So it's now been nearly three weeks since my last post. I never thought about this when I first started writing, but the election cycle has really taken a toll on my ability to write about anything interesting. I've written three fully formed and edited posts, complete with clever little memes that I created myself. Despite my personal injunction against taking sides in social media forums, I still managed to write three incredibly bitter and angry screeds about politics. I didn't take sides, though, so instead of alienating half of my (admittedly small) audience, I probably would have angered both sides. None of them were terribly different from one another; they simply reflected three attempts to write the same thing without resorting to anger and bitterness. The TL;DR version of those posts is this:
I'm tired of people pretending like they don't care and that they hate everyone involved in politics. Even people who claim not to care have hot button issues, and broadly claiming that both major candidates are terrible is cowardly and dishonest, or at the least, completely unproductive. So figure out what you believe. Once you figure it out, make a decision either to talk about it or not to talk about it, and for the love of Pete, stick to that decision. Seriously, if you think they're both terrible, stop telling me about it, and go back to telling me about Ron Paul or something. At least you had some passion then.
There was more to the posts, digging into third party candidates, insulting Herman Cain (not for being a Republican, but for being an idiot), and generally spreading vitriol around. It's really not an interesting argument to make, certainly not interesting enough to take up a whole post.
So instead of complaining about the lazy nihilism that oozes out of half the posts I see on Facebook, instead of lamenting all the hate I see at this time of year, I've compiled a small list (obviously not comprehensive) of some things I love. I think that the things we love define us more completely and more earnestly than the things we hate. In the spirit of fighting the negativity of election season with some positivity, here are a few of my favorite things.
1. The Lord of the Rings
This is fanboy love of the worst kind, really. I've read the book a couple dozen times (literally, you have no idea how obsessed I am), and I consume Tolkien's other works about Middle-Earth the way Apple fanboys consume iPhones (and with the same haughty disregard for any perceived failings). I once quoted the Merry Old Inn song at a Halloween party to someone I barely knew at the time (interestingly, she wrote about a different Halloween party in her latest post). In my defense, though, there was alcohol involved in that particular event, so it seemed like a neat little party trick to my addled brain. I even subscribe to the @ShireReckoningW Twitter feed so I can stay up to date on what's happening each day in the novel.
I've found so much in the novel that I'm always wanting to share. There is joy and suffering, heroism and betrayal, peace and war. Most importantly, I find a concern with the value of friendship and courage. I think Tolkien desperately believed that despair is one of our worst mistakes. In discussing the book with friends, I'm always trying to create the impression that the book is more than just a story about hobbits, that it has something vital to say about the importance of our friendships.
2. Video Games
Man, I love to shoot stuff. I also like to hit stuff with a sword or command large numbers of troops in fake battles. In fact, I find other forms of electronic entertainment inferior, almost boring by comparison. When I sit and watch TV or a movie now, I almost always have a game on my laptop or my phone. I multitask my electronics. Now, based on my love for The Lord of the Rings, you would think I'd love the MMORPG based on the novel (if you're even aware of its existence, that is). Even though I can play the game for free, I just can't get into it. I've tried a couple of times, but the game reminds me of early attempts at computer animation. Long on detail, short on heart. Couple an uninspiring adaptation of my favorite fictional work with the recognition of my sometimes addictive relationship with MMOs, and it's easy for me to skip that one.
Some of my best friends, though, the ones who truly approach the level of adopted family, come from my days playing World of Warcraft. My friends all have lives and names, but in some ways they really are Mercade, Muskulls, Muskullswife, Invysillama, Myca, Mahroo, Moonders, Deadstick, Asakawa, and others, and innumerable alts. We worked together in aid of something larger (getting to the end of the freakin' Shadow Labyrinth) before we ever knew each others' religion or politics.
3. Making Stuff
I can't just say that I like to cook good food, or build things out of wood, or that I'm fascinated by my desire to learn blacksmithy. These things are all of a piece. I love the feeling of standing back from a project, taking a good look at it, nodding my head, and saying, "Yep. I made that. I did a good job, too." If you've ever gotten a slideshow presentation from me before, you'll also know that I love to show off my work. I take pride in creation. I still reminisce with old coworkers about the houses we built and the work we put in. I also reminisce about sitting on a scaffolding 15 feet off the ground, in 95 degree heat, punchy from exhaustion, nearly laughing myself into thin air as my vulgar English boss spoofed Fleetwood Mac songs. For the record, he and I probably couldn't be more politically different. Doesn't matter.
In fact, in nearly every aspect of life that I enjoy, my enjoyment goes hand in hand with the presence of friends and family, despite our tendency so often to be at odds with one another, politically or religiously.
But we don't cut each other checks to keep the lights on during the hard times because of politics. We don't celebrate new jobs or births because of politics. We don't go to each others' birthday parties, bonfires, or graduations because of politics. And when as we suffer our worst moments and worst losses, we don't mourn together because of our politics.
We celebrate, cry, laugh, sing, dance, argue, criticize, and support -- because we love each other.
At the risk of mawkishness, I'll say that my people are more important to me than my politics.