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Point to ponder: Is it possible to be too ‘positive’?

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ToxicPositivity STOCK

By Jan White

There’s been a recent upswing in the use of the term ‘toxic positivity,’ a phrase that intrinsically sounds a bit confusing. After all, isn’t the whole point of positivity about being positive?

A good start to understanding what ‘toxic positivity’ is might be to explain what it’s not. It is not the positive, genuine concern or encouragement from friends, family, or colleagues at the right time. It is not the recognition and acknowledgment of life events like illness, loss of a loved one, or relationship breakups and processing them so we can feel better or move forward. Setting difficult emotions aside temporarily is sometimes necessary. But toxic (i.e., harmful) positivity takes optimism to the extreme and can prevent people from processing their feelings. Psychology Today defines toxic positivity as “the act of avoiding, suppressing, or rejecting negative emotions or experiences.”

An example of toxic positivity could be someone talking themselves into focusing on the optimistic aspects of an abusive relationship, hoping their partner will change, rather than seeing the situation for what it truly is.

An ‘always look on the bright side’ idealism could stifle the ability to face uncomfortable realities and the healthy changes that need to be made.

While toxic positivity may not be ill-intentioned, it can still be unproductive and harmful.

Users of social media can be notorious for exhibiting toxic positivity. Not only do they bombard us with memes continuously telling us, “Don’t worry, be happy,” no matter what, but sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have become platforms where users display only the ‘good stuff’ that is going on in their lives. This inauthentic representation that everything is perfect offers unrealistic expectations for their followers whose lives aren’t as seemingly idyllic and can result in guilt, shame, sadness, and anxiety, thus making their positivity ‘toxic.’

Some experts believe the workplace is a breeding ground for toxic positivity. Asking employees to maintain a positive attitude even when facing challenging situations or lacking an avenue to express negative emotions can lead to anxiety or depression. The feeling of being unable to express concerns or suggest improvements can also hinder an employee’s work performance.

Coworkers can sometimes add, if sometimes inadvertently, to positivity stress. Say you’re in the break room refilling your coffee cup, and a coworker tells you that his dog passed away last week, or his wife has cancer, or he’s afraid he might lose his job. Responses like “Well, think positive thoughts,” “I’m sure it will all work out,” or “Just hang in there” won’t help his situation. They might even worsen it by not validating his emotions while at the same time shutting down interactions that might have given him an avenue to discuss his concerns. Now he may feel like he has to put on a façade rather than own up to his true feelings. And from a production standpoint, emotional suppression like this could affect not only his job but also his whole work team.

Sometimes we unintentionally resort to a form of toxic positivity because we feel like our words are inadequate, and we don’t know what to say to the person struggling with a negative emotion. What if your coworker came to you depressed because her presentation bombed? If you tell her not to worry about it, it was terrific, and the audience didn’t appreciate her effort; your ‘positivity’ has just become non-helpful and could be construed as toxic. Instead, you might respond with, “I know how you feel. Do you want me to look over it first next time?” Or “Is there anything I can do to help?” Now you’ve offered a solution and left an avenue for discussion open that doesn’t suppress her unhappiness over the failed performance.

Obviously, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with showing optimism and encouragement. These are traits that help human beings thrive. But always searching for the ‘silver lining’ in a bad situation can be detrimental to resilience. Robert Frost was famous for saying, “The best way over is through.” While negative emotions are difficult to deal with, they are part of our navigation through life. The ability of a person to adjust or recover from illness, adversity, significant life changes, or crisis is the very fabric on which our humanity is constructed.

So next time you are tempted to answer negative emotions with “Just stay positive,” “Good vibes only,” or “Failure is not an option,” maybe replace them with “I’m listening,” “That must be really hard,” or “Sometimes bad things happen, how can I help?”  Not only are you helping to combat toxic positivity, but you’ve also become a true source of encouragement and hope.

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Phase out use of ‘first annual’

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Chris MetitationsBy Chris Edwards

Last week, a lot of folks were likely left scratching their heads at a video posted by rap-rocker/fedora enthusiast Kid Rock. In the viral clip, Rock opened fire on several cases of the beer-flavored water known as Bud Light.

The purpose of the ridiculous video, from what most spectators have deduced, is to protest the “beer” goliath’s association with a trans person, Dylan Mulvaney, who is an internet celebrity of sorts (the kids call ‘em “influencers”).

Ridiculous as the clip was, what I found appalling (aside from Rock’s poor marksmanship and the inherent transphobia) was the message on the back of the hoodie he sported in the video. It advertised “The First Annual Kid Rock Fish Fry.”

If Kid Rock’s music weren’t bad enough, the low-rent icon has to sport a garment screaming a grammatical error. Sidenote: the video is all kinds of ironic since Kid Rock is, for all intents and purposes, a sentient can of watery light beer.

Folks, the springtime is here and as such, it is a fine time to host fundraisers, parties and various happenings where people can find good times.

However, when you are planning that event, if it is something that you want to use as a cornerstone for a new tradition; something that can reoccur year after year after year, there is one thing you need to not do.

Please, for the love of all that is righteous and holy, do not use the term “first annual” in promoting your shindig.

Sure, that couplet of words might roll off the tongue and might fill more space on a flyer than “inaugural,” or on the other end of the spectrum, might be more succinct than “first in a planned series of annual events,” but the problem is, it is incorrect.

I get so many emails, messages, smoke signals, etc., describing events that are coming up. It can be the most professional-looking press release in the world promoting an event, but if I see that “first annual” nonsense in a headline, I’m probably not going to read any further.

Simply put, an event cannot be considered to be annual until it has been held for at least two successive years, and that is not some esoteric stylistic thing native to the newspaper world, no, that is just good grammar at work.

Now, if those events become successful (and I cross my fingers that every fundraiser, party, family reunion, barbecue cook-off does) then they can become annual happenings, provided there are enough willing hands on deck to do the work to produce said events.

The general rule of thumb, grammatically speaking, is at least two successive years allows for that “annual” signifier to be used.

Now, instead of “inaugural” as a descriptor, the phrase “this is the first of what is planned as an annual series of events” can also fill that void.

“First ever” also works, but, again, there is no such thing as a “first annual” anything, so stop saying it, and stop writing it.

The moral of the day: it’s great to have goals, and while the oxymoronic term “first annual” indicates the presence of goals for events, don’t be presumptuous and be better regarding grammar.

Oh, and if you’re going to shoot up cans of beer, you’ll still have to pay for them.


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Choosing the right candidate – from a couple of perspectives

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ChooseRightCAndidate STOCK

By Chris Edwards and Jan White

You need only drive down any given street in almost every part of town to see that it’s that time again – voting season. Incumbent candidates have already stated their intentions to seek re-election, and contenders new to the game are throwing their hats into the ring for the first time in a bid to serve.

Elections are an exciting time in the news business, and as observers of the human condition, writers can find it fascinating to see what trends emerge or disappear in the turmoil and drama caused by elections. Because of our jobs, reporters generally just watch from the sidelines, taking neither side but trying to present candidates from a non-biased position.

But one thing we can chime in on is what can be done for the good of the people and finding candidates who are running for their respective offices with that willingness to serve, and not their party affiliations. People willing to step up to the plate and take a few swings for the betterment of their slice of the county or their cities is a sign of good things.

Chris Edwards, news editor, put in his two cents on the subject, pointing toward a moral code that can be applied to pretty much every aspect of life, including voting.

“It’s called “The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do.” Created by businessman Herbert J. Taylor in the early 1930s and adopted by the service organization Rotary International, the test was intended to help save Taylor’s struggling aluminum products distribution company. His four-way test consisted of these questions:

•Is it the truth?

•Is it fair to all concerned?

•Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

•Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

In our current political climate, where it feels like basic humanitarian ethics are disappearing, these four questions can be used to help determine who to vote for in the upcoming elections.”

Courier community editor Jan White shared her thoughts on the subject: “One of my favorite quotes is ‘actions speak louder than words.’ My advice to voters considering a candidate is to ask how involved that person is with the office he or she is running for. For instance, when examining someone’s bid for city council, ask how many times the candidate has attended a city council meeting over the last couple of years. Question them as to what civic or service organizations they are members of or how they have contributed to their precinct or district so far. Same goes for the school board or the hospital district board candidates – how many times have you seen the person running for office attend a board meeting? I feel like in order to run for office, you can’t just look at it the incumbent and think, ‘Oh, I can do a better job than that.’ You need to be invested. You need to be able to prove to your constituents that you understand the organization, how it runs, how you are currently involved, and how you can best represent their needs and concerns.”

So as you head into this voting season, think about the Four-Way Test and question what each candidate brings to the table. Hopefully, when the time comes for you to cast your ballot, you will have eliminated some of that confusion that oftentimes comes with elections. You won’t begrudgingly vote for one candidate just to spite another but more than anything, that your vote will yield officeholders and policies that will be truthful, fair, beneficial to all concerned, and bring us back from the ever-increasing divide.

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Whataboutism and politics of the immediate

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I’m sure it will come as a surprise to no one that I got into an argument on social media the other day.

The subject in question was President Biden and his Trans Day of Visibility or whatever that was, which was connected to a Facebook post from a U.S. senator who was praising the idea.

One person was being excoriated for mentioning the heinous optics of celebrating the visibility of a subset of society only days after a trans person had gunned down several people in a Christian school in Tennessee.

Something that happened during the Lenten season, I might add.

I first asked the senator in question, who is pretty much just a Democrat shill, to perhaps hold a day of visibility for Christians, particularly in light of the events in Tennessee; I pretty much knew he wouldn’t respond, given that Democrats worship the (non-existent) separation of church and state. I did, though, get a response from someone who said the Christians needed a day before that would happen.

Someone else chimed in that Christians have Christmas and Easter, etc., so why shouldn’t trans people be recognized?

I pointed out their ghoulish position, asking what about this since there have been so many “straight, white males” committing mass killings. The responses also took the tack that trans people, being the “most prevalent demographic” on Earth, are being persecuted, as if that is a justification for reprehensible, murderous behavior.

All of the shootings are horrible, regardless of who commits those crimes. There shouldn’t be any comparison.

Calling trans people the most prevalent — widespread in a particular area and in a particular time — is just an example of politics du jour, meaning this is what’s in front of us, and this is what’s considered important.

I pointed out that there are 1.2 billion Christians in the world, who have been persecuted in some manner for thousands of years, and admonished them for thinking that comparing body counts is disgusting and extremely unhelpful.

The conversation devolved from there, and even included racial insults on their part, and other ridiculous claims, all of which I ignored, since that always happens when logic departs and histrionics jump in. But it was instructive.

Making comparative statements are extremely unhelpful and a backhanded way to justify crime and bad behavior. Saying what about this or that to me just points out the problem is bigger than one incident, and maybe we should stop turning perpetrators into victims.

Moreover, forgetting about the past, as the saying goes, condemns us to repeat it, and the cycle of suffering will continue.

Don’t misunderstand this; I’m not advocating silence, nor am I saying that a person’s beliefs are not important, regardless of my feelings.

I am saying that it does no good to ignore the issues by saying the issues are ignored, and that it would be better to tackle events logically, putting blame where it belongs, and actually trying to heal and grow as a society.

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The great mystery of ‘woke’

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“So, I mean, woke is, sort of the idea that, um, I…woke is something that is very hard to define”
Bethany Mandel, author of Stolen Youth

Chris MetitationsBy Chris Edwards

The above quote is taken from an interview by someone who wrote a book purporting to be the end-all definition of the term “woke.”

Many folks have words they tend to use in abundance, buzzwords, I guess one might be inclined to call ‘em.

There are certain words I say frequently, a few of which wouldn’t be printable in a family friendly publication such as this.

I have a friend, a plumber, who is known far and wide for the exclamation “Son!”. Another friend, in the education business, loves using the phrase “moving forward.”

Sometimes, like in the case of the aforementioned “Son!” the word becomes such a catchphrase for that person that others might utter the word before that person does upon seeing them out and about. Think of a mass media analogue: Jimmie Walker of Good Times fame with his “dynomite!” exclamations.

Currently we have a man who is the governor of Florida, who seemingly cannot go two seconds without uttering the word “woke.” He has gone so far as to claim that the Sunshine State is “where woke goes to die.”

He is not alone in his obsession. It would seem that the GOP has, at present, embraced anti-woke-ism as its unified field theory for the ages, yet while it pops up in national discourse nowadays in a fashion even more ubiquitously than mentions of beer and whiskey in Morgan Wallen songs, Gov. Ron DeSantis is on a whole other level with his “woke” fixation.

So what is to be made of DeSantis’s obsession with the word? He hasn’t really spilled the coffee beans on what the word actually means. DeSantis is, also, a man who prognosticators are predicting will put in a bid for the White House in 2024.

Politicians are constantly pushing inane culture war garbage on the electorate because, well, let’s face it, anger = campaign contributions.

DeSantis is a graduate (magna cum laude, no less) of Yale and a Harvard Law alumnus (where he graduated cum laude). He should know better, and he does, but again, fomenting anger over some type of folderol = mega campaign contributions. We The People are smarter than this, or at least we should be.

Think of this current obsession with the word “woke” as being as useless of a word as “grunge” was when discussing punk and metal bands who were united through the geography of the Pacific Northwest. Those bands and artists, despite their shared locale and shared taste for comfy flannel, were seriously great acts who would likely want to take a swing at proles who used the useless word “grunge” in their presence.

“Woke,” like “Grunge,” in the current cultural milieu is a word favored by non critical thinkers; those who blindingly commit to using whatever buzzwords are of the times. To what end, I’m not really certain. It really doesn’t make anyone sound any more intelligent and/or informed. If anything, it has the opposite effect.

A poll published in USA Today and conducted through Ipsos polled the definitions of “woke” among all Americans polled as 56% choosing it to mean “to be informed, educated on, and aware of social injustices” while 39% chose “to be overly politically correct.”

Now I’m no fan of political correctness, but if the binary choice above is to represent two possible definitions of the term, the majority view sounds pretty alright to me.

I’m by no means an expert on semantics, linguistics, semiotics or any of those exotic disciplines, but I do find etymology a fascinating field to dip a toe into once in a while. As such, I discovered a while back that the first documented use of the phrase “stay woke” occurred in the 1938 when the legendary Leadbelly ended a song titled “Scottsboro Boys” with the phrase. The message of the song is explicit, telling Black Americans of the time to be aware of racially motivated threats.

Upon learning that factoid, I said to myself, “Well, any bit of history that contains a Leadbelly reference and a fist to the face of white supremacy is a win.

Words are fascinating things and their histories tell stories of how culture evolves. In spite of that, it seems a little silly to base an entire political platform around a single word. The complete lack of substantive policy stances and ideas from lawmakers decrying and screaming about “woke” or “wokeness” leave me asking “Where’s the beef?” more frequently than a curious elderly lady in a vintage Wendy’s ad.

Whatever one assigns the modern reading of “woke” to mean: whether it’s political correctness run amok or a better understanding of injustice and heightened empathy, the phrase will be used, misused and abused by politicians and political hopefuls, many of whom can no more define the word than Shane MacGowan can turn down a glass of cold gin.

In closing, a quote from Albert Einstein, a man who could distill seemingly impossible concepts to the simplest of terms seems applicable.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” is what Einstein wrote.

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