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Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 8.3


My FaceBook feed has been hopping quite a bit discussing political issues. I guess it always is, but for some reason I'm more aware of it than I usually am. Between the Chick-Fil-A blow-up and the Colorado shootings (and really, the only thing these things have in common is that they've been talked about a lot lately!), my more liberal friends have been passing around a lot of pictures with pithy quotes or sarcastic one-liners. Some of it is clever (the thought of one I saw a few days saying that Kermit and Miss Piggy had been supporting non-traditional marriage since 1974 or whenever still cracks me up).

But much of it isn't nearly so light-hearted. It makes it seem like "the other guys" (whoever they are) are completely unreasonable, either by taking a thoroughly reasonable point and making it seem like no atheist/Christian/liberal/conservative/whatever could ever agree with it... or by simply creating a straw man of what the other side actually says. And here's the thing. Sharing these things just takes a click of the mouse, and I know a lot of people share what they think is "neat" without necessarily thinking about how it will come across to others. It can create a world-class echo chamber - often from both sides at once!

Sometimes these memes start good conversations. If it's a friend who seems genuinely interesting in discussing these issues, I'll a lot of times comment and explain how and why I reacted. But with some people I get the impression that they're sharing this stuff to create a sense that *everyone* agrees with them (certainly every reasonable person). And it goes beyond that. Just in the last week I've seen three separate "friends" (the label works pretty much the same way on FB and LJ) say that if "you don't agree with me on _______, maybe we shouldn't be friends any more. Where _______ is usually a cause of some kind or a cherished belief, like the idea that gun control was important or that homophobia shouldn't be tolerated.

I've always been bothered by the way FB and LJ use the word friends to mean someone following my blog or updates. I love interacting with people on that level but that isn't what friendship is about. I mean no disrespect to people who choose to end an acquaintance because the person disagrees with you on some issue. That's certainly your right and I don't have any particular bone to pick with people who choose to do that. But when you call people in this relationship friends, I think that just muddles things up in the worst kind of way.

Lots of philosophers discussed friendship, but I think one of my favorite depictions has to be Aristotle's. For the non-philosophers in the house, Harald Thorsrud provides a decent introduction to Aristotle on friendship using Harry Potter examples. The gist is that Aristotle recognizes three kinds of friendships, from friends of convenience up through true friendships built around virtue. The true friendship is one that lasts, but more than that it's one that's built on improvement. I love you and want to become more like you so those virtues that you have and I lack, I try to develop. And vice versa.

When you say a friendship can and should be ended over an "issue," what I hear is that you think I can be dismissed over an issue. That's a pretty pale version of friendship, to my mind. And I realize that on the internet "friend" doesn't mean what it does off the internet, but that's sad to me. I've known lots of people online longer than I have hear in New York. We've probably seen each other through more situations and spent more time chatting, too. Fandom does that, but I think the internet in general does it, too. These are true friendships in the Aristotelian sense, or at least as close as us moderns ever get. I know I can count on them not to run for cover when the going gets rough.

All of which makes me sad to see such an awesome concept and reality used in such a casual way. Because I am much, much more than my stance on gun control, and if our friendship is anywhere close to the authentic ideal Aristotle requires, I need my friends to see that about me. Is this just semantics, a convenient name? Maybe. But even that seems wrong somehow. Because I think that when many people think of and use that word "friends" they really do just mean people whose blogs they follow. I try not to say that, because the word is worth holding on to. Doubly so for the truth behind the word.

Btw, this whole thing reminded me of an old Seinfeld clip; hilarious, but also a nice take on just what's bothering me so much about this use of friendship.  

(Originally posted at LJ.)
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Apparently Anderson Cooper came out as homosexual recently.

I usually get my news through blogs and the Daily Show and don't even own a TV, so most of the time what I hear about Mr. Cooper or any mainstream newsman is secondhand. Occasionally I've caught a piece by him when I'm on vacation somewhere or in a public place like a waiting room or airport. So while I'm not that familiar with him, he and Brian Williams have always struck me as some of the more dependable and interesting TV journalists out there. And the most reliable.

This coming out doesn't change that. I'm a straight, white woman rounding thirty. If I were lesbian, I'd still be a white woman rounding thirty. I'd still be, you know, me - and I'm sure my experiences and so my personality would change if I was part of that minority, but that would only change some things. Not everything.

The article I linked to above gave some details but also looks at whether this will change his reporting. And here's where it gets interesting.

The title is Does coming out change Anderson Cooper’s reporting?, but the first line asks Do you feel differently now about Anderson Cooper’s reporting? At first glance, these are two very different things, and they are, but when I stopped and thought about it the distinction got a bit muddier. It reminded me of a line I read somewhere a few weeks ago, about how in the sciences belief changes nothing (the sun still sits in the sky even if I believe it doesn't) but in the social sciences it can change quite a lot. People who believe they are free act free-er, and ditto for other perceptions.

Mad About you illustrate this really well. In this clip Paul and Jamie are on retreat at a resort, where they tell too many tall tales. Jamie explains the situation with another lie: that Paul is really mentally ill (without letting Paul in on the fib). Hilarity ensues:

Read more... )

Since a journalist needs to be perceived as unbiased to be effective in that role, the mere fact that he's perceived as biased in some area (like sexual politics) will affect the kind of stories he's able to tell and have really heard. I know in situations where some part of my identity isn't known by the person I'm talking to, I can push the envelope a bit more than I would otherwise (I can actually be more philosophical because I won't be written off with "of course she'd say that, she's a philosopher." And sub in Southerner, Christian, academic, liberal, Trekkie, whatever you like.)

This is a sad thing because he's the same man he was before this news, and no one had any reason to doubt his objectivity then. Kind of reminds me of the reaction to the news that Dumbledore was gay, which we only learned after the books were published. The sad thing is that I am, like I said, a straight white rounding-thirty woman and all of those things carry biases I have to try to overcome. No one calls me on that or shapes their impressions unless those biases aren't overcome in a rather radical way, because my biases are the norm. (As far as I can tell, so are Mr. Cooper's.) That fact strikes me as unjust.

In any event, I'm really proud of one of my favorite mainstream journalists for having integrity here. It's hard to put yourslef out there sometimes and I think his courage should be commended.

(Originally posted at LJ.)
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I've been working my way through M*A*S*H. Of course I'd seen several episodes (probably a third or so of the show), but it's good seeing it all in order.

The episode "Yankee Doodle Doctor" encapsulates so much about what is great about this show. An army film-maker wants to make a "documentary" about the 4077th, starring Hawkeye. Only after the thing is shot do they realize it's actually propaganda with little relation to the truth of their situation. So Hawkeye and Pierce ruin the film and the director leaves in a huff. The gang decide to remake the film, and this is what they produce. (The voiceover is from the original "straight" version of the documentary.) There's slapstick, of course, but then there's an almost seamless transition into the dramatic monologue. It's all just so thoroughly human, with all the richness of life.

Read more... )

Here is the monologue at the end, which is my third quote for the 100things challenge:

Three hours ago, this man was in a battle. Two hours ago, we operated on him. He's got a 50-50 chance. We win some, we lose some. That's what it's all about. No promises. No guaranteed survival. No saints in surgical garb. Our willingness, our experience, our technique are not enough. Guns, and bombs, and anti-personnel mines have more power to take life than we have to preserve it. Not a very happy ending for a movie. But then, no war is a movie.


I think if more talk about war, honoring soldiers and all the rest kept this in mind, we'd all be better for it. And I'd probably be a bit less pacifistic. Hearing that monologue for the first time last night was like a breath of fresh air. Coming right after all the hilarious slapstick just made it work that much the better.

(Origihally posted at LJ; please comment there.)
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Heard through the inimitable George Takei over at FaceBook:

Read more... )

Also: hail to the Chief! J.K. Simmons, a.k.a. Assistant Chief Pope on "The Closer," marked another year on earth today.

Read more... )

Mr. Simmons is one of my fave actors lately, and not just for his work beside Kira Sedgwick in one of the best procedurals on the air today. His humor has brought a light to many dark places in my life, and so I wanted to mention it.

***********************

Originally posted at LJ; please comment there.

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