spe·cious·ness: falsely appearing to be fair, just, or right

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This is why I don’t spend time on Facebook, Twitter, or even email that isn’t work related. I stop in now and then and scroll through to catch up with people I care about, and when there are posts or emails expressing opinions I don’t agree with I just keep scrolling or give the delete button a workout. And in the months leading up to the election, this was especially true.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. Like many of you, probably, I heaved a sigh of relief once November 7 rolled around, believing that the incessant barrage of viciousness and vitriolic diatribe that’s taken up so much of cyberspace this year would be in abeyance for a time, despite the people who would be complaining because the horses they backed had finished second.

I found it alarming that so much of the “campaigning” that went on this year was so much more about attacking the other guy rather than promoting oneself and the good one would be bringing to the people one is meant to represent, so much more about perpetuating divisiveness through half-truths and flat out lies than about planning and discussing what one would be doing to help to form that “more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” that is supposed to be at the heart of our elected officials’ mission statement.

Especially discouraging to me, the campaigns were so “vicious” (quoting one of my students) that some of my students were dismayed to the point of apathy, reluctant to voice any opinion that might cause someone of the opposing opinion to rain down upon their heads the self-serving, truth-optional, flesh-eating acid that apparently passes for acceptable commentary these days. But for better or worse, I thought, on Nov. 7 the die has been cast and the caustic miasma of negativity and vitriol will disperse and people can finally let their guards down and breathe more easily again.

Apparently not.

I’m used to the fact that people I care about hold opinions that oppose my own; I’m used to swallowing back my own reaction when these people repeat or forward half-truths and empty rhetoric apparently designed to sow discord under the guise of being clever or erudite. I’m used to changing the subject, leaving the room, or hitting the delete key, because for me there is no opinion someone holds or any material thing that’s worth demeaning or in any way hurting someone for ~ and especially not for the momentary pleasure of feeling in some way superior.

And for the most part, I know when to keep my filters up or stop reading, but occasionally, I’m still taken by surprise ~ and when this kind of thing comes from someone you know to be genuinely open and intelligent, loving, and nurturing, it’s as if this person you love just stood up and slapped you for no reason you can discern.

What started this, now in its second day, simmering was a fb post by someone I love, copied and pasted out of context and no doubt because, in a moment of frustration, it came close to expressing how this person thought or felt about certain individuals who game the system for their own benefit. Unfortunately, the verbal smack down and the comments in kind from readers of the post, while perhaps intended as just a momentary outlet of frustration, had the effect in reality of dehumanizing the individuals of the group being targeted and speciously implying that the abuses of this small percentage are representative of the whole.

They are not.

I can tell you from personal experience, most of the people receiving some kind of government assistance didn’t “volunteer” to be in the situation that made it necessary.  Most of them didn’t get there by making deliberately irresponsible choices.

Who chooses to be born into poverty, molested, beaten, or otherwise physically, mentally, or emotionally abused in a way that impacts the rest of their lives? Who volunteers to be intellectually or physically disadvantaged, injured, ill, disabled, or suddenly single with kids to feed (and by the way, I’ve never heard of a Lone Star card, but I do know that HoHos cost about one quarter of what same number of servings of fresh fruit does ~ be nice if it were the other way around, wouldn’t it).

How irresponsible of people to be raised by parents who taught them to respect their elders, parents who trusted all the other adults around them to be equally good and decent and safe.

How irresponsible of them to make mistakes that ended up with life-long consequences, like having a baby or marrying the wrong person or both, and try to live up to and cope with the resultant responsibilities. How irresponsible of them to believe their parents teachings that everyone deserves a second (or third or fourth) chance, that love can heal any hurt, and that a promise is a promise and surely this time the promise won’t be broken. How irresponsible of them, when it turns out that none of that is true, when it becomes clear these babies you love are not children to that other but potential targets for the same kind of soul scarring use and abuse ~ how very irresponsible of them to end that relationship with no means of financial support to house and feed those babies.

And how very irresponsible to be in such emotional pain that you self-medicate with cigarettes or alcohol or escape into books or tv or video games, or even try to localize and thereby isolate the pain for awhile, or even transform it in some small way, by a less apparent and more socially acceptable form of cutting or bruising behavior like tattooing.

If you want to do these things, get a job and get your own place? Right. First you might want to watch “30 Days on Minimum Wage” by Morgan Spurlock (and they do live on beans and rice, even with both of them working). That was aired in 2005. Minimum wage has gone up a bit since then, so you could probably live on it now, right? Try it.

“It wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.” For most of us, it still is, even if we’re unable to do anything about it at the time. Most, but not all ~ witness the attitudes of the people that engineered the global economic collapse that saw millions upon millions of people lose their homes, their retirement savings, their jobs, their health care, and any sense of security and stability they had worked for their whole lives ~ if any of those people feel any loss of self-esteem or in any way demeaned by “taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing,” they’ve certainly born it well. Probably the mega bonuses and appointment to positions of power in the government helps.

“If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices.” Agreed. By all means. May I suggest that we start with those “too big to fail” people referenced in the preceding paragraph? And never mind not letting them vote; how about if we just don’t give them jobs in government that are basically the contemporary equivalent of putting the foxes in charge of the hen houses?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might want to watch the documentary Inside Job, read the New York Times online ~  July 24, 2011 ~ “Adding Up the Government’s Total Bailout Tab”: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/02/04/business/20090205-bailout-totals-graphic.html, or the CNN Money.com Bailout Tracker ~ As of Novermber 16, 2009 ~ http://money.cnn.com/news/storysupplement/economy/bailouttracker/ or read or watch any number of the other resources I’ve compiled over the last few years.

Better yet, don’t take my word for it ~ go find out for yourself.

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