Saturday, June 12, 2010

To friend or not to friend?

Facebooked your mom For family members, that is the question.

I think we've all been there. You run across a family member on Facebook and check to see what information is available on their your horror, you see that they are not only a fundamentalist Christian, they are also fans of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and they're members of the Obama death prayer group, or the O.B.A.M.A group (One Big Ass Mistake America), or the 1,000,000 Strong Against Baby-Raping Atheists Who Cross-dress and Drink White Wine with Beef group.

Okay, I made one of those up.

It can definitely be a dilemma. Do you send them a friend request, or do you just move along? What do you do if one of them finds you and sends you a request? Are you obligated to accept because of family ties?

Personally, I say no. It's not just a matter of seeing their posts that you know are going to make your head explode--you can always hide their posts. There is personal privacy involved, and we are all entitled to it. Just because I'm related to a person does not mean that my life must be an open book to them.

A prime example would be my Mom. I love my Mom dearly, but I am very grateful that she has no desire to learn to use the computer, or to be on any sort of networking site. You all know that I've got a foul mouth, and I use it here and on Facebook. I've also got a liberal streak in me a mile wide, and much of my family is quite conservative. I have very strong opinions about religion. When I am around my Mom or many members of my family, I don't use such language, or talk about my opinions on various matters. That is out of respect for them and their feelings, and in the interest of family harmony. I do not want my Mom knowing everything that I say here or on Facebook. I feel that I have the right to my privacy and my personal opinions, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

There are some family members that I am friends with. Those are people that know me and my opinions well (Cousin Shane, et al) and tend to be close to me in our feelings about various things; these are people that I am myself with. I'm the same with them as I am with my friends. Then there is Cousin Curt, who doesn't agree with me on much of anything (other than the importance of education and a mutual love of literature), but gets a kick out of our disagreements and enjoys the debates. We all deal with people differently, and there are some things that we don't disclose to family members. I'm certain that I can't be the only one to make that distinction, or draw the line at full disclosure. I have to wonder why any conservative, religious relatives would even want to be friends with me...I can't imagine that they would enjoy any of my posts! Those that are friends with me are those who "get me," and even if they don't agree with me, they certainly won't be concerned about what I write.

I had a cousin tell me that a mutual relative sent him a concerned email about an entry of mine, saying, "You need to see this." My cousin was worried until he read my entry and realized that it was just opinions that differed greatly from those of most of the family...I'm guessing he decided that no intervention was necessary. Haha!

It really is perfectly okay to not accept every friend request you receive. I'm sure there are people who would say, "Well, what do you have to hide? If you don't want to share things with everyone, don't write it." Whatever. I can't begin to tell you how liberating it was to decide to write what I wanted here, and to find like-minded people on Facebook. I may censor myself around certain family members, but this is my space (ha...get it?), and I don't want to have to censor myself here. Simply being in the same family does not mean I'm obliged to provide full disclosure.

I think this video sums things up pretty well. I understand the concern that is involved, but I also realize now that kids need to do their own thing. As do I.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Altered reality

Lying I've written before about cognitive dissonance, in which a person experiences conflict due to holding two opposing ideas at the same time, or being presented with incontrovertible evidence that refutes one of their firmly held beliefs. We've been seeing a lot of this lately with climate change deniers, people who oppose health care reform despite the fact that they will directly benefit from it, birther idiots who refuse to believe the evidence of a bona fide birth certificate (perhaps because it is titled certificate of live birth), and various other lies, misconceptions, or even those lovely forwarded emails loaded with bullshit.

Although not quite the same as cognitive dissonance, I would say that delusion is a part of that; people often delude themselves into believing something is real when it can be proven that it most definitely is not. I recently saw someone express extreme displeasure that President Obama had yet to visit the Gulf coast, that people were so angry at President Bush for not visiting during Katrina, but why was no one calling out Obama on this?? (All caps, of course.) Someone else chimed in and said that sure, Democrats and the media think Obama can do no wrong, and then the original poster said that Obama supporters don't want to be confused with the facts because they don't want to believe the evidence against him.

This was posted on May 30. The President had just been to the Gulf on May 28, and was there on May 2. Who is not believing evidence now? Or perhaps they just aren't paying attention, and deluding themselves into their version of reality, because to be presented with evidence that counters their belief will result in cognitive dissonance. I've also seen people write that Obama canceled the national day of prayer (he did not...although I think he should), and I've seen others say that he did not observe Memorial Day or honor our dead soldiers because he was on vacation. He was not at Arlington, but he was at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to honor the soldiers there. As I pointed out somewhere, are soldiers buried at Arlington somehow more worthy than those buried elsewhere? Because my Dad is buried at Burr Oak Cemetery in northern Indiana, does that mean that he didn't serve his country well, and for many years, and is not as worthy of respect as those buried at Arlington? Anyone who says yes..I'll be showing up at your door soon, and we'll have us a little talk, okay?

I had it happen with that Facebook friend who, when I countered her misleading and incomplete facts with the full story, refused to acknowledge or accept it, and defriended me. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinions but not to his own facts."

It really is an odd thing to see seemingly intelligent people turn their backs on the truth, and even make shit up. Although it’s a little long, here is a very good article about delusional beliefs. One of the worst instances in my experience was with an ex-boss of mine. The guy was a jerk on many levels, and was quickly becoming known among the local research community as untrustworthy and prone to exaggeration of his own abilities. He was getting ready to go on a business trip, so we all had a little meeting about the projects we were going to be working on while he was gone. I was going to be purifying some Bovine Factor V, and it was a very problematic protein to purify. (Maybe because I didn't wear my ppppppledge ppppppin when I was working on it. Ha!) It was decided that we would send the assay out to a lab in Atlanta so that a researcher there could do the assay and give us some insight onto how we could get the process to work better. Because I wanted no misunderstandings, I said, "Just to clarify. I'll be collecting samples and sending them to Atlanta, right? I won't be doing the assay here?" He said, "Right." My manager and a coworker were also there.

Later that week....

I go through the purification process, a matter of several hours of work. As I get down to the purified protein, I start collecting samples to be sent out later, and get them frozen quickly so they don't degrade. The phone rings, and my manager answers it. It's the boss, he's calling in to check on how things are going, and after talking to him for a while, my manager says he wants to talk to me about how my Factor V project is going. I say so far, so good, I'm collecting the samples today, and I should be able to get them out to Atlanta for Dr. Whoever to do that assay. A brief silence.

Him: What?! Why aren't you doing it there? We talked about that before I left!

Me: Yes, but it was agreed that I'd be sending them out, not doing the assay here.

Him: No no no, we said you'd be doing it there!

Me: [trying again, although I knew there would be no winning this one] I specifically asked you to clarify that I would not be doing the assay here, I would only collect the samples and send them to Atlanta, and you said yes, that's right.

Him: I did NOT say that. Let me talk to Joy [the manager] again.

Headdesk When Joy got off the phone with him, she came over to me and said, "Beth, he's wrong. I stood right there, heard you ask the question, and heard him agree." My other coworker who was there also agreed, said it was clear to her that I would just collect samples and send them out.

So yeah, I ended up doing the fucking assay, and yes, I still find it disturbing that he either lied so blatantly, or managed to convince himself that he had said something other than what he did...despite three other people corroborating that he was wrong and that he was not remembering the meeting correctly.

I find it really unsettling to have to deal with people like that. In fact, you might say that people like that give me cognitive dissonance. They remember events in a way that is simply not true, they change reality to fit their own needs and purposes, and then try to pass their new version of reality off as the truth, even when others produce evidence showing that they are wrong. I'm not sure what the process is there, but they are either maliciously lying or deluding themselves into a false reality. Either way, there is definitely something not altogether right there, with a distance from reality that has to be unhealthy.

One thing I've learned over the years when experiencing something like this, whether at work or in personal matters, is the importance of documentation. When you know that someone willfully and happily lies, it's best to keep a record of contact, things that were said, emails and letters that were sent, and any other pertinent info. When dealing with the deluded, the best policy is an age-old one: Cover Your Ass. And you can tell 'em to kiss it while you're at it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Twin towers light I know that a lot of people aren't going to like what I write here. That's nothing new, of course, but this one might be an opinion that really won't be very popular with many folks. In fact, I still haven't solidified my own opinion on it. I have been pondering it, though.

The title of this entry comes from the First Amendment, which states that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." There is much discussion lately, and much Bookfacing taking place, concerning the proposed construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. There are a few Facebook groups that are against it, with most people saying that it would be a slap in the face to America, that it is an outrage, and so on. How dare Muslims build a mosque near the site of such a tragedy, when people of their own faith are the ones that caused it? Even some Muslims feel that it is not a good idea and are against the construction.

I do understand that some might see it as a horrible affront, almost mocking in its audacity. I'm American, remember? I recall how I felt that day and in the subsequent days. We all do.

However, my first thoughts upon seeing some of the outraged posts and reading some articles about it was of the First Amendment, and that not only do they have the right to build a mosque, they also have the right to build it there. (As long as approval is met, and the Manhattan Board approved it 29-1, with 10 abstentions, last month.) I think it's important to keep in mind that the Muslims who perpetrated the attacks were religious extremists, just like Christian fundamentalists who do things like protest at military funerals holdings signs that say "God hates fags" (the charming Fred Phelps and his minions at Westboro Baptist Church) or people who decide it's perfectly okay to murder a doctor who performs abortions (still a legal procedure in the United States, in case anyone has forgotten). There were also Muslims who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. When the buildings came down, people of many faiths, no faith, and many different nationalities were killed.

Timothy McVeigh was raised in the Catholic church, although he seemed to break with his faith as he got older. I wonder if anyone would protest a cathedral being built near the site of the Oklahoma City bombing the way they are protesting this mosque? Some might say that Muslims are free to practice their religion, no one wants to restrict that…except for not allowing it to happen close to Ground Zero. A couple of thoughts there. First, what is the appropriate distance? A hundred yards? Five hundred yards? Ten miles? Not within the continental U.S.? And who would define that distance? Secondly, those of us who oppose school prayer also use similar words to say that it is not restricting anyone from praying on their own time, merely that it is constitutionally inappropriate to have a government-financed institution participate in prayers led by teachers or administrators on school time. However, the difference is that this group that wants to build the mosque are not forcing anyone to worship a certain way, or to pray; they want to build a mosque for people of their faith to attend on their own volition. They are also not financed by the government. Public schools are different, and there should be no proselytizing whatsoever in such an institution.

As I said, I do understand why some people would be bothered by this. However, our Constitution states that we respect all religions, or those who choose not to practice religion. The building being proposed will also function as a community center and will include a pool and a book store. If they are attempting an outreach for the good and improvement of the community, isn't that a positive thing?

I do have some conflict about this, because even though that was almost nine years ago, it's still a very painful memory. However, denying any religious group their right to build a place of worship is not how we operate. It does look as though it will go through. Mayor Bloomberg supports it. Perhaps it is time to come to terms with the fact that the Constitution does apply to everyone...even people you might not agree with, or even like.

Note: This post is in no way a defense of Islam, merely a defense of their right to build a mosque where they have legally obtained land and permits. I think I've made it clear how I feel about religion in general, no matter which one it happens to be. Personally, I say build the community center, but leave off the mosque part and stop indoctrinating children. I would say the same about a Catholic cathedral or a synagogue or Christian church. Good things can be done for people and for the community without the entanglements of religious proselytizing.