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And Another Thing: Columnist shares thoughts on technology, kindness

By: Susan Rushton
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So one of those politicians running for something — what is it this time, there are so many of them and these elections keep leaping up and grabbing me by the throat — president, I think it is. The older one. The Republican. McCain, is it? Anyway, at 71, he’s a technophobe. Maybe not a technophobe; he probably has a cell phone. He undoubtedly watches television, drives a car, takes advantage of the computer chips under the hood. But his confession that he’s “computer illiterate” is all over the Internet. He apparently doesn’t know how to use one, so doesn’t understand how to find the You-Tube quote about how he depends on his wife “for all of the assistance I can get.” I imagine that if he doesn’t know his way around the keyboard, doesn’t know his @ from his control key, if he doesn’t have a favorite search engine, he also doesn’t have an iPhone, iPod, PDA, or a Bluetooth. I’ll be he still has a turntable, and a bunch of … oh, gosh, what were they called? Records? A shelf of records someplace in his house. What’s the matter with the guy, anyway? It’s inexcusable that a person who wants us to want him to lead us doesn’t know about computers or the Internet. Technology is the new planet, the new universe, the new ocean. Laptops and iPhones are as vital as water, as food. We can’t do without them — we can’t, you hear? At least we can’t until the next big thing comes along that’s as vital as water, as food, that’s the new ocean. And you know it will. Everything’s always replaced, everything changes, and something new is always coming down the pike. And those people sniggering at McCain for not having the knowledge or the interest — I’ll bet they’re all so young that they’ve never known a time when you couldn’t cut and paste, couldn’t print out your own work on your own printer, couldn’t download your photos from your digital camera. Film? What’s that, Dad? Personally, partly because I change my mind so often, I’m tickled I’m not running for president. Someone somewhere sometime said that you have to be crazy to want the job, and this reaction to McCain is a perfect example. He’s probably very happy, his life is full to overflowing even without knowing how to download Lil Wayne onto his iPod. Plus, he’s old enough to know that all he has to do is wait, and this new ocean will be replaced by another new ocean, some technological marvel we can’t even imagine yet — but that will come with its own vocabulary, its own set of convoluted instructions and a downloadable manual that no one will read because it will be translated badly from Urdu. In other news: I imagine you’ve seen these occasional letters to the editor from people who are astonished at the kindness of strangers. Perhaps someone returned a wallet. Or helped change a flat tire. Or helped them get up when they fell. Always somewhere in this letter is a statement along the lines of “this proves that consideration hasn’t completely disappeared from our vicious society.” Although it’s always nice to read about one person’s compassion and another’s delight at being on the receiving end, these letters always bother me. The implication is that sympathy and benevolence have nearly vanished, that this kind of behavior is so out of the ordinary that it warrants a public announcement. Well, I beg to differ. If you just pay attention, you’ll notice gracious, friendly, wonderful behavior all around you. If you behave in a gracious manner, people will behave graciously back to you. Most of the time. People hold doors open for me, smile at me, pick things up for me, stop for me as I cross the street. Most people I see driving aren’t on the phone. Most are buckled up. Most behave reasonably and compassionately. It’s not as much fun to share this information as it is to shake your head and tut tut and commiserate with friends about what you see in the paper and on TV. Telling each other horror stories is extremely satisfying — plus you get to feel proud because you would never trip someone or burn down somebody’s house or throw rocks through windows or cheat your neighbor in a drug deal. But we hear about the horrible stuff because it’s news. That’s the definition of news: stuff that’s unusual, that attracts attention.  Kindness isn’t news: it happens all the time. And I’m here to tell you that it’s wonderful. Susan Rushton’s column appears in the Auburn Journal every other Sunday. Her e-mail address is Rushton@cebridge.net.