Just bitchin'

Weaving Ugly Cloth

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It’s all coming together.

The disparate threads are entwining, interlocking, forming a pattern.

The first thread grew out of the internet.

Social media had the potential to unite; to form global communities. It could bond, and reach out, and relieve loneliness, and provide information, and ease troubled souls. But, as sure as human nature, the flip side raised its head: trolls. The veil of anonymity and distance enabled anyone and everyone who felt a dark impulse or a sudden spike of anger or hate to express themselves with consequence-free impunity. So easy to lash out and then ignore your victims. So easy to turn off your device with the smug knowledge that you ‘got away with it.’

The second thread came from reality TV.

In order to pull in viewers, behavior that would never have been tolerated previously was encouraged. When it didn’t materialize fast enough, it was engineered. Situations were fostered that would push participants’ buttons. Bullies and boors were granted pop-culture stardom. Fame and wealth were doled out in exchange for abusive behavior. The loud, the stupid, the obnoxious garnered more attention, more rewards, than the quiet, the thoughtful, the kind.

The trolls from thread #1 watched the activities of thread #2. They were lured by the accolades. They felt empowered. A culture of rudeness and cruelty for entertainment’s sake asked…no…DEMANDED…that extremes be exhibited, loudly and often. But, poor trolls, most of them had no outlet that would showcase their newfound aggression, until…

…the third thread, it could be argued, was a matter of time, circumstance, and culture intersecting.

The United States Presidential election.

A segment of the population watched in horror as the troll culture emerged into full visibility. Ugliness was condoned, substantiated, lauded, applauded.

News media reports that, no matter who wins, this troll-fest will have presaged the least popular President in history.

It’s unsettling how many Americans look traumatized, shocked…are shaking their heads and asking ‘How did this happen? How did we get here?’

It’s as if a puppet master holding the strings of a nation has gone mad. Yet the puppet master remains hidden. All any of us average citizens know is that next week the threads come together, and the highest office in our country will be draped in bunting of ugly cloth, the weaving of which we don’t understand.

It will look like the shroud a troll should wear…

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Image: ‘Trolls’ by Brian Froud

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Just bitchin'

There Be Monsters…

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I’m amazed to say I can identify with Donald Trump. I’ve long considered myself arrested at the emotional development of a twelve-year-old. And I hate to lose. And sometimes I’ll lash out like a child when provoked. And I have bad hair days (well, okay…Trump has a bad hair life, but I’m trying to make a point here).

I can identify with Hilary Clinton, too. I’ve struggled in male-dominated areas of endeavor and had to over-compensate with harsh repartee and an iron glare. And I hate making mistakes. And sometimes I try to cover them up because I think no one will notice, or maybe time will rob them of their import.

I can identify with Ted Cruz. Canada’s a pretty cool country; I’ve always enjoyed my jaunts over the border.

I can identify with Bernie Sanders. I sometimes feel if I don’t make my mark on the world real, real soon, I might not have another opportunity. You don’t want to check out with so much left unsaid or un-given that regret is the last thing you taste.

But as just, plain me…an unsung, American citizen of voting age, I can’t identify enough with any candidate running for President to feel good and hopeful about electing them into office.

There’s always mud-slinging and a battle of wits in every presidential election, but this time it’s different, because all I’m hearing is the volley of insults and accusations being lobbed across an insurmountable, ideological distance from one party to the other.

I’m scared.

I don’t want any of these people in charge of something I do love with all my heart: my country.

My immigrant parents raised me to cherish being born here. They were politically active in their own way and staunch supporters of whomever attained the office of President of the United States, because they said anyone who did so was worthy of respect, whether or not you agreed with the platform upon which they stood.

I’m the first to admit I’m politically challenged. But this is the first time I feel as though I’m watching a clown show…a sit-com…a farce…

There have been times in the past when I’ve voted against a candidate rather than for the one who received my ballot. This time that cop-out option doesn’t feel available.

There is no lesser evil this time around.

Like an ancient map of the known world, truncated and proscribed by a sea of horrors… there be monsters.

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They circle us and lick their chops and are slippery and hard to see. And they bite at each other with abandon. And we don’t know what will happen when we’re immersed in their treacherous waters.

And I’m scared.

Really, truly…

…like never before.

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Just bitchin'

Phone Politics

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It’s started.

And I’m already fed up with it.

The avalanche of political campaigning for upcoming elections is ramping up, reminding me of the retail industry’s increasingly early debut of Christmas advertising. By the time the vaunted day comes around, you’re sick of it. Excitement and anticipation have been stretched to a thin, attenuated ghost of what they might have been had the lead-in been shorter.

With Christmas, it’s usually the television ads that grate on me, but with politics you can take your choice of annoying methods intended to usher you into a candidate’s stable and force feed you their particular diet of rhetorical promises.

Your mailbox is crammed with literature. You have to wonder how much was spent to produce the reams of glossy, slick pamphlets. You have no desire to read the swelling tide of circulars. When you do, you don’t believe most of them. Or worse, they communicate nothing. They skirt the edges of making definitive statements; each line a masterpiece of crafted ambiguity.

Then there are the campaigners who loiter about in malls and parking lots. They accost you with bright, desperate smiles, hoping to persuade you that theirs is the only possible candidate-of-choice come Election Day. They want to waylay you…engage you in clumsy conversation…become your instant friend.

But worst of all are the phone calls.

The recorded messages in voices that aren’t used to public speaking. They push forward, determined to get through their script, conveying vicarious discomfort rather than cogent, informative facts.

Worse, the live caller…which is what birthed this rant of mine. Some volunteer doing the commendable job of supporting her choice for the 2016 presidential elections. But, oh…so naïve to think that it’s a good idea to phone a stranger’s home late Friday night to chirp about how women simply have to be in ‘Hilary’s camp’; that harboring ovaries in your abdomen must make you an instant supporter of a female candidate.

All she accomplished was to spur me on to do something I’ve thought about for a long time.

I started a phone log.

I will write down the names or issues pushed by every unwelcome, political intrusion into my home after hours. The one with the least strikes will probably get my vote come Election Day. Either that, or the one who slings the least mud.

I haven’t decided which.

But I’m not worried.

As with Christmas advertising that begins in September…I’ve got lots and lots of time to contemplate that, for me, voting has become an exercise in electing the least objectionable, rather than the most worthy.…

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