I was unfriended by my sister the other day. My revulsion at the use of the word friend as a verb notwithstanding, and though it might come as a slap in the face to most folks, I’m not too terribly upset by it. I’ve discussed it with my wife and a couple of friends and the crux of the biscuit seems to be that sharing parents and two or three weeks of uncomfortable meetings over a 30 year period, doesn’t really constitute what I would call friendship. So, when she called an official end to that relationship by clicking a button on a website that wasn’t here 10 years ago and wont’ be here ten years from now, I felt not that much about it.
But that’s not why I’m filing this blog. I’m writing about it not to ask people to see it my way or to say wow you’re sister’s an ass or, Dude you’re such a prick or anything like that. I’m actually just really interested in how things happen. The progression of actions and choices that lead, like linked dominos in a falling line of ever increasing speed to that point where the last domino comes flying off the table and lands with a sploosh in the cat’s water bowl.
It started as most things do, very simply. I received an email chain from my sister that seemed to have come to her from her father in law. He’s a nice man, but like most men of his age, he forwards a lot of email stuff as he believes he’s the only one who ever got it. My sister referenced it on facebook where she felt compelled to apologize for my behavior to whoever seemed curious. She claimed her email had been hacked and that she’d never sent or forwarded the email, but really, it was neither here nor there. My response was to the content and the argument rather than the fact that she had yet again included me on a forwarding chain of silly email shit. But, and this will play in the story later, there was a really nice big list of email addresses attached to it.
Anyway, the gist of the email was that we the people, acting as a collective, have the power to drive down gas prices if we follow the steps laid out in the email. I didn’t respond to the generally absurdist premise as such. It didn’t matter to me that the scheme wouldn’t work. I was going to respond to it as though it would work. I wrote what I thought was a short, well defined argument that suggested that it might be in our best long term interests not to drive down gas prices as suggested in the chain email.
This was my response to my sister (and to the list of people including in the email recipient list)(and yeah, I wrote it as a response to her but I knew I was writing it for everybody’s consumption.
“This is a double edged sorta thingee Paula. I’m not trying to be a jerk or argumentative for the sake of arguing so please hear me out.
Yes gas prices are high. Yes it hurts the economy and yes, I would love it if Exxon and Mobil had their upper execs hauled out into the streets and hung by their heels but there’s something else that you’re not considering; a couple of something else’s, really.
A) The cheaper that gas is at the pump, the more we use it. That’s bad for the air we breathe, bad for the atmosphere in general, bad for the climate, bad for the planet and bad for us. Using more gas is just plain bad. It’s a great energy source but it’s a super way of releasing gazillions of tons of fossilized and sequestered carbon that’s been safely underground for millions of years. No matter which friendly or unfriendly country it comes from or how cheaply we can acquire it, using it is bad for us all. Also, any benefit to the economy from lowered fuel costs will actually be a short term bubble effect and the profit will be reaped mostly by corporations or people to whom a 13% increase in profit is millions of dollars rather than hundreds. Very little of it would, in the current climate, find itself trickling down to the poor and huddled masses yearning to go on vacation.
B) The higher that gas prices go, the more attractive alternative energy becomes. The more attractive and competitive it is, the more money the country will spend on it for research and development and the more private companies will invest. Eventually, that will lead to more improvements in efficiency and lowering of costs to consumers. The infrastructure for alt and green energy technologies needs to reach a tipping point that it has not yet reached. It’s a place where once passed, nothing makes alt/green go away. From there on, we will all stay on the path that leads to massive reductions in fossil carbon usage/release.
Does it hurt right now? Yes. Is it going to hurt for a while yet to come? Probably. Is it better in the long run that this happens? I truly believe that it is so.
So, while I like the idea of lowered gas prices and I like the idea of sticking it to the big oil companies, they are only shooting themselves in the foot and I’m inclined to let them do it; even if I get hit with some of the blow back. I think the end game is worth the pain.
PS have you read my blog lately? This weeks article, “Yay, They Have Penis on the Menu!” I promise you’ll snarff.
The post script mention of the blog was also a link to the blog. That I’d sent it to a list of people I didn’t know whom I had harvested from an email sent to me by my sister (and thus probably included a fair quotient of folks like her) was a choice I made based on trying to increase traffic to this blog. I understand that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you don’t knock on any doors, you don’t make any sales. I didn’t expect everybody included in the list to like my position on the gas argument and I expect even fewer of them to click on the blog link, which, by the way was the main point. Truth be told, the gas argument was a carrier for the link. What I really wanted them to do was read my blog posts.
OK, so a day or so later I get this response from a guy named Shane Muth:
“Perhaps you could respond only to your family especially with the penis on the menu item. I could really care less about your gas sermon as well.
Shane Muth -father to one of Paula’s students and not sure how we were included with this drivel.”
Yeah, I had an immediate reaction that my sister claims not to understand based upon how totally cool this Shane guy is. She says he only wanted off the list and that I went nuts on him. I think if you look at the guy’s response, you can see that he wasn’t just saying, “Take me off your list.” He clearly casts negative characterizations twice in two sentences. They were weakly delivered and it seems tame in general, but he called the gas thing a sermon and then used the term drivel either for the gas argument or the penis on the menu blog entry. Either way, fight’s on.
I’m a big boy and smarter people have said more hurtful things to me, but, and this is the main thing, the dude threw dirt clods at me first. I don’t care that he was weak in the effort. He threw first. It also seemed clear to me that he has a problem with my use of the word penis and I just have a visceral reaction to people who cringe over a word; any word. I know he didn’t’ write a long piece and it wasn’t explosively ugly, but I was pretty clear in my mind about who I was dealing with. Also, I know I’m not going to change him. I’m not going to reach him. I’m not going to ever be entertaining to him. I’m ok with that. But I’m also not going to just let him throw rocks at me without throwing some back.
So I wrote:
“Well Shane, I can certainly understand that you wouldn’t want to see or hear the word penis since it has caused so many of the world’s problems. I’m sure that as soon as the email arrived in your in-box a team of commandos stormed your house and forced you to read both the gas sermon and the penis on the menu drivel. It is amazing to me how they were able to force you not only to read the email but to click on a link and then read even more words against your will. I truly feel for you as your desire to remain completely isolated from outside thought was so thoroughly violated.
As of today, I have received 9 emails thanking me for a very funny article and 1 from a guy who seemed to be upset about the word penis.
So, penis penis penis.
Yours very penis,
I was content to let that be it and as far as I knew, it was. That is until I started hearing from my sister on the matter. Before I go much farther into how she reacted or what she said, I should first describe her.
To start with she’s my younger sister. I turned 50 in January. She’s turning 47 in April. She was an only girl. (My mom once said to me in a purposefully hurtful moment, “Brian is the oldest. He’ll always be our first and that will always make him special. Paula is our only girl and she’s your dad’s favorite. Don is the baby and he’s always going to be. And you… you didn’t squeak much.”)
Anyway, right after high school, Paula, my sister, split for college and she never looked back. She was gone, gone, gone. She’s always believed herself to be superior to my brothers and me and though she’d say she didn’t, it is clear in the way she speaks to us and of us to each other that she considers us all, little more than slightly retarded children. Since her graduation from the University of Texas at Autism in the mid 80′s I have seen her, in person, maybe 8 times and for a total of maybe 2 weeks duration. We have gone a year or more without speaking several times. She doesn’t send birthday or Christmas cards to my kids even though we send to hers. And because I asked her to stop forwarding her father in law’s email chains a few years ago, I almost never get an email from her either. She is, essentially, a stranger to me except that we share parents and she “friended” me on facebook.
OK, background in place.
After the back and forth with Mr. Sermon Drivel there was a day or two of nothing and I gave it no more thought. My numbers on the blog went up and I got a few emails from people on the list that included sermon drivel saying how funny it had been and how much they enjoyed it. One of them even went on to facebook and told my sister how funny I was. I thanked her… nicely.
Then I got this from Paula:
why in the world would you EVER go that far? he is a PARENT of one of my students? WHY would you EVER put me in that position? gotta say – one of your most ASS moments ever, gary. you do know the difference between “reply” and “reply all”, don’t you?
apparently the gasoline email had some kind of virus attached that sent it to many, …many people in my mailbox – i only originally sent it to 10 people – NOT even you because i knew i’d get back some lengthy diatribe. BUT the virus gods must have thought i needed something stupid in my life! i wondered WHY that other parent/friend sent me a fb post saying she liked your blog – i was thinking, “HOW does she know about my brother’s blog?”
anyway… thanks a WHOLE HELL OF A LOT for putting me in that position professionally.
Well, yeah, I had a response because, well, I just do. I always do. I can’t help it. My wife says I should try to help it, but I just end up pacing around the house or worse, pacing in my brain until I respond. So…
A) If you think that was going far you really don’t know me. I thought I was remarkably reserved.
B) He threw the first dirt clod. I just threw better.
C) If you are being judged either personally or professionally by somebody based upon what your brother does, says or writes, be mad at them not me.
D) He is not the parent of a child that I teach. He’s just a yahoo who threw a water balloon at me and I threw one back.
E) I absolutely know the difference between reply and reply all, I’m in the god damn internet business. I sent it to everybody because I wanted everybody to read it because I wrote it, I’m proud of it, I think it’s funny and so do a lot of other people and fuck anybody who’s closed minded enough to be offend by the use of the word penis and misses the entire point of the article because he’s focusing on a word.
F) If you really believe that I did something all that wrong, then go tell your friend that your brother does not speak for you and if he still wants to blame you for me then righteously tell him to go fuck himself.
G) If two paragraphs of reasonable argument is a lengthy diatribe then fuck you, too.
Then she said
You are really off your rocker now. all he did was ask you take him off whatever list he accidentally got on. YOU acted immaturely, rudely, disrespectfully and like some angry, little boy who isn’t able to think ahead about the consequence…s of his actions.
And you are doing the same thing right now.
He was really cool about the whole thing – as are all the other parents that somehow got mixed up in this crud. You, on the other hand, are being immature and off-your-rocker-crazy in your responses (s). I DID tell him you don’t speak for me – I worked on cleaning up YOUR mess that affected ME.
Try thinking before you act next time, please. There’s a time and a place for everything – and that was neither the time nor the place that kind of rant/tantrum. You sound like a child who has just learned a new cuss word.
Then I said
One thing I know for sure about all of this is that there is no way in the world that any of it affects you if you don’t want it to. Not professionally, not personally. I wrote something I wanted to write. I sent it to a bunch of people on a list because I wanted them and anybody else to read it because I want to increase readership (which I did). I have no illusion that everybody is going to like me or the things I say and if your cool friend would have just said, “Take me off the list.” that would have been it. But that’s not what he said. He took a shot at me and I fired back because that’s what I do when somebody takes a shot at me. I understand that you think of that as immature. I don’t. In your last response you treat me, as you have always treated me, like a simpleton child. I’m not surprised that you feel this way or have expressed it as such now since you’ve done so for 25 years. But I don’t have to sit still while you do it. And I don’t have sit still when some schmuck on a list of schmucks I don’t know from Adam takes a shot at me just because you know him or teach his kids. It’s called life. Fuckin deal with it.
And if you think for one minute that I’m going to not respond to somebody just because he might show you a copy of the conversation and say something like, “hey, what’s the deal with your brother?” then you really have no understanding of me or of what I’m likely to do or my motivations. This is to say, you don’t know me at all. We share parents and, over the past 25 years, about 2 weeks of contact. That just barely makes us acquaintances and does not qualify as friends and certainly doesn’t put you into a position to be able to suggest how I should or shouldn’t react to anything.
If I choose to have a rant or a tantrum, as you put it, it’s none of your goddamn business. You thinking that you have any input into that decision is an example of your inflated view or yourself and your importance to me.
Yes, or course I think before I do. In fact, I thought a lot before I sent you a letter telling you to fuck off. I thought long and hard about it. I’m pretty sure I still feel that way.
As for the off your rocker crap; I’m not the one paying good money to quacks to put suction cups on my children and stick nonsense needles into my back. Before you start throwing rocks like that, look to your own glass house.
I know quite a few goddamned cuss words and I’ve used remarkably few of them with you considering that you’ve treated me like your child or a retarded student. If you’d like to hear more of them feel free to continue with this line of conversation.
So, I guess I got it all out. My wife rolled her eyes. We discussed the probably fall out, all of which I could live with and I slept sound as a baby kitten. In the morning I noticed I’d been unfriended.
Gotta tell. I saw that one coming.