Sunday, April 23, 2017
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Since the advent of computers as an elemental part of my existence, you could track my life through the discussion groups I’ve joined.
First, as a Sheriff’s Department employee, I joined a police group (typical of their caution, you had to send a copy of your badge, your i.d. and a confirmation from your superior to even be approved for membership). A while later, as the new owner of a rescue Cocker Spaniel, I joined a Cocker group. They welcomed anyone who owned a Cocker, might own a Cocker someday, simply liked Cockers or had ever even seen a Cocker).
Law enforcement officers are hard-nosed and wary. Men (mostly) of few words, and all of them to the point. These are people skilled in the use of weapons and they carry that mentality right into your in-box. Make what they consider an ignorant comment and the verbal equivalent of Glocks and Tasers are on hair trigger. Flaming is their version of Shock and Awe. Compassion? Forget it! If you have a death wish, try mentioning Hillary Clinton in a favorable light. I sometimes stumbled from their cyber-world bleeding emotionally. If you can’t take the heat, trust me, the cop’s kitchen is one you want to stay out of.
So it was a relief to don my rose-colored glasses and enter Cockerland, where a constant sun filled the sky. Cocker devotees were so sweet, I could literally feel my blood sugar climbing as I read their posts. Express the tiniest upset to them and be prepared to overdose on tender loving care. The Cocker aficionados rushed to send one another Frosty Paws, a kind of electronic hug. Pets or people never die, they go “across the Rainbow Bridge”. Cocker lovers always give everyone the benefit of the doubt. They remember one another’s dogs’ birthdays. I never felt like I measured up. Heck, I’m lucky if I remember my best friend’s birthday. I didn’t even admit when Raleigh crossed the Rainbow Bridge because I didn’t want to confess about the funeral service, casket, headstone and cemetery plot I didn’t buy. I thought I would only feel guilty confronting an inbox overflowing with Frosty Paws.
Then I joined a Wesley Clark for President group back when the General was in the running in 2004. We were drawn together by belief in Clark’s resume (first in his class at West Point, Rhodes scholar, wounded in Vietnam, 4 star general, NATO commander, etc). We thought it was a time when America needed a hero. Evidently, America didn’t agree. But we stayed together even after he lost the nomination. As a group, the Wes Clark supporters tended to be cool, calm and analytical. They’d write long, detailed e-mails about esoteric policy issues. They were religious about attributing credit for quotes and posting links to their sources. Our moderator was militant about keeping us on a path of fairness and deliberation. This lasted until the great match-up between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at which time, we broke into two opposing camps and deteriorated into name-calling and recrimination. We found out first-hand how easy it is for even friendly neighbors to turn on one another.
So I bailed on politics and became a NASCAR fan and, of course, I joined a NASCAR discussion group. In general, NASCAR people tend to be one sentence posters. E-mails will flood into my in-box and I settle happily into what I expect will be a an hour or so of contented reading, only to spend five minutes deleting messages that simply say, “Go, Smoke!” or “Down with Jeff Gordon” or “88!!!!!!!”. You can race through their messages as fast as Carl Edwards makes a lap around Bristol. Their judgments are swift and sure. They hate with great passion. The most devastating epithet they can hurl is to call a driver gay. I don’t know that they necessarily think it is true, it is simply that in NASCAR nation, gayness is the ultimate expression of contempt. NASCAR people worship at the altar of Dale Earnhardt and that adoration flows down to his son, Dale, Junior. It strikes me as odd that although I’d guess NASCAR fans are heavily weighted toward being Republicans, a party that professes its support for the free enterprise system, in choosing drivers they scorn those who fought their way up through the ranks in favor of monarchy.
These days, I’m back in the political ring big-time. I was a dedicated Hillary Clinton supporter and joined several pro-Hillary groups. She lost, of course, and now the Hillary gatherings have tended to slide over to anti-Trump discussions.
I no longer belong to all these groups but I enjoyed all of them even if moving among them made me feel that I was suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. For amusement, I sometimes imagined how everyone would react if somehow all my various groups, past and present, were merged and had to deal with one another. Would the cops drown in the sea of syrupy optimism from the cocker folks? Would the NASCAR fans be overwhelmed by the blizzard of white papers posted by the Clark devotees? Or would the police pull their weapons and shoot their way free. Would the NASCAR aficionados run down the undoubtedly gay-leaning Hillary fans?
Or are there more like me than I imagine, showing only one part of their personality to one group at a time but able to appreciate them all and using all of it as fodder for their writing?