Guns at Supper with Facebook

Guns are not intrinsically evil devices. It is what untrained or inept or fundamentally bad people do with them that unleashes guns’ awful potential that makes the need for regulating the use of guns so urgently important. The same is true of Facebook. The tool is not innately stupid, dangerous, or conceivably harmful in the extreme, in and of itself. Dimwits who misuse social media—untrained or inept or fundamentally bad people—are the culprits who misuse Facebook, leaving damage in their wake.

In recent weeks, I have experienced Facebook used as it should be. A tool permitting positive communications; the exchange of useful (or, at least, innocuous) ideas and information. This morning, just after I made my coffee, I saw that use in action again. Several weeks ago I joined a Facebook group called British Food Lovers. In spite of its undeserved reputation, British food can be outstanding; members of the group recognize that and willingly share information and experiences about the cuisine. This morning, I came across: a recipe for Crispy Chilli Beef; images of homemade Scotch eggs done in the oven; lovely images of, and conversations about, shepherd’s pie and its beefy twin, cottage pie; and a discussion of American versus British words describing various meals. The latter discussion arose in response to an image of a 1918 Christmas menu delivered by the Minister, Overseas Military Forces of Canada to Canadian troops in the British Isles; the menu’s reference to the midday meal as “dinner” spurred the conversation.

The Canadian menu, using British parlance, included Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper; in the south central U.S., those meals likely would be called, respectively, Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Comments from a few American members of the Facebook group suggested that, in the Northeastern U.S., the meals later in the day mirrored the British practices. Linguistic variations fascinate me almost as much as differences in tastes in food. I remember, years ago, discussions about dinner versus supper. Those discussions, though, suggested that some people either reversed the British approach (calling the midday meal supper and the evening meal dinner) or calling the evening meal either dinner or supper, but leaving “lunch” untouched as the midday meal.

Looking at menus from years ago, I have been struck by how much the eating habits of both British people and Americans have changed over the years. The midday meal seems to have morphed from a relatively small energy booster to a lavish and formal affair and back to something quick and easy. Almost the reverse appears to be true of the evening meal; “dinner” has gone from large and time-consuming to small and simple and then back again…repeatedly. The ingredients of meals between British and Americans sometimes vary just as much. Neither cuisine is dignified by calling it a legitimate “type” of food, though. British cuisine often is derided (unfairly, in my opinion) as bland and unpleasant, while American cuisine frequently is viewed as a crude assimilation of international flavors “dumbed down” for the weak and undiscerning American palate.

I love bubble and squeak, shepherd’s pie, steak and kidney pie, bangers and mash, fish and chips, and the British version of toad in the hole (using sausage). I share the British appreciation of peas and potatoes and just how vital those ingredients are to most “comfort food.” I used to go to England quite often and I loved the food there. In recent years, beginning just about the time I made my first trip there, British tastes have readily accepted the strong and growing influence of Indian cuisine. During my last trip to London, I was stunned by the number of Indian restaurants I encountered; I found one on practically every corner. If American food is a melting pot of international cuisine, British food seems to be changing, too, so that England is almost a “western” outpost of the Indian subcontinent.

Ah, yes, guns and Facebook. That’s where all this started. Unlike discussions of food on Facebook, the conversations I’ve seen about guns has been scary. In my view, Facebook should invest resources in monitoring discussions, intervening when they veer into territory in which gun-worship might spark unspeakable uses of the devices. But more fundamentally, access to guns (and their use) should be regulated to minimize the misuse of firearms as weapons of murder and mayhem. And, before being granted access to Facebook (and Twitter and Instagram and Tic Toc and on and on), users should be required to read usage guidelines and respond correctly to a long list of questions about proper usage. It’s easy to say “Facebook should do thus and so,” but it’s probably considerably harder to actually implement the intent of those prescriptive statements.

People (I include myself, of course) tend to simplify what it takes to achieve and maintain the extremely complex process of living in peace and harmony in a moderately free and open society. We have to curb our own behaviors and allow others more latitude than we might like. We must accept intrusive limitations on our “rights” and permit infringements on the rights of others that, from a safe distance, seem draconian and unnecessary. Those limitations and infringements should, in my opinion, include guns and Facebook. And I might even accept certain limitations on social media involving food; things like cooking living beings while they are alive, keeping animals raised as food in cruel conditions, etc.

Everything is simple, except when it’s not. There are no easy answers, not even to easy questions. Because easy questions, and ostensibly easy answers, hide enormous complexities beneath their smooth, simple surfaces.

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I respond to insomnia by sharing all my secrets at 4:00 a.m. Sleep eludes me when I should be deep in slumber. It finds me when I should be wide awake.

~ John Swinburn ~

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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