Monthly Archives: June 2018

Crock pot people in a microwave culture

It’s been about three weeks now, give or take, since Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade killed themselves. We’ve moved on. Their families and friends haven’t.

Five families are still coming to terms with the sudden holes in their lives and by yesterday, we’d moved on to whether one of the victims’ colleagues should’ve dropped and f-bomb on CNN. We’re a short-attention-span culture.

And yet it’s a valid story how children deal with their parents’ suicide (both Spade and Bourdain had children). But we’re off the to next outrage. Trump tweeted something. Kennedy retired. Your team made a bone-headed move. That other stuff is from yesterday. The cool kids have moved on.

Death threats are buzzing around like fireflies on a summer night. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Maxine Waters, and the employees of the Red Hen have all received them. People walk around wearing shirts that say things like “Rope. Journalist. Tree.” Somewhere along the line this stopped being shocking.

When Henry Aaron received death threats for hitting home runs in 1974, it was stunning. Now that same kind of news would be background noise.

I’m not saying to wallow in these things–that wouldn’t be healthy. But people are more like crock pots than microwaves. We evolve. For all our technology, we don’t like change. We like evolution. We make the same mistakes over and over again, but with effort, over time, the mistakes become fewer and we gradually become better.

We aren’t done in 45 seconds if you put us on high and rotate us.

I suspect that some of the rampant discomfort comes from the fact that our world forces us to go faster than we’re comfortable with. Our attention spans–and the content-providers’ bottom line–depends on there always being something new. A new outrage. A new tear-jerker. A new story that touches our hearts.

We think in bumper-sticker phrases because that’s all there’s time for. So existence become a meme battle and life is drained of its nuance and complexity.

I don’t have a solution. And even if I did, by tomorrow, something else would replace it.

But sometimes the hamster wheel isn’t the best place to be. And sometimes scouring the interwebs for that last piece of information about this guy who’s on your side or that guy who isn’t, doesn’t cleanse your soul.

I guess I’m just getting old. And realizing that most of it’s just noise–something you won’t remember in five days, let alone five years.

It all buries the important stuff. And maybe that’s part of the plan.

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An abominable policy implementation

I don’t remember how old I was at the time, but I remember the circumstance. We were at Sears in Colonie Center. To me, Colonie Center might as well have been another planet. I had no idea how far away it was and no clue where home was in relation.

As an adult, Colonie Center Sears isn’t very big. As a kid, it was big enough that I still remember what happened there decades later.

I got separated from my parents. They weren’t anywhere. They weren’t in the store. They weren’t in the mall. They might as well have not existed at that point.

The truth is, they did exist. They were still in the store. And when I figured out I was lost and made a lot of noise, they found me.

The entire event probably took less time than it’s going to take you to read this entire post.

And yet, I still remember it.

I support border security. I don’t support catch-and-release. I don’t believe we have a moral obligation to accept and welcome everyone who gets across the border.

CNN is currently showing people who travel from Guatamala with their children because of the beacon of hope our country represents. They’re staying outside the border facility in Nogales, Mexico hoping to get in.

But asylum protection has been removed for victims of domestic and gang violence. And even many of the people who apply for asylum are being treated as criminals.

In fairness, the process that separates the children from parents isn’t new. Any time parents are arrested, their children are taken from them. In this case the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) takes care of them. The President is correct in saying this policy isn’t new.

But this ill-advised implementation of zero-tolerance is new. And it’s completely his decision. The media didn’t do it. Congressional Democrats didn’t do it. President Trump did it. And he can quickly and easily reverse it.

This country has done amazing things. Surely, it can find a way to defend its borders without blowing up families and abusing children.


Miracles

A friend of mine–a woman named Maria–recommended a book to me once. It was 2015 and things were tough. They weren’t I’m dying of cancer or I’m about to lose our house tough, but they weren’t easy.

She recommended a book, a quirky romantic comedy called Kumquat, by a horror writer named Jeff Strand. A really, really demented  horror writer named Jeff Strand. Never in a thousand years would I pick such a book on my own. And most demented horror writers wouldn’t write a book that could be called sweet and uplifting without a hint of irony.

The book is about a guy named Todd who’s in his early thirties, works a dead-end job, and is existing in a life that doesn’t consider the possibility of even quiet desperation. He meets a woman named Amy who may or may not die at any moment of an inoperable brain aneurysm. Together, because she convinces him to do it, they take a spur of the moment road trip from Florida to a hot dog stand in Rhode Island.

At one point, Todd does something good and decent that’s quickly forgotten in the unfolding plot. Later, he’s recognized by people. It turns out that the good, decent thing he did went viral.

At the time the book was exactly what I needed. It refreshed my soul.

A book about a forgotten event that picked someone up became a forgotten event that picked someone up.

I’m no saint. But when they used to collect tolls on the Veteran’s Expressway, once every few days, I’d pick up the toll for the person behind me. And then for a while, a men’s group I’m in met at the hospital cafeteria for St. Joseph’s North in Lutz, Florida. I’d always buy a coffee there before the meeting. And often, I’d pay for two and let the next person through have a freebie.

The things we do don’t have to always be grand and sweeping. Sometimes they can be small and insignificant. The extra toll. The next cup of coffee. A sweet book for a friend that has a hard time.

In Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey’s character talks a lot about miracles. One of the best quotes ever in a movie was from God. It’s a long one, not suited for a bumper sticker but it’s worth staying to the end.

“Parting your soup is not a miracle, Bruce, it’s a magic trick. A single mom who’s working two jobs, and still finds time to take her kid to soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager who says “no” to drugs and “yes” to an education, that’s a miracle. People want Me to do everything for them, but what they don’t realize is, they have the power. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.”

Miracles are often hard. But not always. Maybe someone picked up a toll for the single mom and it got her through a difficult day. Maybe the teenager was all set to give in until someone who cared let it show. Maybe someone saw a friend having a hard time and recommended a book.

Miracles aren’t limited to five-decades old baseball teams, or to Catholic saints, or to neurosurgeons.

The world is angry enough. It needs miracles. And God’s not gonna do them all.

Thanks, Maria!