A Minor Elaboration

Hey, everyone. Your old buddy The Madchronicler here. It’s been a rough week. A sick baby at home—first a stomach bug, followed by a cold—means very little sleep. I think that it’s safe to assume that I am suffering from a combination of sleep deprivation and the beginnings of my second sinus infection this winter. Some might say, “Frank, go to the doctors! They have medication for that sort of thing!” Problem is my wife, my daughter and I are all on my health insurance presently, and my health insurance is pretty piss poor (I generally don’t mince words when I feel like shit). So rather than mortgage my life away for a PCP visit and some medication, I choose to suffer. Maybe when number three kicks in come March and we’re on Nicole’s insurance I’ll go see my PCP. But until then, it’s Claritin, Tylenol and burning sinuses for me. The only one we’re paying doc’s bills for right now is Cara. It’s better… and cheaper… that way. Trust me.

The question then becomes: why am I writing, presently? If I feel so utterly and completely shitty, why not just lie in bed and watch “Aliens” on AMC for the umpteenth time in the last month? Multiple reasons. The first and most important is that I’m at work. Of course I’m at work on a Saturday morning. When else do I write? But the other reason is more pressing. Considering the events of the last 48 hours, I feel the need to explain a bit about what I’ve been doing.

If you’re my friend on Facebook, or you follow me on Twitter (one of the whopping 14 followers that “madchronicler97” has therein), you’ve likely noticed something peculiar in my status updates and tweets. Beginning at 10:40 AM yesterday with the status update/tweet, “Will not be posting anything pertinent for the next 24 hours. Simply random thoughts,” and proceeding through this morning’s status update/tweet at approximately 9:00 AM, I did just that: I posted absolutely nothing pertinent or personal about myself. This was not a psychological experiment, nor was I participating in some sort of social networking study. I certainly was not losing my mind, though if you ask anyone that has seen my condition over the last week, they’d likely tell you differently (I’ve lost about seven or eight pounds, have complimentary black bags under my eyes and am in dire need of a shave). No, my staccato status updating/tweeting was undertaken as a direct response to the postings of a few former Facebook friends who apparently thought that spouting their own, personal, biased catechism was more relevant than people posting updates on their personal lives. As for whom these people were? I’m not going to mention names or throw anyone under the bus. But if you know me… if you know what my “Friends” list should look like, you’ll notice the conspicuous absence of a two people that should be there. But no longer.

Understand that this decision goes well beyond Facebook “friending” and “unfriending.” This decision carries over in to my personal life as well. With a single letter, sent this morning, and a quick tap of the DELETE button on my Moto-Droid, I have cut all ties to these people. I consider myself a man of principles and scruples; a man with a strong moral compass. I’m also a father, attempting even at six and a half months old to raise my daughter properly. I want Cara to grow up in a tolerant environment. If her foundation is pure… if her father and mother have done everything that they can to help her transcend everything from racism to sexism, to any other –ism you can think of, then she should grow up to be a tolerant person, not someone whose humanity is about as questionable as their taste in music. Allowing people who use terms like “ghettoness” to describe a ravaged city, and refer to the victims of natural disasters as “just more black people” access to my daughter as she grows up is not an option. Not for me, not for my wife… shit, not for anyone that I consider a member of my extended family (friends and blood relations).

You see (*BREAKS OUT SOAPBOX AND STANDS ATOP IT*), I’ve known all along that the world is fucked up. I think we all have. Anyone who tells you differently is either completely uninformed or denying the obvious. The world is fucked up, and our country is fucked up. I wake up every morning at anywhere from 6:30 to 7:00 AM, and I check my text messages from the night before. Generally, I have at least one or two CNN BREAKING NEWS ALERTS about something fucked up that happened somewhere either in this country or in the world. Political bickering between parties and government upheaval; a natural disaster in a country less than 300 miles south of our country’s border that is estimated to have killed over 200,000 human beings; the brutal murder of an 84 year old social worker in the town two boroughs north of mine, the only motive of the murderer the acquisition of some jewelry, a couple of bucks and a car; a heightened terror threat in Britain; five more American soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Nary a morning goes by in which something that tugs at my heart strings doesn’t show up on my phone. I’d unsubscribe to these breaking news alerts, but I want to stay informed… I need to stay informed. When I get in my car to drive to work, I turn on KYW to hear “Traffic and Transit on the Two’s,” and unavoidably hear the same stories I read on my Moto-Droid when I woke up repeated, save for one difference: I get local stories that tear at my heart strings, as well.

On and on it goes. My internet homepage, be it MSN, Yahoo, CNN or AIM cycles cover stories all day illustrating how fucked up the world is. Those CNN BREAKING NEWS ALERTS keep rolling in on my Moto-Droid all day. “Traffic and Transit on the Two’s” driving home is proceeded and precluded by news stories about how fucked up the world is. And then I get home, and I hop on Facebook, defined by Wikipedia as “a social networking website that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. on which users can add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves,” hoping for a brief respite from the fucked up-idness of this country and the world…

…And I read the following post on one of my “Friends’” walls in response to a thread about how we shouldn’t give a shit about Haiti. Spelling and grammar preserved, despite being completely fucked up (this coming from a once-English Major, who as my friend Tom will tell you could care less about spelling and grammar):

“I’m so sick and tired of hearing about Katrina. Coming from *LOCATION REMOVED TO PRESERVE ANONYMITY* where there’s natural disasters with several tornados a year that completly take down towns and no one cares to help. There is no reason that New Orleans couldn’t handle it themselves, but because they kept crying about it because most of those people were minorities, they got everything and are still getting everything handed to them. I will never travel there on my vacation, because I refuse to give them any more money. The people of New Orleans need to get over it.”

Helplessly, I think to myself, “Wow. That’s pretty fucked up.” And the next time a neuron fires in my brain seconds later, I think to myself, “why am I friends with this person, again?” But I stick it out… I make no comment because I deny no one their right to have an opinion. I don’t even comment about said person’s atrocious use of spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Days later, as I’m at home with my wife and daughter watching the biggest fund raising event in the history of fund raising events for a country that… apparently… we shouldn’t care about (if said “Friend” was correct in their assessment), I hear a sharp intake of breath from my wife, and the intonation, “oh… my… God.” My first thought is that something is wrong with the baby semi-sleeping on her shoulder. But no. She follows this statement up with, “*NAME REMOVED TO PRESERVE ANONYMITY* posted something.” I waste no time in reading the post, and am shocked to read that said person would rather contribute a couple of bucks toward renting a movie than watch the telethon showing simultaneously on every network/contribute a couple of bucks toward making sure millions of Haitians are fed.

Pause…

Neuron fires…

And I think to myself, “Why am I friends with this person, again?” Most people would wait for a third time before acting. Two was enough for me. My approach toward cutting ties with this person… with these people… was twofold. First, I would make a point by spam status updating/tweeting completely irrelevant topics for 24 hours whilst posting nothing personal or pertinent about myself. Because obviously, such things are unimportant. I discovered throughout this process that… surprise… people want to post personal information about themselves. In response to a post about the maximum clocked time of a flying chicken, one person shared an anecdote about the chickens on their farm. In response to my statement that “I always bet on black, and if I’m feeling frisky, 0 or 00,” one person told a story about the time she put $5.00 in to a roulette machine and won $60.00. People shared personal remedies for bringing down fevers; people expressed personal opinions on music, cinema, Anderson Cooper. You name it. Why? Why would such things matter if Facebook was, is, and always should be a site devoted to the expression of personal opinion… however detrimental or damaging… before personal information?

I guess you could say, then, that it was an experiment. But it was an experiment with no control; an experiment which I knew the outcome of even before I began it. It was not intended as such. Rather, it was intended to prove a point.

And that point…?

Simple, really. Meeting and sharing information on a social networking website is really no different than meeting at a bar, or meeting at someone’s house to do the same. We talk about what we did the previous day or week. We muse about our favorite movies, television programs and music. We vent about our jobs. We take useless facts as simple as the maximum clocked time of a flying chicken and come up with ways to improve upon them. One person mused that “we just need to toss them off a higher building. Bet you could get 20 secs.” And we do share opinions. That is an integral part of spending time together in a social setting, be it electronic or otherwise.

But think about this. Scenario: You are a liberal thinker with strong convictions. You believe in equality and equal opportunity, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference or otherwise. You have a child, or multiple children that you are attempting to raise to think in the same way that you think. Obviously you will let your child make his or her own decisions as they come of age, but you understand that it is your job to lay the groundwork for a life approach free of bias… free of prejudice. In essence, you want to raise your child to be a good and wholesome individual. Do you surround yourself and your family with people that echo your views? Yes. Do you surround yourself with people whose views are in opposition to your own? Yes. Variety is, after all, the “spice of life.” But only to an extent. Add to this scenario a person or persons who refuse to acknowledge a post-indentured servitude society; a person or persons who see a natural disaster like the earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Katrina as a form of Natural Selection that weeds out minorities, and then asks a country that exists in 80% abject poverty to “help itself…” my friends, decide for yourselves, but admittedly? These are not the people that I want my daughter to grow up around.

To quote the aforementioned letter that I sent to these former “Friends” this morning:

“Look deep down to the national and international problems that you so conveniently express your uninformed opinions on. You’ll find that intolerant people like yourself are the root cause of all of our issues. I don’t need facts to back up that statement. The history books are littered with them.”

That statement pretty much sums up my “why.” Why break ties with someone I’ve been friends with for over a decade… someone who has helped see me through some of the toughest times in my life? Someone who stood with me on the day I got married and me on the day they did? Because, my friends, no amount of history… no amount of shared experience can disguise a person’s true identity. Said person… said persons have changed from what they once were to what they are now. You could argue that said persons were always intolerant and prejudiced, it simply took a bit of time for their true colors to reveal themselves. The sad part is? People have tried to tell me these things for years. But I was steadfast in my loyalty because loyalty is an integral part of my personality. To those people reading this who tried to convince me of the truth? Sorry it took me so long, but that’s the way I am: I need to learn things for myself; need to see things for myself before I can act. Thanks to a few random posts on Facebook and a re-evaluation of the last few years, I now have. I’m grateful, though admittedly, a bit sad.

And with that, I’m done. The burn in my sinuses has become more than even a chronic rambler like The Madchronicler can contend with. Work has ended; “Aliens” has sequed in to “American Beauty” and now “Batman: The Movie (1966).” My attempted nap was an epic FAIL, and it’s time for my daughter to eat. Some semblance of order has been restored to my own, personal Facebook and Twitterverse, and though my “Friends” list is diminished by two, as I stated in my 9:00 AM post this morning, AKA the first, pertinent or personal thing I’d posted in 24 hours…

“I feel fine. ;)”

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