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Journalist Sarah Jeong was recently named to the New York Times Editorial Board, and since that announcement, her past provocative tweets (for example: “#CancelWhitePeople”) have made the news. She said she’d been attacked online repeatedly by racists and misogynists and had used obnoxious tweets as a way of “counter-trolling” the trolls.

This reminds me of the time I overheard one of my son’s friends using a racial epithet. I barged into the room and reiterated my house rules. “Listen. I don’t care if you guys use expletives when you’re in the heat of a video game. But here in this house, there are three words I never want to hear. The ‘F’ word (pejorative for a gay person). The ‘R’ word (pejorative for an intellectually disabled person). The ‘N’ word (pejorative for an African American.) Those words are only ever used to hurt. They’re weapons. If I hear you use them once, twice, I’ll warn you. Three times, you’re out of here. That’s your first warning, son.”

The boy was instantly remorseful and told me that he was just kidding. He’d meant no harm. My son said, “It’s okay Ma, he was just trolling. Everybody knew he didn’t mean it.”

That was my first exposure to Troll Culture. A kind of over-the-top, so-outrageous-it-should-be-obvious-I’m-joking way of interacting. The Columbia Journalism Review explores the trend through the lens of “the largest fault line within journalism today: the one between journalists who have grown up on the internet, and the media organizations who haven’t.” (Please note: the article contains offensive language.)

At the end of the day, when you troll people – even if somebody trolled you first – you’re still a troll. Using the tactics of those who want to disparage or even destroy you makes you no better than they are.

Fashions come and go, so maybe it will become fashionable again to take the high road. Instead of rolling around in the mud with our detractors, we’ll decide clean living is much better for the soul – and for the world at large.

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In my heart and mind, I know Langston Hughes said it right.  I just wish that I had memorized his words.  Not long ago, a friend asked us why our church has a green committee.  What on earth does environmentalism have to do with

Heart beat.

Cricket.

Mute confusion.

Finally after far too long I pulled together a coherent answer.  Caring for the environment is part of God’s call to mankind to be stewards of the earth.  Not exploiters.  Stewards.  That involves care and awareness.

But environmentalism also has to do with social justice.  The poor and exploited are the ones at risk of not having clean water, healthy food and an environment that isn’t actively killing them.  Do unto others.  Love your brother.  Take care of the earth.

For me, they are all strands of faith.  But, like I said, too bad I didn’t have this poem memorized.

–SueBE

Being trolled by a fan seems an oxymoron, but reading SueBE’s post about opposite day, I was reminded of author George RR Martin. Game of Thrones fans have been trolling him to stop living the high life and finish the last book already.

My theory is that Martin has no intention of finishing the series, because once he does, fans may forget about him. Even if they seem to be holding him in contempt, they’re still holding onto him. I guess it’s better to hear invective than to be invisible. Also, there’s the very real possibility that he’s got “you’re-not-the-boss-of-me” syndrome. Fans yell at him to finish the book? He’ll show them. Not gonna do it.

There are sycophants, and then there are psycho-phants. Star Wars fans? Trolling actors to the point that they leave social media? What is wrong with this picture?

In the same way, when you bully someone for being a bully, you’re now part of the problem. We’ve got deep divisions in this country right now, extending all the way to the dining table. There are Washington DC restaurants in the news for refusing to serve political operatives with whom they disagree. I suppose they have the right not to serve any patron. And anyway, wouldn’t you rather know someone hates your guts before they’re alone in a back room with your food?

Still, there must be a better way to make a point that to heckle each other in this way. Fighting fire with fire just leads to a big conflagration. Sooner or later, someone’s going to get burned.

Travel guru, Rick Steves, tells the story of why he decided to donate his retirement “nest egg” to house homeless women and children. In the 90s, he decided to buy a building complex to help the community. In time, the buildings became uninhabitable due to mold.

“To me, this was actually good mold. God was in that mold. After much thought the right move became clear. I’d tear down the duplexes and replace them with four­plexes, doubling the people I could house and creating a little community I’d call Trinity Way.”

God was in that mold.

Today, I had to contact a company’s customer service about an issue, and I felt myself tensing as I was talking. I had to remind myself that the outcome would not have been improved had I screamed at the representative on the phone.

In the end, I’d say that I wasn’t completely calm, but I didn’t blow my stack. The best I could achieve was to be tight but polite. And that was enough in that moment. Tight but polite.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements, he writes:

“Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.”

In the case of Rick Steves’ vision to house the homeless, maybe that mold was an obstacle that led to a miracle. A blockage that turned into a blessing. Things may not always go as you’ve planned, but sometimes detours lead to a better destination.

Heading into the new year, just a gentle reminder that, no matter who we meet, we’re always talking to God in human form. Sometimes, he even morphs into mold.

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Well, I took a catnap yesterday, and had a dream in which a voice was slowly repeating three letters.

“C…H…U…”

CHU. Huh. Doesn’t ring a bell. So I looked up “Chu” to see if it means anything in another language.

In Japanese, it’s the sound of a kiss.

In French, it’s the past participle of “choir.”

In Vietnamese, it means “all right.”

All of these translations lead in to my post for today, about the way we engage with each other.

An unwanted kiss is not a kiss at all. It’s an assault. In reaction to all of the men in the news accused of impropriety, there has been a choir of voices calling for change. Jane Fonda said the answer to dealing with toxic men in power is to put women in charge. Maybe, but I’ve got to say, I’ve worked for women managers who were toxic as well.

I think the answer may be to regard each interaction as a micro-loan of energy.

Of course, this is already a concept, and it’s called “karma.” But if we think of it as exchanging a gift with every interaction, it’s easier to develop it as a habit.

What if you realized that every time you were disrespectful to someone, karma would come back instantly, only – here’s the twist – not to you, but to a loved one? In a way, it happens that way already, if you think of the whole of humanity as your extended family.

Most people want to do the right thing. They want everyone to be “all right.” I truly believe that. Maybe in this moment of revelation and demand for action, we can rise above our need for a pound of flesh and get back to the golden rule.

Strangers hold onto man for two hours after he threatens to jump off bridge

So here’s an idea. Instead of a Smart Phone, why don’t we invent a Sweet Phone – only calls from kindred spirits with a sunny outlook get through; those with a hidden agenda, a chip on their shoulder, or an axe to grind would be blocked.

It might be possible to do that with our social media habits as well. If you think of the news headlines as a slow drip of poison into your psyche, you’ll be more cognizant of the negative effect it’s having on your emotions.

My mother used to say each of us needs twelve hugs a day just to survive. Not sure why she chose the number twelve, but I’m down with the sentiment. We can do the bio-equivalent of that with our online viewing habits.

What about starting a trend that for every critical tweet or comment you post, you must compliment someone or focus on a positive thing? For every bad airline encounter story you read today, I propose that you read two feel-good stories. Listen to an uplifting song. Write a poem. Anything to counteract the constant barrage of chaos and carnage.

Here’s a positive story to start you off. It’s not often that a picture can bring me to instant tears of joy, but this picture of Good Samaritans reaching through the bars on a bridge to keep a suicidal man from jumping really got to me.

Strangers do good things for people all the time, even though the bad news gets most of the press.

These random people came together when a car overturned into a flooded area, trapping two infants inside. One man carries out a toddler, saying, “Dear Jesus, please let this baby breathe.”

Cue the waterworks again! Mercy. I may as well go to the kitchen and chop some onions at this rate.

This stranger’s kind act really warmed my heart: a sweet story about a long-lost letter.

With all the political weirdness and the general turmoil in the world, I propose that this kind of news is not just human interest, it’s a poultice for the soul.

So I ordered a pizza, and the delivery guy came to the door. I noticed that he had that piercing thing where the earlobes are missing, and decorative circles were in their place. What’s he rebelling against? Earlobes? What’s up with that? I said to myself.

Then I remembered something my mother had said when I was a teenager after I came home from the mall with a second piercing in my ears. Who needs two pairs of earrings in each ear? Who does that? She noticed a small vial on my bed. Are you doing drugs? I opened the vial and told her to sniff it, but she backed away. It’s a perfume sample, Mom. They give them away at the mall.

Guess it’s a tradition. The young try new things. The old get set in their ways.

Maybe teenagers are just doing their job when they use themselves as a canvas. So they get a mohawk. It’s only hair. It’ll grow back – although, to be honest, I don’t know if earlobes ever return.

Thinking back to the pizza guy with earlobe holes, I have to admit that his earrings (is that what you call them?) were interesting looking, like colorful little art pieces. Also, he was polite and respectful. Most important, he got the pizza to us on time, and it was still hot. Always a plus.

Long story short (it’s too late for that, you say? Cheeky devil!) I got over myself and remembered that we’re not all supposed to look the same. And that your early years are the time to experiment with your look, your clothes, heck, even your worldview. If you don’t evolve over time, best take a quick look in the mirror. You may actually be an amoeba!

So go ahead, pizza dude (and the rest of the world, too, for that matter.) Be yourself. I’ll put aside my crotchety kvetching and get back into “live and let live” mode. I’ve decided that the world is big enough for you, me, and at least one large pizza pie. But please. Hold the anchovies!

Together we stand.

Justice is not “just us.”
It’s everyone.
It’s every one
doing what that one can
and eventually, it is all of us, together.

So it really is just us. There is no “them.”
You and me again become we.

Step one: take one step.

Well, if you read the news these days, it’s discouraging, but there are still good people in the world doing positive things.

Like this flight attendant who saved one young girl from a sex trafficker and this tightrope walker who saved one man stuck in a ski lift.

These individuals didn’t save the whole world, they saved one person. Just one. But that one person really matters. To their friends, to their families. To God.

Both of these things happened in mid-air, so there was no other way to get help. Sometimes God puts a person uniquely equipped to save the day in exactly the right place.

We’ve all seen the protests, picket signs and caustic comments online. There are small pockets of positive resistance forming out there, waiting to connect with each other and spread peace instead of discord.

With all of the drama going on, that may be where the next groundswell sets in. Singular acts. Small gestures. Just you. Just me. Just us. Being neighborly. Keeping our words civil. Treating each other like extended family.

Hopefully, the next hashtag that catches on will be #JustUs. We’re all in this together, and there really is no Us Versus Them. We’re all “Us.” U.S. We all live here. We all belong here. We don’t all have to agree, but we can get along if we all agree to try.

Even aliens – and by that I mean, from outer space – should be treated humanely. The other type of “alien” doesn’t really exist. We all came from somewhere else. Now we’re here.

Post-election, my vote is to get past this ugly chapter and get on with the “one nation under God” thing. It’s time to put aside those weaponized words and meet each other as human beings with healing hearts. Somebody’s got to take the first step.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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