March 10, 2021

The summer after you finished high school. Having recently moved into a small apartment, stressed out by her own demons as well as yours, your mother indicated you find someplace else to live. She’d found evidence of your partying in the basement and could not take it anymore. Never mind you were still a minor in the eyes of the law. You had to go. Jesse was already camped at your father’s townhouse so that was not an option. Naturally, you chose living with a small time drug dealer you’d met in the park. You could not legally sign a lease but “Juice” had been more than happy to take $500 dollars under the table. It was a win-win. He’d even given you the flat’s lone bedroom, preferring the living room because “it was bigger.” Far from the threatening stereotype of a drug dealer, Juice was about as odd a character as you’d ever met. African American, he was also albino, which made him whiter than you. He had pink eyes. And he had lots of drugs, which in turn attracted lots of women.

Your mother met Juice only once but you will never forget her stunned expression, upon seeing this pink-skinned, black man whose apartment you now shared. Akin to a spit take, like something from the popular TV show, Laugh In or more appropriately, The Odd Couple. But mom was a bohemian and Juice was on his best behavior. The arrangement was allowed to continue. Not that she could have prevented it anyway. For the record, your father wasn’t made aware of your exotic roommate, only that you had one.

Those two and a half months became one long weekend. An array of females came to see Juice for pot or acid, often staying to tryst with you. Or they came specifically to fool around with you but later stayed to cop from Juice. Thus, you both shared a symbiotic relationship. Many things could have gone terribly wrong that summer, and arguably should have. Yet, from what you recalled it had been a total blast.


In my last job, I was asked by a colleague to take down a Facebook post because it apparently offended someone in the office. I had offered a less than politically correct view on the hot button issue regarding race relations (or lack of) in America.

Reluctantly, I removed the post. Not because I rethought my position and came to the conclusion I was wrong. Nor was I upset that my post offended someone. For what it’s worth, many people were supportive of my opinion. It’s not about that. Rather, I took it down because I concluded my role as an officer of the company took precedent over my personal opinions. Said another way, I put my professional reputation and currency ahead of my social reputation and currency. It would not be the first time. Rightly or wrongly, I usually put work ahead of personal matters.

Yet, the event has continued to bother me. Partly because of the post’s emotional weight (which I won’t go into here) but also because I feel like a coward for removing it. After all, it was on my personal Facebook page. While hardy benign, the post was not racist or classist or sexist or, in my view, “ist” in any way. It was merely a provocative take on current events, which I feel is totally valid on social media. I did not (and would not) post the piece on LinkedIn or on any professional forum.

Still, I realize work and personal life have converged like never before. People as well as companies have become like one thing. If a CEO Tweets something inappropriate her company takes it on the chin. People will judge the firm as they judge the person.

Back in the day, the artist and his art existed separately. For example, T.S. Eliot was an “on again, off again” anti-Semite but people (even Jews) appreciated and studied his poetry. There are countless such examples, historical and modern. Recall director, Lars Von Trier’s recent controversial comments at Cannes and the subsequent toll it took to his career. He did not stand down and he paid dearly for it.


TS Eliot: Poet. Hater.

I know my controversial Facebook post was not hateful. However, I do not doubt someone who disagreed with it might interpret it (and me) as hateful. Therefore, I took it down. I did not want to bring negative attention to my company.

We are all learning (and struggling) with this. Some play it safer than others. And while I think playing it safe is often the equivalent of being dull as a bag of dirt I did not want to risk my company’s reputation and my place in it. Would you?

I have always worn many hats: husband, father, brother, son, citizen, officer, employee, Christian, Jew, drinker, non-drinker, author and so on. In the age of social media, knowing which hat to wear and when is increasingly difficult.


But it does mean you’re human…

If you’re not willing to read all of Russ Douthat’s brilliant article from the New York Times, here’s the first paragraph:

Of course it had to escalate this way. We live in a time of consistent gutlessness on the part of institutions notionally committed to free speech and intellectual diversity, a time of canceled commencement invitations and C.E.O.s defenestrated for their political donations, a time of Twitter mobs, trigger warnings and cringing public apologies. A time when journalists and publishers tiptoe around Islamic fundamentalism, when free speech is under increasing pressure on both sides of the Atlantic, when a hypersensitive political correctness has the whip hand on many college campuses.

And then Kim Jong-Un took offense at a low-brow comedy (The Interview) and took down the movie studio that produced it. Humiliated them anyway. Which was deeply sad, funny and troubling all at the same time. Those emails were priceless. Undermining a company not so much.

However you look at it, 2014 was the year of being offended. In big ways (Black Lives Matter) and in myriad small ways (U2 forcing an album upon us), America got offended. Over and over again. Whether you listed right (Fox News) or left (CNN), everyone was upset at someone. More so than usual. Way more.

Among the many ironies is that popular culture (in particular our movies and television shows) can be viewed as the egregious button pushers. The not-even-seen The Interview is but the latest “film” to push decency into the cellar and keep right on digging. From Rogen’s turn in Neighbors to the unbelievably crude machinations of Workaholics, sacred cows have been tipped. Herds of them. Frankly, the years leading up to The Interview were what led to The Interview. Borat. Bridesmaids. East Bound and Down, The Hangover. Amy Schumer. Girls. Louis CK. Bad Grandpa. And those are just some of the good ones. My point. There was nothing left to satirize besides North Korea! Last year we were agog at Miley Cyrus. “Twerking” was runner up to “Selfie” as word of the year. How quaint that seems now.

Is being offensive and/or being offended (take your pick) part of human nature? It must be. Because we can’t stop.

Concurrent to all this silliness, and where it got heated and continues to roil, is in this country’s dismal relations between races. All races. Between immigration issues with Mexico, the killing of unarmed black men in Ferguson and New York, beheadings by ISIS, genocide in Syria, espionage by North Korea and now even Cuba (again) the global melting pot is boiling over. Getting offended has become violent and grotesque and anything but funny. Malicious cops. And malicious cop killers. We have become so offended by one another we’ve taken to the streets: spectating, protesting, looting and maiming. The mob rules. The genie is out of the bottle… and Tweeting. The inmates are running the asylum… and posting on Instagram.

This is why The Walking Dead is so popular. We are them.