7 Plans I Have To Own 2016

I’ve been meaning to return to the blog here and write down a few things I plan to do to own 2016. I know I have to make some changes in my life, and sometimes writing it down helps to make it official. So, we don’t have to call these resolutions, or even plans, exactly. They’re just a few things I want to do or change about my life as the year goes on.

1) Get a new job
The place I work now has become pretty stressful, especially over the past year or two. I’ve worked in customer service jobs for the past 15 years, and while much of it has been great, and I’ve enjoyed the comradery of my co-workers, much of it has really become stressful. I dread going into work lately, and literally was on the verge of a panic attack when I started getting dressed today. It’s not any one thing causing it, it’s that I think I just need a change. Unfortunately, the job market kind of sucks right now.  Still, I’m keeping my eyes and options open.

2) Read more books
I do a fair amount of reading each day, but it’s mostly articles online. Not enough, maybe, but likely more than the average person. What I’ve really slacked off on lately has been reading books. I’m a bit of a bibliophile, and because of that, I end up buying a couple dozen books for every one that I read. So my “to-read pile” is just getting ridiculously high. I’d like to make a dent in that as the year goes on, and, more than that, I want to read books (and articles) that educate me, as well as challenge my viewpoints about the world.

3) Write more
I know, I know. I’ve said this a few times on this blog recently, but it really is something I want to do. Truthfully, I do feel like I have done a better job of it lately. True, until this post here, I hadn’t written anything in nearly a month. But, before that, I was writing somewhat regularly. I don’t feel any pressure to pump out a blog every day, or even every week. But if I can put something down two or three times a month, at least, I think I’d be pretty satisfied with that. As much as I’d like to write a few opinion pieces, I may want to focus more on personal stories and “confessional” type writing. This is Confidential Korbus, after all.

4) Make time to meditate
It’s not exactly a secret, nor is it something I talk about regularly, but I have suffered with a fair amount of clinical depression and anxiety in my life. I’ve seen different doctors, been on and off medication, and yes, even read a bunch of the so-called “self-help” books. In my mid-twenties I began to study Buddhism and got into meditation, specifically Samatha to help calm my mind and, to a lesser extent, dabbled in Vipassana as well. I feel like I got a fair amount out of it, too. But, like a lot of things throughout my life, I didn’t keep up with it, and eventually I fell out of practice altogether. Though I definitely do not see it as a substitute for medical help, I’d like to get back into a routine with it, if not daily, at least a few times per week

5) Eat less
Hard as it may be to believe, I was once in decent shape. Granted, it was many years ago, when I played organized baseball, but still! It happened! Though there were small signs of mental illness at the time (I always called them my “quirks”) as I got deeper into my teenage years, they began to take on the form of weight gain. Eating was something I did when I was lonely or sad, or even when I was happy. I ate when I was celebrating, I ate when I was bored. I just ate, period. Even now, when I go to a restaurant, I look at my dinner like a challenge: eat it all, regardless of whether you are even hungry or feel full. Just a couple weeks back, for instance, I was halfway through a burrito at a local Mexican restaurant when I could feel myself hitting a wall. Instead of asking for a container to take the rest home, I pushed myself to finish everything. It was stupid. I was so uncomfortable that I could barely get back to the car afterward. In 2016, I want to stop looking at food like a challenge, like it’s some obstacle to be overcome. Instead, the challenge will be to slow down. Pace myself. And, by all means, not to be afraid to ask for a take-home container.

6) Do more yoga
As a treat for myself around my birthday a couple years ago, I bought a DDP Yoga DVD set. Right away I took to it, and I actually enjoyed it. Within just a few days, I could feel results. For one, I felt stronger. My knees felt better. I seemed to have more energy. After working with the program regularly for a while, I took a weekend off. That weekend turned into a whole week. Next thing I knew, I hadn’t done my workouts in months. I still haven’t. But that laziness ends now. I’m going to clear a space in my bedroom, roll out my mat, grab my yoga block and strap, and get back to work. My goal with yoga isn’t actually to lose weight. I simply want to feel better. If I lose a few pounds as a result, great.

7) Take walks
I spend a lot of time inside.  It’s way past time for me to get out more.  And while I can’t say I live in a nice neighborhood, it is an area I feel safe in both day and night. This little community I call home has a lot of side streets with cute names, and a longer winding road that circles them. All of which provide plenty of room for walking. There’s a park area nearby, along with a playground, and there’s a few interesting characters that plod along around here as well. There’s Teddy, an older gentleman who I kid is an aging mobster responsible for “taking care of business” in the neighborhood. He doesn’t know it, but I refer to him as Capo di Teddy. There’s also a man who I just call “the Philosopher,” for no other reason than that he walks along with his hands clasped behind his back and his head down, as if lost in thought. I don’t know what my nickname will be once I start taking more regular walks, but I hope it’s something cool.

So, there it is!  Are there more things I’d like to change?  Yeah, probably.  But I think these seven things provide a pretty solid foundation.  I’ll be pleased to make progress on all of them as the year goes on, and hopefully continue developing positive habits further on into the future.

How about you?  What are you doing to own the new year?  Leave me a comment on the blog, or drop me an e-mail to let me know.

How I Found Out My Rabidly Anti-Gun Control Friend Actually Supports Some Gun Control

A friend of mine, who I’ll call Chase, proudly proclaims himself to be very anti-gun control. Whenever there is a highly publicized story of a mass shooting, for instance, Chase is one of the first people I know who will say we need more guns, less gun control, and will seemingly share anything on Facebook that makes it appear that President Obama is a gun grabbing tyrant in disguise.

In the aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre here lately, the subject of gun control came up once again. This time, in an effort to back up his ongoing point, Chase posted a meme that included a quote by the actor Samuel L. Jackson.

“I don’t think it’s about more gun control,” Jackson said. “I grew up in the south with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”

samjacksonguncontrol

I verified that the quote was real.  A few years old, but real.  And while I may take some exception to his statement that they “never shot anyone” despite all the guns around (Tennessee, where Jackson grew up, has long had among the highest murder rates in the country, and it’s safe to assume that at least some of those murders were shootings), I decided to reply to the post.

“Even so,” I commented to Chase, “I’m kinda worried about people who don’t know the value of human life having lots of guns, aren’t you?”  Surely, I thought, he could be sympathetic to that.

“They shouldn’t have ’em to start with,” he said, and intimated that that is what the government has been pushing for.

Could it be true? After all this time of anti-gun control Facebook posts, and saying that more people need more guns, was Chase really in favor of at least some limited form of gun control? He seemed to be, even if I’m not sure he knew it. I told him I agreed, and stated my opinion that this is one type of restriction it sounds like we both support.

That’s what gun control is to me. It isn’t about confiscating weapons from law-abiding citizens. It’s about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people. In two quick Facebook comments, then, I found out that even my rabidly anti-gun control friend does, in fact, seem to support some measure of gun control.

So, it turns out, does Samuel L. Jackson.

In the same interview from which the quote in the meme was pulled, Jackson, speaking about the 20 children and 6 adults gunned down during the Sandy Hook massacre, acknowledges that certain restrictions on guns, such as closing the “gun show loophole,” and requiring increased background checks, could help reduce gun violence.

“We need to stop deranged people from getting access to guns,” he said.

I agree, Sam. I agree.

Remembering A Friend

Twenty-one years ago tonight, my buddy Adam and I witnessed the death of our friend, Leo Layton. It’s hard to believe it has been that long. It’s even harder to believe that neither the driver who hit him, or the other motorists who witnessed it, stopped to help. The crime remains unsolved.

LeoObitLeo was a guy many would refer to as mentally challenged. It’s true that he was a little slow, and sometimes couldn’t quite be sure what year it was. But he also had a huge heart and was such a funny guy! He washed the windows of your house, took your garbage cans back, and even handed out dollar bills to kids around the neighborhood so they could get an ice cream at Liberty Cone & Deli. Once, he even tried to set my little brother up on a date with a random girl Leo had met on the bus. Yes, he was practically a pimp!

Because of Leo’s mental condition, there were people who were cruel to him. It was common that people would say nasty things to him and, unfortunately, once even hurt him enough to send him to the hospital. I’m ashamed to say that, early on, I played a stupid prank on him as well. It was pretty harmless, but I still felt so terrible about it that I hopped on my bike the next day to go looking for him and apologize. It was water under the bridge to Leo, and we became fast friends.

How can I describe that friendship?  Sure, there were the hours we spent watching automobiles drive down the street with Leo calling out the year and the manufacturer, for instance.  “That’s a ’89 Chevy ,” he would say.  Or maybe it’d be “a ’92 Olds.”  We were never quite sure if he was right or not, but we didn’t care.  Besides, it was funny when he wasn’t sure of the make and would just say something like, “’94 black car.”  We would holler laughing.

Other days we would just sit around together having a milkshake, talking about whatever.  Admittedly, there were times he seemed confused during those conversations.  He would get to talking about something that might have taken place decades before, but that he believed happened just the other day.  I would just nod, and maybe tell him I understood.  Just that he was opening up was more than enough for me.

But nothing was better than the day I found him sitting at a picnic table with his grade school yearbook.  He waved me over, and showed me a photo of himself when he was just a child.  It was touching because I know he didn’t just let anyone see that.  This was special, this was friendship.  “That’s me,” he said, laughing to himself.  “That’s little Leo.”  His tongue hung out of his mouth slightly as he smiled.  I smiled back.  We laughed together.

Adam and I saw him outside of Mom and Dad’s Nite Club on the last evening of his life.  He had on a new jacket, a blue and grey blazer-style leather getup that replaced his everyday red and black flannel coat.  He was cleaned up a bit, looked good, and we told him so.  After a few minutes of chatting, he put his cigar back in his mouth, said goodbye, and stepped off the curb.  He never saw that Chevy pickup speeding right towards him.  We didn’t, either, really.  Not until it was too late.

Time really did seem to slow down.  What all took place in a matter of seconds felt like several minutes.  One moment, Leo was crossing the street right in front of us.  The next he had disappeared in a field of orange sparks.  We saw him get hit.  The impact was so great that he appeared at first to almost be holding on to the hood, the driver having ample time to look directly into the face of the man he had struck.  But then the momentum eventually catapulted Leo’s body over the top of the vehicle and down onto the asphalt, leaving him motionless in the road a couple hundred feet away.  We watched the taillights of the truck get smaller and smaller before they disappeared altogether into the glare and the distance.  It was like a dream.  I don’t know how long we stood there, completely frozen in disbelief, before we came to and ran to the nearest payphone to call 911. Nor could I tell you how quick the EMTs arrived at the scene.  All I can say is that it was all too late.  There was nothing to be done.  Leo was dead.

LeoNewsClipAdam and I gave statements to the police.  The local news interviewed us as well.  It’s mostly a blur now.  I remember writing down what happened in the back of a paddy wagon.  I remember the light of the news cameras in my face.  I was scared and flustered and the thoughts in my head weren’t translating properly into words from my mouth.  I just wanted it to be over, and once it was, I stumbled home, my mind in a daze, and told the story all over again to my parents.

A few days later, we were at the funeral home for Leo’s viewing.  We didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that I wanted to pay my respects, but I also wanted to just be a wallflower and stay out of everyone’s way. I was worried that we somehow didn’t belong. We weren’t there long before one of Leo’s cousins came up and introduced herself. She asked if were the boys who were with him the night he died.  We said we were.  She hugged us and told us how appreciative they all were that we had come.

She introduced us to Leo’s father, and his other relatives in attendance. It was a whirlwind of emotion.  I was overcome by the outpouring of love and gratitude I received from his family, many of whom even expressed how honored they were to meet us.  I didn’t understand it at first.  Honored?  To meet us?  But it eventually became clear as Adam and I spoke to more and more people.  They were honored not only because we had been there with him in his final moments, but because we treated him as an equal.  We were his friends.

The days after the funeral don’t come as easily to mind, but I remember that the neighborhood felt somehow emptier after Leo died.  I kept expecting to see him come around a corner, or show up passing out dollar bills to everyone at Liberty Cone.  Maybe if I looked quickly enough I’d catch him napping under his favorite tree.  Of course, none of that happened.  Leo existed only in my memories, and in the stories I’d tell about him to my friends for years to come.

It’s strange now looking back after all this time has passed. One of these days I’d like to write a book about Leo and the times we shared together. I honestly believe it would be an interesting read, as long as I don’t screw it up. Because the truth is, in a lot of different ways, Leo taught me about life. He taught me compassion and forgiveness, yes, but he also taught me the value of friendship. It’s been over 20 years, but I still think about him all the time.  I’m sure that I always will.

*A shorter version of this was posted on my Facebook page last year.  I have edited and expanded it for use on this space.  As I did then, I invite readers to leave a comment in remembrance of a person or a friend who has inspired you.

Breakdown at the Bank or: What My Anxiety Feels Like

It’s Wednesday afternoon, roughly 4 o’clock, and I’m standing in line at the bank trying not to pass out.  My heart is beating a mile a minute, my face feels flushed, and surely someone has lit a small fire under my jacket because I am just burning up.  While I wait for a teller to become available, I kind of stare toward the ceiling with my neck at an odd angle.  My head is spinning and it’s the only thing I can figure to do to keep myself focused and not collapse on the floor.

I hate this.  I should leave.  What in hell am I even doing here?

*******

It seemed simple enough, really.  It was a nice autumn afternoon and I was traveling with my parents to a local Mexican restaurant.  I’d also had $200 cash in my pocket for the past week that I kept forgetting to deposit in my account.  I needed to get it in there.  Since a branch of my bank is right next to the restaurant, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get that done, then head right over to have some food.

Except it wasn’t so simple.  Not for me, anyway.  The parking lot was a little crowded, and cars were backed up at the pneumatic tubes.  The ATM, however, was free, and I hoped I could deposit cash through it like I had at other branches.  We pulled up and quickly saw that there was no way to do that.  It just wasn’t set up for it.  I knew if I was going to deposit the money today, I would have to run inside.

My mom follows me in, and it looks like there is going to be a bit of a wait.  My first instinct is to walk back out.  I’m about seventh in line, but she convinces me to stay and get it over with.  Each minute we’re in there feels like an hour.  I don’t want to be in here with all these people around.  Another person walks up in line behind us, then another, and I assume they are silently judging me.  There’s probably cat hair on the back of my jacket, or my shirt is sticking out weird, perhaps my hair looks dumb.  Something.  The guy in front of me is waving and having casual chatter with someone else in the bank he recognizes, and I’m wishing he would just shut up.  Then my mom starts talking to me, and I wish she would shut up, too.  I don’t want to answer her because I feel like it will draw attention to myself, and the last thing I want is to be noticed right now.

One by one the line moves up.  I’m getting more and more nervous.  It’s not just this guy ahead of me, or the growing number of people behind me I have to contend with now.  The teller will be asking me questions soon.  I know I’m going to screw something up.  I don’t even know what to do.  Do I get my wallet out?  Do I need my ID?  Was I supposed to fill out a deposit slip first?  All these questions race through my mind, and I’m sure somehow I’m going to hold the line up.

IMG_0321Suddenly, it’s my turn.  The teller asks if she can help me.  I mumble my way through a sentence about wanting to make a cash deposit, and try to concentrate on her reply because I don’t want to mess up.  She asks if I have my debit card.  I do.  I pull my wallet from my pocket and my tremoring hands fumble to pull the card out.  I put it on the counter, which was apparently the wrong thing to do.  She doesn’t touch it, barely even looks at it.  Do I know my PIN?  Don’t tell her the code, just say yes or no.  I say yes.  Okay, slide my card through the machine in front of me, she says, and enter my PIN.  I see the diagram showing how to do that, with arrows pointing different ways.  I grab my card and do as I’m told.  I think I have it right, and swipe it through.  Nothing happens.  Nothing.  I’ve done it wrong.  It doesn’t matter which direction I swipe, she says, just make sure the magnetic strip goes through the machine.  I had it the opposite way, with the strip on the outside.  I’m an idiot.  She knows it, I know it, the people behind me know it.  They’re probably giving me the exhale of exhaustion behind my back now, fed up with how long I’m taking.

My body temperature is clearly off the charts, and the teller probably notices my face reddening as the moments tick by, even though I haven’t made eye contact with her.  On the second try, I get it right.  I punch in my code and hope I did that correctly.  I did.  I think she asks for my cash, but I don’t even hear her.  My mom nudges me and says, “Jay?”  I pull out of my wallet, put my card back inside, and grab the money.  While this is going on I can hear the teller talking about Thanksgiving, asks what we’ll be having, and all that.  My mom says something, but I don’t even answer.  I feel lost.  The teller asks if I need my balance, I say no, then she prints out a receipt for me.  I take it from the counter and stand there thinking there’s more to it.  There isn’t.  She wishes us a happy Thanksgiving, and I bolt.

I catch up to my mom, take my first breath, and release it.  I can feel the tension leaving my shoulders, and my heart rate slows as I get to the door.  “Let’s get the hell out of here,” I say.  Before I make it outside the tears are welling up in my eyes.  I’m not sad, I just feel dumb.

The air hits my face and dries the tears.  By the time we make it back to the car, it’s over.  No one notices that I almost cried.  We head over to the restaurant, order some food, and have a good time together talking and laughing.  What happened at the bank is old news.  It’s going to be okay now.

Why I Totally Suck At Blogging

I swear I meant it when I said I wanted to write regularly.

In the middle of July, I bought myself this domain name as a way of encouraging myself to write more.  I wanted to hone my craft a little, and maybe even connect with friends and other people around the world.  From July 13th until July 30th, I think I did just that.  I published 5 different pieces in the time, some I was even happy with.

Then, right after my birthday, I quit.  I had ideas for stuff to write about, but when the time would come to actually grab my laptop, I’d watch television instead.  Or read a book.  Or check out Facebook and Twitter on my phone.  Or eat.  Anything to avoid actually writing.  Why do I do that?

Well, for one thing, I’m lazy.  Really lazy.  I think I’ve always been this way.  I’m practically a hermit, for one thing, and most all activities I’ve ever involved myself with outside of my house I end up quitting.  So, on top of being lazy, I’m also a quitter.  It’s a bad combination.

Secondly, it’s tough for me to work up the desire to write when I know I’m going to repeat the very opinions in my head on the upcoming episode of Strange Frequencies Radio.  Podcasting with my friend Bobby is one of the few things I actually enjoy, and while I think I express myself much better in writing, I end up thinking, “Why write about this when you’re just going to talk about it on the show Sunday?”  And that is typically the end of that.

stachesandglassesFinally, and maybe stupidest of all, is that I don’t often think I have anything important to say.  Or, if I do, I figure someone else can and will say it better.  So, why should I bother?  My opinion is dumb, everyone will hate me if I express it, so maybe I’ll let someone else smarter than me do it.  That’s basically the thought process.

This all sounds like whining.  It probably is.  If I had a friend who used these excuses I’d tell them to knock it off.  “Yeah,” I’d tell them, “you are pretty damn lazy, that’s true.  But you can at least put the Cheetos down once a week, or every other week, and post something, can’t you?  It doesn’t have to be some Homeric epic, dude, just put a little something together.”

I’d keep going at them.  “As far as this podcast you do interfering with your desire to get your thoughts in writing goes, you can knock that off, too.  You’re just looking for an excuse.  Use the blog as a way to clarify the thoughts in your head.  That way, come Sunday, you’ll be able to express yourself more clearly.  You’ve been saying you want to be a better speaker, right?  Well, this could help!”

That’s when they would start in with the “yeah, but…” and I’d say, “No ‘yeah but!’  Hush!  You have to knock it off with this self-doubt stuff, man.  Are your opinions going to change the world?  Probably not.  But, who cares?  Don’t sell yourself short.  You put a lot of thought into the things you believe, which is more than a lot of people do.  Plus, even when you express an opinion that may not be popular, or that may aggravate someone, you tend to have a way of saying it in a non-threatening manner.  You don’t get in people’s faces about it.  If anything, you tend to ask questions instead of making assertions, and that’s a cool way to avoid being unnecessarily confrontational.  So, do more of that.  Find out where the other person is coming from first.  Understand their perspective.  Listen to them.  Then, offer your opinion as another way of looking at the situation.  Will it change their mind?  Maybe not.  Will your own mind change?  I don’t know.  But it’s a good way to keep the conversation going.  That should be the point.”

That’s when my friend would thank me for the advice and say, “You really do understand me.”  And I’d say, “Of course I do, nitwit.  Isn’t it obvious I’m really just talking about myself here?  That you are actually me?  And that the last part of this blog entry has just been me giving myself advice?”

See, I had this idea earlier that I’d encourage myself to write more by writing about why I don’t write more.  I’ve just done it.  How about that?  Maybe I should do stuff like this more often.

Eh, I don’t know.  I tend to get pretty lazy.  We’ll just have to wait and see, okay?

Thirty-five

Today is my birthday. I turned 35 years old. A few quick thoughts, then, as I inch ever closer to 40…

Birthdays are something of a confusing time for me. For one thing, I don’t normally do much in the way of celebration. I might have something special to eat, but you won’t see me having a party or out at the bar with a group of friends. I’m a homebody, and a quiet dinner on the couch is about as crazy as things get for me.

My birthday can also cause me to go through a period of self-reflection, where I start taking stock of my life. That’s usually a bad sign, because when it comes to matching up accomplishments or possessions with other people, even my friends, I usually come out way behind.

At 35 years old, I am not married, nor do I have any children. If you want to know the truth, I’ve never been close to either. I’ve never had the kind of long-term relationship those things generally require. I’d like to say that I am unlucky when it comes to love, but honestly it’s more that I just suck at it. When your best friends are all hitched, and have a couple of kids apiece, it’s easy to feel like you are dragging behind.

I do have a steady job, but it’s a shitty job. I’ve been there 6 years, which isn’t a long time, I guess. But I do hate it most days I’m there. The easy answer, of course, is to quit and find employment elsewhere. I’m more afraid of where I’d end up if I left. In that way, I’ve sacrificed a bit for some measure of security. I shouldn’t complain, though. In this economy, I’m lucky to be working at all.

There are other things as well that I’m not really happy with. My housing situation isn’t exactly optimal, I don’t have a car, and looking at my bank account and credit card statements can be pretty scary. I spend a bit of each day going over figures in my head involving expected income and expenses, making sure I come out ahead.  That can be a little stressful.  I know if anything goes seriously wrong, I’m screwed.

Now, maybe it is easy to look over what I’ve written and feel depressed about it. Sometimes I do. It can be hard going years feeling like you are just barely keeping your head above water. Today is different, though. I’m not going to let it get the best of me. Instead, I’m going to focus on what I do have. To do that, let me talk about how my birthday has been so far.

I stayed up late last night and woke up at 2 today. That’s 2 in the afternoon, mind you. I don’t care what anyone says. That is awesome.

I checked my phone and saw I had a bunch of texts and messages from my friends. In this day and age of social networking, it can be easy to forget how many positive relationships you forge with people across the country and around the world. Some of them I’ve never met, but I feel close to just the same. Others I have met, and I know they are friends for life.

Then I took a look at Facebook and saw more of the same. Wonderful birthday greetings, jokes, and kind words from all kinds of people. Some of those people I didn’t even know I was connected to. It doesn’t matter, it was terrific, and way more than I ever expected. I’d like to believe many of them have enjoyed my posts over the years, and that I’ve made them smile here or there. No matter the reason, I appreciated each one.

A bit later I went out for lunch with my mom and dad to a local Chinese restaurant and had some delicious almond boneless chicken and hot tea. It was wonderful. My parents and I talked, we laughed, and just enjoyed being together. It was a nice time, and I’m glad we went.

11216569_10153379098491418_3901554843751194927_nAfterward, they gave me a cookie cake that they had the store decorate. It is kind of a custom. For my 30th birthday, my cake had Larry David’s face on it. Two years ago, they had a friend photoshop my face onto the body of “Breaking Bad” character Walter White. The cake was an image of me among barrels and stacks of money. This year, however, I opened the lid and saw “Happy Birthday Jason” with Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th fame holding up his machete. It made me laugh. A little later, I ate his head. It was delicious.

It is after 9pm now and I’m sitting against the wall of my bedroom. At the same time, I’m thinking how, yes, it’s true that if I measure my life in a series of arbitrary ways, it can certainly look like it sucks. Hey, maybe it does. But you know what? I have a lot of things a lot of other people don’t have. I have two parents who love me, a lot of friends who think I’m great, I’ve got a roof over my head and, if luck should have it, access to the internet so I can post this blog.

Is my life perfect? No. But I’d say I’ve got it pretty good. Today has been a great day.

In Defense of Ashley Madison

Ashley Madison, the social networking and dating website that encourages married people to have extramarital affairs, was hacked recently, and the customer databases of around 37 million people has potentially been compromised.  The hacker group involved, who call themselves The Impact Team, gave Ashley Madison an ultimatum in an effort to teach them a lesson about security:  shut down the site, or we will release the private information of your clients.  They did not comply, and according to recent reports, some of their users’ information, which may include real names and addresses, emails, nude photos, and credit card numbers, began appearing online.

The public reaction to the news has largely appeared to be positive, with many folks cheering the Impact Team on.  Those people cheated on their spouse, the sentiment seemed to be, they deserve what happens to them.  Well, I disagree, and I’m going to shock some of you by taking the side of the cheaters against the hackers.  Not because I condone cheating, mind you, but because I respect the privacy of the folks involved.  Let me explain.

Personally, when I first heard this news, something about it really bothered me.  On the one hand, I think many of us can agree that cheating on your spouse is wrong.  It can destroy relationships, and oftentimes ruins the ability many people have to trust.  Anyone who has gone through it themselves, or knows someone who has, can probably attest to that.  On the other hand, however, hacker groups aren’t exactly paragons of virtue in many cases, either.  In this case, the Impact Team committed a crime, stealing information they had no right to, and are now acting as a moral arbiter.  There is something wrong with this picture.

Aside from that, there are many other issues involved in this story which bug me.  While I can’t exactly support cheating, I also think we have to stop looking at this issue through such black or white lenses.  I am of the opinion that marriage can be complicated, and not all extramarital relationships are as horrible as they may first appear.  Some, in fact, wouldn’t even be considered “cheating” at all.

For instance, some of the folks whose spouses have memberships with Ashley Madison could very well be aware of it already.  Many couples choose to have open relationships, wherein the partners sleep with other people outside the marriage.  The partners consent to this, and often there are rules involved that each must follow.  Perhaps they agree they cannot sleep with anyone the other knows.  Or, maybe the spouses must inform the other before the sex takes place.  Different couples have different rules, and while I personally wouldn’t be comfortable with an open relationship, there are those who are.  I can respect that.  Supposing that some of the customers of Ashley Madison enjoy this lifestyle, should they have their privacy destroyed simply because a hacker group wanted to cause a stir?  Should their names, addresses, nude photos, and credit card information be revealed to the public just because you and I might prefer monogamy in our relationships?  I don’t think so.

Some situations, however, may be sadder.  There are marriages that are marriages in name only, degenerating into loveless, even sexless relationships that are kept together solely for the sake of children, or any of a host of reasons.  Others may involve a person who is impotent, or has simply lost the desire for sex in their later years.  And what about violent marriages, where sex is taken rather than shared, considered a condition of matrimony lest the other receive the back of a hand?  I’m sure you can think of others.  Now, again, I’m not saying it is necessarily right to have an extramarital affair in those cases.  But I am saying I would understand them wanting to pursue sex elsewhere, and I don’t feel as if they should be publicly humiliated for doing so.

But let’s be honest.  These situations I’ve mentioned thus far aren’t the ones many of us first envision when we think of a site like Ashley Madison.  No, instead we think of the dutiful and loving wife who worships the ground her husband walks on, all while he is busy sleeping around behind her back.  Truthfully, many of the spouses of the clients of Ashley Madison may well be involved in situations just like that.  They truly are victims of deceit, and I feel bad for them.  But be that as it may, is this how we want them to find out?  By being alerted that their husband or wife’s naked photos were put online in a hacking case?  That their address and financial information is available for anyone with an internet connection to find and use?  Speaking only for myself, I don’t think I would like to find out my wife was cheating on me that way.  That wouldn’t just humiliate and harm them.  It would humiliate and harm me as well.

Regardless of the people involved, or the situation they are in, there is one more reason that I am against the release of private information in the Ashley Madison hacking story.  Hopefully, it is a reason we can all share.  The fact is, the marriages and extramarital affairs of others is simply not our business.  It is not yours, and it is not mine.  Unless we are the husband or wife involved, or are close to those who are, there is no reason for us to know about it.  We simply have no right to snoop around in their lives for our own enjoyment.

I don’t like Ashley Madison any more than you do.  But the Impact Team, in my opinion, has behaved worse than those who cheat on their spouses.  They have stolen and released information they have no right to, creating the potential for a great deal of harm, and all the while pretending to have the moral high ground.  While I’m sure these hackers believe that they are doing the right thing, as far as I can see nothing much positive will come from their crime.