Pissed.

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”

Edgar Allen Poe’s Montresor used a cask of Amontillado to exact revenge. But I, devoid of anything so exotic, had to settle on unfriending a guy on Facebook. I’d never done that before. I just hide someone I find disagreeable, or even ignore them. Who cares?

But when it gets out of hand, it gets out of hand.

It started a few years ago with his emails of Far Right memes–Obama birtherism, Clintons and hidden crimes, Muslims secretly instituting Sharia law–that sort of thing. He found them (a) amusing, (b) profound, or (c) both. Then the pro-Donald Trump crap started coming, which fell into the same categories.

As a rule, I try not to give a shit. Sure, these memes were based on falsehoods or lies. Yeah, they were meant to inflame. On the whole, I just thought, Really? “Based on this bizarre meme replete with misspellings and poor grammar, I will totally change my mind,” said no one, ever. The email headings and openers were in two or more smarmy fonts in colors such as magenta or aqua blue and often in all caps, so they were easy to delete without reading them and getting upset.

I made sure he knew my convictions were far different than his and called him out a couple of times, politely, when I found something over the top. I probably should have cut him off, but I didn’t. What the hell. An old man with a hard-wired point of view, he’d never change anyway. Besides, unlikely as it was, you never know when you might learn something, right? And aren’t we supposed to transcend mere conviction and look for common ground?

At some point, Fate intervened and crashed his computer. He lost much of his contact information, including mine. Yay! A few weeks ago, though, he asked me for my email address–“I have some really interesting things I want to show you–” and I gave it to him. Okay, I knew what was coming, but why not tolerate the old SOB?

He is an old man, a World War II veteran. He can be really funny. And he’s smart, a holder of several patents, a long career in both engineering and marketing, and so on. In person, he is a pleasant and engaging fellow with interesting life experiences and observations.

Then came a series of anti-Muslim screeds, all containing rank falsehoods roundly debunked by Snopes, Politifact, and other such sites, which, of course, I pointed out. I asked him to stop, that I found these personally offensive, that I had Muslim friends and family in Istanbul. Some of the stuff he was sending, I told him, was as hurtful as his calling my nephews and niece, who have an African-American father, by a racial slur. No matter.

Then, this one came: “Im not a bible thumpin’ Christian, but I do believe in God, heaven, hell, the Golden Rule and the 10 Commandments. Were supposed to be a Nation that has complete freedom of religion…….we certainly condone Muslims even tho they preach death to non-belivers, lying to their enemy’s and treat women like pond scum………but taking away our right to pray in school is unconscionable! Remember this when you go to vote!” A bizarre “poem” entitled “The New Lord’s Prayer,” purportedly written by a 15-year-old high school student in Minnesota, accompanied the rant. A three-minute Google search proved the letter to be a fake.

But the part about Muslims preaching death to non-believers and treating women like pond scum really irritated me, and I let him know it, along with every other recipient in the chain. That said, I also took it as an opportunity to engage, to pass along some informative tracts on Islam, the context behind the medieval Koran writings, its similarity to the Old Testament in that regard, and so on.

One result was a back-and-forth with on of the recipients, who claimed to be a business person with years of experience in the Islamic world. Okay, so our politics were different, but it was a polite and the exchange useful. However, he ended one of his letters with, “When they try to force those beliefs on others, particularly me, I will exercise my 2nd amendment rights!”

So much for reasoned discourse.

Okay, screw it, I said to myself. This is going nowhere. I’m gone.

Then, this email:

With our somewhat stupid view of political correctness these days, some will probably find this offensive.  But I believe in laughing at everything………..it will keep you alive longer.  And I find this funny.  I also thought Amos and Andy, Step n’ fetchit’ and a host of others were funny…….but I guess that’s another life.  You can’t ignor (sic) something and it will go away! 

Subject: FW: Breaking News 

Al Sharpton reported today that Walt Disney’s new film called “Jet Black,” the African-American version of “Snow White” has been canceled. All of the 7 dwarfs: Dealer, Stealer, Mugger, Forger, Drive By, Homeboy, and Shank have refused to sing “Hi Ho” because they say it offends black prostitutes. 
They also say they damn sure have no intention of singing, ‘It’s off to work we go
‘.” 

A real screamer, no?

Does tolerance and open-mindedness require you to bend when someone throws something at you that’s so offensive, so horrible that you can’t think of anything else the next few hours? Days later, I can’t get it out of my mind that someone could be so vile, so depraved as to send such trash out into the email-o-sphere and think it was funny, let alone just okay.

Constantly plagued with self-doubt, as I tend to be, I waited overnight before responding. Good thing, maybe, because I tempered the profanity-laced invective I’d readied for the guy and let him know how offended I was and that I wanted nothing further to do with him. Ever. I blocked him on social media and blocked his emails. Not as good as walling him up, ala the Poe story, but this is 2019, when Amontillado is rare and hidden niches in wine cellars rather hard to find.

He also has an email chain who probably thought the meme was ha-ha-ha hysterical-funny, and everyone in the chain has their own chain who has their own chain and so on.

I’m not over it.

This is the country we live in.

The Decency Project: Apples

Maybe it’s the golden light at dawn and sundown, or maybe the coppery glow  from the daytime slants angling through the trees. Maybe it’s the breeze and the earthy scent and the patches of yellow or red or orange seeping through the leaf-green foliage on the trees. Baseball is winding down, and football is winding up. Whatever. The tropes of early fall are reassuring, reminding us of the constancy of seasons even as they continue to astonish. I suspect each of us has a favorite.

My favorite might very well be apples. I love apples, and the scent of mounds and mounds of apples in the farmers markets and in stores is pure heaven. The crunch of a McIntosh, the tough, green skin, the near sourness. The richness of my favorite, the Honeycrisp, as its tart sweetness permeates your senses with the weight of hot fudge. Hold an apple before you. It’s nearly heart-shaped, as though it knows it’s meant to share the love.

 

Not to be overlooked are the otherwise forgettable Red and Gold Delicious apples. Halved and crowded into a round enameled pan, they carmelize  butter and sugar with their juice into a thick, golden syrup. Sprinkle it with cinnamon and lay sweet pastry dough across the top, and it bakes into a soothing Tarte Tatin, the warm smell permeating the house. It’s pure heaven.

And it all recalls a recent Facebook post, which goes, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they would know that’s not the answer.” Actor Jim Carey said that. As a rule, I don’t much like these inspirational quotations, finding them banal exhortations for salespeople to motivate themselves to sell more stuff, or some other vicarious identification to a higher order. Nonetheless, I find myself enjoying posts from Thinking Art and Thinking Humanity.

Really, I don’t think the sappy posts I like are any better than the sappy posts other people like, but anything that reminds me that what you are, and not what you have, is the important thing.

It’s a concept foreign to politics. It’s something Donald Trump will never, ever understand, since this kind of decency is a greater thing than the sugar high of his perception of victory.

Sad. Because apples. Because fall.

The Decency Project

This is a guest post. Pretty much, anyway.  A good friend, Nate Manning, wrote the following on his Facebook timeline, and I shamelessly ripped it of, posting it here without edit.

It’s kindness and decency in action.

“Rant alert: On the way to work I saw a woman with her baby standing on the side of a busy intersection next to her broken down Explorer in the left lane. When I pulled over and asked if anyone was coming to help her, she said her husband was coming up from the Tech Center (about an hour away with rush hour traffic) and no one had even asked her if she needed help. So another woman and I got out to help. The issue was we were on a busy street during rush hour right before a large intersection in the left lane, and we had to get her over into the right lane to get the car out of the way. I got in the middle of the right lane to get traffic to stop, but people just kept going around me. Finally, I got right in front of a car and yelled at her to stop, and was rewarded with a dirty look. The mother got her baby in the Explorer, put the car in neutral and the other woman and I pushed it a couple hundred yards to a parking lot where she would be safe and out of the way until her husband arrived.

“I’m not posting this for props. I just wish it’s what most people would do, but I’m not so sure anymore. In the Colorado I grew up in there would have been 10 people stopping to help as soon as her car broke down. Now I feel like the Colorado I know has changed and people don’t help people, much less even smile or say hello. I guess the people who care about complete strangers must have moved down to Houston. If total strangers can wade through chest high contaminated flood water to help someone stuck in their car and save their lives (and this same scenario has played our countless times over the last couple of days all over Southeastern Texas), helping a stranger with a broken down car on the side of the road is nothing. What the hell is wrong with people who couldn’t be bothered to help, much less stop their cars to let those who were helping through?

“So, take some time today to do something nice for a stranger. I don’t care if it’s smiling at them, letting someone in during traffic or buying the person behind you a cup of coffee in the Starbucks drive through. Do it in honor of all the bravery being shown in Houston and those surrounding communities. Do it to help us bring this divided country together. Do it because it’s the freaking decent human thing to do.”

Trump  would not get this, which, once again, recalls the pathos of his existence for which we should all have compassion. He won’t get it, but most of the rest of us do.

Tomorrow,  let’s each of us perform a random act of kindness. It’s the decent thing to do.

The Decency Project

We do not fight Trumpian outrages with logical arguments or WTF outrages of our own, because they don’t seem to be working. Instead, we counter with decency, love, and kindness, and hence The Decency Project. Among the many mundane joys one will never find in T-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s household are dogs.

The shelter dog above expressed several changes when she learned the White House was thinking of adopting her. As you can tell from the final frame, she’s asking to please just stay in the shelter. I totally made that up, of course, but hey. It could be true.

And who can tell us more about love, kindness, and decency than the furry fellows below? But again, they also speak to the pathos accompanying decency: Trump will likely never experience the unbounded, simple joy a dog brings home, and yes, that’s sad.

Here are a few Trumpistanian remarks reflecting an intrinsic ignorance of the dogness that so many of us know and love.

“@GlennBeck got fired like a dog by #Fox.”

“I hear that sleepy eyes @chucktodd will be fired like a dog from the ratings starved Meet The Press?”

These go on. Just change the name of the individual being “like a dog.” Who can forget the time he recalled watching Sen Marco Rubio “sweat like a dog?” Mitt Romney “choked like a dog.” Brent Bozell came to Trump’s office” begging for money like a dog.” Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson “like a dog.”

To refute the above: Dogs don’t sweat, they pant, so Rubio’s off the hook. Dogs choke now and then, but they’re far more likely to puke, which Romney only did in private while watching the Republican primaries. And a dog would never beg for money. Cat poop, okay, but not money. And if a dog were going to cheat, in a carnal way, it wouldn’t be with just one other dog.

The message, then, is this: If Trump is annoying you today, pet your dog.

The Decency Project

It’s one of those times when the mundane becomes the sublime, which is why this photo is part of the Decency Project.

My past few days have been blessed by pictures neighborhood parents posted of their children starting their first day of school.  Admittedly, it’s a retrograde passage of my life, since I recall the first day of school for each of my children as though it just happened.  It’s one of those seminal moments in a parent’s life that lasts forever, and like hashmarks on the door jamb showing the rate of your child’s growth, these instances mark the growth of your personal history and lend it worth. An objective correlative, it you will.

An unfortunate fact of the Decency Project is the inherent pathos invoked when juxtaposed alongside on Donald Trump. Can you imagine a picture of him as a grinning little boy off to his first day of school? Did his parents even want one of him?

Can you imagine him having one of his own children? Or, for that matter, his children of their children?

For me, the answer is no, and it’s pretty sad, really. The rest of us, the 99.9999 percent of Americans, enjoy lives packed full of these cherished moments, and the likelihood that Trump does not and will not invokes a certain compassion for him, at least for me.

 

 

 

The Decency Project

Day 283 or so of The Apocalypse, and T-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is still the American president. Every day since he began his evil journey from the bowels of Trumpistan, people, pundits, politicians, you name it, have proclaimed, “He can’t last–he’s finished this time.”

Well.

Refuting him with facts doesn’t seem to work. In fact, as George Lakoff has pointed out,  logical refutation is not only useless, it instead reinforces the outrages Trump utters. Snark and satire amuse, but haven’t slowed him a whit. Those speaking principled opposition create their own echo chamber and seem to feed the beast more than wound it. It’s very frustrating.

It’s time to try something different, and I’m proposing the Decency Project, whereby we offer up ideas and notions that replace Trumpisms rather than simply oppose them. Even the name itself–Decency–suggests replacement, since nothing decent exists in Trumpistan. The idea comes from something one of my neighborhood groups, the Family Co-op, did recently with its Kindness Project, whereby members painted rocks with kind or inspirational sayings and hid them like Easter eggs throughout the neighborhood.

The Decency Project will post pictures or videos or whatever of decent events, people,  or actions that happen in the U.S. every day that Trump and his ilk can only look at with envy. Without further explication, I post the following, of fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara swearing in 30 immigrants as new American citizens and leading them in the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s an ironic and sublime moment Trump will never, ever be a part of.

If you like this project and feel compelled to join me, please do so!