I think most would agree that we are living in contentious times, and it is sometimes hard to find the silver lining in any cloud. It’s important to remember, in times like these, moments for which we are grateful. So this is my gratitude list for January:
- On a snowy day, as I was driving to work, I started sliding on the ice. But either through my own skill (unlikely), divine intervention, or just plain luck, I was able to right my car and make it to my destination.
- I’m also grateful that we didn’t have any more snow in January, so I didn’t have to drive on ice again.
- I am grateful to my colleague Charles who, when we were filling boxes with discarded videos, kindly took the box with the scuttling roach in it and humanely removed it from the library.
- I am grateful for the colleague who found a harp ornament at the symphony and bought it for me.
- Although I was sick for several days during the month, I am grateful I didn’t get the nasty stomach virus going around.
I hope you all had moments in January that made you smile.
Many years ago, in my first apartment in Nashville, there was a mouse. This is not a heartwarming story of how a lonely girl made friends with this mouse. I don’t like them. So I bought a trap. A sticky trap. In my innocence, since the trap had seeds on it, I thought the seeds were poisonous and the mouse would quickly die. I learned my mistake the next morning when I found a still-living mouse on the trap. I disposed of the creature and went to work.
Still shaken by the experience, I told our department secretary about what happened. She was horrified and gave me a lecture: “Those sticky traps are inhumane. No person who likes animals would ever buy one.”
I felt like the village outcast, someone who should be shunned for my awful behavior. I promised to never buy another sticky trap, and I haven’t.
But then, a few weeks later, at lunch, our secretary told us all a ‘funny’ story about what her cat did the night before. A mouse had ventured out from a closet, and the cat spent a good hour chasing it, tossing it, and batting it around before killing it.
I said nothing, but I couldn’t help thinking that, if given the choice, the mice in question would have found either manner of death equally horrifying.
It is often easy to attack others at times because we only see the behavior. It is easy to defend ourselves because we know our intentions and any or all extenuating circumstances.
But we need to look at the end result.
Today, I was reading the comments following a Facebook post that surprised me. Most of them were angry (that was not the surprising part). But both liberals and conservatives (or those liberals and conservatives who think it’s worthwhile to comment on Facebook) were angry, although for different reasons. That did intrigue me.
I decided to search out the facts about this incident with a quick web search. I got the average number of hits when you do a Google search: thousands upon thousands. But what I found interesting was the order they came in. The first ten to twenty results were all opinion pieces (many disguised as news), full of insults, inflammatory words, and an incredible amount of bias. I had to search to find the first article that simply reported the facts of what this guy did.
While fake news is getting all the attention today, it is only one of problems facing our students, our colleagues, our friends, and ourselves as we try to make informed decisions. There are many blogs and opinion pieces that slant facts to their own political or social agendas. There are many 24-hour news channels that have to keep their air time filled, which means some questionable choices are made. And then we have people who were raised to believe that some media outlets are in the hands of (fill in the blank) conservatives, liberals, feminazis, communists, racists, (and on and on and on).
It’s not that any of this is new, but in the era of social media, wrong-headed stories can make the rounds faster than the crew on the Starship Enterprise could beam down to a planet. Therefore, it’s important that we all become savvy media users and teach those skills to our students.
This spring, the Jolly Librarian’s series will be on becoming a wise consumer of media. (I don’t start this series as an expert, but as a student.) I hope you’ll join me.
The end of the year is always a good time to take stock and to take what I’ve learned to make changes in 2017. So here goes:
- I went through much of my life not knowing most people’s political and social views. Now, due to social media, I know what my acquaintances think on every issue. Facebook has brought us many good things; this has not been one of them. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
- No matter what they say, many people don’t want facts, unless those facts align with what they already believe.
- Good things do not always happen to good people. In fact, sometimes very bad things happen to them. And sometimes bad people skate through life. It makes little sense trying to ponder the reasons for these things. We still have a responsibility to be good people and defeat evil when we discover it.
- At any given time, some things are ending and other things beginning. It makes little sense to try to hold on to an “idealized” past.
- No matter how many treats I give to my sister’s psychotic cat, he will still bite me when I try to pet him. It’s time to give up.
And perhaps, most important, whatever 2017 brings, we have no choice but to face it. So bring it on.