Archive for September, 2009

About that rabid conservative putting right-wing stuff on my Facebook wall

September 28, 2009

800px-AwesomePossum-AmericanOpossumI’ve got a Facebook “friend” who is a rabid conservative to the extreme. He gets his news—all his news—from conservative commentators and web sites. He would never read the New York Times, it’s part of the liberal media conspiracy and is full of lies, you see. He basically disagrees with everything I believe in, and he’s not shy about posting his rants—against universal healthcare, in favor of torture, in favor of the war in Iraq–on my wall if I put up anything, and I mean anything, related to politics or current events.

“Who is this wacko?” my other Facebook friends are asking me. “Can’t you see he’s completely nuts?” “Why haven’t you defriended him?”

Oh, believe me, I’ve considered it, particularly when he flames all over what I see as an innocuous link. But, for now, I’m keeping him around.

It started a few months ago. I got a friend request from a guy I went to middle school and part of high school with (I moved my sophomore year.) I didn’t remember him, but I looked him up in an old yearbook and realized that I probably did know him at one time; he at least had been in my homeroom. Since very few former high school classmates of mine had yet found Facebook, I was happy to make the connection. I accepted the request and looked at his page.

And then I emailed him to tell him that while it was nice of him to friend me, he probably didn’t really want me as a friend, because I was a California liberal who voted for Obama (the anti-Christ, it seems) and had just the night before made a donation in support of the campaign to allow gay marriage, so if he wanted to defriend me, I’d understand.

He said that as long as I was someone who at least knew what the issues were and put some effort into understanding them, that was good enough for him. And an extremely weird Facebook friendship was born.

As I expected, we disagree on everything. I’m stunned by the conservative blather he spouts, horrified at how cruel and selfish the conservative take, particularly on the national healthcare debate, can be. But I haven’t defriended him. For one, while he is against everything I am for, he has never once made the debate personal, he sticks to the issues, so while our online debates get pretty aggressive, they never get hurtful.

For another, he has definitely opened my eyes to a new reality. I truly had no idea what kinds disinformation is being spread by the conservative media. And I didn’t realize that in our increasingly fragmented society that there is a growing group of people that never reads anything written by a journalist bound by ethics and facts, so “commentators” who simply lie when it suits them can have a huge influence. It scares me, and makes me worry about the future of our country, but I should know about it.

He also acts as an early warning system to the next big conservative firestorm—because he reads lots and lots of right-wing material, and if there’s a new attack on Obama brewing, he’ll be posting about it long before I read it anywhere else.

And while I doubt that I’ll ever change his point of view on health care, immigration, or the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, I’m hoping maybe, just maybe, I’m occasionally putting just a little dent in his armor of certainty.

So that’s why my Facebook wall occasionally gets hijacked by a rabid conservative. Sorry for those of my Facebook friends that have gotten sucked into the debates, and others that have to scroll past them, but I’m letting it go on, for now, anyway.

Photo credit: PiccoloNamek

One by one they leave

September 13, 2009

741px-Pied_Piper2 The kids are leaving. The college kids, that is. Every time I see a friend with a child my son’s age, a recent high school graduate, we greet each other with the same set of questions. Is he gone? Has she left? When is he going? How are you doing?

Even though I have younger kids, and I am tripping over their friends in the house after school and meeting new parents at back to school nights and soccer practices, it feels like the town is getting emptier by the moment, like some Pied Piper is coming during the night and leading our children away. “I took her last Thursday.” “He leaves on Sunday.” “We just got back yesterday from dropping her off.” The Facebook status updates echo these conversations: “She’s gone.” “He left.” “We moved her in.”

I talked to my mother on the phone last week, and for the first time since she put me on a plane to college 34 years ago, she hinted at what it was like. “It’s much harder for the parent than the child,” she said. “It’s just….hard.”

A mother who has done it three times—and now has a completely empty nest—told me to call her if I needed support; that it is a big deal, but that I would get through it. This particular mother understood something that many of my friends don’t—that I can’t soothe myself, as they do, with the idea that my son will be back next summer. All summer. Many of their children will indeed come back, settling into their rooms like they’d never left. But I’m not kidding myself, comforting as that might be. It’s not likely that my son will ever really live at home again, will completely unpack his suitcase. Oh, he’ll come for visits of a week or two, but summers, he’ll be looking to live and work somewhere different, perhaps not even on this continent. He’s going to college on a one-way ticket; from now on, his round trips will be anchored somewhere else.

Of course, I want him to have adventures, I want him to take advantage of his college summers, to go where his passions take him—but the thought that he will never really live with me again brings tears to my eyes. (And yes, I did the same thing to my mother.)

Mostly, I hide the wet eyes. I focus on the to-do list; getting him boxes to pack, making sure he has copies of medical documents, paying that first bill. I’m not taking him to campus on move-in day—it’s just too far, and I’m not sure going would make it any easier. But since I won’t be able to run out to the local CVS to get him shampoo and laundry soap and other things I think he needs, I’m getting him ready in my own way. I’m just about done with the blanket I’ve been knitting since February or so, I’ll give it to him the day before he leaves. I’m obsessed with putting together the perfect emergency medical kit, as if a little box with bandaids and a thermometer and ibuprofen will be able keep him safe. I’m also looking at new cell phones for myself—I think if I want to hear from him regularly I’d better get a phone on which it’s easier to text.

I’m also forcing myself to let go of little annoyances; when I have to nag him about something, I don’t stay irritated, it wastes precious time (how come it took me so long to figure that out?)

Of course, the one thing I really want to do is just impossible—to put off that one-way flight just a little bit longer.

Flashing back to my college days

September 12, 2009

56184913_ef546925ce This past month or two I’ve thought more about my college days than I
have in the past 30 years. It’s a rogue wave of memories, two
individual waves of activity coming together—getting my firstborn ready
to go off to college himself, and my former college classmates suddenly
discovering Facebook (most are in the Midwest, not quite so accustomed
to living their lives online as those of us in Silicon Valley.). So I
find I’m thinking about college, about those former classmates, about
what it was like then (since I have no idea of what it’s like now).

An example. Like me, my son is going to college in the Midwest, in a place that’s going to be really really cold for the winter. I haven’t taken him shopping for a new wardrobe; I thought about it, but at this point it would be somewhat pointless—not having experienced cold (except on the ski slopes, wearing goggles and a neck warmer), he’d be looking at winter coats with style in mind, not pure warmth. And as I thought about that—flashback—sometime in October, maybe late October. A Saturday night. Walking back to my dorm late at night from a party at another dorm some distance away. A party I dressed up a bit for, so was wearing pants of a slightly thinner fabric than my usual painter’s pants (that dates me). It was cold, but I didn’t get how cold it was until about half an hour after I got back to my room—because it took so long to warm up, wrapped in blankets, boiling water in my little hot pot for hot chocolate—I was still cold for a long time.

Another—I pull into my driveway and see my son sitting on the stoop, playing his guitar. I just added a former classmate, Dave, as a Facebook friend—hadn’t thought about Dave in 30 years, but when I picture him it’s always sitting on the stoop of his fraternity house, playing his guitar. For a minute, looking at my son on the stoop, I’m not sure where I am or what decade it is.

I’m dreaming about college almost every night; the dreams are all mixed up, people I knew then, people I know now, some the age they were then, some now, all suddenly back on campus. But I don’t see my son in those dreams, because I just can’t picture him living on a college campus—yet, anyway.

And, since I’m not taking him to college myself, I’m thinking this feeling of being lost in time and space is going continue until parent weekend in late October, when I finally see my new college student at his school, in his time, in his space, and it all begins to make sense again.

Photo: My old dorm