Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Don't Want To Hurt You, But It's An Election Year

This one's gonna be quick and dirty, folks.

Even before I got political and drifted so far left I fell off the map, I hated election years.  I hate them. They are hateful. The are horrible and hateful and over long and I hate them. HATE THEM.  But as I think of it, it actually has very little to do with the candidates themselves, who I just generally assume are disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst.  No, I hate election years because of the plague of outrageous stupidity the sweeps the nation, infecting even people I generally respect.

If you would prefer that I don't lose my shit on you (at least not from a talking-about-the-election standpoint), keep these things in mind:

1. Party loyalty is for the weak (minded).  This is one of those things that I say from the bottom of my heart, and while I want badly to pull punches where dear friends who are party activists are concerned, I just can't.

If you want to be an enrolled voter because you find yourself mostly aligned with their viewpoints, fine.  But you  have a responsibility to speak up when you disagree, and if you find yourself torturing logic to excuse the sketchy shenanigans of some slimy douchebag just because he's "on your team," you suck.

By the same token, there are some parties that have more unpalatable platforms and attract a disproportionate number of bottom feeders, but they are not always evil, and they're not always wrong.

Elections result in people literally controlling our lives. We're not picking the homecoming queen.  Think a little harder than that, 'kay?

2. There's tons of egregious shit to criticize. Don't be petty. You know how when people argue on the internet and one of them has a typo, the opponent inevitably responds, "Oh, you 'knoe' it's true?  Guess you don't 'knoe' how to spell, though, huh?"  This is not meaningful debate, this is elementary school. If you must bicker, even knowing that political debate NEVER results in people changing their minds, own your opponent on logical fallacies, factual errors and dishonesty. Otherwise you look weak and cheap and too poorly informed to win the debate on substance.  Also, you make people who share your views look like morons, so stop. Please.

3. Single-issue voters can suck it.  Single issue voters love Ron Paul. I'm against U.S. military involvement overseas. Bam, Ron Paul.  I'm a hardcore pro-lifer. Bam, Ron Paul.  I don't think about issues beyond things that affect me in my dorm room and I'm a wicked stoner who wants to legalize. Bam, Ron Paul. I'm racist, sexist, and homophobic and want to see any protections for minorities thrown out the window. Bam, Ron motherfucking Paul.  Ron Paul could get elected by single-issue voters, but I'm guessing that the hippies that wanted to end war and legalize pot are probably not really into the whole pro-life anti-already existing humans agenda.  Dear Otherwise Sane People: Stop saying things like, "I like that Ron Paul is anti-war, but I don't agree with a lot of his other ideas," as though you're still weighing out whether he might be an okay choice. Thanks, The World.

4. Consistency is not necessarily a virtue.  Okay.  Pandering is a bad thing.  This is when someone says that they believe whatever will get them the most support in a given situation.  This means they might be inconsistent in what they say about their position on a topic from campaign stop to campaign stop.  Pandering is a bad thing. This person probably has a consistent opinion, but "flip-flops" out of political expedience.

Open-mindedness is a good thing.  That's when you espouse a belief in something, but you listen to other people talk about that thing and, when presented with compelling evidence, change your mind.  Suppose you believe that car engines are powered by magical sprites on exercise bicycles, but then someone shows you the interior of an internal combustion engine and you now declare that you firmly believe the scientific community's position on what makes cars go.  Your new opinion is inconsistent with your previous position, but the change represents new wisdom and growth as opposed to deceit.

Suppose a candidate also believes in car engine sprites, and after being shown the same information you were, proclaims that the tenuous internal combustion "theory" is just some mumbo jumbo that scientists like to throw around and that he still believes in the sprites and furthermore thinks we need to spend more money on researching engine sprites.  He's consistent, but he's fucking crazy.

Alright, I'll stop now, but please.  Don't let the internets and televisions whip you into the kind of berserker state that makes these behaviors and beliefs happen.  Be sane. Be rational. Be skeptical.  Of all of them.  Groucho Marx famously wouldn't join any club that would have him as a member.  To be honest, I don't really want to give the job of president, or congressman, or senator to anyone who would want it.  Question motives and don't be an asshole.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My New Year Comes Late

I'm not much for celebrating the change of calendar years, but I do like to take a quick inventory of the past year when I've successfully lived another 365 days.  In other words, it's my birthday and amid the fun times with my awesome friends and family, I like to sprinkle in some thinkin'.

Yesterday evening I had a lengthy and fairly intense conversation with one of my favorite people about depression, empathy, and general philosophy.  Specifically, we talked about what it means to be smart and depressed, what it feels like to be "over" empathic in a culture that doesn't, despite its best intentions and platitudes, value empathy (and how it's often perceived as kind of creepy), the relative insignificance/importance of a single human being on macro- and microcosmic scales, and how we understand our personal context and the larger human historical context in the world within an atheist framework.   And contrary to how that probably sounds, it was one of the most engaging, funny, uplifting conversations I've had in a while.

I will mark this year as the year I got happy and the beginning of my radicalization (it's short way to radical in these gross political times, by the way). Strange conceptual bedfellows, a bit, but definitely symbiotic .  Being happy means I have the luxury of engaging with the world outside in way that is vigorous and positive.  Even when I'm seething with indignation about this or that injustice or ranting about letters to the editor, I know it's because I like life and it matters to me that this world is good.  For the record, I recognize the nearly unbearable earnestness of statements like that and even that feels like a triumph, even if it makes you, dear reader, barf just a little.  Take that, increasingly-marginalized cynical Meg!

What cropped up over and over again in the conversation last night was the idea that being responsible for your own happiness is maybe the defining responsibility of a person's life.  Complaining that things are terrible and vaguely hoping they spontaneously get better is a miserably inefficient solution, and one that has ripple effects through other people's lives. Prayer is complaining and really hoping things will spontaneously get better.  Next week or next month or next year are not more magical than right now.  Your future is happening by seconds, now, now, now, now, now, again now. Be kind now.  Appreciate the good things now.  I'd cite the Serenity Prayer, but I don't want anyone to wait for a god to give them serenity or courage or wisdom: Accept the things you can't change, change the things you can, take yourself off autopilot and figure out which are which.  It sounds incredibly simple, to the point of being meaningless, but in practice those three tasks are very, very difficult.  A lot of terrible things happen.  A lot of frustrating things happen.  Sometimes those things will happen continuously for kind of a long time and there's nothing you can do about it.  I've let that stuff own me plenty and all it got me was a double dose of misery.  Sometimes the bright spots to focus on belong to a friend or a stranger in a news story, but being happy for those bright spots beats wallowing, defeated, in a dungeon of suffering.  It's easy to let yourself off the hook. Sometimes I have to remind myself out loud.

Here's a useful object lesson:  I started writing this post this morning before I met friends for lunch.  I was supposed to go visit my father afterwards.  I thought he was being impatient and calling me at 1 and again a half-hour later, but as it turns out it was his neighbor calling to tell me that Medcu was taking my dad to the hospital.  I got to the building as they were leaving, gave them his basic info and told them I'd meet them at the hospital.  The facts aren't in yet, but he probably had another in a series of seizures following a stroke more than 8 years ago.  It's not serious in the sense that it's unlikely to be fatal, but it will quite possibly mean the end of his independence, something he's fought tooth and nail for over the years. We think this every time, though, and every time he manages a miraculous recovery, just slightly more impaired than before the latest event.

What I've learned from doing this over and over and over again is that I can start fretting now about how this might all turn out, or I can take the simple steps necessary to ensure his care, check in with the hospital, maybe revisit some of the information from last time.  I can go hold his hand and let him try to communicate using one or two words, which is usually what he's left with after these events.  I can laugh at the very funny two-way text exchange I'm having with friends, take care of a couple of tasks for the part-time job I recently took on, be grateful for the flurry of birthday wishes on facebook, go to dinner with my boyfriend and consider what a really rich, loving, mutually respectful life we lead together and how excited I am about the plans we've put in action.

I can't make my dad not sick, the best I can do is...well, the best I can do and falling down a rabbit hole of negative speculation won't do anything good for anybody.

It's not quite where I thought I was going with this when I started, but I guess it's actually pretty close.

This new year's off to a rousing start!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Giant Marshmallow Pillow -- Yeah!

When I started this blog I was like, "Hey, everything's so awesome! I can't wait to see what awesome stuff's obviously just about to happen every second from now until forever!  I'm going to document all that awesome here in this space, just watch! Yay!"

Well, yeah.  I meant to, and I really do, actually, experience the majority of my life as a series of awesome events.  The things is that I'm also a little bit hermit-y and if I were to write about the things that make me the happiest and most excited on any kind of regular basis, what we'd have here would be a collection of adorable cat pictures and stories and a series of groaningly punny dialogues between me and my boyfriend and/or one or both of us talking to the cat.

Also, for all the fist shaking and righteous indignation on the page, having the energy to invest in larger social issues is a luxury that depressed-me couldn't afford (or was too miserly to budget for).  Despite appearances, it's a sign of mental health.  But, depending on your taste, maybe less fun than the rainbows and unicorns I seemed to be promising in the beginning.

And I like it.  I like my over-long and thinky entries.  I like my old smart friends who leave comments and the new friends I've acquired because they're smart and leave comments. I like that even though there aren't a ton of readers, at least some portion of my stats are actual human beings and not click-back bots.

Now you say, "Get to the point, Ramblin' Rose!"

And I say, "Right. Anyway, I'm leaving this business just the way it is, but for those of you with a taste for fly-by-night animation and the disassociative short fiction of dreams, I made a fun blog."

Go now, my pretties.

Seriously, though, how awesome is he?