Saturday, December 15, 2012

Class and Maturity - Is Civil Discourse Dead? On Twitter, It Looks That Way

Twitter can be an insidious cesspool of all sorts of characters. There are those who attack others for their views, those who spam, those who talk about people on another person's "TL" (timeline). And I've experienced most of that in the past few hours.

First off: this is NOT a blog about my opinions or my reasons for them. That is another blog, another time. This is simply a story about how civil discourse and simple respect are dying out. At least on Twitter.

Let's face it: I don't represent the Popular Opinion. I didn't support the incumbent in the most recent election, and I am not a gun control advocate. For those reasons, I have been dubbed a wingnut, a whack job, a racist, a religious nut, homophobic, and - most often - a bully. That last designation always comes with "and she CALLS herself anti-bullying."

Margaret Thatcher said: "I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left." (it goes for ANY argument, not just political, but politcally is where I've been attacked) 

According to PM Thatcher, I should be ecstatic! The personal attacks on Twitter have been fast and furious today. And it's one thing to have a direct debate with someone who refuses to respect, or acknowledge your right to state your opinion. It's quite another to mosey onto another person's TL and find that they, and a large group of others you once thought were your friends, are talking about you in the most derogatory, debasing, hurtful ways.

So I called out one of them tonight. I tweeted, in a series of 140 characters (Twitter's limit), my disappointment in him. My hurt. My dismay at his lack of class, respect, or maturity. And I dug deeper. I saw that there were many more who were talking amongst themselves about what a crazy, ignorant, aggressive bully I am. Even those who had unfollowed me months ago were engaging in not only talking about me, but trolling my TL (coming to my page to see what I was saying, what the conversation was, and then going back to report to others). What is this, high school? 

When I dared to protect my tweets (a setting that allows only those you have approved to follow you to see anything you tweet and hides everything from everyone else), I was laughed at but they were miffed. I mean, how dare I not give them fodder for their fun?!!

And I've seen those people who still follow me, whom I still follow, getting in on the act. I won't name them - I'm a lot classier than they. But I know who they are. And I am disappointed.

One man stood up for me. And with me. And when he did so, it was because he saw I was being ganged up on and not only does he share my opinions, but wanted to help me express them. I am more grateful for the upstander in him than he knows. And he has earned a permanent place in my ever-shrinking pool of people I respect. He has earned it.

So I will post this with a caveat: I will NOT be treated like a pariah because I hold an unpopular view. I am not going to defend myself ad infinitum to people who don't understand what bullying is - I will only state that if they did, they would not accuse me of it because they would see how wrong they are. I will not defend myself against those who tell me my views are wrong. Opinions can NEVER be wrong. If it is fact, I will admit it, but opinions are not fact, and my right to state what I believe and believe in will remain intact. Anyone who disagrees to the point of being unable to see past that is free to either ignore my tweets, or unfollow me. But to tell me to stop saying what I believe in is against the First Amendment and even Canadians know what Amendment that is. (If not, look it up. Here, I'll save you the trouble: This is what the First Amendment protects.)

It isn't too difficult to see that those who would see the Second Amendment rescinded are so quick to want to stifle a dissenter's First Amendment rights as well. They do go hand in hand, after all.

Yes, I protected my tweets. Not to hide or slink under a rock. But to protect and defend myself against people like those who would troll my TL simply for ridicule and cyberbullying (yes, I am using that word because those who use social media to denigrate others are cyberbullies - especially on the repeated, prolonged basis in which it took place today where I'm concerned). 

I will no longer be a punching bag for those who disagree with me. But if you want to tell me how you feel, don't be a coward and talk ABOUT me to others. Say it to my face. And say it respectfully because I block out the swearing and insults.

Stay classy? On Twitter? Few and far between. It`s become a chatroom for ridicule and cliques - at least in much of the company I used to keep - and if one falls out of favor with the minions, one is vilified. Well, I plan to revamp my experience there, to one of class and maturity. I dare anyone reading this to rise to the challenge. Stay classy - stay respectful. Recognize an opinion and respect one's right to state it.

Let's see how far we can get. 


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Canadian Perspective - From The Dark Side

I have awakened from my kool-aid days of head-over-heels political love for Barack Hussein Obama, into a foray that's taken me to the Dark Side: that of Republican supporter.

Disclaimer: I am Canadian. I know that. I know my opinion counts as much in the US political process as my railing against freezing temperatures in winter. I know that my support of a candidate whose leadership does not directly affect me means very little to those people who have taken pleasure in attacking me for my views.

But I have opinions, I am invested in other ways which are of no consequence to those who do not know me, and I am not the kind of person to think what I do without expressing my thoughts or opinions just because they aren't the popular ones.

I was all-out for Obama in 2008. I bought into the package he was selling. I even believed he was delivering; until I realized that he was - and is - not.

My "awakening" came when I began to open my eyes to the shoddy treatment of Israel from this administration. Israel is a big deal to me. She is a country I have visited, a beautiful, fragile, strong, spiritual, significant country whose very existence is dependent upon her allies. And up until 2008, the USA was a very strong, reliable ally of Israel.

But then Barack Obama came into power and began to push his agenda. He sympathizes with Palestine in the struggle for that territory. He visited the Middle East during his presidency's first term, visiting Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - and he skipped Israel. He chastised Prime Minister Netanyahu for wanting to strengthen the country, and he subsequently snubbed the Prime Minister on various occasions. Add to that the fact that the president continues to deny Iran's ever-increasing development of nuclear weapons, which it has vowed to use against Israel - and believes that sanctions alone will hold back the nuclear attack.

I awoke. I began to realize that a president who has raised the national debt by 6 trillion dollars - more in 4 years than his predecessor did in 8 years - and who has presided over a country whose unemployment rate has (officially) remained at 8% or higher could not be someone the country would want to re-elect. After all, the economy is a huge issue in every election. And he has shown himself to be utterly incapable of keeping the country running without economic strife.

Then came Benghazi. A dangerous town in the most dangerous countries in the Middle East, where the U.S. ambassador and 3 soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2012 - the 11th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 attack on the USA. For 2 weeks, this president declared the attack to be the result of a Libyan protest to a video posted on YouTube (because we all know Libyan terrorists pay deep attention to YouTube), refusing to characterize it as a terrorist attack. He then did so, but in a presidential debate, made the false claim that he had referred to it as a terrorist attack. The debate was highly denounced by those who could plainly see that the moderator had overstepped her role when she argued against the challenger in favor of the incorrect stance held by the president.

It continues to emerge as a story of an administration cover-up, as CBS News released a previously withheld snippet of an interview with Obama where he did NOT answer in the affirmative to the question of whether Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Mainstream Media has obviously covered up for this president and has skewed the public's knowledge (the public that does not continuously ask questions and demand truth, that is).

I could no longer even pretend to support this presidency, but more, I expressed my hopes that the American public would not only demand change, but affect it with their votes.

In being so vocal - mostly on Twitter, but also on Facebook - I have been attacked, demeaned, insulted, accused (the oh-so-specious arguments against me that include my not only being a bully but supporting one, and shame on me, after all, I am "supposed to be" an anti-bullying advocate - these people have absolutely NO idea of what bullying is and it shows in their ignorant finger-pointing)....and put down in pretty much every way a person can be.

I have stood my ground against the vitriol because I know how I have conducted myself; I have been critical of the president using facts, articles, his record, and my own debating skills (which are honed). I have been articulate, I have not used swear words, I have not foisted my opinion on anyone else, I have simply stated my position and given evidence as to why I hold it.

Others have not been as courteous. There have been the passive-aggressive postings (which I have utterly ignored, they're not worth my time), the outright in-your-face attacks, and the profanity which I have carefully gone out of my way to refrain from using.

And I've had to ask why. What did I do to these people, personally, for them to attack me (or my candidate) personally? Whether they just like to argue, or felt they were right (without feeling the need to present their positions as I had done), or just didn't like me, I don't know. 

But then came election night. And as the evening wore on, and things began to look less and less promising for my party, I began to see an ugly side of social media that had not been unleashed to date. (Note: I joined Twitter in 2008, during the election campaigns of Obama and McCain, and was firmly in the Obama camp - I saw vitriol but followed more like-minded people at the time than not)

I have seen gloating and insults thrown at not only my candidate but at the party he represents. I have seen misquotes, misleading statements, and assertions made against those in the Republican Party that can only be described as vile.

I get that I support the unpopular side. I am learning every day, more and more about this party that I support, and I am seeing that this is the norm, not the exception. 

I also get (very keenly due to my field of expertise) that social media is a place where people don't realize how they self-represent. It is dismaying to me, because if these are the adults, what are we showing our youth? What is being modeled for those kids we are trying to save from social media discord, cyberbullying, and plain old "mean" behavior? If these adults were saying these things in front of their children (or, if they are childless, in front of children in general), they would probably tone down the vitriol, definitely clean up the language, and perhaps think twice about the impressions they are giving.

But I have examined my self tonight. And I can say - and will probably be called a liar by those who choose to think the worst of me anyway - with every fiber of my being, that had my candidate been declared the winner of tonight's contest, I would NOT have gloated. I would have congratulated the other side for a hard-fought campaign, stated my thrill (yes, I'd have been "allowed") over my guy's win, and my hope for a country so deeply and tragically divided to begin to find their way together. I would have been gracious - it is something I strive to do on a daily basis - but I have not seen the same tonight from those against my views and my party. The smattering of gracious postings are lost in the mob of crow-serving gloaters.

I have largely stayed off Twitter because I have no desire to be the scapegoat. I have no faith in those who have challenged me in antagonistic manner when they felt I was wrong to now be compassionate in the wake of their being proven that I was (I hope you see the tongue-in-cheek there). 

And I have no desire to get online and state my dismay that the country I call a 2nd home, the country in which loved ones reside and the country which is our closest neighbor and ally in this world is at the mercy of this president for 4 more hard years of failure, and fast approaching ruin. I won't do that because it will look like sour grapes (it is not - I am not alone in my thoughts on this, and nothing I say will make anyone believe that). I won't do that because I will just be opening myself to more ridicule and attack, and I have no desire to put myself in the circle while those who questioned my involvement in this race are now gloating that the candidate they didn't think they had any right to support is declared the winner.

So congratulations to my American friends whose candidate won. And hugs to my American friends who are mourning this tragedy tonight. I wish them all good luck in the days to come. Aside from my own fairly informed opinion, world-renowned experts are predicting a fiscal cliff over which your country is about to topple and I am standing with you in solidarity against the hardships to come.

But Twitter is not the place for me now. And the hockey lockout makes it easier to stay away, as it is the main reason I have stuck with Twitter for the past 3 years.

Some will judge me a coward, running away with my tail between my legs. Say or think what you will. You always judged me unfairly and made no secret of what you felt toward me and my political leanings anyway. Why should today be different?

Others will understand that the cesspool of this environment is not the place to vent my frustration with America's very poor choice of leader, and that I prefer to keep my post-mortem to those I speak to in person, or in other venues. 

But think about the images you project when you attack others on social media. Think about the impact, the consequences of your words on others.  I give full workshops on this topic, and point out the very examples I have culled from your posts (don't worry, I blur your names and pictures) as examples of negative social media behavior. Adults don't realize the consequences of their digital footprints. I can only hope they are raising their children (if they are parents) to "do as I say, not as I do" - or in this case, "do as I say, not as I post".

Friday, October 19, 2012



As many of you know, Theo has a chronic back problem; he has herniated discs which can act up from time to time.  The last time it did, it was January 1st, 2012. Late at night, I noticed he was experiencing the symptoms that I recognize. I am so attuned to this dog, I can tell from his facial expressions (yes, dogs emote) and his demeanor. Usually it begins with a look I can recognize. It then manifests to either trembling, or an indescribable feeling I get when he is out of sorts.

January 1st, I gave him the meds I have on hand for him: gabapentin (known as neurontin), a potent liquid that helps calm the inflamed nerve endings in his back. I give him methocarbomol, which we know as Robaxin (or Robaxicet, without the acetaminophen). This is a muscle relaxant. That night I also gave him a tramadol (morphine-based pain killer) because he was obviously in pain.

But nothing helped and by 3 in the morning, he had vomited. I stayed awake, trying to get him into a comfortable spot but he was wandering. I carried him downstairs, didn't help. Carried him back up, didn't help. By 5 in the morning I was at the emergency vet, being seen and given meds for both the nausea he was experiencing as well as an injection of cortisone to help with the inflammation. By the time I came home, I had 1/2 hour to get Sam up for a hockey training session he had in Kahnawake. Suffice it to say, I was exhausted that day. But the meds I had Theo on seemed to do the trick and within a couple of days, he was back to normal.

Today, he began to exhibit symptoms again. Immediately I was able to secure an appointment with his vet who would see him to assess him, and then prescribe a new round of meds. I brought him to the animal hospital where he sat on my lap while we waited.

When we walked in, the doctor was already there. She adores my dog, and he - ordinarily - responds to her. But every dog is out of sorts when at the vet. I put him down on the metal table, at which point he attached himself in a sitting position, to my upper body, and literally buried his face in my shoulder. Just his actions had me swelling with love and sympathy.

The doctor soothed him, touched his back and he snapped - not with teeth, just a warning bark. Theo will not bite. Ever. But in pain, he wanted to let her know he didn't want to be touched. At that point, I stood him on the table, with his head facing me. I took his little face in my hands and put my face right in his. Because I knew that as he trusts me, so do I trust him. I soothed him with kisses, I talked to him, and he allowed the doctor to palpate his spine to see what was going on.

When she reached the vertebrae that was obviously most inflamed, he growled very very softly. She nodded and continued her examination. When she was done, she patted his head and told me that yes, it was his back.

She said, "It's amazing." I said, "That I caught it this early? I have a connection to him." She said, "yes, but more. See, he is in pain. I could feel how tense he was when I was examining him. But he fought through that pain because he trusts you so deeply that he knew, if you are there, everything will be okay. It's amazing."

She actually made me tear up. I know Theo trusts me. I have this incredible connection I never had with the other 2 dogs I had loved. Maybe it's because I was older when I got Theo than I was with Sandy (I was 16) and Toebi (22), or maybe it's the amazing personality of this dog. But the awesome (in the true sense of that word) feeling of responsibility and protectiveness toward Theo, validated by the vet's observation, filled me with a sense of wonder and gratitude for the presence of this little guy in my life.

I brought him home and began the regime of meds. It can take a couple of days but at least I know he is on track to feeling better. And all I can do is make sure he knows I'm here for him. I do not take this lightly, he is such a part of my heart.

The pattern is for his demeanor to remain quiet, and very dependent (moreso than usual - he's quite attached). He'll sleep a lot, which is good. But his tail stays up when I walk him, and wags happily when he gets his meds (he gets cheese with them!) and treats. And he wags his tail whenever he gets attention (which happens to be frequently). But it's hard to see him so quiet.

UPDATE October 19, 2012:

Today, for the first time since this post began, Theo is feeling better. He barked when the front door opened, and he hasn't barked since the back acted up (which is something I only realized when he did bark this evening). There is an exhilaration about seeing and knowing my dog is feeling better. I could not be more grateful!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

What To Do with "Fans"

(nb: if this graphic looks familiar, it's because I created it for this piece last year.)

Today, on Twitter, after another devastating loss, Habs fans were commiserating as we always do. As we did, we listened to a new show on CJAD, The Locker Room, with Abe Hefter. By the time I tuned in, one caller had suggested the Habs trade Erik Cole. Say WHAT? Cole has been a huge asset since he was signed. Big, powerful, takes risks, and scores goals. His attitude and heart are top drawer. But this caller wanted him traded.

I then heard a caller who called fans "duped". That people keep spending the money, going to the games, and being duped. He insulted those of us who cheer for our team, saying that the team doesn't show up, why should fans?

That got me ticked! I posted to Abe's Facebook page: Abe, I can't NOT be a Habs fan. Your previous caller quit but I never will. I'm devastated by this season but I'm optimistic and patient, and a forever Habs fan!

Abe read it on the air with all the passion I felt in my heart. But then, the fun started. I suggested we trade or fire the fans. It started to grow legs. Mimi - aka habschick66 said, " Know what keeps me going? I trash the fans instead of the team. HAHAHA"

Cathie wrote: "I'll pay the shipping to Boston, with a Toronto return address. #FireTheFans"

Bella, on her birthday, posting from Miami, posted: "I'll pay for the crate. They're going cargo. Don't forget to drill holes in it."

I replied, "They don't need holes - they have them in their heads!"

When Mimi asked if, after trading Cole, we have any players to ice a team, I suggested Youppi lacing them up (for those not familiar with him, Youppi is our big, orange, loveable fluffy mascot). To that, Mimi replied, Yup. And we'll dress some fans, preferably those who think they're better than Gomez." My reply: "And then get Chara to fire some 108.8 MPH pucks on 'em!"

We began to have fun with this; we needed an outlet for our sadness, our frustration, and our increasing sense of doom. Being Habs Fans Forever (aka #HabsFanForever - a new hashtag not usable by everyone), we found an outlet: "fans" who proclaim that they are either done rooting for the Habs, or who constantly bash them (I've seen people actually say, "shame on them for not showing any heart." as well as rather profane statements about the team). We haven't picked on specific people, we've kept it fun and light, and it sure does bring people together. I've gone from sinking heart to a feeling of cohesiveness and camaraderie and it makes a hard loss more palatable.

Your turn: what would YOU do to those who may dress like fans but speak like rivals?

Go Habs Go!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The People Speak...

My Habs are in last place. Last. A place I'm not used to seeing them, in the past 2 years since I started paying attention to points and standings. We've been through trades, coach firings, injuries, a suspension, and loss after loss.

I read my Twitter timeline and see the analyses placing blame everywhere it can be placed (and some are right, some are off the mark, some are way off base). I express my sadness, my frustration, my disappointment and my dread of Season's End. I commiserate with other Habs fans, and it actually feels better to do so.

But I think we need to do something. As a fan base, we consist of people from every level of knowledge - from reporters, to reporter-smart, to just-plain-smart analysts and bloggers. And people like me, fans who enjoy the game, understand much of it, and learn from those who discuss the situation.

Still, we don't do the hiring or firing. We don't coach (other than armchair coaching, of course!), we certainly don't manage, we aren't the players. What power do we have as fans?

We could boycott the game. Before you open the "leave comment" box, that is NOT my opinion, suggestion, or idea! I've heard it said; you won't see it. Not here. Montreal eats its young sometimes, when hockey doesn't go its way, but we will still flood the Bell Centre for games.

We could write letters - they may or may not reach the desk of those people we are addressing, those people who need to know how we feel.

But what I've done - and will continue to do, and am proposing we ALL do - is to tweet Geoff Molson. He has Twitter, and is found at . I believe if he hears enough of our suggestions (am I wrong in believing we ALL want Pierre Gauthier fired before he can do any more harm to our team by signing the wrong players and missing out on the right ones?), he may just understand how WE see this team.

So fellow fans: Tweet Mr. Molson. I can't do anything but suggest that our tweets are respectful (he's more likely to listen to fans who aren't tearing him apart or using profanity), calm (anger will be behind our sentiments but he'll see the cool heads that prevail) and to the point. I don't know if it will do any good, but who knows? He's on Twitter, it's not easy for him, but he's on. He reads the tweets. Let's inundate him with our pleas to fire Gauthier and see what happens next.

I'm not saying we have power. But vox populi, right?

And on another note: no matter where we're at in the standings, my son has been invited to Saturday's game and is as excited to attend as any game where we were on top of the world. THAT'S loyalty!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

There's No Crying in Hockey...or is there?

It's January 12th. We've already played half the season's games and are wallowing at the bottom of the standings. We have been plagued with injuries, bad calls, a fired coach, an ineffective manager, and an over-long suspension.

Yesterday, after a loss (a shut-out, no less) to the St. Louis Blues, where our former goalie was saluted for his incredible work in the 2010 playoffs (deservedly so), there was scapegoating, trade rumors, negativity and misinterpretation of one player's remarks.

And then...the news from The Canadiens:

Late Wednesday the Canadiens announced Brian Gionta has undergone surgery for a torn biceps in his right arm and will be out of the lineup indefinitely.
Gionta was hurt during the third period of a 3-0 loss to St. Louis Tuesday night.
He returned to play one shift before leaving the game.

Gionta had returned to the lineup Saturday against Tampa Bay after an 11-game absence.

And suddenly, I am close to tears. On Twitter, it is surmised that our captain may miss the rest of the season. And while he is one person, he is an important person. They all are.

I find myself wondering why it matters so much that a hockey team in my city will, in all likelihood, miss the playoffs this year. (and for the record, that isn't a sure thing - and if it is, I don't want to know it now) I find myself wondering how emotions come to the surface so easily after a loss, when last year each game was exciting to me, and every win mattered but I was so relaxed about things.

Well, last season I was still learning. This season I get it. I understand that teams fight to remain within the top 8 teams in order to be in playoff position. It makes sense, when I think about it, just as it has made sense to me my entire academic life; after all, one doesn't count on the last week of exams to pass a course, one has to build a foundation and ensure one's success. So now it makes sense - stay within the top 8, or at least within a couple of points of that spot, and playoffs are a cinch.

Now, that is so far up the scale it looks like the Mount Everest of sports achievements. And yes, it evokes tears of ....what, frustration? Despair? (no, I don't go there, not with the Habs, there's ALWAYS hope) Just plain sadness that our team hasn't achieved base camp like we have in past years.

But Mount Everest has been conquered. And even those who can't reach the summit do reach other milestones, other base camps, other personal goals. And being the eternal optimist, I will look for that half-full glass. What can we look forward to?

  • An off-season of movement - new players, new developments (I love my team, but I've learned in the past 2 seasons that I must resign myself to the ever-changing roster situation this game brings)
  • The excitement of the approaching pre-season, that tabula rasa we are all afforded when the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, assigned to its new home team, and then forgotten until a new contest begins
  • The experience of watching new prospects as they train, skate, demonstrate their Habs worthiness in training camp and pre-season
  • Pre-season itself - possibly scoring tickets to once again walk the sacred grounds of our beloved Bell Centre
  • And, of course, a new season. Where the points count, the players battle, and we start this ride all over again.

Will there be crying in hockey next season? Of course there will. But I look forward to more tears of joy than sadness.

And lest anyone think otherwise - my pride, my loyalty and my love for the Habs has not diminished in the face of this snakebitten* season. In fact, nothing could do that. They're my team, my guys, my Habs. My heart knows only unconditional love and that applies to my team. I am super proud to be a Habs fan because let's face it - the Habs are not only defined by one season. We share a long, beautiful, and legendary history, and our reputation (of our city, the organization and yes, even the fans) is one that has me swell with pride whenever I hear or read sports announcers, local and out-of-town, discuss the Montreal Canadiens.

So this season is what it is. Halfway through, I believe we have MANY wonderful moments ahead. Our team always manages to pull off impressive feats, and if those don't add up to a playoff spot, then so be it. We'll seize the moments, enjoy and celebrate them, and look forward to a warm, carefree summer leading up to a Brand New Season.

(But allow me my tears if you see me shedding them. And the best thing is...with new friends found via Twitter, I know I am not crying alone)

I'll say it again: I believe in my team, and let's make this a half-season of hope, loyalty, and optimism for the lessons we'll learn.

Go Habs GO!!!

*Thanks to swandad for this description