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September 23, 2016

Often the most dangerous people don’t carry a gun, they carry a pen (or keyboard)

I’m just going to come right out and say it. While I support the #BlackLivesMatter movement (stridently), I think many of the people who are ranting about police shootings are missing the real point, and, moreover, the real opportunity (assuming there is hope for meaningful change, that is – which, as an eternal optimist, I hold out for).

Here is what statistics (in the only reasonably scholastic study I have been able to find) tell us: police do not appear to have a racial bias toward firing specifically at African-Americans when it comes to discharging their weapons. This is not meant to discount the lives lost or the suffering of the families left behind when an officer does take a life. However, I’ve yet to see any evidence of bias when it come to actually pulling the trigger (while, at the same time, I have seen evidence against the existence of such bias).

But here’s the thing… THAT fact doesn’t matter, THAT fact is not a reason to think things are okay. Because long before the relatively even handed act of a police shooting happens… the acts of systemic racism, and the miscarriages of justice, have already occurred. African-Americans are pulled over twice as often as their Caucasian counterparts, and that disparity grows when you remove moving violations from the mix. More to the point “investigatory stops” – where officers pull a car over for trivial reasons because they suspect something more serious may be going on – are wildly out of balance.

So you have more black people being pulled over, every single day. Once they are pulled over, they are treated more physically in almost every way (the exception, the aforementioned officer shootings), take a look:

Less someone be inclined to suggest that African-Americans are more prone to resist and that is the reason, lets take a look at “compliant” stops (where the person being pulled over obeyed all orders by officers):

The likelihood of police putting their hands on a black person actually increased and the number of times they were pushed into a wall were largely unchanged. These are people who are actively following instructions by police, and yet, they are getting abused at a significantly and consistently greater rate then people of different ethnic groups.

This is where the real underlying problems are, because these things are happening day in and day out. They, unlike police shootings, are regular occurrences… these are our habits. It’s also where – perhaps – some solutions lie as well. The question becomes why do officers treat black people differently than white people when their behaviors are relatively the same? Like many things, the origins of this may be rooted in the generalized action of our society. Culturally, in the United States, we have almost always rendered black people (particularly men) as fearsome creatures. There are many media techniques for doing this:

  • African-Americans criminals are not named in photos roughly half the time (leaving the general classification of their race to be associated with the criminal act), Caucasians are named roughly two thirds of the time.
  • African-American suspects are shown in motion about half the time (showing a suspect in motion humanizes them, and reduces association with general characteristics like race), Caucasians over 2/3′s of the time.
  • African-Americans are depicted being physically held or restrained 38% of the time (images where the accused is being held imply they are more violent), Caucasians are show without restraints over 82% of the time.
  • African-Americans are nearly 4 times more likely to be portrayed as criminals than police officers on television news.

This is just a small sample, there are far more statistical facts available in support of the simple premise that we are systemically creating and fostering a culture of fear when it comes to African-Americans. Let me say that more clearly: we are taught to fear black people.

Terence Crutcher, in the words of police, as he was being shot, was a “big, bad dude.”

Terence Crutcher is probably dead right now because Betty Shelby was trained (her whole life) to be afraid of him. We know she scared, in her own words: “I was never so scared in my life as in that moment right then,” To be honest, I’d be scared too if I thought someone was reaching into a car to pull out a weapon; but that’s not the point I’m making. I believe, and there is ample evidence to support this theory, that officers (and everyone else) are more scared of black men then they are of Caucasian men. I suspect Officer Shelby is no exception, and the reason this is true is because she has been socially conditioned her entire life to react just that way (note: this is not – in any way – offering an excuse for her actions, it’s just a possible path toward minimizing the number of times those actions are repeated by others in the future).

Which brings us to where I think so many of the protests are missing the mark. While there is a problem with police shootings, it is by and large a small number of people doing (very) bad things. For example, in one study covering 1.6 million arrests, guns were fired in only 507 cases (that is three hundredths of a percent – .0003 – for those of you keeping score at home). By contrast, most of our media is consistently reporting stories in the manner discussed above; specifically, with a significant amount of racial bias. It is this generalized fear-mongering that creates a culture of perceived threats, itchy trigger fingers, and – ultimately – dead black men.

The circumstances around police shootings are almost always going to be to grey, and – case by case – far too unique to form any generally prescriptive solutions from them; however, there is action that can be taken with regard to how the media reports the news. You can call your local stations (or, even the national broadcasting companies) and request (demand?) that they start to uniformly report on criminal cases. When they fail to do so, use the power of social media to call them out on it (when they succeed, call that out as well – their competitors will notice).

Step one is making people realize that African-Americans are not raging violent beasts, but rather, simply Americans, just like everyone else. Once we normalize the perceptions and get over the institutionalized fear, it becomes far easier to correct the issues as we see them playing out on the street. But make no mistake, the root cause of all of this violence and death is not people with guns… it’s people with pens (and keyboards).

July 1, 2015

I Love it When I’m Wrong

I love it when I’m wrong, it’s one of my favorite phrases… and today… I was wrong. In being so, I also learned something about myself, reflection, and that (sometimes lost) art my parents taught me of thinking before you speak.

A few days ago EL James (author of 50 Shades of Grey) decided to hold a Twitter Q&A… this was a disaster. As a non-fan of the movie (I admit I didn’t read much the book (I didn’t get far before the writing turned me off)… but have read lots about it if that counts for anything), I thought the Twitter roast was hilarious and started sharing the “good times” with some friends (read: sharing the best Twitter slams for us to mutually titter and cackle about). That’s what I was doing when I came across this one:

It was (and if I’m being honest *is*) hilarious, and I was soon zipping it around to friends. But then, I read a bit more of @avestal’s Twitter feed (which you should check out… he’s funny and has his head on right) and came upon this (it’s a feed so you have to read it from the bottom up… I’m too lazy to have reshuffled it for you… sorry):

And that’s when I had my personal “oh shit” moment. You see, Andrew (sorry if that is too personal, Andrew, we don’t really know each other after all) is dead on with his assessment of “But–maybe don’t punch.” I constantly preach about positivity and treating others with respect… and here I was glorifying the very public flogging of someone who had put herself out there, taken a chance and written her book. I’m not saying for a second my opinion of the movie (or book, what few words of it I read) has changed… but there is no need for me to be personally bashing the woman who wrote it (or glorifying anyone else for doing it).

Mr. Vestal acquitted himself far better than I did in this whole thing and I can’t undo the sharing I’ve already done; however, I can say I learned from (and hopefully will be better because of) it and for that I’m thankful.

April 1, 2015

This is how you do it…

On June 17th, the Oakland A’s are having a “pride night” promotion in conjunction with their baseball game. Honestly, other than perhaps paying tribute and tossing a little respect on the LGBT community, I’m not sure what the evening will consist of, and frankly I don’t care. What I care about is that they are doing it (and that they have a “scout day” and a “superhero fireworks” day and a “Korean Heritage” day and a “faith and family” day and a “Jewish heritage” day… and, and, and, and. and…). But even all of that caring was not enough to get me to write about it (cause, let’s be honest, sports team do this kind of thing all the time… it’s good for business, it’s good for the community… it’s just kind of good).

What brings us to this little ditty, friends, is the pushback against “pride night” from the less than illustrious corners of the internet, and one woman’s ridiculously perfect response to it. Enter Eireann Dolan, who’s other claim to fame you’ll have to look up yourself if you are curious… as far as I’m concerned she is admirable for who she is and what she does. Instead of ranting against the beliefs/morals/ethics/whatever of those protesting “pride night” (despite having two moms who she calls – and I’m quoting her here – “super gay”) she instead showed empathy toward the position of those protesters and offered to purchase their season tickets for that game in order to donate them to folks who will truly appreciate the event but might otherwise be unable to attend.

Again, to be clear, what really resonates here is the high ground on which Miss Dolan has chosen to set up shop. No judgement, no vitriol, no negativity at all… just acceptance and cooperation. In an era where we use the word hero a lot, often without much of a vetting process for whom we bestow the designation, I’d like to take a moment today and ponder the “noble qualities” component of the definition of the word:

I think we overgeneralize the term hero these days, confining its usage to those demonstrating courage (i.e. servicemen and women) or superior abilities in a particular venue (i.e. professional athletes). While I’m not here to question those designations, I would like to perhaps engender a little more interest in the nobility piece. It is particularly easy these days to enter into (most often disrespectful) conflict with someone you disagree with. I actually found myself inclined to engage in a flame war on Miss Dolan’s blog with a comment I felt was not only inappropriate, but (IMHO) wrong. However, fortunately for everyone involved, I had her example to follow and I took a different tack.

The idea of honorable – and by extension, exemplary – behavior as being heroic seems to have been depreciated over the years; but the example I want to (and in fact did) follow today, the example I would want my children to learn from and follow did not come from someone in uniform. It came from a caring, compassionate, and creative person who took the time to find a solution rather than pick a fight.

To me that makes Miss Dolan a hero (and by that, I do not mean a submarine sandwich).

March 6, 2015

Why I love “The Dress”

Yeah, I said it. I’m not sick, annoyed, confused, or tired of “The Dress” and it’s blue, orange, white, black, gold… purple, pink, green… whatever… hues. It’s not a waste of time, nor an extravagant distraction of the first world order, and here’s why. Because, to put it simply, it has made people think.

Today I saw this:

Sorry “time wasting” apologists… that is not a frivolous message; and it resonates with just about everyone with an internet connection and a pulse.

Not enough for you, how about science:

“These receptors, called melanopsin, independently gauge the amount of blue or yellow incoming light, and route this information to parts of the brain involved in emotions and the regulation of the circadian rhythm.”

Still not your bag… okay how about some deeper (there-is-no-spoon’ish) introspective thinking:

All is conditioning. All is social construction, thought forms, carefully built identities, established “facts” that aren’t really facts but merely mutually agreed-upon illusions we greedily suck down like wine.

Consciousness swallows all labels, spits them back out as origami ducks nowhere near in a row.

Which leads to this very interesting, contemporary and in some ways ironic discussion on the absence of moral facts (vs opinions) in our children’s perceptions of today’s society.

I could fill countless lines of blog space with links to fascinating and educational conversations about, or uses of, “the dress” (none of which, by the way, spend any time arguing about which color it is; those arguments seem to be being made by the same people who think facebook and twitter are all about pictures of burnt peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other wayward “this is my lunch” postings).

So, with apologies to those (very specifically some members of my family) who find “The Dress” to be some sort of productivity succubus bent on destroying the last vestiges of “time well spent;” I’m glad this little debate went viral, I’m glad we are able to recognize – if only briefly – that we all see things through a different lens, and that one view is not necessarily the right or only perspective on things.

We can all learn a something from that little rainbow of a dress.. as long as we don’t waste too much time arguing about it.

November 20, 2014

All I want for Christmas…

I’ve decided if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them. Since “everyone” is ramping up for Christmas already; despite the fact that it’s still November and Thanksgiving is a full week away I figure I might as well try to do something constructive with the momentum. So here is my Christmas list (fully inclusive of all of my desires for this year).

1. Stop the bigotry, hate, derision, and fear. Break free of the onerous trappings of ignorance and embrace others for what they truly are… people, just like you and I, trying to move through and make the best of their lives.

That’s it… that’s all. Ready go!

This starts with stereotyping, and I’m not even thinking about “little black sambo,” the drunken indian, or the nerdy socially awkward (but super smart) Asian (or any of the other myriad of examples where minorities are marginalized by the generalities we cast upon them). No, today I’l focused a little closer to home (at least for me)… this has popped up on my facebook timeline four or five times over the last 24 hours:

Now, based on the tried and (arguably not) true axiom that “it’s okay if we say it to/about ourselves,” I should be okay going through the machinations of figuring out my redneck elf name. It’s all in good fun, and I’m not making fun of anyone but myself.

Except… I am. In reality this effects everyone. First and most directly, of course, it effects any and all “white” people who see it. Beyond that, though, it effects literally everyone… in so many ways. Once I get comfortable disparaging myself or those who are like me, the bar (of resistance) is lowered when it comes to grouping other people (and subsequently, potentially stereotyping them as well). I am tacitly approving of a society based on inclusion (and therefore also exclusion)… a culture of “us and them,” rather than “we.”

This type of thing is the toughest to get away from as well. Because it seems harmless, and self-effacing/deprecating, so why should anyone else be offended. The thing is, not offending someone (even though, perhaps it should) doesn’t mean what you have said or done is right; or, more importantly, best.

We don’t need to live in a divisive, unkind world. But if we are going to try to exist another way, it will take effort… including giving up some of our creature comforts like making fun of ourselves (and others) in a mean spirited way.

So there is it. my Christmas wish for 2014. And, since I am certainly guilty of doing this myself, I’ll go ahead and double down and make it my New Years resolution while I’m at it.

PS: Not judging anyone who did this and/or had fun doing so. This sort of thing is absolutely a societal norm in our culture and noone should be belittled for taking part in it. I just have a vision for what I believe is a better world for my children and their children to grow up in… and it starts with treating each other (and ourselves) better than we currently do.

September 23, 2014

Which witch is which? Emma Watson and the case for advocacy.

Recently Emma Watson gave a heralded speech to the UN on gender equality and the #HeForShe movement, spearheaded by the UN. #HeForShe is a worthy endeavor attempting to enlist 1 billion men and boys as supporters for gender equality… I am man number 41,039 for what that’s worth…

I have seen several portions of her talk both quoted and gushed about, so I figured I’d do my part in heaping praise toward her effort. Before I begin though, I do have a bit of a bone to pick with the UN and the name of the campaign… so… if you will indulge a short detour (if not just skip the next paragraph)…

One of the oft cited portions of her speech included dipping into the issue of equality from a male perspective. Specifically, talking about how women were not the only victims of gender inequality. Along with many others I found this to be a powerful addition to her words (not unlike President – then candidate – Obama’s speech on race from 2008). The issue is, I find “HeForShe” to be a bit at odds with the overall message (as paraphrased by me: “this effects us all and we are all part of the solution”) I got out of that segment of her speech. I think I would have preferred some sort of “all for one and one for all” type of name (not sure what it would be… but that’s not the point of this post, so I’m not really spending cycles on it right now).

Back to the point…

There was a lot to like in her presentation, but what really resonated with me was this:

“You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the UN. It’s a good question and trust me I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.”

And therein lies the rub. Anyone – and everyone – who cares can make a difference (in truth, by the simple act of caring, they already have). This is powerful, powerful stuff. If we all simply ignored the traditional/perceived blockers to the things we want to accomplish or the change we want to see in the world and, instead, acted upon our passions/interests; neither our lives nor our world would have any choice but to change.

In talking with a friend about this he threw out the quote about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. I agreed, but countered with what I feel is a more empowering, albeit slightly more prescriptive quote from Arthur Ashe:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Every bit of effort – no matter how small – makes a difference; momentum absolutely matters. You don’t have to be Hermoine Granger to care about equality; and you don’t have to be asked to speak at the UN to make a difference. Every person you interact with is influenced by that experience. Every person who cares about you also cares (to whatever degree) about the things near and dear to you. No matter who you are you have that, and you can use it.

If you’ve ever played the 6 degrees of separation game (or, in terms the younger generations will find easier to relate to… signed up for LinkedIn) you know that no matter who you are, you are not many leaps away from a very large number of people. Shaquille O’Neil, Stanford University’s Provost, and the aforementioned President Obama are all 3rd degree contacts of mine on LinkedIn – meaning someone I know knows someone who knows them. There are literally tens of thousands of people one contact away from me. All I need to do is say the right thing, in the right way (so that it resonates with the right person) and it could explode throughout my personal network, and probably, by extension, yours as well.

So, I’d like to encourage everyone (especially the men reading this) to support the #HeForShe movement… it is important. However, on a bigger canvas, I’d like each of you to take a close look at what is important to you. What change would you like to see (or what do you want to ensure does not get changed)? Whatever that is, start talking about it, because you care and because you want to make it better.

To quote Emma Watson, quoting so many before her… if not you, then who? If not now, then when?

——

If you didn’t get a chance to see her presentation, here it is.

January 1, 2014

Happy New Years… maybe…

It’s New Years Eve and, as is the case some years, I have spent a little time reflecting on the year, my life, the state of the world I live in and my impact upon it. I don’t always do this… some years I’m very “New Years Snobbish” and convince myself that this type of reflection should be a daily occurrence and not something reserved for the end/beginning of the year. Those years I consider New Years Resolutions (or even “deep” personal introspection) to be anything from passionate pretense to pandering-preachy-(self)promotion (or at least an excuse for shameless alliteration ;) ). This is not one of those years (next year – or even tomorrow – I will undoubtedly hate myself for writing this).

I’ll start by sharing my basic frame of mind going into the day (and I’ll do it in classic egocentric form, by quoting myself)

I don’t currently recall when or why I said that (other than it was earlier this year) but I do recall how true it rang when I first said it, and I also recognize how much it resonates with me in these last few hours of 2013.

This should not be confused as some fire and brimstone sermon about how we are hurdling toward Armageddon (even if, perhaps, we are). In fact, as difficult as this may be to digest based on that quote, I am somewhat optimistic right now. I’m hopeful because of this other little narcissistic jewel I’m going to drop on you (once again, me quoting me):

See, I told you, I’m little Mary sunshine!

Seriously though, here’s the thing. While I struggle, on a day to day basis, to find much moral, intellectual, or even self-sustaining value in our society, I do continue to be reminded and confronted by acts of charity, compassion, and kindness; and in these things, in our humanity, I see hope for our species. It makes me think that, perhaps sometime soon, before it is truly too late we will begin to act – as a society – as though we are a community; a mesh network of interconnected (and interdependent) people, rather than an ever growing collection of individuals related by proximity… and little else.

To me, this would be the big turning point in the history of mankind (and the one thing that might enable us to overcome the threat of extinction). The ability to see ourselves as being a part of the same team, hoping to achieve the same goals, rather than adversaries competing for the same commodities.

So that’s my goal, or, if you prefer, resolution: To seek out, focus upon, glorify, and empower humanity; to find or build synergies with both my best friends and “worst enemies” for the sake of a common goal we may or may not as yet even fully recognize; and to do my part in fulfilling the potential and promise at the foundation of each and every New Years wish/dream/resolution ever made… to live happily ever after…

April 30, 2013

Without tolerance, there’s something missing…

So, I’ll just admit it. Five years ago, I was a hater. A big time hater who eschewed most of what he believed in in order to advocate for what he believed in. I think the technical term for this is hypocrite. And like most things, it got worse before it got better (assuming I can justifiably call where I am now better… I have no idea how I will judge myself in five more years).

hater

This little epiphany came to me shortly after I was sorting through and processing news related to Jason Collins, specifically the reactions of other people to his announcement. This may seem unrelated to what follows, but bear with me… they connect (at least in they mystical ether more commonly referred to as my brain). A friend came up to me and showed me a picture on Facebook with President Bush and President Obama standing together with a caption that read something like “like if you think Bush was a better President.”

Laughter ensued, and a few snarky comments as well. But then it struck me, there are a lot of people who would be inclined to hit that like button. A lot of good, intelligent, compassionate people for that matter. And here I was mocking them, and then… suddenly… I was transported back in time to 1984 with the sage words of none other than the great prophet General Public resounding through my mind and into my soul:

I don’t know where I am but I know I don’t like it
I open my mouth and out pops something spiteful
Words are so cheap, but they can turn out expensive
Words like conviction can turn into a sentence

Hyperbole aside, this is where my mind went. I pointed out to my friend that, in fact, there is a group of people who really sincerely believe that President Bush was the better leader of the free world. I went on to say (in my mind) “who am I to berate them for that?” Our country is deeply divided right now over… well.. pretty much everything. This is not because one side is clearly right and the other side is clearly wrong (if that were true we wouldn’t be so deeply and evenly divided); more-so, it is because we are investing so much time and energy in pretending that the other side is clearly wrong – and deriding them for it – that we aren’t spending any (or at least enough) time actually trying to come up with solutions.

I, for example, in my excitement to support the candidate I had chosen, jumped firmly on the waxing tide of vitriol being heaped on outgoing President Bush as part of the Obama campaign. Completely ignoring the fact that Bush was not running in 2008, so anything dumped on him had nothing to do with the election that year. What I saw in Obama, a chance for progress toward general equality and tolerance I was conveniently evading in my own political rhetoric.

Coming back to Mr Collins announcement yesterday. I am happy, impressed and (more than anything else) thankful with/to him for taking that all important first step and “coming out.” I was also overwhelmed with the initial outpouring of positive emotion and support for him from athletes and others. Then some of the “other” responses started to trickle in. Mark Jackson said:

“As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family and I’m certainly praying for them at this time.”

This was actually filed under the “positive” responses… I didn’t take it that way (I’m not going to go into how I did take it as that would run contrary to what I’m trying to say with this post… you can be your own judge).

Mike Wallace posted an update on twitter wondering why, with so many attractive females around, a guy would want to mess around with another guy. An ESPN reporter went off on a bit of a rant about living in sin and what it was or was not to be Christian.

It was Mr. Wallace’s comments that really struck me. My instant (in my mind, again) response was something along the lines of:

That’s like asking a football player (which he is) – “with so many good basketball games going on, why would you want to waste your time on football” – or, asking a person who is eating Thai food – “with so many good Italian joints out there, why would you take your chances on Thai”…

In short, it’s a matter of taste. My sister (despite being brought up in a good family and being loved as a child) loves (**LOVES**) mayonnaise. I, by contrast, loath the fact that it exists and might accidentally get on a spoon I could possibly use months (and numerous washings) later. Other than the fact that *I think* she is bat-shit crazy for liking the stuff, there is nothing wrong with my sisters view. Further, no amount of intense personal loathing of the creamy white menace on my part will make her wrong (let alone change her taste for it).

There is also nothing wrong with Mr. Collins being more attracted to men than to women. In a more open, equal society he might be just as confused about why Mr. Wallace likes women as Mr. Wallace is currently confused about Collins predilection toward men. And that’s the thing, we should be able to treat someones sexual orientation (or political views) like my sister and I treat her taste (or my lack thereof) for mayonnaise (with respectful levity if anything at all).

But somehow we can’t. Bush has to be a villain and the worst President in history, God has to hate fags, I’m supposed to hate Mike Wallace (or Chris Culliver before him) and on and on it goes. What we fail to grasp, at times, is that while something may be a complete abomination to some of us (I’m looking at you, mayonnaise), what someone else feels about it is none of our business. Even when we view it as a sin or a blight against humanity we also need to remember that people are blessed with free will and can sin, blight, and abominate to their hearts content… so long as they are not harming others in the process. It is not our job to “fix” them, and even if it were… hating on them won’t do it.

The same friend who brought me the picture this morning also made the point to me yesterday that people shouldn’t be chided for openly and honestly sharing their feelings (ALA Mr. Wallace), even if they run contrary to the feel good mood of the day. And he’s right. He’s right because at the end of the day it’s not how well we articulate our opinions of someone else’s views that will make the world a better place, but rather, how well we tolerate, understand and ultimately respect those views no matter how much we might disagree with them.

April 17, 2013

If nice guys finish last… it’s because we let them…

So, I was minding my own business this afternoon, lying in bed browsing facebook intending to do nothing productive at all… when this popped up in my timeline:

There goes the neighborhood…

I spent last week attacking some of the stereotypes that plague women… focusing largely on sexpliotation in advertising and in practice. What I didn’t address at all was the sexist humor sub-culture. Because, honestly, I completely forgot all about it… which is part of why it is so insidious.

When someone tells you a joke (or even if you just see it online, to a lesser extent) it tends to be much harder to run contrary to it than some of the more blatant things we have seen recently. I’m sure very few people had trouble being put off by the cologne ad that was in the sexploitation post; but its much harder to respond harshly to a joke.

“It’s just a joke!” … “Lighten up!” … “You are no fun!”

Not only do you seldom get a meaningful conversation, but, often, you wind up being the bad guy (and not the good kind of bad guy… if there is such a thing). Speaking of which… there is this one floating around out there as well:

That rings more true, I think, and is far less a part of the problem… here’s why.

The first image nearly begs you to treat a woman poorly. It very clearly indicates that, in order to succeed with women (not be single) you mustn’t treat them nicely. Far and away, the number one reason for being single (read: failing in the dating game) – according to this epiphany filled experts guide to relationship Shangri-La – is treating women nicely.

Culturally, if I do not want to be shunned, I am allowed two reactions to this 1. I can think it is funny and laugh… giving it my tacit approval, or 2. I can attempt to imply empathy or comradeship (i.e. “true story, bro”)… seemingly giving it my explicit approval.

Either way, even if I don’t personally treat women poorly, I am enabling and advancing a society that encourages me (and everyone else) to do so.* A culture that fails by creating kids like the Steubinville football players we all know so well. A lot of things contributed to their depravity, to be sure. Not insignificant in it’s influence, I’m certain, is the cornucopia of exposure points for this type of subtle abuse-empowering messaging.

The fact of the matter is, however, that it isn’t funny or true. You can enhance your chances with women by being confident, assertive, and perhaps even a little brazen, but you cannot enhance them by being an ass (read: by being mean, neglectful or abusive). You may succeed in shaming or intimidating a women into not leaving you… but don’t be mistaken… you have not accomplished or “won” anything.

(For the record, being nice to her and no one else is only one small step in the right direction, and is not victory either. But I really feel the intent behind that “bad boy” is more the confidant, take charge kind of guy who is not by definition the bad kind of bad.)

The old phrase that goes “nice guys finish last” – thankfully – is typically (or at least universally) not true. However, jokes like the pie chart above advance a society that supports that mind set and, subsequently, a culture of abuse. It’s not easy to stand up to the weight of a social situation, especially against something the vast majority of people consider innocuous, and say “hey, that’s not funny (or true)” but if not you, than who?

Because at the end of the day, the only way nice guys (or gals) actually finish last is if we allow them to do so, and I really don’t want to live in that world, do you?

*The effect of this is, by the way, no different than it would be with any ethnic, racial, gay, or other stereotype supporting joke you may hear (or choose to tell), I just happen to be focused on women for whatever reason right now. Probably leftover angst over Steubinville, Halifax, San Jose etc.

April 11, 2013

Putting your worst foot forward

Filed under: Make the world better,Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 3:27 pm

Yesterday I posted a kind of ranty, kind or preachy, pseudo call to action piece. The theme (at least at the end during the “call to action” part) had to do with the exploitation of women, particularly their sexuality, in today’s society. In response to this (one of a few interesting responses I received) I got an email with the simple subject “practice what you preach!” and this link:

Bad Picture Monday

For those not inclined to follow the link, it suggests – in short – that people post a bad picture of themselves each Monday in order to reject the idea that ones value is based on your appearance. Don’t hide the real you behind a wall of flattering posed pictures taken at just the right angle in just the right light… show the real you.

My instant, admittedly thoughtless, response was (and I quote) “Love it… I’m in… you?” And the fact is, I do (love it) and I am (in). It feeds fantastically into what I have said (or want to say) over and over again. To borrow and build upon (which is not meant to imply improving upon… simply acknowledging that I am adding additional words to his quote) a little from Dr King… people should be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, the shape of their bodies, the clarity of their skin, or the bone structure of their faces.

It also reminded me of my crusade against(ish) make-up. I’ve never been a fan and I’ve yet to encounter a time when I think it has been an improvement to a persons appearance. I acknowledge that it can *change* a persons appearance, which is something someone might want to do (like changing the color or design of a shirt, jacket or whatever they are wearing); but that is not the same as improving. In my mind makeup is a facade placed over how someone really looks. Which, is fine, if they are doing it because they want to look different (much like one might get a tattoo if you want your arm, back, leg, whatever, to look a certain way). However, all too often make-up is worn because the person feels they “need it” to look better (or even acceptable), and that is where this here rubber meets that thar road and I take umbrage. No one should feel forced to change their appearance to fit a norm or a standard.

But I digress (I do that a lot)…

In short, it’s what’s inside that counts. Anything that lends credence or support to that idea is “top of the list” stuff to me. To me, this “bad picture Monday” idea is right in the wheelhouse.

But then I gave it a bit more thought on the way into work today, and, frankly, I’m not as enthused as I was. I still like the idea just as much… the problem is this: I already post bad pictures of myself… a couple of random examples (with varying -increasing, I think – degrees of “bad”):

It turns out that it is no big deal to me to post unflattering pictures. This is probably mostly due to the fact that I am tall, employed, relatively fit and healthy, white, and male… with a good family… in America. What, really, do I have to be insecure about? In fact, when I post those pictures it is typically to get a laugh at my own expense.

Which got me to thinking… have I, in the past, been positive/secure/confident and mentally healthy in posting these… or have I been an oblivious participant in an oppressive culture? Am I, without my own knowledge, poking fun at people who are insecure with their appearance, mocking those who do not have the time or resources to make themselves “presentable?” Am I, in fact, part of the problem rather than my objective of being part of the solution? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are (I’m game to hear from anyone with ideas).

More to the point, a woman rejecting the idea she needs conform to a certain image in order to have value makes sense because that addresses what is broken in society. For a man it is different, typically we are judged by something like our earning potential… so perhaps I should start there. This train of thought reminds me of this image I saw a while back (which I’ve been saving for a blog of it’s own… which may still happen). It paints about as clear a picture as I’ve seen of how society values the respective genders:

study

It is something I’ll have to ponder and explore a bit more. For now I’m going forward with the plan to post bad pictures on Monday’s; however, I am reserving the right to pull back after re-evaluation. Perhaps, given who I am and the position of privilege fate has given me… there is something more appropriate for me to be doing that assaults some other stereotype.

However, until I figure that all out… viva la mala imagen!!!

April 10, 2013

Much ado about something…

I have heard a steady and incessant stream of criticism for Brad Paisley’s new song (featuring LL Cool J) today. Let me start by saying most of it is bush-league and unenlightened and if you don’t have the ability to discern the difference between ignoring history and trying to create a better future, you do not belong in the “critiquing game.” Small minded people with limited depth of thought really need not apply.

bra and ll

Here is what I see in the song, first and foremost, an attempt by two artists to do what the rest of the country (world?) should be doing; specifically, moving toward a better place. The lessons of the past should not be forgotten, and I’m certain that no one, Paisley or Cool J included, wants to pretend slavery didn’t happen. However, in the real world of today, established social conditions of fear and bigotry are a real and tangible problems and attempts to get beyond those are worth far more than clinging or giving deference to atrocities of the past.

There is not a single black person alive in the United States today who has felt the sting of a foreman’s whip on a plantation, who has been denigrated and treated as less than human by their “master” or who has had all of their liberties systematically striped from them (assuming they ever had them to begin with). There is not one who cannot vote because they are property rather than people and they can drink from the same water fountains (et. al.) as everyone else. However, each and every black person in the United States today, does continue to suffer from the residual effects of slavery. They do not enjoy parity as citizens, equality in the workplace, or uniformity of perception by their peers. They live their lives cast in an inescapable societal role defined by outdated and in most cases never accurate assumptions, perceptions and stereotypes. Or, in simpler terms, they exist in the context of institutionalized ignorance and (hopefully an ever reducing amount of) bigotry.

Therefore, while I agree it is important to remember our history so that we do not repeat it, I do not agree that we need to let it take priority over anything attempting to promote communications and understanding. There is no greater potential power against inequality than knowledge. Comprehending someone else’s reality allows one to understand that they are not the enemy, simply another person (or group of people) moving through life, just like you and me. This is the crux of this song, Paisley trying to clear up what his flag shirt means to him, as opposed to what it might mean to someone who has seen it without any context with which to interpret it. LL hits the nail on the head with this (much maligned) line “I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air but I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here.”

I am flabbergasted that critics have elected to point out that “conversate” is not in the dictionary while ignoring the significance of this outreach (the same critic who used the oh-so-compelling argument of “oh LL” – full stop – to make a point and said “…you can’t be no…” ’nuff said). The intent (read: the substance) here is a stated interest in understanding and a candid admission of what scares him about going down that road. There is more actionable content in that sentence than in the entirety of all of the articles/blogs/videos I have seen bashing the song combined.

If people can begin to understand each other and stop crossing the street in fear because a bunch of black kids are approaching from the opposite direction (or because of a bunch of tattoo’d white kids, or whatever) then that is real progress, something that can make a difference in the world. Understanding that a guy can wear a do-rag without being in a gang, or whistle Dixie without being a racist is a worthy goal… something for which we should be saluting these two artists, not disparaging them.

There are some historical issues in the song, for sure. It is even debatable if the song (musically) is good. However, what is undeniable is that two people from opposite sides of the spectrum got together to produce a piece of art that attempts to unify rather then divide. And if you can’t get behind that, then frankly (and bluntly), I can’t get behind you.

July 13, 2012

I liked Pinterest before…

After conducting this search (note the search box in the upper left hand corner of the image)… I kinda love Pinterest…

I’m going to keep my comments simple…

  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness.
  • For females between fifteen to twenty-four years old who suffer from anorexia nervosa, the mortality rate associated with the illness is twelve times higher than the death rate of ALL other causes of death.
  • Research dollars spent on anorexia averaged $.70 per affected individual, compared to over $159.00 per affected individual for schizophrenia.

Eating disorders are no joke and taking them seriously is no small thing. Kudos to you Pinterest, good form.

ps… I checked a couple of other sites, specifically two of the largest search engines on the web… lets just say they could learn a thing or two from Pinterest…

February 27, 2012

Time well spent?

I often think that dedicating ones time to eradicating propaganda might be a more productive undertaking than the fight against hunger, homelessness, or the pursuit of world peace. In fact, the former might just be the most effective method for hastening the realization of the latter causes.

propaganda

If we could get beyond who’s fault the situation is, and focus – instead – on the situation in need of repair; it seems to me that we would become infinitely more capable of fixing what ails us.

So here’s a thought… spend a week (longer if you wind up enjoying it… or finding it productive… or both) finding no fault in others. Feel free to recognize situations that need remedy, and certainly feel empowered to work toward resolving them. However, do not seek the cause (other than to assist with the solution, of course), do not seek to blame, do not seek accountability. Don’t even seek a learning/teaching opportunity (other than the example you set by working to rectify the situation). After all, if a situation is bad enough enough to solicit blame, there is probably something more important to do anyway (i.e. fixing it).

October 20, 2010

If you don’t know… you betta ask somebody…

September 2, 2010

Does this work for you?

Both of these worlds exist today, which one you grow up in is decided entirely by luck (where you happen to be born), neither of these children “earned” their fate.  Are you okay with that?  If not, have you thought about what you can do about it?

Cute, ins’t he? :)

That’s a sewer, by the way…

Today I am starting up a project to try to make a difference (not necessarily for this child, or any other homeless child).  My intention is to start up an organization that facilitates technical support for non-profits.  ”Member” organizations or individuals might provide free web sites, online presence, or simply help an organization put a printer on a network.

I have no idea how successful (success being defined by how many people I am able to help) I (we) will be in this venture, but at least I will not feel as though I am idly existing while this disparity of opportunity continues.

If you think you might have some technical skills that would be of value, and you are willing to donate them (there will be no revenue from this effort… this is an exercise in giving) let me know.  I will follow up with you once things get rolling.

April 2, 2010

You could do far worse things with just over an hour…

Filed under: A life worth living,Make the world better,Observations — Tags: , — sbj @ 3:58 am

So, here’s the deal.  What started out as a seed for a simple blog entry has turned into more of a project.  Some time ago I solicited my socnet for input and help in creating a playlist that a person might play to their daughters; hoping that they would get the right messages from the songs and the play list could help shape them while it entertained them.

The Youtube playlist below is the result of that solicitation.

Today as I was mastering (which, soon, you will see I didn’t finish doing) the play list I realized a few of things.  First of all, I cannot possibly put all of the songs of value into one reasonably sized play list. Secondly, I also cannot properly express the value (to me, anyway) of each of these songs by putting them in a playlist.  Finally, I realized that neither me, nor my dedicated (but rather small) socnet are going to be able to capture everything I want to say with what is available to us in our musical lexicon.

With all of that in mind I am expanding this little blog post into a not so little project.  A project designed to capture as much musical knowledge from my friends as possible, harness the knowledge and lessons therein, and share it in a meaningful way.

More details on that over the weekend (once I have fully wrapped my head around it).  But, since you all have been so patient waiting for me to put this list together… without further ado… the opening salvo in this little musical journey…

An hour (plus) that just might leave you better than it found you

Ps… I think my love affair with Christina Aguilera and India Arie shines through pretty clearly here, ironically, though, I did not contribute to this list, it is 100% provided by friends.  It appears my friendship “apple” doesn’t stay far from its “tree” either :)

PPS please please please suggest more songs in comments… I am beyond eager to have more great songs to listen to and share!!!

March 29, 2010

A friend in need is a friend in deed…

Filed under: Make the world better,Observations — Tags: , , — sbj @ 4:51 pm

An old (and former, to be honest) friend of mine used to say something along the lines of “you don’t see a person for who really are until you see them at their worst” (meaning seeing them in the worst circumstances – i.e. facing adversity).

I have never agreed with that statement, however.  I believe that how a person acts and reacts to positive situations is as important and telling as how they react when the chips are down.  And every shade of grey inbetween is also just as valid a reflection of hat person.

Some people respond well to stress and become “more than they usually are,” others, who excel on a day to day basis, shrink some from adversity.  Neither of these extremes is a blueprint for a better or worse individual, in my mind.

Having said all of that, I am still impressed when someone, facing a difficult situation of their own is able to look beyond themselves and think of others.

One of my online friends, known on the internet as Topsurf has recently stood out to me in this area.  Without going too far into her personal life, her father is suffering from a bout with cancer and has been receiving treatments.

In addition to love and support for her father, what has come from her time in the hospital is this

http://layersoflove.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/hello-world/

In short, she has started up a blanket drive to stock the shelves with fleeces (the preferred blanket of patients in treatment rooms, I have learned).  I’ll let you read the rest in her words.

Another old friend of mine, from high school actually, used to always say “a friend is someone who thinks of you, while others are thinking of themselves.”

Thanks Toppy… for being a friend to those nameless and faceless people you will never even know; but who will find warmth and comfort because of your efforts.

December 30, 2009

helps the medicine go down…

If you have read my blog for a while, you are aware of my friend Alison and her project 365 blog. If you are not familiar, in short, she has dedicated her blog to being publicly thankful to the people in her life (no matter how ancillary they might or might not be).

Yesterday, she wrote a piece (http://300sixtyfive.blogspot.com/2009/12/day-290-non-rushing-one.html) that exemplifies why I so enjoy reading her work.  Alison recognizes little things that often go under-appreciated, ignored or just missed altogether.

I have been the driver of that minivan and, I am ashamed to say, have also been upset when they don’t acknowledge the gesture. Every time I have done that I have subsequently felt small and petty.  I didn’t let them in to get thanks, so why do I get upset when I don’t get it?

The simple reality, though, is that people who do good things (no matter how large or small) should be recognized for it and should be encouraged to continue.  In my opinion, that encouragement is as good for the accolader as it is for the accoladee, as the positive aspects of the act are reinforced for both.

I guess what I want to say is, thanks Alison!  It makes my life more pleasant knowing there are people out there like you, paying attention to and acknowledging the real greatness in this world… like a couple unhurried seconds in the life of an anonymous woman in a red minivan.

On a good day it reinforces my world view… and on a bad day… it is… well… a spoonful of sugar :)

January 3, 2009

What it’s all about…

Filed under: A life worth living,Make the world better — sbj @ 3:33 am

Since I read this earlier tonight I have been pondering things I could say to add to the story.  Bottom line, there aren’t any, so, without fanfare or preamble… here you go.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?section=magazine&id=3789373

December 30, 2008

I love little reminders…

Over the last month, largely because of my sisters urging which preceded an influx of family and then friend “pressure” (in the best sense of the word) I have been dragged (at first kicking and screaming, now just kicking… in more of a “love tap” sort of way) into the world of Facebook.

I have linked up with friends and family from around the country and to a lesser degree, the world, and as much as I hate to admit it, I have not hated it. However, what it has really done it serve as a reminder. Today I added a friend from Kansas, the first thing I did, of course, was to check out her profile. Here is her most recent update:

My Kiva family just made another payment on their loan. I’m really proud of them!

Her Kiva family! In case you are not familiar with http://www.kiva.org it is a service that allows individuals to give loans to other individuals in need. Specifically, entrepreneurs in developing countries around the world so that they can (to quote the website) “lift themselves out of poverty.”

Kiva is a great cause, and, I’m once again impressed and endeared to this particular friend; however, on a broader scale, I am reminded that you become what you surround yourself with and, I am probably on the path of becoming a pretty good person, based on the friends I have chosen over the past couple of years.

I have surrounded myself with some pretty spectacular people; people with amazing value systems and warm and giving hearts. I’m a very lucky person to have such friends and appreciative of my friend in Kansas for (inadvertently) reminding me of this.

That is all, over and out! J

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