Posts Tagged ‘ignoring the calamity’

We’re in a national crisis, and I think I know why.
When I was on tour promoting my novel Say Uncle a funny thing happened. Many people who came to get me to sign their book also came to ask me child rearing questions. To be fair, the book is about a single gay man raising a child. It’s my meditation on what it might have been like for me to raise a child at that point in my life. But it’s fiction. That means I made the whole thing up. Apparently though, readers with young children tried some of the solutions that I made up and they actually worked. They wanted more.
I’m no child expert, but I am an expert on Say Uncle. So, I told them what I thought the character in the book would do – literary child rearing advice, perhaps?
In preparing to write the book I did ask parents I knew about their experience. I got a lot of answers. Very few were the same, save one. Whatever you react to, you reinforce. If your baby cries when you put him to bed and you go pick him up, he won’t sleep through the night. Not because he can’t but because you taught him if he cried you’d come pick him up. If you react to the bad behavior you’ll get more. The trick, and it’s a hard one, is to react to the good behavior and ignore the bad.
From what I’ve observed, this applies long after childhood is over. We are in a period of bad parenting on an epic scale. Through TV, the news, the internet and in a thousand ways we pay attention almost exclusively to the bad behavior. Good behavior? Well, no one pays much attention and there seems to be less and less of it.
We ignore the good and affirm the bad by focusing on it.
The most famous person in Hollywood is not Meryl Streep, though she’s arguably the best we’ve got, it’s Lindsay Lohan. I guess Mean Girls was pretty good, but really, what else is there? Yet, she is receiving a lethal amount of airtime and press attention. If we want to help Lindsay, we should ignore her – we should probably ignore her anyway, but I’m just saying. There is no incentive for Lindsay to get better. It did kill Anna Nicole. I was afraid we were going to lose Robert Downey, jr. the same way. He kept crashing and burning and he kept getting another chance, thanks to the headlines for the bad behavior that kept him famous. Any idea what he’s up to lately? Sandra Bullock, the Oscar winning best actress and currently the most bankable star in Hollywood only got coverage when her husband’s tattooed, pole dancing girlfriend went public with their affair. The Divorce is final and she’s slipping into obscurity.
This doesn’t just apply in the frivolous world of entertainment. Our whole country is currently being run by the bad kids.
That woman who used be governor in Alaska for instance. Her career has been built, not by the people who like her, but by those who think she’s terrible. They just can’t stop reporting on how terrible she is. And now she’s so terrible that she’s rich, famous, powerful and a political force to be reckoned.
The crazy people yelling at town hall meetings, the 100 member church and their book burning, that crackpot Iranian President Almondine, the two remaining black panthers and the Birthers are getting more coverage than economic policy and legislation despite double digit unemployment.
Recently, a woman the republicans apparently aren’t particularly fond of got nominated to be their senate candidate in Delaware. I don’t care, I don’t support her, she is opposed almost everything I’m in favor of. No surprise. That’s kinda of how it goes in politics. Yet, I would not recognize the man she will run against if he knocked on my door. He has received NO coverage by his opponents or his SUPPORTERS! Meanwhile, the bigoted, part time Wiccan, assault-Christian, anti-nature, embezzler he’s running against is being made into a viable national candidate by her OPPONENTS.
For all the good people in politics – as in most every other field — doing a good job, working hard, helping the people they were elected to support, it’s the one’s with anti-masturbation platforms who get all the coverage. The good guys languish for lack of attention while the bad apples flourish in the warm nurturing glare of our obsession.
The good guys are still out there. I personally think they’re still the majority. Let’s encourage them and stop paying attention to the lunatics and the assholes. I don’t know that they’ll go away, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could just stop hearing about them?

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