been made on a number of fronts — looking at you, environment and open access to reproductive healthcare for women. The Democratic National Committee and the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses will need to have a solid plan for the next two to four years. Personally, I hope they don’t try to be obstructive the way Republicans were during the Obama Administration. That won’t get us anywhere.

The leaders of the protests need to have a plan, as well. It’s not enough to just march in the streets. They can become leaders for real change. They’ve started something, and they need to keep it going. They need to keep being active and keep being activists.

Likewise, we, as individuals, we need to become activists. Find an organization to volunteer for. Personally, over the last few months I’ve given time to NextGen Climate making calls and sending texts to get out the vote. I’ve made calls and met with other volunteers to help make plans with Maine Citizens for Clean Elections over the last couple years. And I’ve canvassed in my area for the Maine Democratic Party.

I’ll keep giving time — and money, when I can afford it — to those organizations when I can, but I’m not going to stop there. If any of us really care about the progressive agenda, we need to find organizations that can use our help. I’m going to find time for Maine Conservation Voters and Planned Parenthood. The environment and a woman’s dominion over her reproductive choices face certain attack. I, personally, can’t just sit around or merely march in the streets while those attacks get underway.

If you’re a liberal, don’t just sit there. Give time.

When Rick Santorum was running for President in 2012, I started a petition on to make him stop exploiting innocent sweater vests. My wet blanket of a girlfriend at the time was upset because I was using resources that should otherwise have been used for more “worthy causes” (her words, not mine). She didn’t even sign it.

I’m pretty easily manipulated, so I felt bad. I then started responding to a crapload of petitions from a variety of organizations. I even started donating money to some environmental and other liberal causes. My email inbox has never recovered. I’ve signed hundreds of online petitions and sent hundreds of emails to my state and federal legislators.

I’ve learned, however, that all that online activism doesn’t do much good. Emily Ellsworth, a former congressional staffer recently gave some advice on Twitter about engaging with our elected officials.

The sheer volume of emails makes them impossible to sort, let alone read, and you’ll only get a form letter reply. Calls get attention. So if there’s an issue you want your legislators to know your feelings on, call them. Staffers will have to listen to you. It’s a method that’s helped the NRA get a great deal of attention. NRA members call their representatives all the time. It’s as important as the donations they receive.

Hundreds of calls will get more attention than thousands of emails because they take more time. I’ve resisted making calls to my legislators on a number of occasions because I had a limited number of minutes in my call plan. I know. That’s dumb. My cell phone bill taking precedence over the liberal agenda, how selfish of me.

Well, I have unlimited minutes now. I’m going to be making a lot of calls from now on. We must do this to make sure our voices are heard, especially if we have a Republican legislator. They need to hear our voices even more than Democrats.

We have to give time and use our voices. If there’s a Million Liberal March on Washington, I’ll go there if I can afford it. If President Trump comes to Maine, and there’s going to be a demonstration to show support of progressive issues, I’ll be there. But I’ll also be giving time and making calls. This is something we have to do.

Let’s Be Objective

I know. There’s already objective evidence of President-Elect Trump’s lack of respect for women, minorities, the environment, etc. But there’s also objective evidence that he’s willing to say just about anything to get elected, and he’s already toned down his stance on Hillary Clinton, saying that we “. . . we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.” That’s a far cry from saying that he would make sure she’s incarcerated, but time will tell.

He’s also toned down his stance on the Affordable Care Act. He was going to repeal it and replace it with “something terrific,” but now he’s talking about keeping a number of the law’s pieces in place.

The campaign was full of drama, and Mr. Trump brought the fear of his presidency and his policies on by himself. But we must remember that we live in a republic with checks and balances in the government, and many Republicans were as horrified by some of the things he said as we were. While he may not have a history of expressing a very complex understanding of the Constitution, those Republicans understand it pretty well, and they won’t have a problem reeling him in. . . I hope.

I may not be a fan of Donald J. Trump as a man, I have to respect that he won the election. He will be our President. Saying that “he’s not my president” means nothing. It meant nothing when Republicans said it about Presidents Clinton and Obama. The President of the United States is everyone’s president.

I wasn’t a big fan of President George W. Bush, especially after the start of the war in Iraq. I felt at the time — and feel more strongly now — that he wanted that war as revenge against the man who tried to kill his father. There’s a lot of evidence to support that, and I was angry that my life could be put in danger because of it.

However, I didn’t get out of the army reserve. When I was mobilized as an instructor to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I went. I reenlisted when my contract was up. I even volunteered for a combat tour in Iraq (but I was replaced on that mobilization list).

We don’t have to agree with our president or any other elected official, but not accepting him as our president is meaningless. Any bill he signs into law will still be the law of the land.

Donald J. Trump is going to be our president. If we aren’t fans of that, we can still do something. Give time. Make calls. Give money if you can. There are plenty of ways that we can be active in the face of the upcoming years of a completely Republican government. Just be active.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Moving Forward from the Election

So, here we are. This campaign season was very depressing. It showed just how divided we are as a people. On the night of the election I was filled with anxiety. I dreaded the outcome, the possibility of Donald Trump winning.

Now that he’s President-Elect Trump, that painful anxiety is gone. I’m oddly optimistic. I look at this as a chance for us to actually come together as a people. The right may not have tried to understand the left during the Obama Presidency, choosing instead to obstruct as much as they could right up to the end. Hopefully, we on the left will take this opportunity to understand what we’re up against and look for ways to find opportunities to compromise and make our country better.

I’ve thought a great deal about this campaign, and I did more reading about the candidates than I ever have before. Here are some of my thoughts as we — hopefully — begin the process of healing.

Stop the Blame Game

I enrolled as a Democrat to caucus for Bernie Sanders, and I went to the Maine Democratic Convention as an alternate delegate for him. I’ve never been a member of any political party before, and I’ve voted for both Democrats and Republicans through the years. I’m not a fan of the two-party system, and I’d gladly vote for a worthy third party candidate. I think they have a lot of work to do to improve their chances.

But as long as we have this shit sandwich of a two-party system, I may as well pick a side. (That being said, I will still vote for a Republican if she’s a better candidate.)  I’ll remain a democrat until the party really pisses me off somehow.

And seriously, as a Democrat I have to say that we need to stop trying to assign blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss. We can’t blame “racists” for the rise of Trump. He did appeal to white supremacists, but many good, honorable people voted for him as well. We can’t blame third party candidates, either. Many of those votes would probably have gone to the Republican ticket had there been no other options.

We can only blame ourselves. I don’t buy into the apocryphal “Hillary’s a criminal” mindset. I think the Republicans have done a great job of smearing her over the years, especially with the gratuitous Benghazi hearings. Dopey — to borrow one of President Elect Trump’s favorite epithets and appropriately assign it — Congressman Kevin McCarthy made it clear that there was more motivation behind the hearings than just getting to the bottom of the attacks. While Secretary Clinton was cleared in all the reports, she was tarnished beyond repair. The email scandal, which I feel was blown way out of proportion, wasn’t handled well. Even though she was cleared by the FBI, many didn’t agree with that exoneration.

There’s also the Clinton Foundation, a world class nonprofit organization that has done amazing work for people around the globe, and the Republicans were able to cast it in a very negative light. And much of the blame for that can be placed squarely on Secretary Clinton, herself. No reasonable person should think that friendship won’t get you access to people in power, but when donors to that organization are given access, whether or not that access is truly related to the donations, it stinks of corruption.

Then there are people who honestly believe that Bill and Hillary Clinton have had people killed. I joke on Facebook about people needing to stop talking badly about the Clintons or they’ll be visited by a Bill and Hillary Death Squad, but seriously?  People actually believe this. Let me move on.

The Democratic Party nominated an incredibly polarizing figure, and we stinking liberals need to acknowledge that. While Mr. Trump is no stranger to polarization, many people just wanted someone who isn’t a career politician in there to shake things up (even though nothing in his platform gives much of an indication that things will actually be different during his presidency or after it).

The American people wanted change, and for better or worse, we got it.

Let Go of the Campaign Drama

During the 2016 presidential campaign, there was very little substantive discussion. It was infuriating. We needed to wait until the final debate to hear any discussion of one of the greatest threats to our prosperity, the national debt. Not surprisingly, no one had a plan that would actually address reducing it.

No, we had pure mud-slinging. All the talk was about how Hillary Clinton is corrupt and Donald Trump is a — for the sake of brevity — just a horrible person. We need to let go of that drama. Seriously. I’m not a fan of Donald Trump, but we need to give him our attention. Protesting in the street won’t help anything.

Trying to undermine his presidency by saying “he’s not my president” won’t help either. It didn’t make Barack Obama any less of the President of the United States over the last 8 years when republicans said the same thing and even questioned his citizenship.

Michael Moore’s 5 Point Plan won’t help either. We aren’t suddenly going to get rid of the Electoral College and fire all TV pundits. That’s silly. And we absolutely need to heal the divide. We can’t “. . . obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama. . .” That’s counterproductive. We need to grow up and find common ground, or else we can merely kiss progress on a lot of issues goodbye. It’s also going to be rather difficult for Democrat’s to obstruct when the Republicans will soon hold power in all three branches of our government.

I agree that we should let go of the Electoral College. It's getting in the way of what the people want. But there’s a process to amend the Constitution. Enough people have to make their Senators and Representatives know that they want this change before it would even be introduced as a proposed amendment. We can’t just cry about Hillary getting more votes. We have to DO something.

Why I Supported Hillary Clinton

Look, I know she wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t buy into the horrors that many people believe about her. I believe that she is able and experienced. I believe that her economic plan would have been the least damaging to the federal debt. I believe in the free market, but I also believe that it needs to be regulated to prevent innocent people from financial ruin. (Remember the mortgage crisis, anyone?)

I believe that she would have protected a woman’s right to choose. I’m pro-choice, not pro-abortion. I agree with her that the government shouldn’t be interfering in a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. I know women who have had abortions. It definitely wasn’t “birth control.” It was the most gut-wrenching decision of their lives, and for one of them, that decision saved her life. Get out of the womb, government.

I also believe that she would have made the best choice for the Supreme Court. I don’t want to forsake the progress we’ve made on the rights of the LGBT population.

Now I have to hope that my belief in those rights can find enough support to be protected for a while. It’s hard to be optimistic.

Much was made of the “lesser of two evils” argument for both candidates. I didn’t think Secretary Clinton is evil. And, honestly, I don’t necessarily think Trump is “evil.”  I have serious reservations about him as a person, and I’m seriously concerned about his inability to acknowledge any flaws. I worry about him lying about so many stupid little things, like the NFL complaining to him about the debate schedule. How I think of him as a person aside, I just preferred the Democratic platform over that of the Republicans.

What I Worry About for the Future

Naturally, I worry about those same rights being undermined. I worry that education about sexual health and birth control will suffer. I worry that we will become a less inclusive country. I worry that terror groups will be more motivated to attack us because of the things President-Elect Trump has said about Islam. I worry that we could get into another war in the Middle East when if he reneges on the Iran Nuclear Treaty.

I worry that he doesn’t have a complex understanding of many issues. I’m concerned about the economy. Sure, the markets are doing well now, but does that benefit anyone other than the wealthy? How will he move to deregulate it and how will that affect working families? How is he going to get production jobs back to the US when he, himself, shipped them overseas?

I worry about freedom of speech. Will he actually change libel laws?

How about all the talk of jailing Secretary Clinton?  He graciously said that we should be thankful for her years of service during his acceptance speech. But will the alt-right groups who think she should be in jail be disappointed in him when she doesn’t go to jail? Will they respond with plans to attack? I don’t trust unstable conspiracy theorists.

What about the rise of hate?  Will white supremacists like David Duke continue to be emboldened by President-Elect Trump? I’m not trying to suggest that Mr. Trump is a white supremacist. I’m saying that he often speaks impulsively, and white supremacists have liked a lot of what he’s said. He was even endorsed by the KKK’s newspaper. He did distance himself from that, and he can’t help who likes him. But that doesn’t make who likes him any less of a concern when they feel that he’s their voice.

And what about how we communicate? Will email ever be the same?  I guarantee that it won’t be in any political campaign again. I’ve long felt that privacy is an illusion, but private conversations shouldn’t be used to undermine public figures. We should also be very concerned about foreign governments and organizations hacking our communications and publicizing them to interfere in our democratic processes. Are we just going to assume that republican emails didn’t contain anything damaging to the Trump campaign? I don’t.

The FBI interference in the campaign is also very troubling. Will there be serious inquiry into the operations at the FBI — along with the email hacks? Or will the party in power not care because these issues didn’t harm their campaigns?

How about the Affordable Care Act? It's going to be repealed, but what will replace it? Something terrific? I know the right is upset that premiums are going up for those plans, but at least those people can get insurance now.

There’s a lot that concerns me.

Moving Forward

I hope that we can come together as a country and understand our divisions. We have a long way to go, and this campaign hasn’t helped. But we desperately need to move forward. Donald J. Trump will be the next President of the United States. Period. We all need to accept that. Complaining and trying to obstruct won’t get us anywhere.

I hope — perhaps foolishly — that the government will see how close the popular vote was and realize that our country isn’t just a Republican or Democratic monolith with one set of values. Somewhere in the middle will be fine. . . Yes, that is pretty foolish of me.

I hope we can get past our fears. Donald Trump ran a campaign based on instilling a great deal of fear in the electorate, and Hillary Clinton ran a campaign based largely on fear of Donald Trump. Many fear that he’s a fascist. (I, myself, am worried about some of those tendencies.) I just hope he will be the president for all of us — whether we like that or not — and that he surrounds himself with wise men and women. I hope that’s not a foolish wish.

I hope we can bring decorum back to life and treat each other with respect.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Style Tips for a Fashionable Fall

So, it’s fall, and you’re all, like, “I need to be real stylish.”  Don’t worry.  I’m here for you with some fresh tips to keep you at the top of your style game for this fall that will carry over into the winter.

Carefully Disheveled

“What is this ‘carefully disheveled’ business?” you ask.  Well, it’s the hot new look I’ve been developing for many, many years.  Sure you want to look nice, but you don’t want to look too nice.  You also don’t want to be such a mess that you might have inspired a “You look like
It took me ten years to
develop this look.

Joe Shit, the Rag Man” comment from one of my basic training drill sergeants.

Is that not clear enough? Just don’t look too heveled or kempt or ruly.  Be meticulous about looking ruffled. Fuckin’-A!  Just look at the picture.

And this isn’t just a fall look.  You can painstakingly rumple yourself any time of year.  But back to the fall. . .

Sweater Vests

There’s nothing like sweater vests to add that extra bit of swag to your look.  Go with a nice
Classic Ted Perrin.
solid or a subtle pattern.  An added bonus during cooling fall and cold winter months is the extra layer of warmth around your 
core that will stave off the throes of death if you become stranded in the wilderness.  You’ll be warm and sexy as hell.  

A cool tie always looks great with your sweater vests as well, and if you've been lost in that wilderness for a significant amount of time, you can use the tie to stylishly hang yourself! (Talk about form and function!)

I’ll often go fully-sweatered, too.  This is still rather stylish, and full sweaters can even be awesome, but they do not approach the absurd levels of awesomeness and style that a sweater vest maintains.

And what should you wear under your sweater vest?  A cool shirt, of course. The same goes for those days when you wish to be fully-sweatered.  Careful dishevelment goes well with both sweater vests and full sweaters, even with a tie.

The man makes the sweater vest, but the sweater vest makes the outfit.

Cool Socks

That’s right.  Wear cool socks.  While some may wear “crazy socks” because it’s a fun way
These socks are
so cool!
to get a little extra color in a plain outfit, I just started wearing them because I’m tired of trying to match socks to my outfit when I wear jeans.  I mean, seriously, whose idea was it for socks to match an outfit, anyway?  I’m color blind, and it’s a genuine pain in the ass. Don't judge me!

I’m tired of wearing neutral socks.  So, I wear cool, colorful socks.  The more colorful they are, the more likely they are to coordinate with something else I’m wearing, so it’s a win-win.


Yeah, wear jeans.  Jeans are the go anywhere, do anything garment.  You can wear them with a simple shirt or hoodie, or you can dress them up with a blazer.  If you really want to go all-out with the style, wear them with a sweater vest.  I’m rather fond of a dark rinse, but I’m not a Nazi about “crotch whiskers.”  I don’t care what Choo Choo says.  If jeans are subtly distressed, I’ll wear them as long as my ass looks good in them.

Which reminds me.  It’s a good idea to have a nice ass when you wear jeans, too, but a good pair of jeans can frame the ass nicely.  This hasn’t always been socially acceptable.  As Wilford Coddlington wrote in an 1874 edition of The Buzzfeed Bi-Weekly Tribune:

There now comes out of the West, a new type of pantaloons, wherein a man might find comfort and style as he works his day minding cattle on the range or as he might pan or prospect for gold in the Black Hills of the Dakota territories.  Such a man might
As it turns out, Levi's
still makes jeans.
also wear these new pantaloons, as sold by one Levi Strauss and Company, into town where he may find himself in establishments to dine and gamble and whore away his meagre earnings in the manner common to the low class immigrants and cads who are unfit for life in the great Eastern part of this American country. 

Now, according to reports, these men bring scandal into these very towns where they go to squander their money away, for many womenfolk of these Western Territories have noted how these pantaloons make a fine presentation of a man’s buttocks.  And while one can naturally expect that the common whores and disgusting bar-wenches of said territories will not have the decency to look away from any such man’s backside, it has also been reported that even good Christian ladies, who
Accessorize as you will.
have traveled westward to bring the word of God to the manifest territories under the control of our nation, cannot but gaze upon such behinds as are clad in these pantaloons. 

I daresay such garments ought to be banned, not only from such towns and cities in these Western Territories, but also from all parts of our country to the east of the Mississippi River, for men who labor in these eastern states ought need not the same degrees of comfort as the lowly scoundrel cattlemen and miners of the West.  And, indeed, our civilized ladies need not be exposed to such buttocks clad in these new Strauss pantaloons.

Well, times sure have changed.  Luckily for me, my ass and I were born at a time when I don’t have to be ashamed of ol’ glory back there.  So, sport some nice jeans and share nice views of your ass with your friends and other members of your community.

Cool Shoes
When you're carefully disheveled,
your shoes will show some wear.

There are many who swear by a sweet pair of kicks to complete an outfit.  I, myself am fond of nice oxford shoe to wear with jeans, and recently, I’ve become enamored of the chukka boot to complete an outfit. My closet is home to an embarrassing amount of such footwear, but I’m up for anything, as long as oxford shoes or chukka boots are appropriate gear for my adventures.

Cool Glasses

Cool spectacles are cool.
If you don’t need them, don’t worry.  There are a variety of things we can do that our moms always said would ruin our eyes — sitting too close to the TV, reading in the dark, masturbating (make sure you stop well short of blindness!).  Now get to work!

Whatever you do, don’t get a pair of nonprescription glasses.  That’s lame.  While glasses are an ideal accessory, you shouldn’t waste money on ones that don’t do anything for your vision.  Cool glasses are an amazing example of how form and function can intersect. Take advantage of that.

Facial Hair
If I had two mustaches, I would
be unstoppable.

Facial hair kicks so much ass.  Just cultivate it.  Have a cool mustache or a cool beard. Even a cool amount of stubble can be attractive. Take care of it.  And don’t forget, a cool mustache or beard pairs exceptionally well with cool glasses and a sweater vest and careful dishevelment.

So, this should keep you stylish for a few months.  Get to it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

I am a Liar

             Yes, you read that correctly.  I’m a liar.  And, no I’m not a pathological liar.  I'm no Tommy Flanagan.

            This is difficult for me.  I’ve grown a lot over the years, and have to admit that I’ve also told a lot of untruths.   Many of us have, and no, I’m not saying that to make an excuse for my behavior.  Most of us at least tell some little white lies to protect someone’s feelings.  People do that. 

Sometimes, we lie to avoid conflict.  I’ve done that a lot.  For a long time, I was very conflict-avoidant.  The intense emotions of conflict brought me to a place emotionally that I didn’t understand and didn’t like.  I would lie about stupid things when I was married.  When asked simple things, like whether or not I’d paid the electric bill, I’d say that I had done so in order to avoid any potential conflict over why I hadn’t, even if I was planning to do the bills, which weren’t late, that evening.   Had I said that I was going to do them that evening, it would have been fine.  I was just incredibly insecure and afraid of where conflict would take me.  The great irony of those lies is that they caused a great deal more conflict than I was trying to avoid in the first place. 

I worked through this with a therapist, and I understand where the conflicts brought me.  I’ve made peace with this.  It doesn’t change the damage that those lies did, but I was able to move forward.  In subsequent relationships I’ve been able to be honest about stupid little shit like that. 

We may also say things that aren’t true in order to save someone’s feelings.  We may say that someone looks great in a new shirt because that person feels confident and beautiful in it, even though we wouldn’t let our dog have puppies on that shirt because we think it’s so grossly ugly that adding puppy afterbirth to it would just be more than we could bear.  We don’t want to hurt that person’s feelings.   It’s not my shirt, and I don’t have to wear it.  Along the same lines a teacher or parent may say that a child’s art is wonderful, even though the kid hasn’t heard of foreshortening and has absolutely no concept of the atmospheric perspective.   People tell that kid it’s great because we want to encourage her to explore her creativity, and hopefully, she’ll learn about depth.

And sometimes, people lie to hide their shame and embarrassment.  I’m never all that shocked when a politician or celebrity is exposed for a lie.  Of course politicians want to hide things that might be politically damaging, and of course celebrities hide things that may embarrass them or damage their reputations.  Of course President Clinton didn’t inhale, and of course he didn’t receive the historic Oval Office hummer.  Of course Larry Craig had a wide stance.  Of course Lance Armstrong and Aaron Rodriguez didn’t use performance enhancing drugs.  Of course Tiger Woods was a faithful husband.  Of course [insert female celebrity’s name here] has real boobs.   Of course [insert male celebrity’s name here] didn’t cheat on his smoking hot wife with the beautiful nanny.  Those are all damn lies!

People do things that hurt their careers and reputations and relationships, and they don’t want that truth out.  The truth hurts relationships and legacies.  The truth costs people their careers.  The truth can just be embarrassing.  I completely understand why people lie about this stuff.  I also completely understand the consequences.  If we don’t want to be embarrassed or have our marriages or careers ruined, then we should just do the right thing from the beginning.  We often don’t, and we pay the price. 

There are things I’ve done that are very embarrassing.  I’m glad no one knows about them.  I’ve lied about some of them.  Some I’ve told the truth about.  If TMZ were to get some embarrassing video of me, I’d own my behavior and try to move forward.  I don’t think there are any unrevealed lies out there that would hurt anyone who’s currently in my life.  There may be some things that would cause me some embarrassment.  I’d have to deal with that.  This piece isn’t really about those lies.  I’ve made peace with them, and I try to think about the consequences of what I do before I put myself in situations where I may be embarrassed by what happens.

There are still other lies that are harder to understand for most people.  These are lies that people use to create a back story.  Now, I’m not going to go after Ben Carson here.  That’s too easy.  But people create back stories to make themselves look better or to feel connected with something.  Comedian Steve Rannazzisi was working in New York in 2001.  After he moved to LA he started telling people that he had been working for Merrill Lynch in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  I don’t know why he did this.  I’m not sure he does, but he’s paid quite a price professionally.   He’s pretty funny, and I hope, for his sake,that he can overcome some of the damage to his career.   There’s no excusing what he did, but he’s really only guilty of being an asshole and offending millions of people. 

And there are darker lies that create back stories.  Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and plans to attack out country and our allies.  Al Quaeda is in Iraq, and Iraq was involved in 9-11.  These lies get people killed.  They’re shameful.  I would only be avoiding telling my own truth if I delved into this, so I’ll move on.

My greatest lie is one of these.  No, I did not get anyone killed or start a war.  I did create a back story, to my shame, and my conscience can’t seem to shake it.  I have to process through this, and no mere discussion with my therapist will allow me to let it go.

But first, let’s briefly consider what a lie is.  A lie is something that someone says that is untrue.  And we have to know it’s untrue for it to be a lie.  Otherwise, it’s just a mistake.  If I say that the universe is about 10 billion years old, but I later find out that it’s really around 12 billion years old.  I didn’t lie.  I was just ignorant of the truth. 

   Now, let’s dig deeper.  What is truth?  Can we call it observable reality?  It’s more complicated than we think.  Can we say that something is true if it is observable, something that happened, without the filter of emotion or of judgment?  I believe this will work.  The sky is blue.  The earth revolves around the sun.  Ice cream is cold.  I have a maple tree in my yard.  These are all things that different people can observe and agree on. 

We also have to consider perception.  Our perceptions tend to influence our understanding of reality.   Is it partly cloudy or mostly sunny?  As a color blind man, I often have to check with others to confirm the colors of objects.  I may have purchased a nice, blue shirt last weekend, but the first time I wear it, someone compliments me on my nice, purple shirt.  But now I know the truth.  The shirt is purple, and I trust others’ perceptions of it.  That’s a very simple example.  Here’s another.  The city of Augusta, Maine, where I used to work, has a few traffic circles.  Some people perceive them as a pain in the ass, and try to avoid them.  Some people perceive presence of traffic circles as just how things are, and they perceive the idiots who do not know how to drive in traffic circles as the pain in the ass. 

Indeed, whether or not something is a pain in the ass is subjective.  People can objectively agree that there are traffic circles in Augusta.  This is factually observable and is, therefore, true.   The things that make the traffic circles a pain in the ass are matters of opinion, affected by an individual’s perception and experience.  While they are true for the individual, they are not something that everyone sees the same, so they can’t be accepted as a general truth. 

There are some things that may seem to be subjective, but they are, in fact absolutely true.  I have a great ass.  You’d think that using “great” makes it subjective.  Nope, it’s universally accepted that I have a great ass.  It’s one of those things like, “Angelina Jolie is beautiful” or “Peyton Manning is the best actor in the NFL,” that everyone universally agrees upon.

And I won’t get into the belief versus truth issue with religion versus science.  That’s a bigger issue, and, quite frankly, that would be another way for me to put off writing about my big, big lie, the reason for this piece. 

When I was younger and didn’t know myself well, I often probably didn’t know what truth really was.  I lied about things to protect others’ feelings or to preserve the idea that I’m a sweet and nice guy or to avoid conflicts.  Those lies hurt people and damaged my relationships.  There are days when I still kick myself for some of those lies.  But those lies are in the past.  I’ve made peace with them and learned from them.  I know myself better, and I know I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone with untruths anymore.  I’ve tried to become a truth teller, and I can honestly say that I’m proud of the progress I’ve made.

Except for one pretty significant lie. 

While I was in the army and army reserve I was over the army’s weight limit for my age and height for most of my career.  Whenever we had a weigh-in, I’d have to be given the body fat tape test even when I was in the best shape of my life.  I was often 15 to 25 pounds over the weight limit, but I always passed the tape test.  But the 50-ish pounds of pure masculine glory that I put on from the time I was 18 to the time I retired from the army reserve at 43 started to get to me along the way.  I made something up to try to explain it away. 

I guess I was embarrassed.  I don’t know.  I guess I wanted to make myself feel better about having to be taped because I was overweight.  I mean, I still don’t know why I did this.  I’ve never
Does this guy look like he
has any reason to be
ashamed of his body?
considered myself a Fatty McFatterson.  I’m kind of stocky, so I’m going to carry more pounds than I think it may look like I’m carrying.  I may have reverse body dysmorphic disorder, or something, but I’ve never thought that I was all that big.  Seriously, I carry it well, I think.

And pretty much everyone agrees how desirable and awesome I am.  A recent Gallup poll showed the 89 percent of single women wanted to be with me and 99 percent of men wanted to be me (3.5 percent margin of error).   Hell, a lot of the men wanted to be with me, and a significant percentage of the women wanted to be me.   And there I was lying about stuff for all those years of my military service.  What is wrong with me?

I may never understand why, and I may never be able to make anyone understand.  I just had to make up a story, a story, incidentally, that could pass no test of the truth.  It was objectively and subjectively false.  No one, and I mean no one, would be able to objectively observe me and concur that what I had been saying was even remotely true.  I couldn’t even make a subjective argument that it was true in my perception.  I fully acknowledge that it was a lie, and I own this.

I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to post this.  I may just delete this file.  Here’s what I did.  Here’s my lie.  I implied that my, ahem, “masculinity” was the reason I was overweight.  Hell, who am I kidding?  Not you.  Not America.  I was a soldier with a security clearance, and I couldn’t say a basic truth about myself. 

And for crying out loud, I didn’t imply anything.  I just lied.  I’ll spare you the indelicate language I used, but I said that it was all “junk" weight.  That was why I didn’t meet the army’s weight standards.  Seriously, 25 pounds?  That’s a hell of a lie.  I’m sorry.  I know.  I’m a bad person.  I failed to live up to the army values, and I failed my country.  I failed you all.

I’m a bad person, and I hope that someday, I will be able to regain your trust.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ted Makes Some New Rules for the Lexicon, Part I

I saw this thing on the internets yesterday.  It sets a truly high bar for political correctness.  Here's the video. . .

Now I may not agree with Paul Ryan that much, but I have to agree that he works hard, presumably not on any productive legislation given the do nothing nature of recent Congresses.  However, he does work hard.  Between meeting with constituents, fellow caucus members, and attending various committees on Capitol Hill, I’m sure his schedule is rather hectic.  I know he is a dedicated family man who—famously—wants to spend as much time as possible with his wife and kids in his home state of Wisconsin.  Now, I’m not going to go down the paid family leave road right now.  This is going to be a discussion of the lexicon and how it’s changing.  I just want to state, for the record, that Paul Ryan does work hard.

But he doesn’t work slave hard, and that’s an important distinction.  He’s never had to dress in rags and sleep in a hovel or wear chains when casting votes or be whipped when he’s gone against the party line.  None of that.  Henceforth, “hard working” can only be applied to victims of American slavery.  “Diligent” is a good substitute, and so is “productive.”  You can say that someone “does a lot of stuff” or that she “gets a lot done in a little bit of time.”  You can say that someone “achieves a lot of things that his boss wanted him to get done” and that someone “did some challenging things at the office on many occasions.” I guess the only exception would be for the possible occasion when someone literally worked slave hard, but we should be very careful when applying the label “hard working” to someone. 

And don’t let allegedly “more reasonable” people say things like, “Wow, that is really stupid.  It’s more than a bit absurd to use the experience of African American slaves as the only reference point for something as common as ‘hard work.’  People work hard.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if we agree with them or like what they do.  Jobs look different.  Some are physical.  Some are intellectually challenging.  Some are highly stressful.  The degree to which someone applies herself to the work she does can stand on its own merits.  If she accomplishes a great deal, then she’s probably a hard worker.  Saying that does not, in any way, lessen the atrocity of our history of slavery, nor does it impugn the work performed by African American slaves. “  Wow, that is some insensitive bullshit, man.

As for me, this clearly shows that I’ve never worked hard in my life, and I’m not ashamed of that.  I have done a lot of stuff in relatively short periods of time on a number of occasions, not recently, of course, but on a number of occasions.

And this reminds me of something else.  We shouldn’t use the word “whipped,” either.   And we should absolutely not say “Cool Whip.”  Whipping is definitely not cool.  From now on, call it “cream dessert topping that has been stirred vigorously.”  That sounds delicious, and it doesn’t invoke any images of any violent act or any beatings of any kind. 

And look, don’t get all “reasonable” on me and say that “whip” has a variety of meanings and connotations or that one of those meanings is to beat or stir vigorously.  That doesn’t matter.  It’s insensitive for Christ’s sake.  Just click on this link to sign my petition demanding that Cool Whip change its name to “Cool Cream Dessert Topping That Has Been Stirred Vigorously.” 

Well, you know what, “beating” needs to go as well.  I’ll let my use of it in the last paragraph stand, but that’s it.  Cooking shows should stop using it, and sportscasters should absolutely stop using it.  When someone on ESPN says that [insert team name here] beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, that doesn’t just make Jacksonville fans sad.  It could be a trigger for anyone who’s experienced abuse.  I don’t want to trigger that. 

Hell, as a kid I got in some fights, and I was beaten up a few times.  When [insert team name here] beats the Charlotte Hornets, it’s not a trigger for me, but what about the subsequently weaker kids that I happened to beat up?  And the even weaker kids that those weaker kids beat up and on down the line?  There’s probably a trigger for someone in there somewhere.  I feel bad about participating in the downward cycle of beatings, and I want to make up for it.

Therefore, no longer use the term “beating.”  Sportscasters must now say that [insert team name here] scored more points than the Detroit Lions.  However, I will allow the use of it in reference to masturbation.  I mean “beating off” just fits the activity so Goddamn well. 

Look, language changes.  Do you remember when shit that Geoffrey Chaucer wrote made a lot of sense?  Me neither.  I mean, what the fuck is this, “Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote, The droghte of March hath perced to the roote. . .”  Nobody knows. 

Yes, the language changes, and we not only have an understanding of its tendency to change, we can have power over.  Me, I’m wielding that power, man.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

These Damned Internet Criminals

          So, yesterday I was on the Facebooks, and I received a friend request from someone I thought I was already friends with.  I’ll call him “Bill.”  Well, I know Bill.  We used to work together, and he’s a good guy.  I’m not sure why we weren’t friends anymore, but sure, I’ll be friends with Bill.  I accepted his request.

          A little while later Bill sent me a message.  “How’s it going?” or something like that.  “Not bad, Bill. Yourself?” I replied.  Now, I’m not sure what Bill said next because all of the messages have been “. . . temporarily removed because the sender's account requires verification,” but the tone of the message was odd.  It didn’t seem like Bill.  For starters, he said that he was feeling “blessed.”  Now, Bill may feel blessed from time to time, but he never struck me as the guy who goes around saying that he feels blessed.  He may have changed, though.  I haven’t seen him in quite a while.

          Then he asked me if I’d ever heard of some National Program something or other.  I said I’d never heard of it.  This didn’t really raise much of a suspicion because Bill is a federal employee.  We worked together at the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Augusta, Maine for a few years.  He also said that he received $50,000 through the program that day, and he gave me a number to text for information.  It was a great opportunity, he added.

          Okay, my suspicions were aroused, but I congratulated him.  Then I looked and saw that I now had two Bill friends with the same last name.  I warned Real Bill and the three other friends that fake Bill had become friends with, too.  I looked up the number, and indicated that the number isn't safe.  I told him that, but I also decided to have some fun.  I told him that I was suspicious, but I might check it out. 

          I asked him why he had two Facebook accounts, and he said that the other one had been infected with a Trojan horse.   I’m pretty sure that’s not how Trojan Horses work, but I could be wrong.  I pressed him further.

          “What's the nickname you gave me in Philadelphia?” I asked.  Bill and I had taught two parts of a VA new bureaucrat training at the VA Regional Office in Philadelphia.  We overlapped a week or so, and before I got there, he had given everyone a nickname.  He told everyone that I was “Uncle Ted.” 

          “Tedwardicio,” Fake Bill replied.  That’s on my public profile, and it was wrong.  My parents gave me that nickname, not Bill.  So, I was absolutely, 100% sure that this wasn’t Real Bill.  He said a few more things about how blessed he was and about how I could get $50,000 if I texted that bullshit number.  I wasn’t about to deal with this crap.

          “But, of course, Bill,” I said.  I decided to keep having fun with him.  He said to make sure I followed up to get my $50,000, but I went in a new direction.

          “Do you remember the night we shared at the hotel?” I asked him.  Bill and I never shared a night at the hotel.  “I'll never forget it. I miss you so much. . .”  He said that he remembered, so I continued, “Your strong hands and gentle touch.  The way you always know the right thing to say. I wish we could be together again. . . But you needed someone younger.  Look, I'm glad you've made some money, and thank you for sharing your news with me. I just want to know if you're happy with Trevor.”  Now, I’ve never delved into Real Bill’s personal life, but I’m pretty sure that—along with never having had a relationship with me—he never left me for a relationship with any Trevor.

          Fake Bill said that we could still be together.  Whoa. . . I didn’t want to take it that far, so I had to go into another new direction, “After you sucked Mike's cock at the office?  Mike?  Seriously!  I've done a lot of work on myself, and I'm feeling good about me?  I do not need you back.  I miss you, yes.  But I must also let you go. . .” I can only speculate about Bill and Mike at the office.  Any part of this that’s true is merely a coincidence.  I made it up.  Well, except for missing Bill.  He was a cool guy to work with.

          Fake Bill was off the hook for the relationship, but I wasn’t finished.  “Besides, you know how I feel about your gender reassignment surgery.  If you and Trevor want to be lesbians, that's your business.  By the way, your profile picture is totally butch.”  Again, I don’t know what’s been going on with Bill.  He probably isn’t a transgendered lesbian.  I made this stuff up.  If he is, then bless him.  Bill is a good friend.  Period.

          “Okay, goodbye then,” Fake Bill said.

          “Have a good life, Bill,” I said.  “Have a good life.”  And not wanting to leave things on a warm note, I added, “If this is some kind of scam, I'm going to track you down, sew your penis back on you, and then rip it off and shove it down your throat.”

          I may have crossed the line with that one, but in all honesty, I’m neither vengeful nor violent.  It is some kind of scam, and Fake Bill has no reason to fear me tracking him down, reattaching his penis, and then ripping it off again.  I’m just not that guy.  What I'm thinking about doing is finding the number in my Google search history and then sending them a picture of my junk.

          I also may have a bunch of bullshit-ass viruses on my phone and computer now.  Time to scan.