Sunday, January 20, 2013

Nobody Likes a Cheater. Or Do We?

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of ambivalent is "simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action." I did not need to look up cheat.  Unlike Armstrong, I was already quite certain of the definition.  I really hope I never find myself searching for a semantic loophole to slip through in that definition.

I am not very passionate about sports. I can't say there has ever been an athlete I looked up to the way it seems people seem to worship (worshipped?) Lance Armstrong.  Perhaps Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias. Babe never doped. At the time of her death at the age of 45, from cancer, she was the top-ranked female golfer.  If you would like to delouse yourself from this Lance Armstrong thing, read about Babe, read about Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, read about Jesse Owens. Read how the Basque Steeple Chase runner alerted the Kenya runner that he had mistaken the finish line and was not actually finished the race. Google it. I have never been an athlete but I have always known that "sport" is more about spirit than framed jerseys or endorsements.

I usually have opinions about things - ill-conceived or too rooted in emotion they may often be. There are few topics I was more ambivalent about than Lance Armstrong. Then I watched the Oprah interview and saw the 60 Minutes Sports piece.  People have been worshipping a bully.  A narcissistic, remorseless bully. It's not the cheating, it's the threats and intimidation that are chilling.

When I was in my 20s I worked for a man who was lying about everything. His education, his certifications, his work history - he even claimed to have played for a professional hockey team.  He too was a bully and loved to threaten people. As the corporate powers that be closed in on his charade he became uglier and uglier.  Being within arm's length of such a desperate person is something I hope I never experience again.  In a very tiny way I can relate to what Emma O'Reilly and Betsy Andreu experienced - a very tiny way.  Desperate people are dangerous. His actions toward innocent people are unforgivable.

I can't think of a longer, harder, more deserving fall from grace.  So many people seem to be at a loss for what to do now that the source of their inspiration was a mere mirage. Ah but that's just it isn't it? It's always a mirage.  All we ever see in other people is what we choose to see.  People are our mirror.  When we see good things in them, we are seeing the good things we see in ourselves. When we vilify someone we recognize something in them with which we (would rather not) identify.

I am not sure what the future holds for Lance Armstrong.  But this I do know.  Personally, what I love more than a victor is a Phoenix that rises from the ashes. So...we shall see.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Truth is Often the First Casualty of Outrage

As much as I tried to resist it I have to admit that my experiences on Twitter have been incredibly rewarding.  As an aspiring "writer" there is no greater exercise for the mind than to be forced to make your point in 140 characters or less.  And let's be honest, those opinions, at least for me, are never about the weather.  They are about the big things - or at least I think they are big things.  The election.  The economy. A murdered teen in Sanford, FL. A massacre in an elementary school. A brutal rape in Steubenville.

The downside of communicating in such short, impassioned spurts is we can become snappy, jumpy, punchy.  I recently had a disagreement with a coworker via email and as I typed my response I realized (before hitting send, thankfully) that my response closely resembled one of my biting responses to a right wing troll accusing the President of being a perpetually vacationing Communist.  Yikes.

Take a breath, take a step back and think before you type, genius.  Easier said than done when you get caught in the wave of (mis) information.  Add in the shameful need to be retweeted - to gain followers.  Since nothing feels better sometimes than kudos for your 140 character weigh-in on the crisis du jour.

I don't tweet about what I am eating or what I am wearing.  I like being in the middle of the fire storm.  It is just social media of course and the best way I can describe Twitter is an enormous circle jerk.  There is a circle jerk going on among those on the left and there is another one going on among those on the right.  Lots of words - lots.  With some isolated examples there really is little to no action.  But along the way we do learn something despite the 140 character limit.

The crisis in Steubenville is a prime example.  I just had an exchange with someone (from, God help me) who seems to be trying to counter a lot of misinformation.  The exchange made a light go on.  The volume on this case has been turned up - way up.  The involvement of the Anonymous movement has pushed this case into the spotlight - that's a good thing and perhaps a bad thing.  The video. That video.  It's almost impossible to watch.  If Sandy Hook was our gun crisis wake up call - the Steubenville video could very well be the light we needed to shine on our culture of violence against women.

Is the video horrific? Without a doubt.  Is it evidence of guilt?  That really can't be determined. Certainly not by non-lawyer me or social media.  So here is the risk.  If the details of this case are blown out of proportion the real case, the real truth, will be dismissed and forgotten.  "Wait, you mean she wasn't in the next room when that video was made?" "The guys that made the video may have had no contact with her?" And the crime that was committed, and the victim, will be pushed aside. Somehow if the most outrageous details prove to be misleading then it will be like the whole thing never happened. That is the risk. It wasn't as bad as we thought so it must have been just dandy.

Everyone knows that the danger in the old "rush to judgment" is that someone will be wrongly accused, or worse, convicted. But the overlooked danger of a rush to judgment and blowing things out of proportion is that the real horror of what happened could be lost.

Something horrible happened in Steubenville. How bad does it need to be to keep our attention?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

This Thing Called New Year's

I have never been a big fan of the dreaded "New Year's resolution."  Too much pressure. Too much judgment.  Too much expectation to be extra-ordinary - not with the veracity of the follow through, necessarily - just with the content of the resolution itself.  A "mine is better than yours" childish pissing contest that I tend to tire of very easily - no matter the subject matter.

I remember being mocked by someone for my response to the inane "what's your New Year's resolution?" question.  Like anyone that ever asked that gave a crap what the answer was.  Especially this particular time.  I was working for a small PR firm and an insufferable colleague of my equally insufferable boss asked me what my New Year's resolution was.  So I replied with what I felt was a very sincere response - much too personal for the complete tool I was talking to but I was feeling magnanimous.  "I don't actually believe in New Year's resolutions.  I believe if you want to make a significant change in your life - do it - regardless of the date on the calendar."  His tiny brain had trouble grasping this but I frankly didn't care.  I took the ridicule from him as I had on several other occasions - as part of the crappy $6 an hour job.

I still feel the same way.  Don't wait for January 1st to change the tide of your life. Don't think because January has come and gone that the window to start your own personal revolution has closed.  We really only get to do this once.  Live the life you'd go see if it were a movie, or read if it were a book.  After all you are the author.

Do great things....