Monday, May 19, 2008

An odd journey down memory lane

Dredging up many memories of the long process, brought up by Facebook (of course), I found myself Googling a number of people I knew back in high school and before--but would never seek to 'friend' since these are not people with whom I have any reason to converse. Even though telling you about this trip down memory lane reveals details of the sort I usually omit, I feel compelled to share this odd, associative journey.

The chain started with the first (and until yesterday, only*) Facebook friend I had from high school. As I've remarked before, I suspected after scrutinizing his profile that he too is gay; later references have pretty much verified this.

And so I was surprised to see one particular person among his friends. This guy was the student who initiated the Christian-Athlete Fellowship (or some such thing) in our school. We had our senior Civics course together, and I remember that when we got to the section on gay rights (and I hadn't even considered that I might be gay at this point, but already believed strongly in civil rights for all), it basically amounted to me against him, with a handful of other guys chiming in on his side from time to time. I do have to concede that he was not entirely anti-intellectual; in our world literature course, he read everything on the syllabus, including Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the book most frequently requiring substitution by those who refused to read. In any course in which we both were enrolled, it was pretty much guaranteed that we'd be arguing opposite sides.

The funny thing is that I remember sitting next to this Facebook friend of mine in the literature course and exchanging remarks under our breath about the ultra-conservative.

The ultra-conservative married a friend of mine from elementary school. She and I had drifted apart in junior high. I became friends with a number of faculty kids, all of us intent on our studies; she moved in the more popular circles at first and then became more interested in religion.

From there, I was reminded of two brothers with whom I'd played soccer at 8 or 9. I even had a crush on one of them, but can't remember which one now. They were good athletes and cute in a traditional sense. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that their family was super-conservative and super-religious. They were home-schooled for many years, showing up at our high school about halfway through. One of the brothers was among the group I debated on gay rights. Needless to say, the crush did not linger.

But my path crossed the brothers' a few other times. They did just about everything together, and after high school they took time off for church work--though I have no idea if it was more traditional missionary work or political, as that's the primary direction they've headed. They started at State U. when I was working on my master's. A good friend of mine was their TA for a mythology course that pulled from multiple traditions. It included a section on Christian mythology; although they were diligent students, they were also the sorts who would answer questions about authorship of the Bible with "God." My friend recounted to me how they came to her office hours once. On her desk was a facing-page translation of Petronius' Satyricon. They picked it up, as they were planning on taking Latin. As luck would have it, they randomly opened to a section about the anti-hero and his male lover.

They did take Latin, nonetheless. With my friend even. And I subbed for that class once. Not that I think they realized who I was--or at least they gave no more indication than I did. That's the last I've seen of them in person.

But traveling through these Facebook connections, I couldn't help but Google the brothers to see what they've been up to. As it turns out, pretty much what I would have expected. One of them wrote for the current Lame Duck at some point. And both of them are involved in super-conservative groups, making every attempt to get certain candidates elected, the very ones who have me keeping my passport up-to-date.

So of course I had to read a few of their blog entries. And quickly found myself frothing at the mouth. I desperately wanted to shake the one who wrote about the problem with SUVs and energy consumption as a financial issue--I stopped myself from digging deep enough to determine, as I'm sure is the case, that he dismisses climate change as a false crisis.

But this is what I find a little disorienting about Facebook. There are many, many people on there whom I know. I can find them quite easily. But they're not 'friends.' I wouldn't want to mark them as such, even within the virtual world. And yet, because of the two or three degrees of separation, their names swirl around in the periphery.

*Do I even need to say that the people described above are not the new friends I just added from high school?


Aliki2006 said...

I know exactly what you mean. Exactly. Facebook is odd, really, but I suppose its positives outweigh the negatives?

Mouse said...

It has actually been an excellent way for me to keep in touch with people, so it is generally a good thing. But I'm so literal-minded that I sometimes bristle that there's no intermediate ground between "friend" and "not a friend."