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There are far more than five problems with social media but five is as good a place to start as any.

I should disclaim that I have technically been “social” on the internet since the late 90’s. Back in the day when message boards and list-serves were the meet up places for those who had decent access to the world-wide web and who realized the potential for using it to find people of like minds on just about any topic you care to imagine.

In many ways, the old days were pretty good. The forums that existed were tailored rather specifically, so the odds of tangling with someone who just happened to stumble across something you’d posted was fairly low.

Not that dust ups didn’t occur. Flaming was rampant and often part of the fun. But the fires were localized rather than raging wildfires that could burn across the planet in a matter of hours.

There was not much fear that anything that happened on a forum wouldn’t stay on that forum. The potential of ruining someone was not as great as it is today.

Which brings me to problem number one.

Social media’s tendency to mob people because it’s terribly easy to gather up a sizable and diverse audience, equip them with virtual torches and pitches and set them loose to vilify, humiliate and destroy anyone within a matter of hours or days.

Long after the initial spark has burned out, a viral posting on the Internet has a half-life that can easily exceed that of the subject. For good sometimes but usually for ill.

The immediacy of social media makes it dangerous in ways we simply haven’t come up with decent ways to counteract.

And some of that stems from problem number two.

Most of us are too exposed to virtual strangers through our social media use and neither appreciate how little we really know many of the people we “friend” or merely “follow” nor are wise enough to wonder or worry about it.

Which leads to the third problem – and I am incredibly guilty of this – a shocking amount of over sharing goes on via social media.

Where in bygone ages, we could only horrify our family, friends and sometimes co-workers with our exploits and opinions. Now our audience is anyone and everyone with the added bonus of reach. We are  also – initially anyway – shielded from reactions of those who have allowed us into their Internet neighborhoods and homes.

While we are all familiar with the Facebook share, rant or errant Twitter post exploding virally, most of us will never experience anything like that personally. This lack of consequence than emboldens us at the expense of our silently suffering social connections. People who surreptitiously mute or politely unfollow our updates to spare themselves rather than risk confrontation, hurt feelings or awkwardness. What people we don’t know don’t know about us is often for the best after all.

So the fourth problem is that in our quest to connect more because it’s so easy to do using social media, we actually become less connected.

There is a reason why you don’t go to your 25th high school reunion, but you forgot it and foolishly reconnected with not just your teenage bff’s but everyone you were ever acquainted with in school and then were eventually forced to unfollow all of their updates. That reason is, of course, you never wanted to maintain those connections. If you had, you’d still be friends with these people in your actual real life.

Social media allows us to feel widely connected or reconnected while at the same time providing convenient barriers to be intimately connected with more people than we can realistically handle or endure. Here is the final problem with social media. We are no more social with it than we were without it.

Problem number five is that we all have a much more finite capacity for connection than social media would have us believe.

Humans are simply incapable of caring much beyond a small circle of people. That’s why we distinguish between acquaintances and friends, and why friends are categorized accordingly to how we met them and closeness to us.

There is a vast difference between work friends, activity buddies and close or best friends, is there not?

Though there are mechanisms for ranking people in social media, the reality is that those who use it more become the people we see the most whether they are all that important to us or not.

All this said, as an introvert, I find social media a great leveler. Take away the physical aspect of being social and I can be as outgoing as anyone, which is why I have always enjoyed it.

But I am less certain that it’s been a boon for human relations. While connectedness has allowed people to more readily see the things we have in common in our various quests, it’s opened the doors to divisiveness on a larger scale too. I am uncertain that the former off-sets the latter. Not enough anyway.

 

 

 


"It's YOUR time to SHINE in 2009!"

Image by eyewash via Flickr

And at the risk of sounding shrill as I repeat myself, “unless someone is dead or nearly so, don’t call me!” Really. I mean it.

The latest non-life threatening emergency that presented itself for my immediate attention is the ongoing drama surrounding my older nephew’s premature entry into the adult world.

I am standing in the check out at Safeway yesterday and the phone ringles. It’s the oddest ring tone but the least annoying of the generic options available to me as I don’t (yet) possess a smart phone with all its sci-fi tone upgrading capabilities.

Snatching it up as quickly as the confounding zip locks on my purse will allow, I am expecting a request from Rob. I’d spoken to him a bit earlier, so he knew I was shopping and I thought perhaps he remembered something he wanted me to pick up while I was still in town.

It was Mom.

Since day one of cell phone ownership, Mom’s treated my cell as a homing device. I knew she would. In fact my chief objection to getting a phone was Mom.

“She will see this as permission to track me like an endangered animal on the plains of the Serengeti,” I told my late husband, Will.

He wanted me to have one so that I would “be safe”, but the truth was that he just liked having the same type of instant access to me that I didn’t want to hand over to Mom.

“You can screen her calls with the caller ID,” he said.

“Because having her call me over and over until I picked up would be better than just picking up,” I replied.

I still lost on the issue of carrying a cell phone and Mom went from her habit of leaving me multiple messages on the answering machine to simply stalking me by cell phone if I didn’t answer the home line. The cell phone thing has worked out nicely for everyone but me no matter how one looks at it.

Because it’s the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I know right away that Mom isn’t calling to ask me how my day is going. Like DNOS, weekday calls mean that something is wrong.

“I need to talk to you,” she began.

“I’m standing in the check out at the grocery. Can I call you when I get out to the truck?”

“Okay,” and she hangs up on me before I can even say “good-bye”.

Naturally, I am in the lane of the cashier who least loves her job. She is a dour woman, who moves at the speed of drying paint, so by the time I get to the truck, I have run through a dozen desperate scenarios – which all involve dead or near so relations.

“I’m so worried about N1,” she tells me. “He was up here yesterday for a visit. I made him his favorite lasagna and he couldn’t even eat.”

Mentally, I note that the drama queen gene is overly represented in my nephew, but say,

“Why is he upset this time?”

I’m expecting that he’s made another pitch for a car or asked her to co-sign a lease on an apartment for him because he and his dad are continually at odds, but she tells me that she thinks it’s about his wanting to go to community college and study mechanics.

It’s about no such thing, of course. N1 launched a campaign over the summer to be allowed to move back to D-port, where he went to high school. His dad moved them there a couple of years ago. N1 fell in with a group of older kids – drop-outs to varying degrees – lost interest in school and then quit himself when his dad moved them back to DBQ last winter. He’s moped about ever since, plotting to move back and get a place with some of them and work at a fast food place that someone’s grandmother owns.

It’s a seventeen year old plan and that about sums up the long, short and every which way of it. There is no merit to it. It won’t further his life in any meaningful way because at the end of the experiment (which is where he loses the job, can’t pay his share of the rent or make up the difference his friends won’t be paying either and Mom is stuck with the bill), nothing is gained by way of N1 being even marginally closer to the “contributing adult” status that is fervently wished for by all.

“I think he might be severely depressed,” Mom went on. “Who knows what he might do?”

And I’m thinking now? What the fuck? And why couldn’t she have burdened DNOS with this nonsense after she got off work?

But my wiser younger sis, DNOS, refuses to have anything to do with the half-assed attempts to first aid our nephew’s life. As far as she is concerned, when N1 gets tired of lying in the lumpy mess of a bed he’s made for himself, he will do something related to “constructive” and until he makes a move in a positive direction without help or coercion, he is best left to flounder.

Good point on the “he needs to do this himself” front but it overlooks the fact that N1 is a kid who has mostly been raising himself, and badly, since he was 13. Even before that, parenting isn’t something he’s had too much of.

After fifteen minutes and much reassurance, I talked Mom back off the ledge she tearfully teetered on and promised to talk to N1.

Who wouldn’t give me his damn phone number when I messaged him on Facebook for it.

I’d had it, couldn’t find it and asked him to send it to me. Little monster would only talk to me via “chat”.

Grrrrr.

And no, I didn’t tell him how much like his mother he was behaving though I was sorely tempted. Baby won’t talk to me in real time either.

Back and forth over the course of the afternoon and evening led me to the conclusion that N1 was playing the drama card for a bit of sympathy from Grandma. In fairness, she is as close to a mother figure as he’s got. It didn’t have to be that way, but I failed time and time again to get custody of N1 while he was growing up. My last attempt came just before he entered middle school and I warned my parents then that it was unlikely that I would be able to take him once he hit his teens for real and they would rue the day they turned me down.*

As per her request, I called Mom back that evening to let her know how N1 was. We discussed again my brother CB’s offer to have N1 come out and live with him in Cali.

DNOS is adamant that N1 not go, but she is hopelessly biased. Baby really hasn’t said how she feels about it except to reiterate her inability to foot his room/board in any way. I don’t know how his dad feels. At the moment, his father seems to be wallowing in regret over his own wasted life**, so he isn’t much use.

For all his faults, CB has been a pretty good father and N1 needs a father. CB was also once a 17-year-old high school drop-out with nothing but more ideas than capital and a GED. He certainly has the right credentials for understanding just what N1 is up against in the real world that the kid hasn’t clue one about navigating.

N1 admitted to “thinking about calling Uncle”. We went back and forth and then he stopped responding.

What he will do now, I haven’t the slightest idea. He’s a lot like his mother. He hates the unknown and invents all sorts of worst case scenarios to justify avoiding change, and while he makes friends easily in new situations, he loses them just as quickly. Partly because he trusts where he shouldn’t and distrusts where he should be more open. It’s a gift he inherited from Baby, who has only rarely lucked into good friends and never into a good relationship.

The last meddling I did was at Mom’s behest. I contacted CB and asked him to talk to N1.

And now, let’s all remember – dead or nearly so – anything else really needs to be referred to someone who actually lives south of the Canadian border.

*And I get no pleasure out of this particular “I told you so” because N1 needed a parent. I can only guess where he’d be today if Baby would have given in and let me raise him the first time I asked when he was two, and there is no sense crying over the spilled milk, but few things make me as angry as adults who waste the little lives that life puts in their care. A wasted child is one of the saddest sights. I encountered so many children as a teacher who were ruined by crappy and/or indifferent parenting.

**He was a 19 year old high school drop-out when Baby got pregnant. She was 25 or 26. N1’s dad was a foil. She used him to try and make the real objective of her attention – a mutual friend of theirs – jealous. This guy, though a royal sleeze, was wise enough to realize that Baby was looking for a baby-daddy. She missed being on welfare.


Profile shown on Thefacebook in 2005

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I’ve been working on the blog this past week. Mostly going back and reformatting the posts I transplanted from my original blog(s) and tagging them appropriately. It’s tedious work, but fascinating to read my long ago thoughts on this and that.

Lost in 2007 right now, which covers Rob and I from courtship to early months of marriage. I thought I’d written more about us really than what I have found. There are a lot of things I didn’t share, which surprises me because I don’t consider myself the discreet sort.

Another thing that’s come up in preparing the holy writing platform is my “fan” page on Facebook. I felt like such a geek setting one up and it’s very grade seven to ask – but if you do read my blog and are on FB, could you “like” me? Or follow me on Twitter?

Ugh, there –  it’s said. Feel like I need to wash the grovel off now.

I’m also looking for blog topic post ideas. I am not quite ready to rant about U.S. politics. Perhaps I won’t ever be. I shake me head and just as I finish someone else down there commits some new verbal atrocity in the name of capturing the 2012 GOP nom.

Long ago, I asked readers to “ask me” about things they wanted to know. I think the project stemmed from a meme. So here’s your opportunity to ask me again, keeping in mind that there are actually places I won’t go in terms of personal revelation or outing family/friends. Leave a comment here or over on my “fan” page.

Sigh, fan page sounds so pretentious.

 


Jockey Retro Briefs

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And puts me in the mood to rant and if I could, slap some people upside their bloated with nonsense heads.

Weinergate leaves me near to a tongue-tied rage. What the fuck? How can tweeting your, as my husband put it “Nothing to be all that proud of,” crotch shot to your entire feed by accident because you are an idiot who is cheating on his wife with star-struck groupies young enough to be your daughters and then lying about it for a week be morphed into a teary girly photo-op apology and justification for hanging onto your job?

And why are liberals, progressives and Independents who are too wise to fall for Republican garbage, defending your sorry ass?

Jon Stewart summed it up best – after he mocked the representative from New York without mercy – that if guilty, he had to resign. He delivered it in a “you’re dead to me” tone that fairly sums up Anthony Weiner’s usefulness to his beleaguered party now. He has no credibility and isn’t likely to crawl out of the hole he dug from himself with his penis anytime soon. Anyone who thinks otherwise is no better than the GOP apologists who excuse every moral mortal character flaw of their party’s representatives.

Hypocrisy thy name is also willful denial.

Apparently Weiner is harping on another great American hypocrite and sexually indiscreet aging man, supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as he gets ready to hear a case on the health care bill – which incidentally his wife is a lobbyist working hard to defeat. Conflict of interest thy name is also hypocrisy.

As I watch Sarah Palin scoot by any real media coverage while the Left Leaning stupidly underestimate her very real and growing stronger with the bad economy chances of weaseling herself a presidential nomination, I recall a conversation I had not long ago with Rob.

“I am not wasting another vote on Obama this coming election,” I said.

“Oh,” he replied, “you going to vote Republican?”

“I’m not going to vote at all.”

“What if Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann become president and vice-president as a result?” he asked.

“It’s less than what the people of America deserve at this point,” I said. “Maybe a horrendously awful president in the White House will be the wake up call people will finally heed.”

“Nah, ” he said, “they are all doomed.”

Felt like the crack of doom today reading Facebook feeds at the Daily Kos. The majority of the posters were completely willing to dismiss what a wiener Wiener is just because he represents their political views. Ends meet means. Like a person’s character isn’t important? Apparently it’s not when a politician is perceived as “doing his job”, but what if he was a great teacher? Would his lewd hobby with other adults sit as well?

Character counts. We beat our kids over the head with that every day in public schools all over America. Shouldn’t it count in politics? I used to believe that what a politician did in his off time wasn’t the public’s business. But not when he can’t be honest about who he is when he brings his suspect values into the public arena. A real stand up guy would take his lumps, but then a real stand up guy doesn’t cheat on his wife or embarrass those who count on him with lies and penis pictures.


Ary Scheffer: The Temptation of Christ, 1854

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A friend’s Facebook status reminded me that today is Easter’s infamous vigil. It’s the Christian equvilant of the Jewish tradition of “sitting shiva”, which is the mourning period for the dead. Instead of a person, however, Christians today mourn/anticipatory celebrate Jesus’s death and descent into hell.

I am not versed in how this day goes in any other religion except my natal one, Catholicism. My friend is of the Eastern persuasion, and her recollections on Easter differ from my own as they spin Holy Week in a more positive way than the gore, guilt and unworthiness focus of my Catholic youth.

But as I remember the lesson from my Catholic schoolgirl days, Jesus died on Good Friday and descended into hell. There, he rallied the souls of the faithful departed and led them to heaven. It’s a zombie version of The Rapture. The gates of heaven were locked against humanity after some snit God had in the Old Testament. Christianity, as a whole, makes a lot less sense when the Old Testament is examined too closely, and the nonsensical idea that God is anything other than capricious and scary as … um … hell, can be found all over the bible’s earliest books.

I bring this up because of a conversation I overheard Dee having with a friend who stayed over the other night.

Her little friend is Catholic and Dee herself was baptized in the faith back when I still entertained ideas of leaving her belief system up to the tutelage of others. I didn’t catch the opener but as I walked by her bedroom, I heard an audible gasp and then,

“But you have to believe in Jesus!”

I cracked the door a bit and observed Dee’s friend staring at her as though she was possessed and spewing green bile.

“I don’t believe in Jesus,” Dee assured her with a calm and determination that made me proud and a bit awestruck.

Later as we were driving the friend home, I caught a whispered conversation as the little girl tried to convince Dee of the consequences of not believing.

“If you don’t believe in Jesus, there is this place you go to after you die that’s not nice,” she said, quite earnest and clearly concerned for Dee’s afterlife.

“I don’t believe in this,” Dee said, again with an assurance that seemed a bit too large for her tiny 8 year old self. “I believe that when we die, we go to the underworld and our souls are weighed with the feather of truth.” (she did not add the part about the hippodoodel that eats the wicked who wasted their lives and then try to lie about it – and it’s interesting to note the Egyptian that has crept into her Greek mythology).

“How does she square this with her idea that her grandfather and Daddy Will are in heaven?” Rob asked me as I related the story to him later.

“I have no clue,” I said, “but it’s not any worse spin than most Christians employ trying to reconcile the inconsistencies in their beliefs.”

There is a tiny residual bit of Catholic in me that worries about what I have wrought, but mostly, I was really proud of her. She wasn’t the least bit worried about what her friend would think of her beliefs. They were her beliefs and she held fast.

Rob and I are doing a far more awesome job than I realized with this raising a kid thing.


Oocyte viewed with HMC

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Rob calls me “literal girl” because sometime nuance escapes me. I have often wondered if there had been an Autism spectrum when I was a child if I would have been slotted somewhere along it.

I make assumptions about the virtual people I know based on what they post and where they post it. If we are Facebook acquaintances, and your feed is a healthy mix of the personal and self-promotion, I figure that no question is purely rhetorical even at the crossroads of religion and politics.

Apparently, I am wrong about this. One can shamelessly promote causes and career and still feel that status rants are sacrosanct.

A blogging acquaintance roared a bit about the recent abortion scuffle during the almost shutdown of the U.S. government, which I personally feel has little to do with “life” and everything to do with stripping women of the few rights we still possess, and basically called out those of us who believe that women’s healthcare should number abortion among its many faces.

Why not just admit that abortion is about killing children, she asked. I would respect you more if you would simply own that fact.

I thought about it. And responded.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have. The cheering section that followed her bluster was a clear indication that only those who believed as she did would be actually respected, but I responded.

Why? Because she asked for responses and because she’s wrong. Her position, grounded in motherhood and Christianity, presumes that those who support the ability to choose to abort a pregnancy think the fetus is a child or that life begins at conception or that the unborn have rights that supersede the woman’s before they are viable.

“You know it’s murder,” she responded.

But it’s not, in my opinion.

I don’t believe in any of that Christian nonsense.

Life doesn’t begin at conception. Existence does. And just existing doesn’t mean much. My late husband existed for months in a spastic body with a brain scoured clean of dura matter, taking in nothing, processing nothing and responding to nothing. That’s not life. The embryos left over from our 2nd IVF existed in cryo-storage for over three years before I gave permission for them to be discarded. Frozen potential but also not life.

I know the difference between life and existence. That’s the quibble and we are nowhere near ready to admit it or deal with it as a society.

But I also don’t think life is sacred. We are born and ,if the stars align properly, we live, happily or not so much, depending on a lot of circumstances of which a goodly number are not ours to control, and then we die. That which is me – truly me – continues on. Maybe my self is born again or maybe there is another plane of existence. I don’t know. But this one life, while I like it very much, is just a blip on a vast canvas and given what I have seen, read, watched and experienced in my short life, I have yet to be convinced that anything about physical life as we know it is all that special. We certainly don’t treat it as such on the whole if one excludes the moaning over potential life, which seems to attract far more interest than the real live children who suffer within walking distance of almost all of us every single day.

But the bottom line is that someone else’s religious beliefs shouldn’t carry more weight in the eyes of the law than my own where my internal works are concerned and forcing a woman to give birth (or to risk pregnancy because you don’t believe contraception is moral either) is wrong. Woman are more than potential incubators, which is what the pro-life movement reduces them to – slutty incubators with the maternal instincts of magpies. (And just as an aside, since when does using your vagina for sexual purposes automatically translate into allowing the government jurisdiction over anything that results?*)

And I said so. But that wasn’t, actually, where I messed up even though – according to someone who responded later – I was rude to have replied at all.

No, what I did was tread unwisely into the “why don’t women who don’t want their babies simply give them up for adoption because there are a lot of us out here who can’t have kids who could benefit from this.”

The unspoken companion fairy story spins off into the “win-win” weeds of how everyone gets what they want and a poor unwanted baby is loved and cherished.

I really hate it when it’s assumed that I was unwanted or that my birth mother was little more than a brood mare.

Being adopted, however, I take all sorts of issue with the idea that adoption is a panacea without consequences. There are oodles of studies supporting the fact that even newborns know their birth mothers, and how can anyone think that an infant separated from its mother and carted off by strangers doesn’t know it or that marks aren’t left as a result?

There is also the tip-toed about problem that, at its heart, adoption is a legal transaction that comes uncomfortably close to buying and selling a tiny human being, who will someday be an adult that the law still regards as a child where the adoption is concerned.

And finally, almost no one goes into adoption as a first choice. Unless you are Angelina Jolie, maybe, you likely adopted as a back up plan when biology failed you. There is nothing about this that makes you a bad person, but the disingenuous way many adoptive parents approach this obvious truth is insulting to adopted children. We know the truth. We only think less of you when you won’t admit it.

I am not a puppy. Here are my papers, bundle me up and take me home. Woof.

My birth mother was seventeen, Catholic and it was 1963. She had no choice but to put me up for adoption.

My parents were infertile. If they wanted a family, they had no choice but to adopt.

Kudos to my parents for never pretending I wasn’t adopted or that the reason for it wasn’t the fact that they couldn’t have biological children. It never mattered to me. I knew nothing else. I was torqued, however, when I found out as an adult that not only was I not entitled to contact my birth parents for a health history, but that my dad had torched all the papers the agency had given them that might have helped me find out the information I am entitled to.

Dad took that tongue-lashing with an uncharacteristic meekness, I might add.

What was annoying about the responses I received on my take on adoption (one I think I earn by being an adoptee and therefore knowing something of what I speak) is the consensus that I was “wrong” and “need help”.

Seriously?

Really?

“Aren’t you glad that your mother cared enough to give birth to you? Wouldn’t you just hate it had you been aborted?”

What kind of backward logic is that?

Being a fetus, or even an infant, is not something I can recall, so if I had been aborted, how could I possibly know or care about it?

And if I had been and being born was important to me, wouldn’t I have simply been born to someone else? Or what if simply being conceived was all I had to do to complete what assignment this go around had me down for? What if my only task had been to blink into existence and then cease to be in a cellular form. providing my birth mother with the opportunity to have an abortion, which was part of her life’s lesson plan?

Of course, I had a more active curriculum to complete and to help others with this time. Being adopted was part of that though I still feel it is just a slightly harder to justify form of the whole ownership thing we pretend doesn’t exist where our children are concerned anyway.

It’s too bad, I suppose, that abortions have to occur. They are no picnic for the women getting them either, and it’s incorrect to assume why women have abortions by stereotyping them in the same category as those who take established lives.  But life is hard. Choices can be hard, and abortion is one of the hardest and making it harder, or impossible, might make you feel like a good person but it doesn’t solve the issues that bring women to choose it now, does it?

*Ah ha, I hear the righteous squeal, then why do my tax dollars have to pay for STD and PG checks via Planned Parenthood? If you want privacy, take care of your own damn health. To which I reply, good point. And let’s add getting old to that because my tax dollars shouldn’t have to replace a knee or hip you didn’t take care of when you were young because you were too lazy to exercise, right? Or that heart by-pass or the diabetes you developed eating nothing but processed food. Or the cancer you have because you couldn’t suck it up for the hot flashes and took hormones for too long.

And while we are at it, shouldn’t you have to fund your own retirement? It’s not my problem you thought your house was an ATM or that your children need five star summer vacations, is it?

There are a lot of things that tax dollars cover. Bank bailouts. Sketchy military actions. Corporate welfare. The list of waste is long and shifts depending on your politics, faith system and socio-economic status.

Lighten up.


Drawing of actor Charlie Sheen made with graph...

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The Today Show on NBC has been airing clips of an interview Jeff Rossen conducted with Charlie Sheen this week. I put a couple of them up on my Facebook and not surprisingly most of the commenters found Sheen’s behavior and appearance disturbing and uncomfortable to watch.

He reminded me of my younger brother, CB, during those times when his thought processes have jumped the track and the trains careen wide and wild in all directions.

I know he’s got a long history with drugs and alcohol but I wonder if he is truly an addict, or rather someone who is trying to even out his mental state by applying “home remedies”.

More and more I am not certain that abuse of substances is addiction as much as it is mental imbalances being addressed inappropriately.

My brother has been manic to the point of scary since I can remember. Boys in our neighborhood who were 5 and more years older and infinitely outsized him were frightened witless by CB’s rages. In his unhinged state, I witnessed him take on and stomp teens, who should have been able to hold off the peanut that my brother was until well into his mid-teens himself.

I was about the only one who could control CB, talk him off the ledge, so to speak, and I am still the only one in the family who can and will stand up to him when he goes to his “scary place”.

So, the Sheen-mania – figuratively and literally of the last few days – stirred up memories.

Sheen claimed to be clean in the interviews and even provided the results of his recent drug tests as proof, but I didn’t think he looked and sounded at all like someone who was using. A sizable number of my drop-in students at my last high school were active users, and using is not particularly hard to miss. Growing up with an alcoholic and a drugged-addled CB – in his teens – left me with rather sharp radar too.

During his last “walk about”, CB was accused of using but a drug screen in the ER was negative though my parents and DNOS weren’t entirely convinced, I was not surprised.

CB is, technically speaking, crazy. Even on good days, he sounds a lot like Sheen in his interviews.

Grandiose is the term Sheen himself uses, but it’s still borderline delusional with hints of skewed perception.

At his worst, CB rambles about being followed with hit men hiding in the bushes preparing to break into his apartment to take him out. Sheen worries about CBS trying to destroy his family and that AA is some Scientology like mind-control cult while boasting of his own superior mental acuity. One that allowed him to cure himself of addiction by “closing my eyes and making it so” and that leaves normal people in his mental wake as his speedboat brain waves and “rock star from Mars” superiority heads out to where no ordinary man has gone before or will likely be able to follow.

Mentally unbalanced people who are self-medicating with alcohol or illicit drugs are dangerous to be around. The last time CB broke with reality and tried to fix himself with a 12 pack, he work up on the front lawn with a mysterious broken hand. Fortunately, his ex-laws employ him and believe that family takes care of even its weakest and most annoying. But even when they avoid home remedies, the off-balanced are unnerving and still capable of damage.

Most people ignore the mentally ill, even when they are family. And as a society we still don’t quite believe in mental illness. We think that people have to have some control. The idea that our sense of reality and our ability to act within it can be so at odds scares the hell of us to the point where we deny it’s possible.

Sheen is wealthy. He has family who love him and appear willing to wait and swoop in when needed. I would guess his behavior is life-long, like CB’s, and they are used to these types of spells. You do get used to it even if you never are entirely comfortable with the threat.

I don’t know whether I feel sorry for him or not. In my experience with my brother, sympathy tends to muddy already cloudy waters, but my opinion is that Charlie Sheen is not so special. He is just one of the hordes of mentally ill who our society prefers not to think too much about and would rather explain away by other means.