Wednesday, June 27, 2007
"If you were babysitting," I asked her (even though she's not quite old enough to babysit yet), "and you took the kid shopping in a stroller, and when you got home you discovered a toy from the store in the stroller, what would your options be?"
"Well," she said, "you could take it back. You could keep it, but that's not a very good choice. Or, if the kid was a little older, like about three, you could take him back to the store with the toy and explain so he'd know you have to pay for things."
Moment of silence. "That's all I've got. No, wait. You could PAY for it."
My eleven-year-old is better equipped to raise a child than a hundred or so screaming adults in the "mommy blogging" community. And they said there was no hope for the next generation!
I actually grew up thinking that sort of thing was apparent to everyone, and then I went into the practice of law and I encountered a lot of people who had hard lives and felt like they were getting screwed by the system, and so thought that justified a little self-help that fudged the rules from time to time.
Recently, though, I've encountered something much more astonishing--another group of people to whom the issue is equally unclear, but for different reasons: reasons that, frankly, I haven't seen or heard adequately explained anywhere.
Since you're reading this, I'll assume that you read blogs. Since that's the case, I'll assume that you haven't been able to escape the recent buzz about the Pennsylvania blogger who accidentally stole a toy duck from The Gap, then rallied bloggers across the country to tell her that there was no reason in the world that she should either return it or pay for it.
There's been a lot of fuss about people on the "other side" (that is, people who think you should pay for what you take home from the store) making such a big deal about a toy valued at less than $7. But that isn't really the point, is it? The point, it seems to me, is the astonishing number of people running, jumping and shouting to justify keeping the duck. The issue in my mind isn't whether or not a small toy is a big deal--it's why so many people are tripping over themselves to convince themselves and everyone else that theft is okay if it's not BIG theft.
The law doesn't really support the distinction, but that's another argument for another blog.
The big question in my mind here and now is, "What part of 'not yours' don't you understand?"
Yes, I understand that people sometimes make mistakes like this. And I even understand that sometimes circumstances don't allow you to immediately correct the situation. Once, when I was teaching at a business college in Indianapolis, I stole a fountain coke from 7-11. I didn't mean to--I just went in and got my coke, and then I noticed that the line was very long, so I started browsing magazines and greeting cards, waiting for it to get shorter. But that took a while and suddenly I looked at the clock and realized I was running late, and I left. About halfway to work, I realized that I hadn't paid for the coke.
No, I didn't turn around and miss my class to pay for it. I stopped in the store on my way home from work that afternoon and paid for it.
Was that overly scrupulous, for $1.19?
The more important question, I think, is whether it would have been okay NOT to pay for it. Of course not. It would have been UNDERSTANDABLE, certainly. It would have been NOT A BIG DEAL to the store, given the value of the coke. But neither of those things would have made it legal. Neither of those things would have made it ethical.
It would have been a minor evil, a petty crime. One, I'm sure, that many people wouldn't have bothered to fix. And I accept that, even though it troubles me. But I never expected so many people taking the position that theft is somehow the right thing to do if it's inconvenient to follow the law and respect other people's property.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
But today I got a comment on one of those posts that brough home another point, an important point that just might be the POSITIVE lesson in all this. The comment was from a knitter who said that the knitting community had been so very welcoming and helpful to her. And I realized that the welcoming and helpful stuff most often happens in a brief comment, or even behind the scenes. A knitter who posts with a question might get 50 private emails offering help and information, but there aren't going to be dozens of blog posts and comments across the web pointing out that interaction. In a way, that's just as disheartening as the initial mess...it's just a confirmation that bad news is more "worth mentioning" than good, that dirt is more interesting than kindness. But it's encouraging, too, because it probably means that all those people digging desperately to get the inside scoop on the meanness aren't JUST sharks attacking the bottom of the ship. They may well be the same people who reach out to offer a helping hand to a stranger.
It reminded me of something that we all need to keep in mind, and something that's an extension of Stephanie's original reminder that people are READING what we write: the world only sees what we put out there in front of them. There's a vague idea, I think, that people only show their "best" in public, and to some extent that's true. But so often pride and anger inspire people to speak up where kindness has not, where the nice half or 75% or 90% of their interactions have been low-key and private.
And then, inevitably, someone roars "You don't know anything about me!" How many times have you seen that in a blog war, in comments, on a listserve? And it's true. But who controls that? The only way we can know anything about you is if you choose to let it show, not just when you have something to prove, but in the moments of kindness as well.
Friday, June 22, 2007
For the past two days, my top twenty natural search entry terms for this blog have related to the Yarn Harlot and the recent controversy I referenced in my last post.
This isn't traffic I want, have any use for, or expect to retain. It's more of a social experiment, and one that's yielding depressing results. Only one visitor--or two, depending upon whether we have one anonymous or two--has commented, but dozens of people have gone searching for phrases like "Yarn Harlot controversy". And then, you know, been indignant that I don't have knitting news to offer when they arrive.
Because, of course, everyone who clicks on a link titled: Stephanie Pearl McPhee is Overrated - My Mean Post about the Yarn Harlot" is looking for knitting news. Just read the comments to my last post; you'll see.
For what it's worth, I don't think anyone made a mean post about Stephanie Pearl McPhee. As I mentioned earlier, I know very little about her, and I don't have the slightest interest in knitting. But I do know that she's a best-selling author, and that even before the "controversy" some of her blog posts were getting hundreds of comments a day. I strongly suspect that she's in a position to roundly ignore anyone making mean posts about her, and that her reprimand was in fact intended for someone who wrote a "mean post" about someone else in the knitting community, someone perhaps less well established and more vulnerable. Just a guess, but I suspect that all those "Stephanie Pearl McPhee is overrated" and "Yarn Harlot bad mother" and "mean post about Yarn Harlot" searches aren't going to find you what you're looking for. Just a thought.
I'm looking forward to this traffic dying down. I want to think this kind of thing blows over quickly. I want to think we all have more important things to worry about. If you're really looking for "knitting news", check this out: Real Knitting News.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I hate to disappoint an audience, but I have a few confessions to make.
I have no opinion of Stephanie Pearl McPhee.
I don’t even know what she looks like.
And I don’t have anything mean to say—or at least, not anything mean to say about the Yarn Harlot.
So what in the hell is this post about, you may ask?
It’s about some very interesting search traffic that I’ve seen on another blog over the past few days. Google searches and blog searches for phrases like “Yarn Harlot mean post” and “Stephanie Pearl McPhee is Overrated”.
I assume this is all detective work related to the Yarn Harlot's recent post about blogging etiquette. She advanced the apparently controversial view that bloggers shouldn't go around insulting people in public. I don't know to whom she was referring, and I don’t much care. As I said, I’m not a knitter. I probably wouldn't know the guilty blogger if her blog was pointed out to me, nor would I know the person this mystery post apparently insulted.
I’m fascinated, though, by the concerted effort to ferret out that post and get to the bottom of someone else’s business. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the Yarn Harlot essentially pointed out that some things shouldn’t be aired in public—and although I know nothing of the circumstances, her point was absolutely valid in the abstract—and it…um…generated a lot of publicity.
So what search term brought you to this post? And what were you really looking for?
Please don't think that I find the FACT of that funny--surely it's sending chills down the spine of every writer reading these words. I can only imagine the sinking feeling, the struggle to remember what the most important things posted were and whether they existed in any form anywhere else, the disbelief that there was no "undo" button. But the reverb of those six little words just made me laugh. (Okay, "accidentally" isn't so little, but it's a very ORDINARY word.)
Here's the initial post on the revived blog in it's entirety:
Accidentally deleted the wrong Blog! To pissed off to even Blog about it now lol.
I'd love to know how often this kind of thing happens. Or maybe I wouldn't. Maybe it would make me afraid to touch my blogs.
Monday, June 18, 2007
From Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Laying prone on a dentist chair while you stare at the ceiling and poke your rapidly-numbing face isn’t actually all that much fun after the first two minutes, it turns out.
The rest of the story is definitely worth checking out--I was torn among multiple quotes and nearly opted for: Later, I realized it had been, like, FOUR HOURS and my face was still numb. Because I am calm and rational, I began to wonder if maybe I’d had not just a filling, but perhaps a filling and a small stroke.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Anyway, I wouldn't have wanted to miss sharing this with you. Scrambled Toast reacts to being tagged a "Thinking Blogger": Yes, when other boys aspired to be a fireman or The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I dreamed that someday, somehow, I could exert enormous influence on people's thought without troubling myself to know what I was talking about. Over the years, experience has taught me many lessons, many truths. I have tried diligently to remove them from my writing and from my memory.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
From author Patrick Rothfuss's blog: So profound was my non-productivity that a nearby Buddhist monk was embarrassingly upstaged. He was so thrown off his groove that not only did he fail to reach nirvana, but he broke into a nearby pet store and promptly punched a kitten.
From BubbleDumb: Plus, did you ever notice how the patient in Operation always had his fucking eyes open? You've pretty much failed the game before you've started! Patients are meant to be asleep, not wide awake with a worried expression on their faces.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Recent developments in the case have brought it to light again, and the moral outrage is flying again. There doesn't seem to be much controversy. A lot of people think that a 15-year-old girl performing oral sex at a New Year's Eve party is a bad thing, and a lot of people don't even object to Wilson having been charged with a crime, but no one (except apparently the prosecutor, who is fighting hard to keep Wilson in prison) seems to think that ten years in prison is a reasonable outcome to a consensual sexual encounter between two people only two years apart in age.
But this one prison sentence, which is getting so much press precisely because it is out of line with the norm, is just the tiniest slice of the problem regarding sex offenses in our society. Across the country, young men who once found themselves in circumstances very similar to Genarlow Wilson's are subject to sex offender registration requirements and restrictions for the rest of their lives. Men who at 18 engaged in consensual sex with long-time girlfriends 2 and 3 years younger than they are branded child molestors for the rest of their lives. Their pictures are posted as sex offenders, their addresses disclosed. In some states they are prohibited from even living near a school, let alone working in any context that might have to do with children.
I'm a mother, which means that however I feel about civil rights and civil liberties, I'm happy to be able to find out whether there's a child molestor on my block and take necessary precations. But I don't feel that my child, or yours, is in danger from a man who ten years ago, as a college student, had sex with his high-school-aged girlfriend. And saddling those men with such designations hurts the "cause" as much as it unfairly hurts them, because it makes it all the harder to identify the real threats.
I'm also a conservative Catholic, which means that I'm not waving my hand dismissively and cheerfully noting that teenagers are bound to have group sex on New Years Eve and we should all just learn to accept that. But I do have to question why, exactly, sex crimes get this special designation in American society. A mass murderer who is released from prison (and yes, it sometimes happens) doesn't have to register when he moves in down the block from me; local police departments don't maintain websites to help us recognize the armed robbers or con men in our midst. Steal our cars, set fire to our houses, hold us hostage at gunpoint, and when you've served your time, you've served your time; have sex with your girlfriend when you've passed the magical age line and she hasn't, and our safety requires that we know right where you are for the rest of our lives?
Friday, June 1, 2007
I like trees, and sometimes when I'm downtown I look around and really wonder about what we've done to the world, replacing everything God created with concrete and steel, but the truth is that I'm not much of an environmental activist. I'm more of a "feed the hungry, clothe the naked" kind of girl, and my charitable contributions tend to go straight to the food bank or into the poor box at the church or directly to someone I pass on the street. But (sigh)...my blog is green. I didn't know, when I was choosing the template, that it could have such ramifications, but here I am...I have a green blog, and Borzack called all green bloggers, so I'm duty-bound to share this tree information with you.
And, in fact, the lack of trees is definitely one of the things that's wrong around us, from a human perspective and a "keep the eco-system functioning" perspective. I'm no expert, though. If you want to learn more, you should probably read the original post: I Bought a Tree!