Friday, May 8, 2015

Violent Earth

Back in high school, we had an eclectic group of substitute teachers. Some were "normal" and some were anything but. One of them, who I'll call Mr. Mob, would try to convince us that he used to work for the goon squad. We all figured it was just an attempt to scare us into staying in line. And this wouldn't have worked except that he was actually a pretty cool guy. He was laid back, quirky, and the whole goon squad thing was probably a joke, but just in case it wasn't....

Anyway, one day I walked into my earth science class to see Mr. Mob writing on the chalkboard. In true substitute teacher fashion, the agenda for the day was to watch a video. If memory serves me, the video was called "Violent Earth" and was about earthquakes. Since Mr. Mob was no ordinary substitute teacher, he had illustrated the name of the video on the chalkboard in a colorful fashion:

It was at that moment that I learned something valuable: The earth could be violent. And class would be easy that day. And Mr. Mob wasn't that great of an artist. But mostly, the earth could be violent.

Fast forward to the present.

Last Saturday after the farmers market, my sister, Katherine, was helping me load up my car. On the grass by the curb, there was a trench where some pipe or wires had been laid and the soil hadn't been filled back in. After almost tripping in it, I warned Katherine to watch out.

About 7 seconds later, my foot got caught in the trench, and I fell to my knees:

Ok, at this point, here's what normally would have happened: I would have laughed at my clumsiness and stood up. But no. That happened to be when the violent earth struck and Michigan experienced a very rare phenomenon: an earthquake.

It was 12:22. Confused about what was happening, I hit the ground then I started rolling. I was out of control! I couldn't stop myself! I rolled right down into the street, where I lay, laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of it all.

I was also a bit confused. Why couldn't I stop myself from falling? It was strange.

A little bit later, I started seeing updates on social media, "Did anyone feel that earthquake?" At first I thought I hadn't felt it but then it all started to add up! The timing of it was exactly right. I hit the ground, THE EARTH SHOOK, and I fell to my death. Or rather, I rolled over the curb.

Katherine, who witnessed the whole thing, said that it had nothing to do with the earthquake, but what would she know?

Here's the evidence: 

1. The timing - I tumbled into the road at the exact same time the earthquake hit (I think)

2. WHY would I fall so much if the earth wasn't being cray-cray?
3. That's all. I just felt like two points weren't enough. 

So, while everyone else was sharing memes like this...:

...I'm remembering laying in the gutter like a drunken Edgar Allen Poe that fateful day... the day the Violent Earth took me down.

Friday, May 1, 2015

On why it's hard to have a political opinion

I'm scared. We're in the season of a presidential election already. Goodbye, friendships! Goodbye, Facebook news feed! Goodbye calm, rational group conversations!

You know what's also scary? Forming an opinion about a candidate and telling someone. I mean, it's one thing to be an observer. It's another to express participation in the process. Here's a terribly drawn comic I made to demonstrate what often seems to happen:

Or it might go like this:

Person A: You know who I like?
Person B: Who?
A: So-and-so
B: What!?! What about that time they ____________?
A: Oh.. Well, I'm not sure about that. I know that I like this, this, and that about them though.
B: But what about this, this, and that? 
A: Well, from what I heard, they had a reason for that (and the reason was)...
B: But what about the fact that they hate Mexicans?

B: Well, they hate tacos. Or at least, they hate Taco Bell. Well, they hate Taco's Bell's Mexican pizza. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT?
A: Well... it is kind of soggy.

Or maybe, heaven forbid, you know ten things you like about the person, and three things you don't really like. How do you answer for those three things? Because if you tell anyone you like that candidate and they disagree, they WILL bring those three things up and because you said you liked that person, you may as well have done those things yourself.

Or you have to defend your patriotism.

B: You like that candidate? You must hate America. Have you never read the Constitution!? 
A: No, have you?
B: No, but I've heard things.

Another possibility is that you'll have to defend the candidate's character.

A: I think I'm going to vote for __________.
B: But he/she cut in line for the slide when he/she was in third grade!
A: Oh. I guess I was just voting based on their voting records and social changes. I didn't realize I had to go so far back.
B: Idiot.(Walks off humming "Proud to be an American.")

It seems to me that there are three ways to avoid the scrutiny of having an opinion about a candidate:

1. Know everything about that person and be prepared to defend everything they've ever done.
2. Only know one thing about that person but care SO much about it that everyone knows there's no point arguing with you.
3. Know almost nothing about politics but be so passionate about politics people realize there's no point arguing with you.

I'm thinking of voting for Bernie Sanders because I think he might be related to Colonel Sanders and could possibly get our national bird changed to the chicken. Is that a good enough reason? TRY arguing with me about chicken. Just try. (Just demonstrating points 2 and 3.)

The thing is, most conversations with people who you strongly disagree with are pointless. This past week's episode of This American Life is called, "The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind," and it talks about this very subject. If you want to vote for Hillary, and someone else wants to vote for Mitt (I know he's not running but I don't know any other Republicans)... is there any point in having a conversation? I mean, the point of the conversation will be to either defend your opinion or try to change theirs, right? Will either person come out with good feelings at the end?

Am I getting too jaded, or is this everyones experience?

I'll just be hiding in a tepee for the next year or so, keeping my opinions to myself until it's all over. Or at least, I'll try.

In the meantime, let's listen to a patriotic tune we can all get behind: