I was chagrined when I got kicked out of a San Francisco-themed Facebook group recently.
First, the administrator deleted a lively thread in which people were discussing homelessness in San Francisco. He explained in a private message that he didn't allow discussion of politics in his group. Okay. Understood. I would restrict myself to posting pretty pictures of my favorite city, like the one above.
But I wondered if he knew where I could go instead for the conversation I craved. He provided a name, and I checked it out. The group description began with the question, "Ready to Rumble?"
Well, no. I'm not.
Anyone who's tried to talk politics on the Internet lately has been in a few rumbles, whether they're ready or not. Because political discourse has become a bloodsport in America. But I've never liked the taste of blood.
What I wanted, instead of bloodletting, was a place that people could go in a spirit of cooperation to talk about problems we face in San Francisco and try to come up with solutions. I didn't want to cry, kvetch, insult, accuse. I wanted to discuss. But I couldn't find a good place to do that on Facebook. So I created one. Then I went back to the original group and posted a comment, saying it wasn't appropriate to talk politics there, but people who wanted that type of conversation could talk over here.
Three minutes later, the admin kicked me out.
He said via private message that I was "poaching" his members. He said I'd misbehaved. Here's the thing, though. It's not an either/or decision. You don't have to choose between pretty pictures and politics. You can have both.
It's also not a competition. I don't want the biggest group on Facebook. I don't want the bloodiest group, or the most entertaining. I just want a group of sincere people trying to fix a broken system. So, high on the adrenaline that chagrin provided me, I added everyone I knew who lives in San Francisco to my newly-created group and started posting.
That led me to search out good information for my posts. I called the DA's Office, the Police Department, the Department of Homelessness, and reported on what I learned. I wrote emails to politicians and shared what they replied. I attended a meeting of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board and wrote up a summary. I re-posted Chronicle stories of interest. And I found myself on a new path.
Here's the thing. Since retiring from teaching high school in June, I've been a little bit lost. Don't get me wrong. I love retirement. I love the new way I'm experiencing time, like a gently unfolding ribbon before me, instead of a noose tightening around my neck.
I'm developing a schedule that meets most of my needs: I dance; I write; I lead walking tours; I spend more time with my husband; I meet with friends. But one need isn't met. One itch isn't scratched: the desire to contribute something useful to the world.
But now, it seems, I've stumbled on a way to continue doing that in retirement.
So I guess I should thank the grumpy old fart who kicked me out of his Facebook group and inspired me to take those lemons and mix up some lemonade.
Feeling thirsty? Come share a glass at "San Francisco Politics -- Let's Talk."