This will be the last of the re-postings of old pieces. I am compelled to speak out about things and will resume doing so on Monday April 6th. But for now, I hope you stay healthy and happy and safe and I hope this makes you think about what is really important in life.
September 3, 2014
All along the trail, from Georgia to Maine, I have thought about what I would write after climbing Mt. Katahdin.
How would I explain the trail?
I tried to find words that would capture the trail’s effect on those that hike it.
I wanted you all to feel it.
I don’t have the words.
No one does.
Some things cannot be explained, they must be experienced.
I do have this to share.
In walking the 2185 miles, I’ve had time to think.
Quite a bit, frankly.
It’s given me time to realize I’ve wasted many of the precious moments of my life, pursuing things that didn’t matter, at the expense of things that do.
It’s made me resolve to focus on the important things.
The people in my life.
We spend much of our lives on trivial inconsequentialities.
Pursuing things that no one will remember after we die.
And since we all will die, it’s important to embrace those fleeting moments while you have them.
There’s a Vietnamese expression, “Bui Doi”. Miss Saigon fans will recall it. This translates roughly as “homeless” or “the dust of life”
I think it applies to many of the things we waste time on.
We fill our lives with meaningless technology that segregates, rather than connects.
We stare at our cell phones and iPads.
We text, email, and Tweet.
All at the expense of the truly important things.
Human contact with family and friends.
Or, as I learned many times on the trail, the chance to meet the many good people on this planet.
Walking the trail gave me the opportunity to review my life.
I am a lucky man.
I haven’t always shown, to those people most responsible, that I appreciated my good fortune.
I’ve come to realize the most important moments in my life were never about career achievements, money, or possessions.
They were about friends I’ve known for most of my life and new ones along the way.
It was about meeting my wife Susan, and somehow convincing her to marry me.
It was about seeing my daughter Kelsey open her eyes and smile, moments after she was born.
It was the privilege of watching that brand new life, whose first action on this planet was to bring tears of joy to my eyes just by opening hers, grow into the remarkable young woman she is today.
Those are the things that truly matter.
Thank you, Susie and Kelsey, I am a most fortunate man for having you
In my life. I should have told you more often.
If I can give you anything in return for your taking time to follow along on this journey, it would be that you take a moment to embrace the people in your life.
Tell them you love them.
Tell them you care.
The day will come when that will no longer be possible. Don’t wait.
For that is what truly matters.
Use the time you have to enjoy those precious gifts of family and friends.
Not to be overly dramatic, but there are sections of the trail where one slip, one bad decision, and you end up a news blip of a tragic death.
Those are the moments you see how fragile life really is.
No one knows how much time we have.
Spend your time wisely.
I am determined, from this moment on, to do just that.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
(Another re-posting of an earlier piece. In light of some of the Evangelicals and Mega Churches insistence on staying open, I thought this piece most appropriate during this pandemic)
There is an almost infinite number of writings, texts (in the old-school sense), books, and essays related to the power of prayer. Some of the world’s most learned theologians have written brilliant pieces on the subject.
Which is meaningless since none offer any real proof.
Now my friend and fellow blogger, Kent Harrop, always accuses me of being enamored of science. He would say I see science as the only path to truth. In some ways, he is correct. But I would modify that position with a caveat.
I adhere to the philosophy we may not be able to explain everything. But accepting things without challenge is dangerous. To believe prayer works in the complete absence of any evidence is fraught with danger. We would not tolerate praying over a broken arm as an acceptable form of treating an injured child. Why should we accept praying for something to change as opposed to seeking to make changes happen?
As one of my favorite teacher’s often reminds me when I write these pieces,
“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet, William Shakespeare)
But our point here is the efficacy, or in my perspective the lack thereof, of prayer. I also fear the populist trend in America toward returning to a “better time” which is a smokescreen for Christian domination and lip service to tolerance. That should frighten every thinking American. Thus, my point that if you see a value for prayer in school, or in government proceedings, show me how it makes things better, or offers any beneficial effect.
Given this position, let me say this. A prayer is a powerful tool for the individual. It can bring focus. It can bring revelation. It can bring realization.
What it cannot do is influence the physical world, never has and never will. Only human actions have ever done that, for good or bad.
Now I could spend time recounting the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Bertrand Russell, Rene Descartes, Plato, or even Paul Simon about prayer and how none ever demonstrated any measurable effect in the world.
Instead, I will offer two examples as evidence of my position. One of historical significance and one personal.
Between the years 1933 and 1945 two out of every three European Jews were killed during the Holocaust. I stood in the barracks at Auschwitz and Birkenau. I passed mere feet from the ovens used to burn millions of men, women, and children.
Acts of horror committed by people from a predominantly Christian country, people who prayed to god as well. Did their prayers for success in their actions bear fruit with God?
In the silence of the camps, next to the piles of shoes, bundles of human hair, and images of those turned to ashes by the Nazis, I heard the echoes of the Rabbi’s prayers. The pleadings of mothers. The crying of the children. The helplessness of men praying to God for help.
Obliterated by death and flames.
Unanswered prayers while 6 million Jews were murdered. Unanswered prayers while 50 to 60 million died in the war. Unanswered prayer to end the war. A war that ended with the development of the weapons of our own destruction.
Our prayers didn’t end the war. Our prayers went unanswered unless you see the answer in our discovering the power of the Gods in the form of Atomic weapons.
The Nazi’s burned the Jew in the ovens while people prayed.
The war killed millions while people prayed.
There were billions of unanswered prayers. If it took all that time for God to answer prayers, what’s the point?
Prayers rose, intermingled with the ashes of human beings murdered because of hatred, and God did nothing.
Why? For mankind to find a way to kill not just his fellow man, but to vaporize entire cities and perhaps the planet?
Where was the power of prayer then?
Now, the more personal example. Some would argue such an argument is disingenuous since I believe prayer does not work. This example is not about me, but my mother.
No one embraced her faith with more certainty than my mom. She held onto her belief despite life’s many challenges.
She faced life-threatening health issues. She was a victim of infidelity and the breakup of her marriage. She suffered the loss of a child.
Despite it all, she held onto her religion. To the point many would find troubling. Despite my father’s infidelity, despite his taking her back to court to reduce alimony, she still kept her wedding picture on the wall. Because in her faith, marriage was forever.
My mother believed and never wavered.
Even when my father’s other wife, the woman who was the second part of the infidelity, would call and ask for help in dealing with my father’s demons, my mother never hesitated to offer her assistance.
Because her faith compelled her to.
What has this to do with prayer? Everything.
When my sister Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer, no one prayed harder or in a more sincere way than my mother. No one lived the life expected of her based on the tenets of her Roman Catholic faith more purposefully than my mother. No one held more hope in the power of prayer than my mother.
She would say God’s failure to allow my sister to live, to let her die from cancer, was a mystery of life. A mystery of faith. She would say the prayers worked because God took Mary home.
I would say God broke my mother’s heart if I thought such a thing possible. It is not, because God, in the anthropomorphic interfering in this world sense, isn’t listening.
Would I say my mother’s prayers were wasted? No, because they gave her hope in her helplessness to save her child.
What I would say is blind faith absent proof is a pox on mankind. It tricks us into wasting our time and effort.
Many would argue God answers all prayers, it is our inability to understand the answer that is the problem.
I find that sad. If ever there was a prayer that deserved God’s attention, it was one from my mother. Or, if volume matters, the mothers of six million Jews.
One of my mom’s favorite expressions was life is not fair. We shouldn’t compound that with false hopes.
“We do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.” William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
In our lives, most of us live in many places but few we think of as home. For the less fortunate, home may be as distant as the nearest galaxy. I have been most fortunate to have several places I could call home.
In my first few years on this planet, home was Robinson Avenue in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Vague, swirling memories hide in the deepest synapses of my brain’s cortex and limbic system. Flashing to the surface through unexpected and random stimuli.
I know I lived there, some memories and old home movies confirm it, but it wouldn’t be my first answer to the question where did you grow up.
In 1962, we had the good fortune to move to Harriet Lane in Cumberland, Rhode Island. This was my first home. Aside from saving me from the impending doom of Catholic School in Pawtucket, it plopped me down into the most fantastic place to grow from childhood to adulthood.
This opened a whole new world to me, free to explore to my heart’s content. My friends and I spent countless hours climbing trees, wandering the woods, capturing frogs, snakes, turtles (and releasing them.) Sledding down the street after snowstorms, playing kick the can in the road, lying in the sun on a warm summer day, or catching fireflies as night fell with nothing to concern us but what caught our fancy.
I can still see the trails we followed along meandering streams to scum covered ponds. Hopping from mound to mound in swamps. One swamp we referred to as Alligator Swamp, although no one ever questioned why.
Some claimed they saw ‘gators, our own version of an urban myth. We doubted it but avoided the place just in case.
The home expanded over time. Three more siblings to the original two of my sister Peggy and I. To accommodate the growing troop of children of Peg and Joe Broadmeadow, physical additions were built.
The memories here are closer to the surface. Easier to recall. Almost endless in number. This was a home. And while some may see sadness in the way we left there, for me, it will always be my first home.
Like many young adults, I entered what can only be described
as a nomadic period. I had nothing resembling a home.
I had an address. A space. A focal point. One that changed
every few months or years.
The nomadic period ended, as it often does with young men,
because of a woman.
In 1981, Susan and I married and moved into a house on Belview Street in Seekonk, Massachusetts. This became my second home. Our original plan of staying there for five years turned into nineteen, punctuated by such events as a pool, two dogs, a fence around the yard, eight fruit trees, vinyl siding, redone hardwood floors, and many hours cutting the grass and painting the house.
And then there was a child, Kelsey Broadmeadow, who turned what was already a home into the best home ever.
Kelsey can speak for herself—which she does well and without
reservation—but I would hazard a guess she thinks of this as her home.
But time, like yesterday’s breakfast, moves on.
After nineteen years, we built a house in Rehoboth,
Massachusetts and moved—lock, stock, and barrel—to a new home.
This became the home where Kelsey would launch her own nomadic period. Moving out on her own to college in Florida, then law school in Connecticut. While Quinnipiac Law is an excellent school, the decision to go there, tempered by her time in Florida where the memories of winter in New England mellowed, caused moments of regret. Something she experienced soon after the first snowstorm turned her car into an unrecognizable mound of snow.
Part of the learning curve of nomadic life.
Facing the specter of the empty nest, my wife and I entered a temporary period of nomadic existence ourselves. Flirting with a move to Florida before deciding to sell the house and downsize into a condo in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
The condo became our base of operations for various expeditions. Ecuador, Costa Rica, Germany, Aruba, Southeast Asia, Morocco, and a short walk along the entire Appalachian Trail. It is a perfect base of operations. Pleasant, quiet, convenient to the bike path and fishing in the Blackstone River (who’d believe that?)
But to call it home would be a stretch. We’ve enjoyed living
here, but we also enjoyed living in a tent.
None qualify as a home.
Thus, it is time to end the last of the nomadic wanderings of Joe and Susan Broadmeadow and go home. We began packing boxes and taking stock of things to keep and things to let go. Soon, we will move into our house in Cranston near where Kelsey and her husband, Chuck, have their first home.
For now, the proximity makes it easier for us to get to our unofficial but critical function of caring for their dogs, Ralph and Seamus. More servants, than caregivers. Fulfilling the demands of dogs who see themselves as superior to all other creatures.
Dogs have a much different concept of home. Home is where they are as long as someone feeds them, nothing else matters.
No one can predict the future, but we hope something more complicated will arrive in the home of Kelsey and Chuck. We look forward to expanding our creature-sitting skills to include sentient beings with interests in things other than slimy dog toys and taking turns peeing on each other’s heads.
All possibilities exist.
But I know this. My days as a nomad are over. The cycle is complete. I started out in a home, and this is the home where it will end. I will carry boxes in but leave wearing a toe tag in a body bag with someone else carrying me out.
But not yet. I follow Dylan Thomas’s advice and rage against the dying of the light. I will not go quietly into that good night, but I will go someday.
I intend this to be the home I lived in longer than any
other. To make that goal, I need to be here a little over nineteen years. Let’s
round up and call it twenty. If I stay until 2039, when I will be eighty-three
years old, it will set a record.
I intend to break that old record by a wide margin. For now, I will just enjoy being home “where my music’s playing.”
“Homeward bound Home where my thought’s escaping Home where my music’s playing Home where my love lies waiting Silently for me…”
(Here’s a re-posting of a piece I wrote some time ago. It’s the time of the year…but with all the uncertainty, I missed the actual date of March 19th. My mom has now been gone for 11 years, but the sentiment remains. Nevertheless, here it is…)
It has been almost 8 years since my mother died. Thoughts, sights, and sounds remind me of her almost daily.
Words she often turned into her own askew versions. Her penchant for reading EVERY street sign whenever she was in the car. Twinkies she hid in the freezer in violation of her diet. The one constant reminder is my white hair, undeniable genetic evidence that part of her remains with me.
These are memories of a special woman.
Each year, on a particular date, there is a poignant reminder of something she did for me.
I suspect she had similar traditions with my brother and sisters; she was that kind of a mom.
She had a way to make you feel special.
Nevertheless, this one was between us.
As many of you know from my writings, I do not share the faith that my mother did. She had absolute confidence in her beliefs. Despite all the things she experienced, the joys and the sorrows, she never once doubted them.
She made a valiant effort to share her faith. If there is any blame to go around for her failed attempt to instill that in me, the fault is mine.
What is the annual event that triggers such a memory?
St. Joseph’s day.
Every year, I would get a card from my mother. It came in the mail. It was not a text, an email, or a phone call. It would arrive in the days just before the 19th, more evidence of her careful consideration and purpose.
She took the time to select, address, and mail a card. Through a simple gesture, she preserved the dying art of thoughtfulness.
The card celebrated the Saint’s day of my (sort of) namesake. Her thoughtful gesture had a dual purpose, serving as a subtle reminder of her faith. I used to chuckle whenever I opened the card. Amused by my mother’s determination, yet touched by such a simple, caring act.
She never gave up.
Since her passing, I miss the card every year and her every day.
Mom, while you may not have succeeded in making me a Saint there is a good chance you made me less of a sinner.
(In this Age of Quarantine, I am re-posting some of my past pieces of a non-political nature (a solemn pledge I took for the duration of this pandemic) They are for your entertainment, since you are a captive audience. This piece describes the beginning of a trip we took to Southeast Asia several years ago. I look forward to the time the world reopens and we can once again travel as much as we can for as long as we can.)
I’ve always been struck by the fact that every moment of every day the sun is both rising and setting simultaneously. Every moment is a beginning and an ending. An Alpha and Omega of the simultaneity of time. Traveling skews our perception of the absolute nature of time, making it relative.
Einstein said “the difference between the past, present, and future is a persistently stubborn illusion.” It is not easy to wrap our linear brain around it.
In the world of intercontinental travel and time zones, we departed later than planned for the trip to Southeast Asia. Such are the pleasures of travel.
Sitting here in a pressurized metal tube at 33000 feet over the earth while traveling 500 miles per hour, the simultaneous nature of life is even more evident. We’ve flown almost due north out of Boston, crossing over Canada, the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, and grazed the edges of the Polar Ice Cap. Since I’ve never seen it from this perspective it’s hard to say if it is shrinking, but it is magnificently, blindingly white.
We got on a plane in Boston on Tuesday, April 3rd at 8:00 a.m., traveled for 22 hours and will arrive in Bangkok (have arrived hopefully when you read this since I can’t post from up here at the moment) at 4:10 p.m. on April 4th. In those same hours, it will be 5:10 a.m on April 4th for you there on the east coast of the United States. Somewhere along the way we will have gained 11 hours time difference or lost 11 hours depending on your point of view.
We will be 11 hours in your future.
So with time on my hands to think, my mind, always a mix of random thoughts ricocheting from the sublime to the outrageous, compels me toward contemplating what now means.
On this planet, at this very moment, right now…
The sun is both rising and setting
It is both day and night
A life is beginning and ending
Now is yesterday’s future and tomorrow’s past
When I am standing in the lobby of the hotel in Bangkok most of you will still be asleep (although some of my highschool friends may be on one of their nightly trips to the bathroom, old kidneys and prostrate problems trouble the old bastards.) Yet we will all be in the same moment, now. The clock on the wall will be different for each of us, yet we share now.
Now is a more difficult concept than you might think.
So for now I think I will look out the window at a part of the world I’ve never seen, yet always suspected existed, and enjoy the moment
P.S. To borrow and twist a line from Bill Bryson’s book about Australia, A Sunburned Country, Bangkok is a supremely satisfying word to say.
Or How to Enjoy Life by just Being Alive (some old pieces I thought I would share once again)
This is Seamus. Technically speaking, Seamus is a refugee, rescued by the compassion of several unknown Americans and welcomed into my daughter’s home. These Americans, of unknown political bent, ethnic heritage, or religious faith or lack thereof, saved Seamus and one other dog from a litter of seven. Five died. Seamus and his sibling (in parts unknown) survived through the kindness and care of ordinary Americans. It is an example of the best of America and reflects our natural inclination to human kindness.
The regal bearing of Seamus is unmistakable. While applying zoological classifications would say differently, there can be no mistaking the similarity between Seamus basking in the sun as he surveyed his kingdom and these other two creatures surveying theirs.
This lion picture went with a story of lions attacking and eating three poachers in a nature preserve so I can’t be sure if it is just the warmth of the sun they are enjoying or the post-dinner satisfaction of poacher du jour. In any case, the sun is either the primary comforting factor or a contributory one to their post-meal digestion.
Seamus also has an attitude of accepting everyone as they are (after a thorough sniff.) While wary of new people, once he takes their measure they are as welcome as those he’s known for years.
Except for birds, squirrels, and other similar creatures. They are demons that must be pursued relentlessly.
We can all learn something from Seamus.
Never rush through life without taking a moment to bask in the sun.
Never miss a chance to meet someone new and share a moment of time.
Never pass up an opportunity to chase a ball, explore the woods, enjoy a meal, or lean against someone you love and just be.
A dog is not just man’s best friend, he can be our best reminder to live our lives with compassion, concern for our fellow creatures, and to focus on the good in the world; not wall yourself in out of fear.
By accident of birth, Seamus could have been left to the fate of an uncertain life but for the kindness and compassion of Americans who gave him refuge.
Seamus returns that kindness every day in the pleasure he brings by just being a part of our lives. Sometimes taking a chance and letting someone into your life, as opposed living in fear of the unfamiliar, is the right thing to do.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
William Arthur Ward
We have before us one of those moments in history where we face a great upheaval. Often such times are defined by war, ours results from evolution—a mutated virus.
Now in such times we have a choice. We can bemoan the social distancing and shelter-in-place measures necessary to limit the spread of the virus, or we can look for the opportunities within. Wailing and gnashing of teeth about how difficult this is does little to salve our discontent. Crying about the unfairness is a waste of effort. Ignoring the measures out of a selfish sense of inverted priorities is to threaten family, friends, and the whole of the nation.
As a wise woman was fond of saying, “Life’s not Fair.” That wise woman was my mother and I know, were she alive today, if confronted with someone complaining about the situation would tell them to “get over it and stop acting like a two-year-old.”
Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on the fact you have an opportunity—and the time — to do things that often get left aside in our 7X24 connected world.
Write a letter to a friend, relative, or perhaps a person in the service serving their country in a far-off place unable to be here with their family.
Read a book. Read a book to someone, even if they are far away, put Facetime or some other modern form of communication to a good use.
Take a class on-line.
Visit a zoo thru the wonders of webcams.
Go for a walk (if you can do so without coming closer the 6 feet from others)
Write that great American Novel everyone seems to want to do.
Listen to music. Really listen to music, not as background to your day, but to recapture the essence of why music “has charms to soothe the savage breast.” I find in moments of difficulties listening to the music of my youth is a tonic for the soul.
Write a song, write a poem, list the things you will do when the world recovers. And then do them when the opportunity arises.
Sit outside and look for shapes in the clouds.
Write a diary of these moments so, decades from now, you can remember the things you did and how you overcame any tendency to whine and complain.
Free your mind. Now is the time to awaken or reawaken the magic of imagination, of all things in this universe, it has no limit.
Stay well, stay in, stay safe. This too shall pass.
“At this desperate time with the economy, Mr Scrooge, … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir. Some would send them back out into the world despite the risk.”
“Can we not reopen things, let the natural process of selection take its course?
“We could, sir. But what choice would that give the poor? Many might be forced by their employers to return in such circumstance; and many would perhaps die.”
“Better they die, then the economy” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, for the common good, it would decrease the surplus population of those who offer the smallest contribution to society..”
Outside a dog, man’s best friend is a book. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read
In light of the many challenges now facing this country, it is indeed time to set aside politics until the threat passes.
Since we are limited in the resources available to entertain ourselves, and many are unaccustomed to having so much time on their hands, I am making four of my novels available for free on Kindle.
You can click here http://amzn.to/2cyabM9 to go right to the site or read on to see more about the available books. They will be free for the next 5 days.
Saving the Last Dragon is a novel set in Cumberland, Rhode Island, geared to kids, young adults, or the young at heart who love magic, dragons, and the flight of imagination
A Change of Hate, a story of intrigue and betrayal challenging a prominent defense attorney as he fights to learn the truth about a government conspiracy with its roots in the war in Vietnam
Collision Course is the first in the series about East Providence Police Detective Lieutenant Josh Williams. The book details a deadly encounter with a misguided robbery suspect and the subsequent politically motivated trial of Williams by an ambitious, and corrupt, United State Attorney.
Silenced Justice is the second in the Det. Lt. Josh Williams Series. When Williams discovers a criminal conspiracy involving a US Senator, he receive help from the most unlikely of sources and must work to protect his own family from those who will stop at nothing to protect their corrupt organization.
All I ask is that you read any or all the books and write an honest review when you finish.
Mr. President, that is an understatement. I dare say it will shock the entire country.
Mr. Trump is allergic to facts and prefers a sycophantic propaganda-driven media to fawn over, and accept without question, his every word, pronouncement, and declaration no matter how absurd or contradicted by facts. This President cannot handle basic questions that anyone in his position, under these circumstances, would know a reporter will ask.
This man is not responsible for this “Chinese” flu. Still, his ineptness and resistance to early decisive action—considering his well-known disdain for intelligence briefings (which alerted him to the potential crisis with Covid-19 as early as January)—is barely mitigated by VP Pence and Dr. Fauci. History may show the actions of this President failed to prevent increases in hospitalizations, deaths, and the unprecedented collapse of the American economy. (Story link)
In those same intelligence briefings, some Senators—both Democrat and Republican—were smart enough to see the looming financial crisis yet acted in a manner devoid of any sense of honor or decency.
They worried more about their personal well-being than the rest of the country. It will be interesting to see the names of others, privy to the same briefings, who took similar actions.
Regardless of who they are, anyone who used their positions of trust to insulate themselves from the coming financial collapse should resign immediately.
Now there are many rational Trump supports who make cogent and articulate arguments to support the President. Different perspectives, and differences of opinions, are what drive this country to greater achievements.
The very nature of the national emergency may have forced Mr. Trump into taking action. Still, his supporters are correct in arguing he is doing something. If he learned to let someone else have the spotlight, VP Pence and Dr. Fauci, it would mitigate much of the criticism directed at him.
He just cannot help thrusting himself into the spotlight–everything is “beautiful”–even if his statements are devoid of facts, or are outright falsehoods. Yet that has been his pattern since he entered the political forum.
His supporters’ parroted argument that they knew what they were getting—a crude, inarticulate, bull-in-a-china-shop personality—and wanted this politically inexperienced outsider to drain the swamp, falls short under scrutiny. It doesn’t pass the smell test.
If they were seeking such a candidate, they could have done better than this accident of circumstances. The swamp is getting deeper and murkier, it is not draining and the snakes are now poisonous.
Here’s a prediction. However this all plays out, Mr. Trump will resort to his usual course of behavior. He’ll blame all the negative consequences on VP Pence and Dr. Fauci and kick them to the curb. You heard it here first.
For those in the administration and Congress who went along with this Svengali-like personality, when the judgment of history comes on how you followed Trump lemming-like over the cliff, you can invoke the Svengali defense.
In court, a Svengali defense is a legal tactic that purports the defendant to be a pawn in the scheme of a greater and more influential criminal mastermind.
Convincing people he is a “mastermind” might be a stretch. You may have to work at that.
Or, you can say you were just following orders…
*Author’s Note: There is much discussion and disagreement over using Social Media for political discussions. I see the forum as the perfect opportunity to reach a wider audience than might be available to newspaper opinion pieces (which I also write) or other traditional forums.
I have people who read, and comment, on my pieces from all over the world. It opens a line of communication and exchange ideas well worth pursuing.
I also see Social Media as the perfect environment for choice. You can read what I write, respond, agree, disagree, or ignore it completely. The reader has full control.
Polls show a range of opinions on the use of social media for political discussions.
Some of that may be generational where younger generations use social media like my generation used the telephone and my parents generation used cards and letters.
Some of it may be most people are more concerned with being entertained on Social Media by goat videos, sophomoric memes, or jokes than as a source of information.
But what is undeniable is Social Media can have a positive impact when used with proper caution. While using single source reference sites such as Google or Wikipedia may offer some fact checking, accepting the content on Social Media as reliable on its face is dangerous.
But it does offer a platform to stimulate the consideration of multiple points of view. I don’t write these things because I believe I can persuade anyone to change their minds. I write these things so that everyone who reads it will know there are differences of opinions out there.
People often fall into the trap of confirmation bias. If they read something the agree with, they accept it at face value. If it is something they disagree with, they ignore it. By reading different points of view with the intent of understanding–not accepting but recognizing–different perspectives, it opens a door to further understanding.
If I write something that later proves wrong or inaccurate, I try to correct the error. I can admit mistakes. Yet I still see the social media platform as beneficial for the discussion of all topics.
The tone of the discussions is also problematic. Keyboards instill unwarranted courage in some. In a face-to-face discussion, no one tolerates name calling. Most participants would be reluctant to engage in such crass public displays. The anonymity of the online presence acts as an invisibility cloak, masking identity.
My posts all go on my blog, in my name, linked to a variety of Social Media sites and shared by those who follow my blog. I enjoy a polite if intense discussion on differences. I try to be polite and if I cross the line, I apologize, but I still see the platform as beneficial. It gives voice to people who may not otherwise have it.
To make a comparison to when I was growing up. I watched 3 channels, 6, 10, and 12. Then Channel 38 and 56 came along. Once again, I liked them for their entertainment value.
I didn’t watch PBS Channel 36, I wanted entertainment, not enlightenment. I wanted the Three Stooges, not a history lesson. If I wanted to be informed, I watched the news.
Yet, over time I did begin to watch more serious shows. The TV, once just a source of entertainment, became a widespread source of communicating information and bring the wide world into out living room.
Social media, just barely into it’s second decade, is a changing phenomenon.
I think many would prefer Facebook and Twitter and the plethora of others to be just another form of entertainment. As those accustomed to using Social Media almost from birth take over positions of responsibility and political office, that may change as it adapts to their particular preferences.
For myself, I will continue to post and welcome agreement and disagreement from anyone who wishes to take part. I do hope the discussions can be civil, I try to resist–not always with success–resorting to sarcasm, but sometimes I cannot help myself and for that I apologize. But we should still use the platform to express our ideas.
For it is in our differences we find solutions. Perhaps Social Media may be the platform where we once again embrace compromise.
Here are some links to polls addressing the situation.