Monday, December 7, 2015

DON'T "DELETE" ME, BRO! (Why Can't We Be Friends?)

 Why Can't We Be Friends?

I'm a right-wing, pro-life
Christian who believes in
the Second Amendment.
I also truly love people.
Will YOU be MY friend?

Ah, Christmas  that magical time of year when America oozes all the warm and fuzzy factor that the season inspires; peace and love, kindness and compassion, joy and harmony. But sadly, this holiday season (seemingly more than ever), Americans are divided (with heels dug in deeply)  polarized and paralyzed by media-fueled bullet points of the day; racism, terrorism, gun violence, women's "health issues," and of course, those evil red Starbucks cups. Hmm — hey, what better time than Christmastime, for us to all come together — again?

Nowhere are opposing perspectives noticed more, and tolerated less these days than on social media. An endless procession of private profile page administrators now post warnings prominently to all visitors that you WILL be "deleted," "unfriended" and "unfollowed" if you disagree publicly with even one position held personally by said administrator. Yikes! As a Christ-centered author who also remains connected (Siamese Twin-style) to the entertainment world, I recognize how misguided that is. If I subscribed to that type of "logic," not only would my audience dwindle by about 91% over night, I'd also miss out on the blessings of connecting with a good many, good people.

I learned long ago that we have to "choose our battles" wisely in life. And honestly, who you support in the upcoming presidential election, how you view immigration, and who you sleep with are NOT battles worth losing true friends over. BTW, just when, where and how did this one-size-fits-all existence actually become a Valhalla-like expectation? Sounds kinda boring to me. In fact, many of the friends who I hold dearest, are the ones with whom I seemingly have the least in common.

I first became "connected" to a guy named Steve when we engaged in a WWE-style clash at our high school cafeteria back in January 1980. Although I was encouraged by the authorities to press charges, I chose instead to simply "let it go" and focus on the vast amount of common ground that Steve and I shared; fast cars, hot chicks, and The Nuge. Before long, Steve and I were playing together in the same band. Go figure! 35 years later, we still disagree on many things. However, to this day, I'd never "unfriend" him.

Steve (L) and yours truly (C), along with
Ron Thompson (R), playing together in
the metal power trio, Blind Rage, in 1982.
Then there's Jeff, my business partner of the last 20+ years. Simply put, Jeff leans to the left of Bernie Sanders, while I stand just to the right of Ronald Reagan. But rather than allowing our "delete"-worthy differences to divide us, we harness each other's "uniqueness," and allow it to be a fabulous fuel source for our frequent "spirited" exchanges. At the end of the day, we're always there for each other when "life happens." And that's a lovely and priceless gift.

I don't even see eye-to-eye with some of the writers who contribute content to this very website nor should I. One writer in particular conveys complete inner conflict and undeniable darkness through his work. As a guy who's dedicated to maintaining a spotless reputation in youth ministry, I could have distanced myself from this young man when he first reached out to me several months ago. I chose to embrace him. Young people have a tough enough time in today's world. What this kid needed was heartfelt encouragement, not religious condemnation. He had talent, he just needed an opportunity in which to be heard and to develop his chops. I'm honored to have given him that opportunity. And I'm honored to call him my friend.

Finally, when my first book arrived in stores on April 1, 2010, I knew that in no time I'd be hailed by readers worldwide as the latest, greatest foul-mouthed author on the rock and roll book scene. That didn't happen. Well, at least I got the foul-mouthed part right. Although the book has received primarily 5-Star Amazon reader reviews, it has also garnered an enormous amount of "passionate" backlash. Don't get me wrong, as a writer with three titles now in publication, and two more in development, I'll gladly take 5-Star reviews all day long. However, in the case of my first book, it was actually the negative feedback that helped me to become a better writer. After you read enough reviews in which your work is described as "garbage" and yourself described personally as a "pathetic, douche bag loser," the thought may cross your mind that you might have "misfired," and that you should probably polish your prose better in the future. As a result, rather than getting angry and defensive over the online grilling I received, I reached out to a few of the more vehement reviewers and thanked them for taking the time to read my work AND for offering their "open and honest" critique. One such communique led a staunch, one-time "Christopher Long super-hater" to discover that we actually had a great deal in common. He too now contributes content to this site.

Thanks to the negative reviews that it received,
this one will be my ONLY "sucky" book.
One of my all-time favorite "8-Track flashbacks" from the '70s is "Why Can't We Be Friends— the catchy classic by R&B supergroup, War. The music still sounds as fresh as the day the record was cut. Unfortunately, 40 years later, the lyrics also remain relevant — a powerful message about people looking beyond economic, racial, political and social differences in order to connect — and to then create, develop and maintain personal friendships. I choose to believe that it's not too late for War's message of peace to catch on. Don't "delete" me, bro! Why can't we be friends?

-Christopher Long
(December 2015)

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