Friday, April 3, 2015

A cup of cheer

This was a bit of a rough week. After the initial flush of relief at having the contract renewed at work and knowing my job was secure for another 12 or 13 months, I found myself realizing that I might very well be stuck in this job for another 12 or 13 months or more. I've spent a lot of the time since last September phoning it in at work (I mean even moreso than usual, though apparently still not enough for anyone to notice any decrease in my output or completion of duties) and rationalizing my lowered intensity of effort by blaming the government's inability to get their act together and subsequent jerking around of all of us poor contractors. But now the government has finally gotten it together, and we contractors are in no way being mistreated at the moment, so I should probably get back into the mindset of somewhat earning my keep around here. And also, as I've already mentioned, I should keep pounding the pavement in search of a new gig. But so far that endeavor has yielded minimal, frustrating results, so more of the same does not exactly fill me with rapturous delight.

Plus a lot of the news and chatter in cyberspace was downright depressing this week, from the whole Indiana RFRA debacle to the ongoing problem of police violence. No, you didn't miss anything big in the news this week about police malfeasance. But there's always some story happening somewhere that paints law enforcement in a negative light, and I happen to be Facebook friends with someone who shares links to every single one of them every day. "Cops are the worst" is his personal bugbear, literally and full stop; he denies the very existence of decent police officers. So of course I don't agree with him, I'm sure there is a mix of good cops and bad cops out there, but at the same time I don't begrudge him grinding his axe because we as a society probably do need to hold police departments more accountable for their policies and actions and movements like that have to start with spreading awareness, even if the information is unpleasant. But then of course I have another FB friend who actually is a cop, and takes the opposite stance. Not my measured "ok, there are bad cops, but there are also good ones let's not be crazy here" but rather a circle-the-wagons, "attack one of us and you attack all of us" mentality. And he reposts a lot of mindless memes about how ungrateful people are for the good work cops do and uses the #bluelivesmatter hashtag and vociferously denies that it's a slap in the face to #blacklivesmatter. I finally took the step of unfollowing the cop this week after a couple of his more problematic posts. One of them was pictures of his three kids as newborns along with a message in which he addressed them directly and promised them he would always do whatever it took to come home to them each night. He actually included the phrase "kill if I have to" which I found a bit tasteless at the very least and, the more I thought about it, pretty emblematic of the core problem in our society at present where apparently a lot of cops feel perfectly justified executing people in the streets if they "feel threatened". And I'm not suggesting that cops should be unarmed and just try giving out free hugs to make criminals reconsider their life choices, and I'm not saying it's not a dangerous job nor am I saying cops have no right to defend themselves. I am, as always, saying it's complicated trying to figure out where the line is and it's going to require actual work to figure it out and move forward, and not just photos of cops in full SWAT regalia captioned with "WE WILL NOT LAY DOWN AND DIE!" as if anyone's actually requesting that. If I view it through the prism of my "friend"'s FB status updates, it's as if people are asking questions like "Um, could cops maybe implement different strategies for defusing situations other than emptying entire clips into unarmed suspects?" and all the cops can hear is "I wish every cop was dead!" People kind of talking past each other.

The thing that's really troubling about it all is that I tend, as a general rule, not to comment on politics on Facebook. It's not really that I have an aversion to stirring up drama, it's just that my take on things (which I've already deployed in this post) tends to be: it's complicated. FB status updates are great for cute photos of kids or funny little observations, but not great for nuanced thought about the challenges of modern, diverse, democratic society. If I can't sum up my feelings on and/or preferred solutions to a significant problem in the space of a status update, then I won't say anything about it at all. And even that meta-attitude is probably more thought than a lot of other people give to everything. It's probably not fair of me to assume that if someone is posting about a highly charged topic and leading with "Look, it's real simple ..." (and not making an obvious joke) that said post represents the entirety of their thoughts on the matter. A non-nuanced FB post does not indict someone as being devoid of or incapable of nuance. And yet, I assume the worst. I think taking the time to post on FB means you see it as valid communication which can speak for itself. So on the one hand, I feel like I'm surrounded by frighteningly myopic zealots. And on the other hand, I feel like a coward because they post what they believe without equivocating, and I post nothing at all disagreeing with them because I hide behind "it's just really complicated ..."

But anyway, my cop "friend" posted another meme image and, you're going to think I'm making this up, but I swear I'm not: it's a photo of a cop, except it's only from about mid-thigh to neck. The head is cut off. In other words, faceless. And the cop is in full black body armor and carrying what looks like a fully automatic assault rifle. So, scary as hell! And then superimposed on this is a paraphrase of some classic movie dialogue (which I'm now typing from memory of both the movie and the paraphrasing meme but I'm pretty sure this is close enough): "I will never feel the need to explain myself to anyone who sleeps under the blanket of the freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it."

I will give you a moment to let that sink in.

Look, I LOVE A Few Good Men. Any time I'm flipping around the cable channels in boredom (which, granted, hardly ever happens anymore, but go with me) if it's on I get sucked right in. And I love Jack Nicholson and his portrayal of Colonel Jessup is phenomenal. But Jessup's the bad guy, right? With little to no ambiguity he is the villain of the piece. If your response to people saying "Cops sometimes abuse their power and need more independent oversight!" is "Don't. You. DARE! Question. The. Police." and to prove your point you put up Headless Darth Vader with a Machine Gun and a quote that a movie villain spits out right at the point where it becomes impossible to deny how evil he is ... I guess you are preaching to the choir, but you are also horrifying the congregation, just fyi.

Wow, I didn't really mean to make more than a passing reference to the online tribulations of my newsfeed, but I guess that stuff really got under my skin. I know it did, actually, because in fact it spilled over into stuff at home, me being in the kind of bad mood that leads to kids getting screamed at and indefensible verbal sparring with my wife, all of which leads in its turn to me feeling wracked with guilt for letting the worst in me worm its way out and all that fun self-loathing merry-go-round kind of stuff. Like I said, rough week.

But the subject of this post was never intended to be a fakeout! Sometimes things get bad, but then inevitably they get better. I can get back to something resembling productivity at work once I shake the rust off, and I can keep applying for different gigs for however long it takes. I can be a little more choosy about who shows up on my social media, and look on the bright side and be thankful about the opportunity to really sharpen my own thoughts about politics by sorting through why I disagree so vehemently with certain statements. There's no way to take back being a jerk on the homefront, but I can resolve to make up for it, and remind myself that I don't want to be like that and it's important that I actively monitor which energies I'm redirecting where, in fairness to those who might end up on the receiving end.

AND ... there's always the local microbrewery, who I also follow on Facebook, a decision I have never once regretted. The picture below is one I stole directly from their most recent update:

Notice their #1 draft beer right now is called YGGDRASILL (or click the picture to embiggen if that's not clear above). I am, you may have noticed, something of a fan of Norse mythology (Exhibit A, Exhibit B) So basically the fact that there's an ale named after the World Tree available right around the corner from my house has been a bright spot in an otherwise trying week. No matter how bleak things get, you have to remain open to the possibility of finding even a drop of redemption, because somewhere, somehow, it's out there waiting to be found.

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