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Trying to Balance on Shifting Baselines

The Pizza Resistance 2/21

Yes. I have been told to stick to surfing.

For those who don't know, I write what is, at its essence, a surf column for a beach community. Apparently, there are folks out there who do not like to throw social commentary in there with talk of wind and tide. That leads me to believe their are either to naiive to believe political issues can interfere with the pursuit of happiness - or they just don't like my particular political view.

To be honest, I don't give a damn.

I will continue to inject politics and discussions into my writing because power and influence affect everything we do. I have very fair editor and publishers who are extremely supportive of my observances and opinions in my writing. And while I will certainly throw barbs at those on both sides who deserve it, I like to think that I don't alienate most rationale people, even when we disagree. That's important.

That said, never in my lifetime have I seen an elected official reach so boldly for the sword of power, looking not to win over the people by a fair duel, but rather aiming to impose rule by hacking at dissenters. It's important for me to expand on these ideas now more than ever, hence this column, The Pizza Resistance.

From what I see, much of the country is accepting the roll out of this new authoritarianism like a new value meal at McDonalds. (The worst pizza in New Jersey is far better than McDonalds.) But a good portion of Americans, and thankfully those closest to me, are alarmed by the greasy political cholesterol and chemical-filled vitriol. For some, it's all very comforting and simple. It may taste good now, but eventually it will kill them. The rest of us who won't poison our bodies with that garbage, won't let 45 (and those who are really pulling the strings) poison our minds. For those on both sides who aren't ready to let the bizarre become the rationale, we all have to put these ideas out to keep each other sane.

There were two conversations I had before and after the presidential election that made me realize how serious the problem had become. And I hesitate to call them "conversations" simply because they were on social media. It makes it all seem so tawdry.

Normally, these debates go into a vortex of stupidity, so I do my best not to bite. But a guy I know had posted some insane story about Hillary Clinton being involved in a child pornography ring. It was one of the thousands of fake news stories that circulated before the election that likely moved the dial in some warped way. 

And he got me. Truth be told, aside from being a sucker for click bait bullshit wrapped in red, white and blue, I kind of like the guy. He's a carpenter and a skilled craftsman with a side business. He works hard, and I have nothing but respect for those professions.

But I asked what he was going to do in a few weeks when it was proven that Hillary Clinton had no connection to a child porn ring? But he was convinced that anything that wasn't from CNN or The New York Times was true. In fact, he was accusing me of not "digging deeper" to get the real story. When his argument ran thin, he took to accusing me of always writing about my opposition to beach replenishment.

For those not familiar, we live on coast that is slowly washing away. It's part natural process where barrier islands migrate inland and part the effects of a rising ocean (due to climate change, which may not be true because outlets like CNN and The New York Times report on it.) 

The government basically sucks sand off the ocean floor and rebuilds dunes and beaches, many of which wash away again. Then they come back and suck sand off the ocean floor ...and repeat. The shape of the artificial beach is not very conducive to recreation, which is the main reason people come to our island -and we depend 100 percent on tourism dollars.  It also wrecks the surf. So while I am in agreement that we need these engineered beaches as protection, I have long campaigned for better designs, in my column and in public forums. But I fully understand that without these projects, our days are numbered. And that has been my stance for almost 15 years. 

Anyway, he accused me of being against these projects to which I responded that I would wait while he went searching through years and years of my columns (which are relatively easy to find online) where he would find the opposite to be true. I was inviting him to go "digging deeper" for the real story, and even handed him the shovel. 

But he wouldn't give. He refused to look at the years of columns, demonstrable data I that clearly showed his accusations were false. He was quick to tear down my character, but wasn't willing to look at easy evidence. It's as if we were entering an age where things like proof and facts didn't actually mean anything. 

And in actuality, because of that fake story about the child porn ring, some unhinged dude drove from North Carolina to Washington DC to "rescue" children kidnapped by the Clinton folks who were being abused in the basement of a pizza joint. This psycho went into Comet Ping Pong with an assault-style rifle and fired off shots that could have killed someone. 

There were no child captives. There wasn't even a basement. So, as far as I'm concerned, anyone who shared that story had a hand in spreading the horseshit story that led to some yahoo endangering the lives of actual children who were eating pizza and playing ping pong. I have no doubt which candidate my friend or the gunman supported in this past election.

And what happened? Well, his guy won. He beat Hillary Clinton - an uncharismatic, former first lady mainstream candidate who was easy to shoot holes in and probably lied more than most politicians, but would have kept American life normal. And by that, I mean, a balance of hypocrisy and human decency. 

45 has pretty much lied every single day since he was elected. So we can't go back and look at how ridiculous the story of Hillary Clinton making sex films with nine year olds was because every day we have to be ready to point out the danger of the new lie, while sign petitions, protesting, and generally resisting some attack on our imperfect, but functioning democracy and global stability.

The second happened right after the election. Following the upset and the election of an immature reality TV star, most of the sensible people I know expressed their feelings of darkness, again, via social media.  I decided that I had a voice in mass communication and I would use it. And  while that week's column was obviously about politics, I basically wanted to let people who believe in the human spirit know that they are not alone. And to be honest, 45's ecological values are a very direct threat to surfing, so they are not mutually exclusive.

When the story ran, I was thanked for addressing it in a way that pointed out facts without forever turning off people who might have voted for 45. But one surfer felt that I should not have mentioned politics in surf journalism. He was sure that my column about the surf and I "should keep it that way." it's the only reason he still read the paper "no matter who he voted for..." So clearly, he voted for 45 and there was a cognitive dissonance between his politics and the politics of so many whom he shared a subculture with.

The comments that followed were not insulting of him, but they pointed out that if one was a regular reader of my column, he would know that there are always political topics, whether it was beach replenishment, environmental standards, beach access, or some other issue. At the root, it all comes back to some kind of politics, even at the most basic level. 

But again, the commenter insisted that my weekly column had never discussed any kind of politics. Had he searched through years of my digital ramblings, it would have been very obvious that he was dead wrong. The guy insisted he was right in the face of easily proven facts but wouldn't look at the data.

Those two instances were flashing red lights that we are in something of a  national crisis truth brought to us by Twitter. The following months ushered in the era of "alternative facts." We can't debate because the simple baseline for truth shifts from under our feet daily. And that's where we are today. And that's why I have to keep writing.

Keep the axe sharp.