Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lasting Impressions

I’m not perfect (like you didn’t know that already) -  throughout my life, I’ve done a number of things wrong – too large a percentage to ignore, in fact. Even if you engage in the wrong behaviors, you need to do what you can to help promote the right ones.
Before I go further into this, let me make this perfectly clear: I am NOT advocating people deliberately going out and doing the wrong thing. At all times we should be trying to live the right way – do what we know is right, avoid what we know is wrong – but we are not angels, we are HUMAN BEINGS, and so we have to deal with the fact that we are all IMPERFECT.
We have to recognize that we are going to fail at times, but we still need to make the right impression for the sake of society. It is best if you have actual SUBSTANCE (truth, facts) behind the impression you are making, but for the sake of whatever relationship you are in (Job, Marriage, Parenting, Leadership, Politics, Foreign Relations, what have you), you must at least know how to use the right SYMBOLISM.
This is something that seems to have become lost in our 24-by-7 news cycle, everything out in the open society. No one seems to have an understanding that
1.     Everything you do can be seen by others.
This is because: lies are impossible to maintain forever (no matter how expert you think you are or how many people help you do it, inconsistencies will seep through), and nothing is private (not in public places, not in your mailbox, not in your trash can, and certainly not on the internet.)
2.    It isn’t uplifting to see humanity’s (and especially our role-models’) warts – it lowers all spirits rather than elevating anyone.
Think of the abundance of “reality TV” that’s out there – some of it is just plain ugly (like the Jerry Springer show on steroids), but even the ones that try to display us at our best tend to also emphasize the warts. The subliminal message that’s delivered here is “why should I try to do the best or right thing when no one else does?”
 We get a lot of negative guidance from political figures (who should REALLY understand the importance of impressions since it’s a MAJOR PART OF THEIR PROFESSION.) We’ve had a couple of recent presidents who have promoted doing the wrong thing and then doubling down by publicly lying about it (and yes, I’m talking about the last 2 Democrats to hold the office; a Republican doesn’t generally get the cover from the press or even his own party to be so blatantly dishonest. Heck, George W. was branded as a liar by people who can’t even be honest about what the meaning of “lie” is  - or of what the meaning of “is” is, for that matter.) This isn’t discouraged in the least by a citizenry that more and more thinks “Well, what do you expect? All politicians lie.”
3.    We are all role models.
That last one probably has a lot of you scratching their heads. How can I say that, when even “certifiable” role models (celebrities, sports figures, etc.) complain that they shouldn’t be treated as such? But they are, no matter how much they protest.
And so are all of us. Whether individually, or cumulatively, what we decide to proudly publicize of our own failings, what we decide to label as okay “because everyone does it” makes a difference. Folks: two, or 300 million, or 6 billion people doing the wrong thing doesn’t make it right, and sticking your head in the sand doesn’t either.
Let’s go back and look at the line I wrote in the 2nd paragraph, specifically the phrase “let me make this perfectly clear”; for those of us who experienced Watergate, this phrase has a particular connotation tied to lying and cheating – in essence, you will get the sense somewhere in the dark recesses of your mind that you can’t trust the veracity of whatever this person says next (even if you aren’t old enough to know what Watergate means, I believe this phrase has seeped into our POP CULTURE enough to hold that connotation.)
I DELIBERATELY chose this wording to illustrate a point about making impressions – you need to be aware of how things appear. Our current president, choosing to illustrate instead, his own tone-deafness, has chosen to use several variants of this (“let’s be clear”, “I want to be clear”, etc.) so frequently that it should probably be followed by a ™ mark. If you’re trying to get people to believe you, this is not the phrase you should use (especially if you already have an honesty deficit operating against you.)
We all need to be aware of the impressions we are pushing.
What does it tell your kids if you don’t make a point of impressing them with the difference between right and wrong? How do you expect them to try if you behave as though it doesn’t really matter? I know we live in a world where “Do as I say, not as I do” is considered a joke; still, there’s still value in in at least saying the right things. But you have to go beyond that – you need to act the role as well.
What does it tell people if you say something is heinous or unforgivable and won’t be tolerated, but then you don’t do anything serious about it (or, worse, yet, you show how important it is by continuing your perpetual vacation)? Do these lines in the sand have any real meaning? Why would your adversary (or anyone else) treat it as important if you don’t either? Why would anyone take you seriously.
You can’t write everything in washable paints. They may be great for your kids to use around the house, but they don’t leave much of an impression (they’re designed to go away, you know – we use them when we’re afraid people are going to make mistakes – when we’re afraid to commit.) If you want to show that you’re serious, act like it. Maybe you should use permanent markers instead.
Just saying…

William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “The Wolves Will Come”) can be found in many places, such as:
Connect with him on Facebook at:   http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tolerance, Anyone?

The following post may contain some flippant treatment of serious EVIL – reader discretion (and appreciation of sarcasm) is advised.

Tolerance seems to be making the headlines a lot lately.
ISIS (or whatever they’re calling themselves) doesn't believe in diversity of anything. There is only ONE WAY to talk, ONE WAY to act, ONE WAY to believe, and if you aren't aligned with that ONE WAY, then you should be DEAD (Wait - their ONE WAY or DEAD is actually TWO ways; am I’m being unfair to them? NOT.) They don’t TOLERATE the existence of another way, and they will force you to ACCEPT theirs.
Hamas is a little less picky – they don’t seem to care WHO dies – Israeli or Palestinian, Jew or Muslim, Man, Woman, or Child, as long as they get what they want, and Israel is wiped off the face of the earth. And then whoever else they decide needs to go so they can get whatever they think they’re entitled to. We can’t be TOLERATED, and we need to ACCEPT that.
I’m blessed to live in one of the most diverse, inclusive, and particularly TOLERANT countries on Earth. TOLERANCE means that even if you don’t ACCEPT how someone looks or believes, you don’t have to approve of them, or like them, or give them what they want, and you don’t KILL them for it.
Think about that – a country where citizens have the right to keep and bear arms, with a mix of every ethnic, religious, social, cultural group on Earth, and, for the most part, we manage to exist side by side without killing each other. How is that possible?
We were founded on the principles of the rights of the individual (not the group), and deep down, most of us understand that each individual has the right to exist as much as any other. We can all believe what we want – there is no enforced religion or GROUP THINK.
Of course, it would be hard to tell that nowadays. Where it used to be okay for people of different beliefs to discuss those differences openly in public, a POLITICAL CORRECTNESS has emerged that makes WRONG THINKING punishable by the loss of the right to speak, or earn a living. TOLERANCE is no longer enough; there must be total ACCEPTANCE (of course, only of the “right” things); anything less and you will be shunned.
The greatest damage done by political correctness is that we can no longer have open, honest debate in this country. What used to be considered common sense is now backwards and oppressive, and anyone who expresses a thought to the contrary, defends ages old cultural beliefs is intimidated and silenced through insults character assassination. Once you start having to hold back on our TRUTH and CANDOR for some things, it cripples our ability to contribute fully on anything.
Science is not consensus driven – you must have all the facts (not just your own) in order to make discoveries and solve problems. Silencing (or hiding) an opinion or fact that doesn't fit your template doesn't prove your theory.
The same goes with any other attempt to understand a situation and come up with solutions. Shouting down other viewpoints, calling the opposition names and threatening them for speaking openly and honestly doesn’t solve any problem – it just creates more.
Group think isn’t thinking. Things will only get worse if we can’t talk openly with AND HEAR each other. Failure to listen to and tolerate ideas other than your own makes true understanding impossible.
(And you thought I was going to say something about Ferguson, Missouri. I am SO TIRED of group identification overpowering the honesty and integrity of the individual…)
Don’t just go with the herd. Raise your head up above it all every once and a while, and make sure you know where the cliff is.
Just saying…

William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “The Wolves Will Come”) can be found in many places, such as:
·         His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
Connect with him on Facebook at:   http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink

Monday, August 11, 2014

What’s Your Story?

We are all story-tellers of one sort or another.
I reconnected with someone from my past a few years ago, and periodically, seemingly impromptu, he would regale me with a story of something that had happened to him. At first I thought “how fun, to have such an interesting tale in your head. I was particularly impressed with how polished it seemed, and wished that I was able to recount my experiences in such a clear and fascinating manner.
I became less (actually differently) impressed when I’d been around him a couple of months and heard these same stories repeated over. And over. And over, again.
It turns out that my friend had a series of tales that he had honed through years of repetition into a veritable catalog of personal legends. This isn’t to say they weren’t true (although they MIGHT have been embellished a TINY BIT); if anything they were better than a factually accurate retelling, because the way they were told gave insights into my friend that were more valuable.
How we all embellish and repeat stories that say something about who we are (or who we want to be)
I was never athletic (I didn’t have much interest during my youth – a majority of my athletic activity – such as it was - occurred after the age of 25); I have events that I remember and tell repeatedly – about chasing an opponent across a football field and making up his twenty-yard lead to tackle him inside the 5-yard line (I never give up.) Or making the same leaping catch between first and second base TWICE during the same inning in a company softball game (I am capable of surprising people), or pulling off a couple of neat plays in a sandlot football game that were so impressive that the next time we picked sides I was only SECOND TO LAST (I don’t know how to MAKE myself popular.)
There are also non-sports stories involving the Treasury Department (it’s not always good to think out loud), my French teacher’s eye test (don’t just do things – remember WHY you’re doing them), Russian spies (make sure you know who you know), a bee that flew in my ear and never came out (some things stay with you), and the time I was born in India (sometimes I can’t help making stuff up.) All of these say something about who I am (and no, it isn’t that Walter Mitty lives.)
What’s your story? What event is it that you find yourself thinking about and repeating? Especially the ones that your significant other has heard so often that they (lovingly and tolerantly) roll their eyes? Do you know what you’re really trying to tell people?
Just saying…

William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication “The Wolves Will Come”) can be found in many places, such as:
·         His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY

Connect with him on Facebook at:   http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink