I don’t do fluff. I don’t say it, I don’t write it, and I don’t like it when someone sends fluff in my direction. One of my professors once called the phenomenon “blowing bubbles.” As in, “Ellen was blowing bubbles at me the whole damn time and we didn’t get anywhere.”
Over the years there were plenty of people who thought I was rude. I don’t see it that way: rudeness is being crass or deliberately offensive. The refusal to blow bubbles means that I cut through the crap and tell it like it is so that we, whoever we may be, a) are on the same page and b) can see things for what they are instead of floating off into the wonderland of subtext and hidden meanings.
The farce and the tragedy that plays out when people don’t see what’s right in front of them is the basis for many movies. Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is a fine example: Jasmine is intentionally oblivious to the fraud that her husband Hal commits because Hal finances her expensive lifestyle until one day she discovers his extramarital affair, rats him out to the authorities and loses everything when the guy commits suicide in prison.
It’s hard not to think of all the people affected by the Madoff Ponzi scheme after watching that film – some no doubt had no idea and simply trusted Madoff with their money; others, notably his tech employees, did know what went on but chose to stay silent and comfortable until everything went to hell.  The Madoff family paid dearly for the failure to ask tough questions: one son committed suicide two years after the scandal broke open; the second son succumbed to a cancer relapse.
The 2015 movie Spotlight is about The Boston Globe’s investigation into the child molestation cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese. What Spotlight makes clear about the scandal is that it went on for decades in large part because nobody had the courage to dig in and say “Something’s not right.” The leadership of the diocese moved priests to different parishes, the faithful didn’t want to challenge the clerics because they wanted to believe these were good men, and law enforcement did not want to get involved in a religious community’s matters.
And so it goes. Financial fraud, child abuse, infidelity, corruption and lately, breath-taking political scandals – these things don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen because we’ve gotten comfortable with people blowing bubbles at us: we think that someone else will stand up and say the right thing, someone else will write that angry letter to a senator, someone else will pen a critical op-ed. But that’s not how reality works. And that’s why I’ve written more than a few letters to my elected representatives with exhortations against supporting recent executive orders. I can only hope that they are paying attention.