Friday, June 17, 2011

A Familiar Conundrum

Familiar to me, at least. Maybe you’re more fortunate.

Here’s the set-up: Someone you know, and like, and perhaps are related to (maybe by marriage, maybe by blood) helpfully forwards to you yet another idiotic, had-you-taken-two-seconds-to-think-before-you-hit-send-you’d-have-realized-this-is-bullshit piece of...e-mail. And you are torn between setting the record straight and preserving the friendship.

Add into the mix that the e-mail in question is an ancient bit of balderdash that is endlessly recirculated as a slander against the current President of the United States, to wit, a baseless claim that “Obama made a policy that NO U.S. SERVICEMAN CAN SPEAK AT ANY FAITH-BASED PUBLIC EVENTS ANYMORE,” supposedly originating with one “Retired Vice Admiral Bob Scarborough, of Arlington , Va” (all punctuation oddities sic).

It is, of course, malarkey. As indicated above, anyone with a nickel’s worth of skepticism would catch the fragrance of horse crap, and either delete the thing immediately or take two and a half minutes to check it out. points out that the incident alluded to in the slanderous e-mail, in which an Army Green Beret was scheduled and then un-scheduled to speak at a Catch-A-Dream Foundation event, was in fact the result of an existing Department of Defense policy and “was NOT a function of any influence or directive from the President, nor was it a change in policy,” according to a statement from the Catch-a-Dream executive director, who added, “It is my understanding that the decision was based upon strict interpretation of an existing policy regarding involvement of military personnel in ‘fund-raising‘ activities.”

You can read the whole deal here. The message that was forwarded to me seems identical to the one quoted by Except mine came with a racist subject line—“FW: thats our boy”—so we should be under no illusions about the leanings of the message’s originator.

In most circumstances, I would be inclined to do one of two things, depending on the particulars of the case. I might send off a gently, even humorously corrective message. Or I might send off a more strongly worded corrective measure. The former is something I employ when someone sends something stupid but harmless, like hotel key cards contain your credit card account information and other vital statistics, or Al Gore is going to start charging you for every e-mail you send. (I’ve previously written about the nice old lady who was accustomed to sending such balderdash to a whole long list of recipients, including my previous workplace address. I would gently set her straight. She would send more balderdash. Repeat. Eventually she quit sending them, but I suspect that all she did was remove me from her list.)

The latter approach, which usually involved the phrase “anyone with half a brain” at some point, is what I use when there’s an actual slanderous lie in play, as is the case with the current e-mail.

But the problem is, the forwarder of the message, as indicated, is someone I like, and I’m having trouble coming up with a way to correct his stupidity without making him feel, you know, stupid, which, I find, is the sort of thing that strains friendships.

I suppose I could send an e-mail burst to everyone who received the message, which would include my friend as well as the jerk who first passed it along (from a business address, which, along with the inability to correctly render the contraction of “that is,” and the inability to put recipients’ addresses in the BCC field, shows us exactly how sharp a cookie we’re dealing with here). But it’s a tough call.

And in the end I am plagued also with the knowledge that people who share such slanders aren’t interested in the truth anyway. We see it all the time. Hell, a bunch of them are running after the GOP presidential nomination even as we speak, and a bunch more are cheering them on.

Meantime, I can’t pretend that I don’t feel less fond of my friend now. I’ve always known he tilts toward the right, but I always thought he was more fair-minded than appears to be the case. I’ll try to convince myself that he’s merely gullible and not the least bit mean-spirited, racist, or sladerous.

Yeah, that should work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Fistful of Quotations

Blimey, it’s been awhile since I last posted some of the quotations I’m forever collecting here and there on the interwebs. Must make up for lost time!

    “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” —Mark Twain
    “A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy.” —Theodore Roosevelt

    “A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt

    “Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.” —Jules Renard, author (1864-1910)

    “Perhaps contradictions are not impediments to the spiritual life but an integral part of it.” —Parker J. Palmer

    “Whenever there is some silence around you — listen to it.” —Eckhart Tolle

    “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” —Melody Beattie

    “Today we may not fully appreciate the workplace as a laboratory where matters of soul are worked out.” —Thomas Moore

    “Belief is more complicated than either the believers or the disbelievers among us are usually willing to admit.” —Rabbi Brad Hirschfield

    “Many are the connections, it seems to me, between learning and healing.” —Laurent A. Daloz

    “Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” —Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (b. 1920)

    “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.” —George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

    “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” —Confucius

    “Hope is the dream of a waking man.” —Aristotle

    “A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.” —Victor Hugo

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's Good to Have Choices. I Guess.

A couple of things that came on my radar screen of late, and which for one reason or other amused.

First up, this from Outback Steakhouse, asking me to select my “favorite Outback location.” This will be easy:

On the other hand, sometimes you can have too many choices. Or a couple of choices that leave you scratching your head a bit:

“Best describes.” Also, “Select one answer.” I don’t know why, but something about that just seems wrong.

I get that the Outback “choice” is the result of one-size-fits all programming. But the gender question--which comes from one of the online surveys that I take fewer and fewer of all the time, and this is one of the reasons—is just the result of not taking the time to have someone else read it over and say, “You know, this sounds kind of weird.”

Which is why it’s pleasant, in my current gig, to have a boss who understand the importance of good writing and who is a pretty decent editor himself, as well as a volunteer who comes in every week to proofread for me before I send publications to press—and who also knows what she's doing, having worked as a proofreader before her retirement.

Even so, the bugaboos will slip through. Sometimes, I’m the only one who notices them. I hate those the most.