The Truth According to Who?

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

I think summer is just about over. It’s a lot cooler here today, by about twenty degrees. You know what that means, right? Global warming is gone!!! We can go back to leaded gas and aerosol sprays, and cows can once again break wind without fear of ending up on somebody’s dinner plate as punishment. Hallelujah!

Okay, I wrote that completely tongue-in-cheek and I still feel even more idiotic than I sound. Of all the things we can do with computers, nobody has ever invented a sarcasm font. Seriously? I guess you’re supposed to just read the words and accept them as truth without applying any thought of your own. Sounds a little dangerous to me.

In a previous life, I was a technical writer. My job was to take technical matter and express it in words the average Joe can understand. And the industry must not know any really smart guys named Joe, because they told us to write everything at a sixth-grade level. Think about that the next time you read a toaster manual.

I wasn’t so smart about all those things that I could just write the manuals. Okay, maybe toasters. But for anything more complex, I had to rely on subject-matter experts – people who knew the topic inside-out and could give me enough information to let me write the book. Which is why most user manuals have big mistakes. You’re getting it second-hand.

Over my desk I had a sign – “Garbage in, gospel out.” It was a not-so-subtle reminder that I would write what I was told to write. I’d ask questions and get clarification on anything that didn’t sound quite right. But in the end, the person giving me the information was the source of truth. If they forgot something important, it didn’t go in the instructions. Kaboom!

Worse yet, most people would follow those instructions blindly because they were under the mistaken impression the book was written by somebody who knew what he was talking about. It’s one thing when you’re talking about burned toast. But if you bypass the wrong sensor and accidentally raise an airplane’s landing gear while it’s on the ground, that’s gonna leave a mark.

Which is why most instruction manuals, especially those that deal with more complex and dangerous procedures, have a disclaimer at the front that says, “If these instructions aren’t clear, get help.” Find somebody who knows a little more about the topic and make sure you’re not about to drop an airplane on somebody’s head.

That said, as a writer, I tend to take things pretty literally. Like those billboards that say, “Illiterate? Call today!” I’ll just leave that one right where it sits. My favorite was one of those seat-back emergency procedure cards on a passenger plane. At the end it said, “If you cannot read these instructions, ask a flight attendant for assistance.” Got it!

In a world of 24-hour news and social media, it’s become far too easy to just read what somebody else thinks and accept it as a source of truth. After all, “they couldn’t write that if it weren’t true!” Well, yes … they can. And believe it or not, they do. Why? Because somebody will take it as gospel and spread it around. Before long, everybody’s talking about it.

Some of this even originates from “news” sites. And we all know, journalists are held to a higher standard of reporting the truth, right? No, they’re not. Besides, a lot of these “news” agencies consist of a couple of trolls sitting in a dark corner of their mother’s basement, making up stories as they go. And if you tried to identify them, your search would likely end up overseas.

Then there are the stories that appear as if they came from a reliable media source. They even have the right logos and background colors. It has to be real! Well, if a hacker from Nigeria can mimic your bank’s website well enough to fool you into sharing personal information, it’s not that difficult to copy an international media webpage.

Sure, we should all pay attention to what’s going on in our world. But consider the source. If it’s so outlandish you can’t believe such a thing could ever happen, trust your instincts. Do a little research. In the same time it takes to spread a story, you can verify its authenticity. And while some pretty outlandish things have been happening, don’t believe everything you read.

It’s hard to know the truth sometimes, especially when we let our own preconceived beliefs influence what we take to heart and what we automatically discard as lies. The truth rarely lies at the ends of that spectrum – it’s usually somewhere in the middle. If you want to be informed, then inform yourself. Don’t ever let somebody else tell you how to think. Least of all, me.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Being Right Doesn’t Mean Everyone Else is Wrong

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

It occurred to me a few days ago that, while my posts have gotten more personal over the past couple of weeks, they’ve also gotten a little more somber. I enjoy sharing that personal side, and I think most of you enjoy the connection as well. But the whole purpose of these posts is to illustrate that, no matter what’s going on in life, there’s always something to give us hope of a brighter future.

That said, there are times when our best efforts to remain positive seem to be under constant assault from people we may not even know. All you have to do is turn on the news, and it’s an endless barrage of negativity. Whether it’s crime in the streets or political transgressions, the worst in human behavior is right there on full display.

Of course, when it comes to politics, we all have our own opinions and those opinions sometimes drive us to show a side of ourselves that we would normally keep in check. It’s hard to listen to opinions against a strongly held belief without responding in kind. Turn on social media and you’ll see everything from civil discussion to outright hostility. All from people who claim to love their country.

Well, let’s just get this out in the open. A country isn’t one political party or one side of an issue. It’s not one race or one religion. It’s not one occupation, one state, one county, or one neighborhood. And it’s not one set of values trampling everything else in its way. It’s millions of people, each with their own heritage and values, living and working together toward a common good. Period.

One of our most sacred rights in this nation is the right of free speech. But what we’re allowed to say in a strictly legal sense isn’t always what we should say in a more human sense. We learned that as children, the first time we shared a particularly objectionable opinion with our parents. That’s when we learned the meaning of respect. It’s not always what we say, but how we say it.

An opinion that doesn’t make any sense to us personally may make perfect sense to somebody else. If it’s a point of well-known fact, like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west (or that the world is indeed round), there’s little to dispute. Opinions, on the other hand, may be based on facts, but they are nothing more than our assessment of how those facts fit within our own set of values.

That’s why two people can read the same transcript or watch the same news report and come away with a completely different perspective on what was said. It’s not that we saw or heard anything inherently different – it’s what we went into that situation hoping to hear. We all have our beliefs, and nobody likes to be wrong. So, we focus on any shred of evidence that supports those beliefs.

Years ago, a first-grade teacher took a class full of energetic, loving children, and turned them into two warring factions in a single day by suggesting one “fact” – that blue-eyed people are better and smarter than brown-eyed people. Within minutes, best friends were at odds with one another simply because of the color of their eyes. Smiles turned to tears, and before long the shoving began.

Thankfully, she monitored the situation and corrected her erroneous “fact” in time to prevent bloody noses. But it taught those kids a lesson I hope they never forgot. It made me wish we’d all had somebody like that teacher. Because maybe we’d have grown up realizing that differences make us stronger, and just because somebody doesn’t think like us, that doesn’t make them inherently stupid.

I avoid political discussions in my writing for obvious reasons. I have my values, and you have yours. Some of us will agree wholeheartedly, and some will just as strongly disagree. And that’s okay. There are nations where the people are only exposed to one side of a religious or political doctrine. And we describe those nations with words like “iron curtain”, “dictatorship”, and “brain-washed.”

We strengthen our mind, not by closing it to contrary opinions, but by opening it to other points of view. When we consider facts and opinions that challenge our beliefs instead of blindly supporting them, we begin to evolve. We may still come out on the other end fully believing whatever we did at the start, but at least we’ll be able to better explain why we feel the way we do.

And that explanation of our beliefs is much more valuable in the form of silent reflection rather than open debate. You may draw somebody else to your point of view, but odds are you’ll only drive the wedge in deeper. Cooperation turns to animosity, and the battle begins. All because somebody else dared to have eyes of a different color.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

It All Begins With Love – For Ourselves, and One Another

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

I had a relaxing weekend. More relaxing than I’ve seen in months. It seems there were several times when I asked my wife if there was anything we needed to do, because I felt I had a lot more time on my hands than normal. I could get used to that. It felt good.

That said, there is no way I can ignore the carnage that took place within our nation over the weekend. Twenty-nine people dead in two mass shootings, not to mention additional acts of violence in Chicago and other cities across the country. The media will focus on El Paso and Dayton because that’s where the most people were killed in each incident. But let’s be honest – one is too many.

We watch the news of these massacres in shock, wondering what goes through people’s minds to make them do such things, and thankful it didn’t happen in our own community. Well, this time it did. The shooting in Dayton occurred a mere 15 miles from home. In fact, my route to work this morning will take me 100 yards from the site where nine people died Sunday morning.

I try never to get political in my posts, and this one will be no exception. It was my disdain for online political spats that led me to write a motivational post each day. I sincerely believe we can all achieve anything we want in life, and we truly deserve the best. But all those things don’t matter if we’re out shopping or enjoying an evening on the town and somebody comes in with a gun to end it all.

At some point, we all have to either accept this as a normal part of life or stand up and be heard. That time has come for me, personally, and I will choose the latter. That doesn’t mean the focus of my writing will change – it won’t. But I wanted to take one day to put my thoughts into words in the hope that I can help spread some shred of insight and maybe even some inspiration. So, here goes.

When something like this happens, we rush to our favorite go-to explanation. And, it always seems to boil down to two factors – mental health and guns. Two completely opposing explanations, each with its own ardent supporters and political agenda. And make no mistake, the two are both a huge part of the problem. But on their own, they can’t fully explain what’s happening in this country.

Yes, we do have a mental health crisis in this nation. It stems from our healthcare issues in general. When you allow people to die from curable diseases or price their lifesaving medicine so high they can’t afford it, that mentality doesn’t stop with physical healthcare. It’s exacerbated in mental healthcare because we can’t see those issues on a CT scan. It’s voodoo – we can’t understand it, so we tend to look the other way.

We also have a problem with accessibility to guns. I own a gun, and I fully support the Second Amendment as it was written. But I will never support the need for a private citizen to own a gun that was designed as or modeled after a weapon of war. Let’s be perfectly honest here. Assault rifles were designed for a single purpose – killing the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time.

I know that last paragraph will ruffle a few feathers among the most ardent defenders of gun rights. I don’t care, and I won’t apologize. Until somebody can show me a single constructive or practical use for a weapon that’s not legal for hunting in any state, and that can cause such carnage in a matter of seconds, I will stand by my opinion. And I will force that opinion on every one of my elected officials.

It goes without saying that when you allow such a weapon to fall into the hands of somebody who’s predisposed to violence because of a mental health issue, bad things can happen. Now, factor in overt racism, hate, and fear, and the result is not only predictable, it’s inevitable.

We all tend to seek out opinions that support what we believe. And, no matter what you believe, you can find somebody whose words will bolster that belief. Most times, it just strengthens our resolve. But when our beliefs are based in racism, hate, or fear, it’s like pouring gas on a fire. It just builds and builds until it’s completely out of control.

That’s why we all need to be careful of the things we say, especially in an open forum where we have no idea who may be listening or what message they’re trying to glean from our words. And the greater our audience, the greater our responsibility for making sure we spread a positive message. That starts at the very top and works its way down to each and every one of us.

If we don’t hold ourselves accountable, we can’t point our fingers at anybody else. Yet, by the same token, if we don’t hold our community and national leaders accountable, we fail in our responsibility to demand that they represent our interests, our beliefs, and our values. We should not only expect this of those we place in a position of trust – we should demand it.

This has been an extra long post, and for that I’ll apologize. It’s not something you can address in a few short paragraphs, and it’s not something any of us can fix on our own. But the souls of 29 innocent people are crying out for this to end. If we look the other way, we’ve not only allowed them to die in vain, we’ve condoned the next massacre. Maybe it’ll happen someplace else. Maybe it won’t.

There are no easy answers to this problem. But I firmly believe we have to recognize each of the factors that allow such things to happen and tackle them simultaneously. We need better access to mental health care, and we need zero access to weapons designed for mass killing. And we all need to stand up against hate in all its evil forms, openly and loudly. We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines any longer.

I’m sure I’ve offended a few people in this post and, as I said earlier, I won’t apologize for that. What I will say is that we’re all on this planet together, and we all are equally entitled to our own beliefs. What matters the most isn’t whether we agree or disagree on any one point – it’s how we handle those disagreements. We can set a positive example or not. Either way, the world is watching.

That’s all for now. Have a blessed day.

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved