The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘relationships’

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Other than having read more than my fair share of Freud, Jung, Skinner and various others in their field, I have no training in psychology or psychiatry.  So it would seem that trying to understand the psychology of what motivates people would be best left to those with greater credentials in the field.

I do have training in other of the social sciences – all of which are inexact in both their methodology as well as their conclusions.  But it is not on this training that I will rely in this post – rather something quite different.  That is my own power of observation.

Perhaps it is a function of genetics, perhaps the environment in which I was raised or both but I am very observant.  I say that with no aim to self-promotion. On the two occasions that I have witnessed a crime the police have commented that, “they wished more witnesses were as descriptive and accurate as I was.”  By the way, the guilty parties were both apprehended.  (One conviction – one plea bargain).

I have been trying to make sense of the seemingly endless stream of impersonal group murders that have been making all too frequent news.  Whether it’s a movie theater or a Sikh temple or a military installation or a high school.  Yesterday’s shooting in a conservative organization’s offices in Washington, D. C. might well have been added to this list had it not been for the brave intervention of a security guard.

Can these all be incidences of copy cats run amok?  Or is there something else going on?  The motivation and the targets seem to be disconnected.  Yet, I believe there is a connection, if not in terms of the victims, but in terms of the perpetrators.

It is difficult to walk up to someone and insult that person to his face, let alone take his life.  Direct confrontation makes things very personal.  But it is not difficult to say something malicious about someone and post it on Facebook so that thousands of people can see it.

Are we becoming disconnected from one another on an interpersonal basis?  Let me offer this example for you to consider.

One of my acquaintances asked for my advice about her relationship with her boy friend.  She told me she wanted to talk with him about where it was going and what their mutual expectations were.  So she called to speak with him, actually wanting to have a sit down face to face conversation.  He chose not to do that – although he was willing to discuss the matter – but only if they did so by texting each other.  After hearing this it took me two days to recover from the shock.  By the way, my advice was, “Move on.”

Our technology has done many wonderful things for us.  We can communicate faster and stay informed under almost any circumstance or location.   That is a good thing.  But the bad thing is the impersonality of how we achieve this as we sit behind our computer screens and our smart phones.

Would it have been as easy for James Holmes to pull the trigger in the Aurora, CO  movie theater if he knew the victims he was about to shoot?  Would the shooter at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin have been able to carry out his plan if some of the worshippers were his neighbors?  Perhaps there is something so twisted about these people that it would have made no difference to them.  But perhaps not.

If we are becoming people who can only express our feelings about our inter-personal relationships through texting; if we view each other merely as out-of-body avatars and gravatars; if we give up our innate need to communicate on a personal level with each other through touch and compassion and feeling, is it any surprise that these sort of events are occurring with greater frequency?

I can’t help but think of the proverbial poor fish who are swimming in the barrel, the hunter poised to strike with his rifle outside their little world, looking in on his victims.  And we are the fish.

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ON OPPORTUNITY

Once in awhile we have the contents of a rather large container of lemon juice dumped on us.  That happened to me years ago (It happened to be Ash Wednesday) when I walked out of my apartment building, saw the sidewalks covered with a sheet of ice and said to myself, “Self, you’d better be careful or you’ll slip and fall and do some bodily injury to your frame.”

No sooner had these words run through my head than I slipped and fractured my right elbow – although at the time I thought it was just a bad bruise.  I went to work and as the day progressed the pain in my right arm kept getting worse so I saw a doctor in Chicago’s Loop to have a look at it.  Diagnosis – I had fractured my arm in the fall.

The immediate prescription was that I was issued a sexy black sling and was to rest my arm in it.  But a few days later the arm really began to hurt so I went back to this physician for further treatment.

After X-raying my wounded limb he realized that some blood had filled the fracture and that was the source of my pain.  So he took out a needle the size of the former Soviet Union, inserted it into my arm and extruded the blood that had collected.  (This was not nearly as painful as I thought that it would be and I actually felt a great deal of relief after he had finished.)

Feeling better the afternoon that he conducted his extrusion I decided (it being Friday night and all) that I would stop by after work at the local singles bar which I frequented from time to time.  (Being single they allowed me in.)

Frankly, I’m not really a bar person.  I can sit there for hours on end and while I would like to think that I’m warm and welcoming, I’m generally not overly interested in “bar talk” and only went to these places for a bit of company.  Generally I sat there, had a few adult beverages and then went home without speaking to anyone.

Of course to the scenario I just described there is always a Plan “B”.   I cannot tell you how many times a guy has come over to me and said, “Is this seat occupied?,” pointing to the obviously vacant chair that is next to me.

“No,” I would say, please make yourself comfortable.

The conversation would continue, “You know – the reason I came over is that you have the most beautiful warm eyes.  You look like a very caring and understanding person.”  (Well, who doesn’t like a compliment)?

“Thank you,” I would say. 

“Well, listen,” says the admirer of my sensitivity, I recently broke up with my girl friend and I was wondering if I could ask you for advice.”  Then would follow a two hour session where I would try not to roll my very understanding eyes or think to myself, “Why does this always happen to me?”

These conversations are probably the most important reasons that my visits to this establishment were infrequent.  Plus leaving without meeting anyone who had an interest other than asking my opinion about a failed relationship tended to undermine my self-confidence.  I mean, was I really so totally unattractive that I had to play Sigmund Freud in a room full of self-centered egomaniacs whose Ids were in overdrive?

Well, I set for myself a two drink limit that night.  (Since it was my right arm that was injured I would have to use the left one to hoist the beverages to my lips.  That was probably okay since for most of us right-handed people our musculature in that arm is better developed than its counterpart – so I hoped to even the score a bit).

I had barely found a seat  and ordered my drink when, like a horde of vultures descending on the newly dead carcass of an animal, I was besieged by some of the most eligible bachelors in the place.  I think there were at least seven or eight who leered at me with sympathy.

“Oh, you poor thing.  What happened to you?”

Needless to say, I would never admit that I was clumsy so I invented a small fabrication.  (Okay, it was a big fabrication).

“I was skiing down the slopes at Innsbruck when in my attempt to avoid hitting an Alpine deer I unfortunately ran into a tree thus causing my injury.”  The outpouring of sympathy was extraordinary – and the number of drinks that I had purchased for me far exceeded the number I could safely consume.

So you see, from lemon we can truly make lemonade.  But the real moral of the story is that following Petula Clark’s advice in her song, “Downtown” – if you are lonely by all means go downtown.  But if you really want to have a good time, make sure that you stop by your local medical supply store and buy a sling that you can wear for your appearance there.

P. S.  I kept that sling for many years.

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