Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Long Rant, with Redeeming Street Signs


I have been super-cranky lately. Yesterday morning I snarled at Dave for taking so long in the bathroom that I was afraid I'd be late for work. (To be fair, he was in there a really, really long time.) And then I just had this big, snarling grizzly bear of a day where everything seemed difficult.

On the surface, it was the little things -- having to remind the same kids to turn in their computer chargers by the end of the day, and then having them not do it; having the five-zillionth fifth grader ask me for a book recommendation, and then having them reject all my suggestions; having yet another brand-new book disappear into an alternative universe when it was supposed to be on the shelf.

But then there are deeper frustrations. I'm sick to death of news. I'm sick of the stomach-churning pseudo-administration of Donald Trump and I'm sick of hearing arguments about what is and isn't "fake news" and I'm sick to death of "populism," which seems to imply in its name that it's somehow beneficial for people when it's actually their enemy. I'm sick of ignorance and misinformation.

I don't understand when being polite became a bad thing. Where I come from, being polite is a virtue -- as is being intelligent. But these days, being careful about other people's feelings and tolerant of others' perspectives gets sneered at as "political correctness." If being courteous and respectful and understanding and caring continues to be mocked as eggheaded weakness, well, that's the downfall of our civilization, isn't it?

But ironically, I'm sick of being tolerant, too. The other day a coworker came and stood over my desk and launched into a monologue about the difference between economic conservatism and Trump conservatism, and after about ten minutes I thought, "WHY am I being subjected to this? It's not a discussion, it's a lecture."

Which maybe displays my own anti-intellectual, intolerant, impolite impulses. What goes around comes around. I silently endured the rest of the lecture, biting the inside of my cheek.

Remember those old Robert Young commercials from the '70s? "Relax, Jim! You should drink Sanka-brand decaffeinated coffee!"

I am feeling like Jim.

In transcribing my old journals recently, I've been struck by how certain I seemed about so many things when I was in my 20s. I guess that's the province of being young -- being certain. The older you get, the more you realize that nothing is certain and you actually know much, much less than you thought. That's wisdom, right?

Well, I'm feeling cranky and feeling like nothing is certain. Our governments, our Democratic ideals, all the things we learned going back as far as "Sesame Street" about the value of cooperation and working together. Instead we're just pulling apart and apart, getting more and more extreme, and we reward the most extreme people -- no matter how clueless -- with wealth and fame and political office.

I am not going to put the name of this person on my blog, but the recent downfall of his career has been gratifying in that it at least proves it's still possible to go too far. We'll see whether the downfall is merely temporary.

How did we get here?

On a positive note, at least I don't have French class to contend with anymore. I must say, I am not missing it at all. It's been really great to have my Saturdays free. When I hit that wall, I hit it hard.


Also, I found this intersection on Google Streetview, in Fort Myers, Florida -- how I found it is a long story -- and I'm thinking Dave and I need to visit the next time we go to the Sunshine State!

(Top photo: A discarded doll in Margate, last week.)

18 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

So, you are feeling like Jim. Does Jim know? I advise you to keep this from Dave you two-timing schemer!

Thanks for letting off steam and articulating what many people are feeling about the way the world is going right now. Last night in Sweden! Sweden!...it used to be that political leaders acquired their information from more reliable sources than "Fox News". I wonder how those few thousand people at Trump's Florida rally were persuaded to go there. How were they invited? Were they paid or was their transport paid for? Where were the banners and the placards painted? Who supplied the materials? Why wasn't Trump wearing a tie?

e said...

Apparently, the people at 45's rally could reserve tickets. One put something on a social media site about how, though he did not vote for 45, he took his daughter to see the rally. The event was full of cursing and other negativity that the child, a girl, was left sobbing. He father wrote of the experience asking for forgiveness. It may be fake but it did not come across that way...You are not alone in wondering these things...

Ms. Moon said...

I have no idea but I feel compelled to suggest that you read some Alexander McCall Smith. His characters are so philosophical and many of them are wise and some of them are funny and they represent humanity in all forms. A very, very gentle respite from what is going on in the world and a reminder that most of us, despite our vast flaws, are decent and caring.
The books of his that you can find on audio are all narrated beautifully and they definitely help me as I go about my days.
Or perhaps you would not like them at all. I don't know.
It's all so fucked up, isn't it?
You're not alone, Steve. You are definitely not alone.

ellen abbott said...

well, first, we all have cranky days for whatever reasons. but yeah. I'm trying to stay informed and active, something new to me and I will admit I'm going about it slowly but I am making a phone call here and there, but I just cannot be immersed in the madness any longer. the US will survive this or it won't. the forces at play are far stronger than anything I can personally do besides add my little bit of energy. a friend told me that historically republics only last about 250 years or so so I guess we are right on schedule to morph into a more totalitarian state. that's sure the direction Trump and his minions are trying to take us. Totalitarian and evangelical christian. I don't understand the gleeful discarding of political correctness either. it's the thing that lets a diverse society live in peace and respect, that let anyone be able to go about their lives without being bombarded by the hatefulness of strangers. the only thing I can figure is that they have empty souls, unlike hungry children.

Red said...

Well, that was a good rant. New fake news! No alternative facts! One would wonder what's happened to people. There is good reason to rant but don't let it bend you out of shape.

Tabor said...

Dropped by from another blog as I was curious about your title. Yes, many of us feel as you do, and perhaps you should consider that lecture a therapy lecture...for the other person. Not you, of course.

Sharon Anck said...

Cranky days are totally understandable especially now. I hadn't heard the full story on that idiot who lost his speaking spot at C-Pac. I would hope he finds himself out of work for a very long time but, I doubt that will happen. I still can't get past the fact that so many people have become so anti-intellectual. That they are willing to elect a man to the highest office in the land who has the vocabulary of an 8th grader and no morals at all is beyond me.

Lesley UK said...

Last week I not only dislocated, but shattered my elbow. I am in plaster from my shoulder to my wrist can do nothing of any use at all, so I've retreated into a morphine fuelled bubble where I cannot logically process any of the of madness that has overcome this world. Conversely, no-one can hear me screaming, even if I wanted them to

37paddington said...

This cranky post of yours is simply wonderful. Yes, yes, yes, I kept thinking as I read it. Thank you for saying it all.

Rafe's Hotel said...

Thank you. I feel like I've just had a virtual vent. (And I congratulated myself that I got the vent without having to wait for Dave to get out of the bathroom.)

What is saddest is that we seem to have lost all sense of civility and value for intelligence and experience. There is nothing--zip, zero, zilch--good about that.

jenny_o said...

You are not alone. I keep wondering whether ignoring it or immersing in it is the right thing to do, and keep swinging between the two. Haven't drawn any conclusions yet.

I did watch an excellent TED talk recently, though, on Nationalism vs Globalism, which had some very interesting points made by historian and social scientist Yuval Harari from Israel. He is a youngish man, seems extremely intelligent, and although he points out the global challenges we face and the need for global (not national) answers, and that that part is depressing and scary, mankind has, overall, advanced through the ages, and that is a reason to hope.

And I still maintain that the good news is far under-reported compared to bad news. The things that scientists of all kinds are working on every day do not get reported unless they have a huge announcement to make - but they are thinking and experimenting and working and collaborating every single day to benefit mankind. The media tends to report the minutiae of politics which makes for an inundation of horror these days. I try to read scientific blogs as well as an assortment of others, to keep that perspective in mind.

Most of us in the West haven't had to deal with turbulence in daily doses. Now we are seeing what the stress can do.

To end, as you did, with your "redeeming street signs" - they are fantastic :) Maybe there's a post there on how you found them, as you said there was a story behind it!

Jennifer said...

You've articulated my feelings to a "T" Steve. I'm totally with you on everything you said, down to the fact that I also felt relief that "that person" FINALLY went a step too far with Conservatives. I've been wondering what it would take. I'm pretty sick of it all and it's making me depressed.

MaryAnn said...

I read a comment on a blog that the person only listens to what 45 says and tweets and doesn't believe any of the media. Lord help us all! I agree Alexander McCall Smith is a nice diversion.

Catalyst said...

The decreasing level of intelligence in our country is frightening. I am appalled when I see or hear one of Trump's supposedly intelligent supporters going on about how great his presidency is when the truth is just the opposite. And then the screaming, foaming at the mouth people who show up at his rallies. And how Trump keeps clapping his hands when he isn't screaming at the top of his lungs himself. After 8 years of President Obama it is just so, so tragic and depressing.

Bohemian said...

I agree... values are eroding and especially those that have to do with common decency, appropriate behavior and basic humanity towards people and other living things across the board. It's all quite disheartening... and with so much negative energy predominating and so much fearfulness being incited in speeches and media coverage, it is no wonder that many people are feeling quite an imbalance in emotions and a disturbance of the force so to speak. I am generally an incurable Optimist, lately tho' I have found it difficult to see positives while so much is going haywire and spiraling seemingly out of control. I cannot look at any of it thru Rose colored glasses, that would be foolish... and I am impressed that so many are not just putting up with what isn't right and are being called to Action and attempting to be Heard and make a positive difference by resisting. Virtual Hugs and Hope you can move past being cranky... allowing outside toxic influences to infect our state of Being always disturbs me a lot too, I don't like being that person because it's out of character. Dawn... The Bohemian

Unknown said...

I am glad you stated what I feel about politeness and intelligence and am clinging to the thought that there are millions more people who feel as we do than the other sort. All we do is whine and hope that karma will kick in. Can you think of any way we can help buck the trend ?

EH

Alphie Soup said...

I once heard Alexander McCall Smith answer a question about including some of the societal problems facing Africa in his 1st Detective Ladies series; his response was that he felt there was more than enough nihilism in much of today's writing and he had no wish to add to it.

However in the real world all the muck is hard to avoid and its constant repetition is unbearable some days.

Maybe you should empty all your aggravation into a post and use a fake google entity when you post it? :+)

Alphie

Steve Reed said...

YP: Even Fox News is more reliable than some of the news sources (Breitbart) that people are using nowadays. And of course one of the principle fantasists behind Breitbart is now running things. Argh!

E: The atmosphere at those rallies seems really toxic. I'm sorry that guy learned the hard way.

Ms Moon: I actually HAVE read some of AMS, although not recently. We have a ton of his books in the library. Maybe I should check them out!

Ellen: There IS a lot of childlike petulance involved in right-wing politics, it seems to me. (Though the Right would say the same about the Left, probably.) I wish the term "political correctness" had never been invented and we could go back to calling it "politeness," which would remind everyone that it's a foundation of our culture, not a movement cooked up by someone in an ivory tower.

Red: Sometimes you just have to get it out of your system!

Tabor: Thanks for stopping by! I'm normally not this worked up, I promise. And yes, that's a good point -- the other person probably NEEDED to work out some of what he was talking about.

Sharon: It's a very childish playground reaction, like they just want to pick on all the "smarty pantses" by backing the schoolyard bully.

Lesley: I'm sorry about your elbow! Yikes! But yes, a morphine fog might help one cope.

37P: Thank YOU for reading it! I always feel guilty when I inflict this kind of thing on my readers, but it helps to know that readers sometimes react positively by identifying with what I'm saying.

Rafe: A virtual vent is a good thing! And yes, it IS sad that experience and smarts don't count for more than they apparently do. I still just CAN'T BELIEVE that man is president.

Jenny-O: That's a good point. Politics gets incremental coverage whereas more positive developments -- like scientific ones -- don't. Dave and I were talking about the announcement of the seven new planets found the other day -- amazing! Thanks for the TED talk mention. I'll try to find it.

Jennifer: Thanks for being sick of it all with me! :)

MaryAnn: See, this is where I think critical thinking skills have completely slipped. Why don't people realize that the media is there to QUESTION what the leaders say, to check their facts, to prevent them from manipulating the truth to their advantage? Blindly taking everything a president says as the gospel truth just doesn't allow for critical interpretation of the facts.

Catalyst: There's something very unsettling about all that screaming and foaming at the mouth. It's like a Nazi rally!

Bohemian: Thanks for the virtual hugs! I think the one way to look at this optimistically, at least for me, is to recognize that it is not forever. It's going to come to an end one way or another, in four years or eight if not before. The deeper questions about how to heal the divisions in our societies will be tougher to address.

EH: There ARE millions who feel the way we do, that's true -- and that helps. I think any manner of resistance is valuable. We have to speak up and advocate for what we believe. I don't think it's whining -- I think it's resisting.

Alphie: Ha! I don't think I'm QUITE so aggravated that I have to invent a fake identity to vent it. I'll just keep it to a minimum around here, as much as I can. :)