Donald Trump lost last night, and I won.

On July 11 of 2017, I was walking with half a dozen teenage girls across the quad at Miss Porter's School toward the dining hall. They were my camp counselors - Miss Porters' students who were helping me teach about 25 other girls from around the world about writing, speaking,  and storytelling. We were heading to the dining hall in the waning sun of the late afternoon when I looked down at my phone and saw that Donald Trump had blocked me on Twitter. 

I had sent a tweet at Donald Trump earlier that day that read:

Proposal: If you take healthcare away from 23 million Americans, you must also give up your healthcare until those Americans have coverage.

Less than a minute later, Trump tweeted and then blocked me. I was probably near the top of his feed at that moment. My tweet had received hundreds of likes and replies and had already been retweeted 30 times. I also have a verified Twitter account (the blue check mark), indicating that I am a personality of sorts and an actual human being, making my presence weightier on the platform.

I was so angry, "Damn it," I said. I couldn't believe that the President of the United States had stopped me from receiving what he had already said was "official statements:" from the White House. My pipeline to power had been cut off, and I was enraged.  

One of the girls asked what was wrong, and I explained. Then they spontaneously burst into cheers and laughter, dancing around me, grabbing my hands and twisting me like a maypole. "I'm so proud of you," one of them shouted. "This is amazing," another one said. "You poked the beast!"

They turned that moment around for me pretty quickly. 

In the spring of this year, I joined The Knight Foundation's lawsuit against Donald Trump in an attempt to force him to remove his block on my account. I joined 41 Twitter users, including several journalists and writer (who I adore) Bess Kalb, in this attempt after the Knight Foundation had already won their first case on behalf of seven other plaintiffs in May of this year. 

Last night, on the eve before I begin my 20th year of teaching, I was finally unblocked by the President of the United States.

We won. 

I immediately sent this tweet: 

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It's not much. I can read Donald Trump's tweets with ease and respond to him directly as I wish. Will he ever see my response?

Maybe. He's seen it before. 

But it's not much. It won't help the families who have been separated at the border or the middle class families who are being fleeced by the Republican tax bill. It won't save the environment that is being plundered and destroyed by Republican deregulation. It won't restore America's standing on the world stage. it won't honor the legacy of John McCain or restore the rights of my LGBTQ friends.

It won't keep white nationalists and Nazis off our streets, and it won't bring Heather Heyer back to life. 

But it's something. I agreed to stand up, make my name known, and stand in defiance to this ignorant, racist, self-dealing Presidency, and for a moment, Donald Trump was forced to capitulate. Stand down. Back off.

It felt good to know that a man who seeks authoritarian power and routinely ignores the rule of law was forced to do something he had previously refused to do. I played an infinitesimally small part in the course of his Presidency. For a moment, I made him do something he didn't want to do. I made him follow the rule of law.  

I annoyed him.

It's not nearly enough. But add it to the marches that Elysha and I attend with our children, our donations to organizations like the ACLU, our support of political candidates who stand against this administration, our phone calls and letters, and most importantly, our votes, and maybe it's something. 

Not enough on our own, but with enough of our fellow Americans standing alongside us, perhaps more than enough.  

It also felt good, and that's important, too. In this age of Trump, it's hard to feel hopeless, helpless, and useless. It's easy to hear about the latest atrocity committed by the President and feel like our country is spiraling into an abyss. It's so easy to just give up.  

Self care is important. Finding ways of doing good and feeling good are essential. This was one of those ways. 

I was a participant in a lawsuit against the President of the United States, and we won. 

I can't imagine a better start to my school year. 

Trump vs. Me

I received some good news today. 

Back in July of 2017, I was blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter after tweeting at him: 

While there are ways to get around a block and see Trump's Twitter feed, the block prevents me from ever commenting on any of his tweets or tweeting directly at him. I was teaching about 25 girls from around the world at a private school on the day that I was blocked, and upon hearing that I was blocked, they broke into a spontaneous, joyous dance around me, seeing this as a badge of honor and a reason to celebrate. 

It was a beautiful moment, but I was still upset. 

It wasn't right. 

This week The Knight Foundation, whose attorneys represented the plaintiffs in the Knight Institute v. Trump lawsuit, which alleged that the President’s actions in blocking individuals from the @realDonaldTrump account violated the First Amendment, contacted me.

On May 23, 2018, the judge in the case ruled in favor of The Knight Foundation and their clients and issued an order declaring that blocking the plaintiffs from @realDonaldTrump because they criticized him in reply tweets violated the First Amendment.  

Following that decision, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were unblocked. 

I sent an email to the Knight Foundation a few months ago, asking if I could join the lawsuit or become involved in some way. This week, an attorney from the Knight Foundation replied, offering to forward my information to the Department of Justice for the purposes of getting me and other Americans in my situation unblocked as well.  

No guarantees that it will happen. Thus far Trump has only lifted the block on the nine defendants in the case, but it's a start.

Either way, it'll probably make a good story one day. 

Trump can't be banned from Twitter, but then he shouldn't be able to block me, either.

As you may know, the President has blocked me on Twitter. 

Shortly after I fired off three successive tweets at him this summer about his failure to produce his promised tax returns, Trump tweeted some inane nonsense to the world and then blocked three people (likely the three at the top of his feed), including me. 

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I was outraged. I remain outraged. Yes, I can still see his tweets via an alternate account or a variety of browser settings, but I am no longer able access his Twitter feed via my primary Twitter feed, and this means I can no longer tweet at him or respond to him as me.

More egregious, in 2017, then Presidential spokesperson Sean Spicer said that Trump's tweets amount to "official statements from the President." Therefore, I am also being denied access to the President's official statements because he is a thin-skinned, ignorant coward who cannot handle criticism of any kind. 

When you don't clap at his speech, he calls you a traitor, for example.  

In January of 2018, after Trump seemed to be goading North Korea into a nuclear clash via Twitter, an argument was made that Twitter bans users all the time for making similarly threatening and endangering remarks. 

Why not Trump? 

Twitter responded to these inquiries as it has with similar calls to ban Trump from the platform for similarly egregious tweets:

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”

Fine, but then this:

If Twitter is concerned about the dissemination of the important information from world leaders and therefore exempts them from any possible ban, then Twitter should also be concerned about the hundreds and perhaps thousands of Americans who Trump has blocked, including me, who have also been denied this "important information."

If you want to argue that world leaders cannot be banned from Twitter because the information they provide is too important to hide, then world leaders should be prevented from blocking citizens from this same important information. 

This would be a fair, logical, and sensible policy that would afford world leaders the benefits that Twitter believes is necessary while also providing some basic rights for the citizenry of the world as well.

Why Twitter has not taken this step baffles me. Are they afraid of our vindictive, man-child President? Do they worry that he might abandon the Twitter platform for Snapchat? Or is the company run by hypocrites who don't give a damn about the dissemination of important information? 

I would really like to know. 

This Trump tweet is 50 words long but says so much more.

I don't think it's wise to parse the words of someone as erratic and incompetent as Donald Trump, but this recent tweet is a real doozy and demands a little scrutiny. 

Take a look. 

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Let's dig in.

First, we have the President claiming that the book is boring. But the only way to determine if a book is boring is to actually read the book, which we know Trump did not do because:

  • Trump doesn't read.
  • Trump tweeted this less than 24 hours after the book was published. Even if he did read books (and he doesn't), he didn't have time to read a book of this length over the course of a day, especially while serving as President.  

It's both strange and disconcerting that Trump would not see the transparency of this obvious lie.

Second, we have the President claiming that Wolff "made up stories" to sell this "untruthful" book. But Trump knows that Wolff, who reputation for the truth is admittedly not pristine, has recordings of many of the conversations used to write this book.

Is he hoping Wolff won't release these recordings or allow a third party to listen for verification?

Even worse, we know most of these stories to be true already. They are consistent with reporting emerging from the West Wing all year. Sources have been leaking this kind of information about Trump and his staff ever since Trump took office. While the book is a bombshell, it's not exactly entirely new information.   

Also, why doesn't Trump realize that every time he criticizes this book or attacks the author, Wolff sells more books? This should be exceptionally obvious, and yet Trump continues to attack. First, he ineffectually sued to prevent the book's publication (which only results in the publisher releasing the book four days earlier), and since then, he has criticized it verbally and on Twitter again and again.

It's going to be a New York Times #1 bestseller, thanks in large part to Trump. 

I can only pray that Trump would attack one of my books with equal ferocity. 

Now we get to the most interesting and incomprehensible aspect of this tweet. Trump says:

"He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job."

There is so much here. 

  1. If Wolff "used Steve Bannon," who had unfettered access to the West Wing as Trump's chief strategist for most of 2017, then Wolff had at least one very significant source for this book, and Trump just acknowledged it.  
  2. When Bannon left the White House in late August, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that it was a "mutual decision." Trump had nothing but praise for Bannon at the time. So was Sanders lying about this mutual decision? Was Trump lying about his effusive praise? Does Trump not see that reversing a story four months later makes him and his spokesperson a liar back then or a liar now? 
  3. How does telling the world that someone cried as you terminated their employment make you look like anything other than a despicable, reprehensible, untrustworthy human being? How does anyone ever work for a man who would do this kind of thing? When has any employer in the history of the world revealed that an employee cried in response to being fired? Does Trump not realize that revealing that Bannon cried only serves to make Bannon seem more human and Trump appear even more rotten than before?
  4. Does anyone really believe that Bannon cried? Anyone? 

Then Trump says that Bannon has been "dumped like a dog" by almost everyone. 

Who dumps dogs? 

Dumped like a bag of steaming garbage? Sure. 
Dumped like a bad habit? Fine.
But who dumps man's best friend? Apparently Trump does. 

Then Trump closes with "Too bad!" 

What does this mean?

  • Is Trump reflecting back upon his and Steve's previously joyous moments in the Oval Office?
  • Is he expressing regret for the deterioration of their relationship?
  • Is he worried about the future financial viability of his one time friend? 
  • Or is it the "Too bad!" of a sarcastic, middle school bully who is purposefully deflecting emotional attachment and feelings while trying to hurt another?

According to the many accounts in Wolff's book, it's the latter. The one consistent theme running throughout the book is that Trump acts like a petulant child in need of immediate gratification. As a result, these final two words of this tweet only serve to further support the case for the book and its accuracy.  

This petulant, angry, insulting, defensive, untruthful tweet was written by the President of the United States. This is how he spends his time. This is how he serves the American people.

I'd tell Trump how I feel about his tweet directly, but he blocked me on Twitter earlier this year. 

Damn coward. 

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Donald Trump has blocked me on Twitter

After almost a year of tweeting at Donald Trump, he finally blocked me from access to his Twitter feed yesterday. 

This is mostly bad news.

Admittedly, it has become a badge of honor to get blocked by Trump. Since he has stated unequivocally that he is the only person with access to his personal Twitter account - a statement which appears to be true based upon many of his incredibly offensive and legally damaging tweets - getting blocked means that Trump has at least read your tweets, and they have managed to penetrate his remarkably thin skin.

That is a good thing.

I also join the ranks of folks like writers Stephen King and Bess Kalb, political activists, civic organizers, actors, athletes, organizations like VoteVets (which represents 500,000 veterans and their families) and Andy Signore, creator of the Honest Trailers series on YouTube.    

Joining that group is quite an honor. 

But this is where the good ends. In truth, I was disappointed - upset, even - to discover that I had been blocked. Over the course of the last year, I was tweeting at Donald Trump regularly in response to many of the things he wrote. His supporters (and perhaps Trump himself) would refer to me as a troll, but in truth, I was tweeting at Trump because it amused me. It made me happy to spend a few minutes a day giving him a piece of my mind. It felt good to speak truth to power. I took great pleasure in the knowledge that Trump reads his Twitter feed, and that perhaps there were days when my words might have penetrated the White House bubble.

Apparently they did. 

My tweets have been getting a lot of attention by the thousands of people who hate-follow Trump (and many of his supporters, too). Many of my tweets were receiving hundreds and thousands of likes and retweets. Apparently enough was enough, and the thin skinned, petulant, would-be child King decided to silence me. 

This doesn't mean I can't see his tweets. There are work-arounds to gain access to his Twitter feed, including a new Twitter account, the use of a different Web browser, the use of Google's Incognito mode, and more, but it's going to be clunky, time consuming, and no matter what I do, @MatthewDicks, the Twitter account that represents me, can no longer comment on what Trump tweets.

There is a lawsuit making its way through the courts on behalf of blocked users, arguing that since Trump has stated that his personal account represents the "official statements of the President," it is a violation of my First Amendment rights to be denied access to his feed.

This makes sense to me. Americans have a right to access official statements from our government officials. I'll be following it closely.  

I still have access to his @POTUS Twitter account, but he rarely uses this account and is clearly not the one tweeting from it. The material is inoffensive and benign. 

Not exactly Trump's way of communicating.

Mostly, I'm just sad that the few joyful minutes I spent each day, speaking truth to power and retorting Trump's offensive, racist, misogynistic statements and blatant lies, have now been denied to me.  

People like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, and even Donald Tump Jr. are all worthy targets of my Twitter scorn, but none will be nearly as fun as that large, white bag of lies, ignorance, and indiscretion.  

Let us hope that the courts decide in my favor and the First Amendment wins the day.  

Best tweet ever

I've been using Twitter since 2008. My handle is @MatthewDicks. Jump on a platform early enough and your name is always available. 

I receive much of my news via links provided by the people and news organizations I follow on Twitter.

I communicate with friends, acquaintances, and business associates via tweets.

I tweet at Donald Trump - not because I think he'll ever read my tweets - but because it makes me feel good. 

Of the tens of thousands (and maybe more) tweets I've ever read, this is my favorite. It was sent from a woman who identifies herself as Jar and uses the Twitter handle @jell_zebra.

In order to understand the tweet, you need to know that it reads in reverse order. The top tweet was sent on April 22 of 2017. The tweet below it, which she attached to the new tweet, was originally sent on December 20, 2013. 

So many layers of complexity, amusement, and joy in this single tweet. It is truly a peek into a person's soul. 

The essence of a New England Patriots fan and a Bostonian in 5 tweets.

This is a beautiful story. If you ever lived in Massachusetts, and especially in the greater Boston area, this will ring so true.

People in the Boston area are hardcore.  

It's Marathon Monday in Boston. As the runners make their way along the race route, a man stands on the side of the road, encouraging them with this sign that reminds them that in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, the Patriots were losing to the Falcons 28-3.

Keep going, marathoners. Don't give up. Anything is possible.

On Twitter, Addul Dremali, a biomechanical & data scientist and amateur photographer, posts a photo of the unidentified man and his sign.  

About an hour later, ESPN tweets at Dremali, asking if they can use the photo on all their platforms with a credit to him. 

This is where things get beautiful. With the opportunity to have his photo, name, and Twitter handle disseminated across ESPN's enormous and far reaching platforms, Dremail responds like a true and absolute Patriots fan.

This is a perfect reflection of what the people of Boston and its surrounding communities are like:

Fanatic, aggressive, perpetually angry, and so rarely self-serving. 

Forgive Dremali's language. It's also authentic to the Boston area.  

That is a thing of beauty. The perfect response by a man who had an opportunity to gain a little notoriety (in a culture where people will do almost anything to gain notoriety), and he decided to be a fan instead. 

About 30 minutes later, Dremail is contacted via Twitter by another news agency, requesting to use the photo. Their tweet is hilarious. 

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One minute later, Dremali responds perfectly.

Which is funnier? Saturday Night Live? Trump's response to SNL? Alec Baldwin's response to Trump?

Follow this timeline, especially if you don't use Twitter and haven't seen any of the Donald Trump-Saturday Night Live sparring matches. 

I'm honestly not sure which is funnier:

Saturday Night Live's weekly skit on our President-elect:

Donald Trump's inevitable, almost immediate, thin-skinned, sad trombone response to the skit via Twitter:

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Alec Baldwin's eventual and always brilliant response to Trump's tweet:

All are truly comic gold.

Also, can you believe the world that we live in now? We have a President-elect who watches SNL and then tweets about how they make fun of him.

Does he not know how this show works?

Also, praise be to Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin, and anyone else willing to stand up and call out the ineptitude, dishonesty, immaturity, and ego-driven nature of our President-elect. These are the people who will bind us, make us laugh, make us think, and speak out against an Emperor who wears no clothes for the next four years.  

We need you Alec Baldwin. More than ever. 

Four pieces of perfect truth on the nature of writing and work by Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is an author, storyteller, screenwriter, and host of The Moth's podcast and their live shows. I first met Dan in 2011 when I took the stage for the first time and told a story at The Moth.

He was hosting that night. I took the stage, shook his hand, and told my story. I won that slam, and after he called me back to the stage to take a bow, he took a moment to tell me how much he liked my story. He told me that is was funny and honest and a little sad. "A perfect combination."  

I still remember the moment like it was yesterday.      

Since that day, Dan and I have been in many shows together, both in New York City and elsewhere. It's always an honor to share a stage with him. Though I adore all of The Moth's hosts, I feel a special kinship to Dan. I am saddened when he is not present to hear my story. 

I tell my stories first for my wife, Elysha, but I think Dan is a close second,

Dan is also a great follow on Twitter, and yesterday he spilled some serious truth about writing and life that was worth capturing and sharing with you here. 

@DanKennedy_NYC There are people who write every now and then. And there are writers who are people every now and then.

@DanKennedy_NYC Most movies about life depend on giant change, chapters ending, chapters beginning. Real life depends on sticking with things.

@DanKennedy_NYC When it comes to work, you're gonna end up doing what you want to do. Period. Spend 10 minutes or 30 years fighting it if you insist.

@DanKennedy_NYC Buy books for yourself and for other people.

If you're worried about the guy being a little earnest or intense, fear not. Earlier that day, he tweeted about eating pie over the sink in the middle of the night. 

Funny, honest, and sometimes even a little sad.

Curt Shilling is wrong about evolution, but his response to Internet trolls was commendable and enough to make this Yankees fan cheer.

As a New York Yankees fan – as well as someone who supports science and knows that evolution is real – I’ve never been a fan of Curt Shilling.

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But when Shilling took to Twitter last week to congratulate his daughter on her invitation to pitch for the Salve Regina University baseball team, Internet trolls emerged from under their bridges in numbers that Shilling never expected.

“I expected the trolls. The one kid kind of came at me and said, ‘I can’t wait to take your daughter out.’ Kind of borderline stuff, which again, I expected. I’ve been on the Internet since, I started playing on computers in 1980, so I understand how it works and I knew there would be stuff. The stuff that they did, that is not bad or vile, it’s illegal. It’s against the law.”

“When that started -- again, I thought it might be a one-off, but then it started to steamroll. And then [my daughter] started to get private correspondence and then I said 'OK, this needs to get fixed.’ This generation of kids doesn’t understand, and adults too, doesn’t understand that the Internet is not even remotely anonymous.”

Shilling went on the offensive, attacking the trolls on his blog and identifying a handful of the offenders.

One of the offenders – a part-time ticket-seller for the Yankees – has been fired, the team’s director of communications confirmed to NJ.com. Another, a student at a community college in New Jersey, was reportedly suspended from school.

As the victim of an large scale, anonymous attack on my professional credibility several years ago, I understand the power that a person has when they hide behind the curtain of anonymity and hurl false accusations and libelous statements at people who are unable to confront their accusers. I also understand how anonymity can embolden a person to say terrible things that they would never dare say in public.

Shilling refers to his not-so-anonymous offenders as “garbage” on his blog. I have often called them cowards, but I like garbage a lot, too.

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Unlike Shilling, I was never able to positively identify the persons responsible in my case, mostly because the cowards (or pieces of garbage) used old fashioned paper and ink, thereby eliminating any digital trail (though the search for their identities remains active). As a staunch  advocate of free speech, I believe in the power of using that freedom to publicly identify people who make threats and spout hatred and vulgarity online.

It’s time to pull back that curtain of electrons and force people to own their words.  

Shilling may be wrong when it comes to evolution, and that stupid bloody sock may have been completely overblown, but when it comes to his response to Internet trolls, Shilling has my full support.  

The sooner we let these cretins know that they cannot hide behind their computer screens, the sooner they will crawl back under their bridges and leave the rest of us alone.

No one wants to see your photos of the sunrise or the sunset.

On Saturday morning, I posted the following to Facebook:

At 6:38 this morning the sky turned an orange that I have never seen before. It was as if it was on fire. The whole world was bathed in an eerily beautiful orange glow. It lasted for less than ten minutes. I took my son outside to watch. Only people who rise before the sun know the full range of the sky's colors.

I posted a shorter but similar comment to Twitter.

The post received a large response on social media, including a question, asked about a dozen times.

Why didn’t I capture the moment with a photograph?

Two reasons:

1. Photographs of sunsets and sunrises never adequately capture the majesty of the moment. Frankly, they’re boring. While I am certain that many sunsets and sunrises are stunning and perhaps even breathtaking, if I’m not there, it looks like all the other sunsets and sunrises that I’ve ever seen captured on film

Photography never does them justice.

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And there are a million of the photographs taken everyday and posted to social media, making them seem even less majestic. They are akin to elementary school poems about the snow or dogs. I’ve read a million of them over the course of my teaching career, and even the excellent ones are marginalized by sheer volume.

So I don’t take photographs of sunsets and sunrises and post them to social media. Nor should you.

2. Had I taken the time to photograph the sky on Saturday morning, I would’ve missed some of the majesty of the moment. In less than ten minutes, the sky has transformed from singular and spectacular to ordinary and expected. I spent every moment soaking it in. Enjoying it with my son. Committing the moment to memory.

Not sticking an iPhone in between me and it in order to take a photograph that would never do it justice.

This level of maturity is unacceptable.

Author Salman Rushdie tweeted the following on Sunday:

I'm signing off Twitter for a while. Book to finish, etc. See you when it's done in a year or so. It has been fun, even when it hasn't. Bye.

Talk about a humble brag.

Take an extended vacation from Twitter if you must, but don’t make the rest of us feel pathetic for not having the discipline and mental fortitude to do the same. 

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Faking your own death as part of the proposal? Exchanging vows via Twitter? Strange, but still better than this.

A Russian man faked his own death in order to propose to his girlfriend. Alexey Bykov hired a filmmaker, makeup artists and stuntmen to create elaborate car-crash scene, then arranged to meet his girlfriend, Irena Kolokov, at the site. When she arrived, she saw him lying on the ground,  covered in blood amidst a scene of mangled cars, ambulances and smoke.

Bykov planned an elaborate hoax to show his girlfriend what life would be without him. After being told by the paramedic that he was dead, Kolokov broke down in tears. At that moment Bykov popped up and proposed.

She accepted.

_______________________

A couple in Turkey, Cengizhan Celik and Candan Canik, exchanged wedding vows via Twitter. Their officiant prompted them to say “I do” with a tweet. They responded by tweeting the Turkish word “Evet,” or “Yes,” on their iPads.

_______________________

A recent study found that almost 6 percent of wedding proposals are made over the phone.

_______________________

These marriage-related stories seem odd. At least one is possibly insane.

If any of these people came to me for advice, I would advise against these courses of action. 

But here’s the thing:

I also find these people much more interesting and far less offensive than the degree of snobbery that I see and hear in regards to weddings today.

Which is worse?

Any of the people described above or the woman who receives a wedding invitation from a friend and then phones a mutual friend in order to discuss how cheap, tacky or poorly designed the invitation is.

This happens.

Which is worse?

Any of the people described above or the recently married couple who complains to friends or family members about the inexpensive, poorly chosen or unwanted wedding gift that another friend or family member has given?

This happens. A lot.

Which is worse?

Any of the people described above or the person who criticizes a friend or family member (often behind their back) for failing to adhere to all of the marital traditions and customs of their religion or culture.

This happens. All the time.

I once ministered a pagan wedding in which the guests were required to remove their shoes and the bride was required to cut her finger with a ceremonial dagger prior to the exchange of vows in order to consecrate the ground upon which she would be married.

I once worked as a DJ at a wedding where only Celtic music could be played. The bride and groom drank from dragon-encrusted goblets and asked me to teach their guests something called The Mummer’s Dance.

I once worked as a DJ at a wedding that was delayed for almost two hours because the police dog that the bride and groom wanted included in the ceremony was delayed due to a possible drug shipment at the airport, and they refused to get married without him.

I once worked as a DJ at a backyard wedding that included a Slip ‘N Slide (used by both the bride and groom) and a hotdog cart.

After 16 years in the wedding industry as a DJ and minister, I have hundred of stories like this that I could tell. In each of these less-than-ordinary instance, I would much prefer to spend time with these kinds of people rather than the brides and grooms obsessed with ensuring that their wedding looks expensive or just like their friend’s wedding or better than their friend’s wedding or as close as possible to the celebrity wedding that they read about in People magazine a year ago.

Slicing your index finger open with a ceremonial dagger in order to drip blood on the ground is surprising to say the least, but I am always more surprised (and disgusted) by the woman who criticizes her friend’s choice of wedding gown or the man who complains about the quality of the top-shelf liquor at the reception or the bridesmaid who makes the bride’s life difficult by complaining about the dress that she’s been asked to wear.

In the wedding industry, there is nothing worse than pretentiousness, snobbery, overt opulence and the petty, hyper-critical, judgmental attitudes of people who find it impossible to imagine why anyone would ever get married in a way that is different than their own wedding day.

The power and ubiquity of the Twitter

My wife and I are listening to Jeffrey Toobin’s THE OATH: THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE AND THE SUPREME COURT. In learning about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s views on gender equality, I found myself wanting to ask her about her position on the military draft.

A moment later, I was annoyed, realizing that it was unlikely that she was on Twitter.

It’s remarkable how the lines of communication have shrunken in today’s world. Thanks to Twitter, I now expect to be able to reach out to almost anyone in the world without any trouble, and oftentimes I have.

I’ve chatted via Twitter with authors like Margaret Atwood and Jennifer Weiner, celebrities like Mindy Kaling and Sarah Siilverman, television broadcasters like John Dickerson and a number of political figures, just to name a few. Twitter is a great melting pot, where the known and the unknown can rub shoulders and exchange ideas with relative ease.

As a result, I’ve come to expect that I can reach just about anyone I want via the medium, even though the great majority of my real life friends and colleagues do not use Twitter. And for the most part, this has been true. Even though the people to whom I am closest are unreachable via Twitter, most of the newsmakers of the world are, and I’ve been able to reach out to them repeatedly throughout the past two years. 

But a 79-year old Supreme Court Justice?

I thought the odds were extremely low.

But when I checked, I found an account for Ginsburg under @RuthBGinsburg. It’s not a verified account, so I have no way of knowing if it’s actually her, but the tweets seem to suggest that they might be coming from the Supreme Court Justice. They are tempered, reasoned and express ideas that you might expect from her. 

Still, with Twitter, you never know.

I posed my question anyway and await a reply.

Why I chose not to vote today and then did anyway.

Here is a fundamental truth about me:

I do not like to be told what to do.

The more I am told what to do, the less likely I will do it, especially if:

  • I am being told what to do with great earnestness.
  • Failure to comply will not result in any serious negative consequences.

Today is a perfect example of this fundamental truth in action.

I opened my eyes this morning, looking forward to voting in today’s election.

I take a peek at Twitter through bleary eyes and see a handful of tweets urging me to vote. Simple reminders to vote don’t bother me, but the tweets that attempt to appeal to my civic duty and my patriotism annoy the hell out of me.

Don’t tell me what to do, and especially don’t tell me why you think I should do it.

I want to vote a little less now.

A little later I pop onto Facebook. This is where things start going downhill in a big way.

Extreme earnestness and self-righteousness are on full display this morning all over Facebook. Individuals who have deemed it necessary to proselytize to their friends about the nature, value, and benefits of voting are out in force today. They are pounding on their keyboard in sanctimonious glee.   

An example of the kind of Facebook message that annoys the hell out of me goes something like this:

It’s Election Day, friends. We are blessed as Americans to possess this sacred right, so please don’t waste it. Look into your heart and vote your conscience today. No matter what you political affiliation, we are all Americans. It is our duty to vote. Soldiers and patriots have given their lives so you can pull that lever today. Please be sure to exercise your right.  

Now I’m completely annoyed.

I’m not saying that this is the best way to be, but it’s the way I am.

The inane earnestness, the painful obviousness contained within the statement, the sheer weight of cliché, and seeming need of some people to take an oratorical, parental, paternal or Sermon on the Mount approach to something as basic and personal as voting makes me no longer want to vote.

Instead, I find myself wanting to do exactly the opposite of what these people are telling me to do. I want to not vote in hopes of ruining their day or at least convincing them that next time, I don’t need their reminder to vote.

No one needs a reminder to vote.

Everyone knows it’s Election Day.

Anyone who turns on a television or a radio or a computer or drives down the street or speaks to a friend on the telephone knows that today is Election Day.

We all know that today is the day to vote.

I can only assume that the person who feels the need to employ this level of self-righteous earnestness in an effort to convince a friend to vote must live in some kind of pious, self-satisfied bubble. Unfortunately, they have poked their heads out of their bubble long enough today to annoy me.

Now I don’t want to vote. The fundamental truth that I do not like to be told what to do has been activated, and I must now decide if I can purposefully not vote and (just as important) tell everyone that I decided not to vote.

I consider the second condition by which I decide whether to actively not do what I have been told:

  • Failure to comply will not result in any serious negative consequences.

In the grand scheme of things, this is probably true as well. While every vote counts, it is unlikely that my vote will determine the fate of any political race. It is possible for me not to vote today and have no election result changed in any way.

So now I am seriously thinking about not voting. In fact, the idea of not voting as a direct result of a friend’s earnest appeal to vote warms me inside. I smile. I discover a skip in my step. My heart soars.

I was told to vote, so now I am not going to vote.

Like I said, this is not the best way to be, but it’s me.

But here’s the problem:

I want to vote.

Underneath the layers of spite and pettiness and annoyance, and beyond my extreme desire to ruin the day of an overly-earnest proselytizer lies the desire to express my political will by pulling a lever.

In my gut, I still want to vote.

In the end, it comes down to this:

Whose day would I rather ruin?

The annoying Facebook friend who seems to think that he or she is the patron saint of voting or the political candidate whose positions I despise?

Whose day is better ruined?

My vote may not alter the course of the election, but when my candidate wins, I will know that I played a role in defeating the opposition.

That would warm me inside as well. That would put a smile on my face and a skip in my step and cause my heart to soar.  

In a perfect world, there would be a way to ruin the day of the Facebook friend and the political candidate, but sadly, this is not a perfect world.

But voting for the right candidate might make it a more perfect world, though, so in the end, I choose to vote. 

I vote because I want to vote. I opened my eyes this morning looking forward to voting, and that is what I will do. I cannot allow the sanctimony and self-righteousness of Facebook friends to strip me of my opportunity to exact my political will.

Next time I’ll take my wife’s advice and just avoid Facebook altogether.

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2012: Products I can’t live without

Back in 2010, inspired by lists created by tech geeks like Michael Arrington and Kevin Rose, I created a list of products I could not live without.

Today I present my updated list of products I could not live without.

  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Chrome
  • Mint (financial accounting software for the computer and mobile device)
  • iPhone 4
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Carbonite (automatic, instant online backup)
  • ZipList (a syncing mobile grocery list that we use for shopping)
  • Evernote (note-taking program for the computer and mobile device)
  • Dropbox (file syncing across my computer, mobile device and the cloud)
  • Asus laptop
  • Snapfish wireless headphones
  • WordPress (my website and blogging software)
  • Instapaper (saves webpages for later reading on computer and mobile device)

Some interesting comparisons between the 2010 and 2012 lists:

My 2010 list contained 14 items. This year’s list contains 16 items.

There are 7 items on the 2010 list that appear on this list as well, including the all the Google products, Mint, the iPhone (though the version has changed), and Carbonite.

ZipList has replaced Grocery IQ for my shopping list because it can sync between multiple mobile devices.

Twitter has replaced Facebook in terms of my indispensible social media tool. The amount of time I spend on Facebook is marginal. 

The mobile version of Chrome has replaced Opera Mini. It syncs open tabs between platforms and is just as fast as Opera.

Evernote replaced the pre-loaded note-taking program on the iPhone, which was so useless that it did not make my 2010 list even though I was using it on a daily basis.

WordPress replaced Typepad, which was another product so disappointing that even though I used it almost every day, it did not qualify as a product I could not live without in 2010.

YouTube has gained even greater importance in my life now that it is the primary means by which I can get her dressed in the morning and ready for bed at night without protest. A ten-minute episode of Charlie and Lola or Winnie the Pooh is just what I need to start and end my day without a fight.