opening up about open letters…

dreamstime_s_12297981The open letter penned by Sinead O’Connor to Miley Cyrus this week has been making the rounds in my social media feeds. Most, if not all of the posters commend Sinead on her advice giving, her insights, her courage for stating in public what an awful lot of people grouse about among themselves. A few posters stick up for Miley. A few give it a head shake. In any case, it has gotten a lot of attention.

The response from Miley got some attention too. A number of people in my feed were completely outraged that Miley would not give a thoughtful reply but rather would lash out and as some suggested, put forth her inner brat.

I’m not sure what anyone expected from this, really. It all seems to go the way things go- more drama, more action, more late night jokes, more TMZ fodder.

I’m no stranger to the open letter, having written a couple myself here on this small stage I built and have decorated. And yet, I’m under no delusions that my open letter to Rush Limbaugh had any impact on the person of Rush Limbaugh. I’d say that yes, it’d be nice if it got to him somehow along the great wide way of the internets but realistically that’s not likely and I know that and even if it did, so what? How would that make a difference?

So why write one?

It’s simple, really. I had an opinion and a small platform. Of course, I could have written the same post without aiming it at Rush Limbaugh as a person. I could simply have said, “here’s why I don’t like Rush Limbaugh all that much” and it would have generated just as much response from the reader, I wager. But the “open letter” offers something more than opinion just by its very nature. The “open letter” offers some strange form of agency. It is as if we take our opinion and we encase it in a thick blanket of false, “care.” Open letters say, “I really care about you, Rush and so I’m writing this letter for you…” and for my readers and for the hope of a viral landslide and name recognition and then maybe a book deal sometime. Open letters have the illusion of care without any of the messy work of care. I can say whatever I want in an open letter to someone I’ll never meet and the only real repercussions I might face are in the comments section of my blog and I am in charge of those. I can make them go away.

The difference between my writing an open letter to Rush Limbaugh and Sinead writing one to Miley Cyrus is that Sinead most likely could have actually said these things to Miley Cyrus on the phone or in an email or by snail mail or in person. Miley had just cited Sinead as a role model of sorts, or at least she’d cited Sinead’s work as influential at the very least. Though I doubt they shop at the same celebrity grocery stores, there is still some opening there, some ability to reach out, privately and personally. Instead, an open letter hit the internets and we got to be privy to what might have been an important conversation. And because I have an opinion and a blog I’m going to say that while I don’t disagree with what Sinead wrote, I felt very badly about having seen it as Miley Cyrus was seeing it. It was like watching a grown up yell at a kid in a store except for one big distinction Miley Cyrus is not a kid. She’s young but you know, she’s a grown up. She can make her own choices for her life.

I don’t care for Miley’s work much. It’s probably because I’m old(er). It doesn’t matter really. There is an awful lot of popular culture I don’t care for and that only means something as it pertains to my own life. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s crap. I don’t condemn Miley Cyrus for her work and I don’t know if she’s being coerced or is on drugs or is setting women back 100 years in our fight for equality. I know only a few things about her and find myself in no position to tell her what to do or how to do it. If Sinead felt differently, really and truly, I have to wonder why she did not say so to Miley, privately.

If I had a problem with my daughter or my daughter’s friends or anyone in my real life I can’t imagine I’d write an open letter to them. Perhaps Sinead tried. I have no idea. I only know what was published for us all to see and while it appeared to be sincere, at best, it was still shaming, publicly. It does not surprise me to find out that it did not go over well.

In the end, it needs to be said that “open letters” are never really meant for the subject of the letter. They’re for the writer and for the people who may stumble across them to read. I say this with the utmost respect for Sinead O’Connor and all of those who use the “open letter” tool. They’re not meant to inspire the addressee as much as they’re useful for shoring up support for what we hold true. It’s a mistake to think otherwise.

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people behaving badly…

We can’t avoid it. People are going to behave badly. I’m going to behave badly. It’s in our nature, it’s in our bones.

A few days ago Rush Limbaugh went on a tirade, like he does, calling Georgetown student, Sandra Fluke all manner of nasty names. We’ve come to expect this sort of behavior from Rush. It’s his job and he seems to like his job quite a bit. Rush Limbaugh has had no reason to quit doing exactly what he’s been doing year after year. He is not motivated by being praised for his lofty thoughts or good deeds. He’s motivated by his paycheck and his notoriety. This isn’t new information. He is simply being the person he says he is.

I don’t like that person much and honestly, I’d love for him to stop saying the horrid things he spouts off day after day. I’d love for the media to cut him off but I doubt they’ll do that. His listeners are not waning, they are surging all the time.

But listeners are not the reason that radio stations keep personalities on the air. Advertising revenue is what keeps personalities on the air. This most recent dust-up, though, has yielded Rush a lot of press and has lost him at least 7 advertising sponsors which begs the question. Why now?

After all these years of saying outrageous things I keep wondering what tipped things so drastically this time? Is it the condition of the GOP’s image? Is it the scattered Republican Primary season? Is it the rise of social media?

It’s a fascinating question.

This post isn’t about Rush Limbaugh though, not really. This post is about the rest of us; the people who post online about the things happening in the world. This is about those of us who tweet, who stumbleupon, who get linkedin, who make Facebook go ’round. This is about those of us, regardless of political or religious affiliation, who are the ordinary people with computers.

It’s the ordinary people with computers who are signing petitions about things like SOPA and PIPA to stop legislation that might have floated by us in the past. It’s the ordinary people with computers that send up the media signal flare when injustice and violence happen around the world. And it’s the ordinary people with computers who digitally barrage the sponsors of outrageous radio hosts when he steps over the line three days in a row and continues to pummel a Georgetown co-ed about her testimony before a congressional oversight committee.

Ordinary people who have discovered the power of their voice and have found a way to express that voice can be a force for change. This is important.

There’s something else though. We have a responsibility here. We have a voice and we have a means to get it out there. How WE behave in the wake of events such as this has the ability to define us, for better or for worse.

This is on my mind today in particular because in response to the Rush Limbaugh debacle, actress Patricia Heaton decided to jump on the bandwagon. Ms Heaton has been a vocal conservative Christian for a long time so it is no surprise that her politics would fall in line with the cloudy underlying point beneath Mr Limbaugh’s rant. What surprised me, though, was that she resorted to his method of expressing that point. She began a series of tweets maligning Ms Fluke’s character and she retweeted those of her followers.

I don’t care about Patricia Heaton’s politics and I don’t actually care that much about her method of expressing her opinion. I was more surprised by the piling on that happened, by the ordinary people with computers who co-signed this. And I was surprised by Patricia Heaton’s tweet rampage because she professes to belong in my own faith family. I have followed her in the past on Twitter. She speaks about faith quite a lot. She tweets about helping people in need and about her own journey. I can appreciate that. But when I read then this landslide of injurious commentary I’m sad to say it unseats her positioning herself as Christian. What is worse, though, is that it reflects badly on the rest of us and that makes me sad. Ms Heaton has since apologized for her behavior both to the “twitter verse” and to Ms Fluke herself.

We’re all allowed our bad moments, our misplaced rants, our idle chatter, our bad behavior. We’re human, of course we say and do things we ought to avoid. In our “real” lives, the lives in which we engage 3-D rather than with a screen I think grace is possible. I think forgiveness comes in time. I think we are better able to forget the transgression and the trespass. But as I think Patricia Heaton may discover, the internet has a short attention span and a long memory. Grace is an elusive prize.

Finding the sweet spot of having integrity while speaking our minds is a skill that many of us have yet to master. We have to at least be trying to master it.

People are going to behave badly. I’m going to behave badly. None of us can avoid it. It’s in our nature, it’s in our bones. It’s in our computers. It’s in our churches. It’s in our tweets and our retweets and our status updates. Whether it is in person or on the internet, we have a responsibility to one another. No matter what your political or religious leanings, no matter what your twitter follower count, no matter how many blog readers you boast, let’s be careful out there. Let’s remember who we are.

dear rush limbaugh…

dear rush limbaugh

I feel I must speak to you Rush, not about you, not with you but to you so I’ve written you this post. I’m certain you get a lot of mail these days regarding your perspectives. I imagine you have always gotten your share of both “love” mail and “hate” mail. I’m thinking you’ve gotten quite a bit of “Haiti” mail now as well.

Brother, I feel I must tell you some great truths. You may not want to hear them from me or you may hear them and dismiss them as complete bullshit. That’s alright with me. For me, this letter is more about the writer than the receiver. I NEED this, Rush. I’m writing this letter for me.

I see upon you this great veneer…when I say great I actually mean thick, not awesome…sorry. Funny thing about this veneer. It’s fairly transparent. It’s a reptilian, translucent skin you wear. I see who hides underneath, Rush. Most of us who are able to dodge the emotional flamethrower you use can see who hides underneath.

Here is a great truth, Rush. We’re all as frightened as you are. I know you shiver under that cold skin. Shivering is our body’s way of raising our temperature so that we don’t die from cold but shivering isn’t enough to save us. We need to get warm to survive. You’re going to die from this coldness, Rush. You just are. You need to get warm.

When my kids have to get out of the tub they protest that it’s cold outside the warm water. They’re right, it is. Sadly, the water is getting colder all the time, soon, it’s not as comfortable as they remember, not as comforting. The air IS cold. The towel is warm.

I’m offering you a towel, Rush. Here’s the towel of truth. Love for people is not a sign of weakness. There is no real strength in hate. I think you already know this. I imagine you simply have no real idea of how to get from the tub to the towel without sacrificing something.

I’m going to tell you how to do it.
1)decide to exit the tub, that water is getting colder all the time.
2)run like hell to that warm towel
3)dry off, warm up, be a clean version of you.

Now, I have thoughts on what comprises that metaphorical “towel” Rush, of course I do. I’m not a religious zealot but I am a Christian so in my faith narrative I’d say you need you some Jesus, real bad. Jesus is not holding the towel, Jesus IS the towel Rush and He’s waiting for you.

Rejoin the ranks of the human race by putting aside the rhetoric and the hate and the loud mouth strong arm that has no real strength at all and run, don’t walk, RUN like hell toward where the love and warmth resides.

Sadly the unveiled, unveneered, kinder, gentler Rush really cannot live on the same planet as the loudmouth hater Rush. One must go. I hope you choose well. Alright, I’ll say it, Rush. Choose the good. Choose the best version of you. I know it’s in there. It has to be, Jesus assures me we all have this in us and He’s a source I trust.

sincerely (really really sincerely)
Mrs Metaphor