“If You Don’t Agree, Unfriend Me”

I’ve heard sentences of the form “If you [don’t agree with the blindingly-obvious point that I just made], unfriend me” a lot lately. And while I sympathize with the sentiment, I have to disagree with the tactic.

The message is, if you can’t even agree that women should control their bodies / gay people should have as much of a right to marry as straight people / evolution and climate change are real / Obama is not a literal devil / whatever, then you and I have nothing to discuss because we can’t even agree on the basics; and also, you’re probably morally-deficient, so you might as well fuck off.

All of which is, unfortunately true. There are lots of morally-deficient people out there who’ll never see reason. Everyone’s favorite whipping boy stereotype Your Racist Uncle (YRU), springs to mind.

My only qualm is that if YRU unfriends you, then he won’t see your posts/tweets/stories/chats and will have one less opportunity to change his mind. Likewise, if you unfriend him, then yeah, his racist memes / hate-filled screeds / religious reposts won’t raise your blood pressure on a daily basis, but you also won’t know what he’s reading, saying, or doing.

The US is currently as divided as it’s ever been, as far back as I can remember. And part of the problem is that we don’t know each other, don’t watch the same news outlets, don’t start with the same basic assumptions. We live in separate bubbles, so not talking to each other seems like it can only exacerbate the problem, and dig a moat between the bubbles.

I’m not saying you have to agree with YRU, or respond to everything he says. But if you can keep him in your timeline, even if you never respond to him, then at least you can keep an eye on him. Call it reconnaissance if you like, keeping an eye on the opposition. The next time someone at your local Demo-Liberal Hippie-Love Eco-Tea-and-Greet suggests that the way to fix the country is a drum circle in front of the local GOP headquarters, at least you’ll be able to think, “What Would My Racist Uncle Do?” and be able to critique the idea effectively.

And if nothing else, maybe you can agree to keep the political discussions on Facebook, and not bring them to the Thanksgiving dinner table, so you can enjoy dinner en famille.

Thanksgiving Pho

Yesterday, around dinner time, we started digging through the Thanksgiving leftovers to see what looked good. M wanted soup. Great. Except that we didn’t have enough noodles for a decent soup, but we did have maifun rice noodles, so we used that instead.
Basically, J combined the noodles with leftover turkey, plus carrots, onions, celery, and the herbs and vegetables used to stuff and flavor the Thanksgiving turkey. I called the result Thanksgiving pho, and it was surprisingly good. I added Sriracha to mine; the others didn’t, for some reason.
Try it. You know you want to. Plus, you’ve got to do something with that leftover turkey, right? Might as well put is in a dish that tastes good no matter how you make it.

Thanksgiving Rules

This year, I’m hosting Thanksgiving. Hooray! I’m a grownup! I’m looking forward to it.
There are, however, some rules:

  1. Smoking: As the saying goes, there is no heaven or hell; just smoking and non-smoking. To that end, there will be two designated smoking areas, one out front and one on the patio out back (but feel free to release your inner buffalo and roam). Thanks for understanding.
  2. Donald Trump is a clown. Also vain, a demagogue, and possibly a fascist. But that’s just me. If you would like to voice a contrary opinion, there will be two designated areas, one out front and one on the patio. Please don’t bother the smokers.
  3. I’m told there will be a game on Thanksgiving. Football, I think. If you’re a football fan, I’m sure all the major news media will report the score tomorrow.
  4. I will not guarantee that any given foodstuff is free from gluten.
  5. The cat comes and goes as he pleases. Don’t try to force or coerce him. If he bites you, I will laugh, take pictures, and call 911, in that order.
  6. There will not be a separate kids’ table this year. Please don’t make me regret it.

Thanks to No One

At this time of year, it’s traditional to say what you’re thankful for. And I’m thankful for a lot of things: that I know where my next meal is coming from, that I don’t have any debilitating diseases, that I have good friends and family… Heck, I’m thankful that the job I had to do after hours at work today didn’t turn into one of those nightmare jobs that wind up having you working all night.

But gratitude requires an object. To whom am I grateful? In some cases, it’s obvious: I’m grateful to my friends for putting up with me, and for doing all the things friends do. I’m grateful to my parents for raising me. I’m grateful to the nameless people who raised the food I’m going to enjoy tomorrow, the ones who hauled it here, and to the millions more who set up or aided the free market system that ensures that I have whatever food I want, whenever I want it.

What about the job tonight that went more or less according to plan? To a great extent, it went smoothly because I planned it carefully in advance. Should I feel grateful to myself, for having the foresight to solve a lot of problems before they came up, the experience to know what those problems are likely to be, and the knowledge to quickly diagnose and solve the snags that did come up?

Maybe. I’ve been known to do favors for my future self. But it still feels narcissistic.

And to whom should I feel grateful that I don’t have any debilitating genetic disorders? I suppose the obvious candidates are my parents. But they didn’t pick their genes, and didn’t decide how they would mix. They got lucky, as did I.

Shoud I thank the innumerable rocks flying around the solar system that none of them has decided to intersect Earth’s orbit and conk me on the noggin?

There’s an asymmetry here: on one hand, I can easily imagine an alternate universe in which I was born to parents who didn’t care about my upbringing and education, or one in which a stray C14 atom decayed at the wrong moment and gave me cancer at age five. And I’m glad for both. But in one case, there’s someone to thank, while in the other… the universe has failed to kill me, so far. It just worked out that way.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I have the same hyperactive agency detector as everyone else. Feeling grateful to some nebulous other for the random circumstances that went the way I like comes as naturally as seeing faces in clouds, and so I understand why people naturally believe in benevolent gods and spirits. And so I suppose there’s no harm in addressing thanks to someone or something for those things, as a way of satisfying an urge, long as it’s understood that that’s all it is. The universe. The flying spaghetti monster. Or, as George Carlin did, Joe Pesci, since he looks like a guy who can get things done.

So have a happy Thanksgiving, y’all. Don’t forget to thank the people — actual, living people — who have done something good for you, who matter to you. In fact, don’t wait until Thanksgiving, any more than you should wait until Valentine’s Day to tell your sweetheart you love him/her.

And if I hear you thanking Joe Pesci for the fact that the biscuits came out all right after all, I’ll understand.

(Update, Oct. 11, 2010: s/one/none/.)