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February 19, 2017

A short story about empathy and understanding…

(The story at the beginning of this is altered to protect people who might be offended by the actual topic…
I’m not this sensitive about golf, but I needed to make a point)

I am a golfer. I love the sport and play it as often as I am able (I’m even going on a 50 day golf odyssey to every state this year). But often (as I’m a big fan of basketball as well) I’m in the gym with guys who don’t play golf. Periodically, the conversation will turn to what is and isn’t a sport; and, almost invariably someone will go on a “golf isn’t a sport” rant. If the majority of the group feels that way, it can often turn into a full-on offensive against golf, golfers, and anyone who might defend the game as a sport.

This (didn’t really, see note above) happened to me the other day and I came away with a perspective I feel might be important to share. When talking to a “golfing” friend later in the day I pointed out that probably, at this stage in my life, dealing with people constantly attacking “golf” was the closest I would ever come to feeling racism or bigotry (I’m a tall while male… I have literally every advantage our society offers). I noted how tough it can be to be surrounded by people who disrespect and even hate “golf.” Especially because they felt so emboldened by their majority standing that they were perfectly comfortable saying these things right to my face, without any regard for my feelings.

I did acknowledge that, while there is a clear majority of “non-golfers” around me I still had the ability to leave the situation and easily escape my tormentors, but still, it did offer me a hint of what it might be like. It was right about here in the conversation that I realized how broad a spectrum “empathy” can really have. In some ways, I certainly was more able to empathize with people who have been oppressed (based on race, gender, or whatever). However, if you think about it there is a big difference between the understanding you get from a car full of people driving by and yelling “cracker” and having almost every single person around you saying it. There is even another level when you consider that a person can get in their car and drive as far as they want… and still be looked on as that “cracker.”


(note: this image ^^^ links to a great article on empathy and dealing with it in interpersonal situations… it’s valuable all by itself)

What I believe is that getting to that point mentally, imagining that hopelessness or at least futility… that is where real empathy begins. I think it is very easy to be called a name, or have some core tenant of your beliefs attacked and think you “get it.” You don’t. And, while you may get closer to a functional (and, dare I say, useful) understanding if you take the full mental journey, you still won’t know the true experience (just as I never will).

However, maybe you don’t have to. When you take the step from “they called me a name and that sucks, so I get racism” or “all those guys were so much bigger than me, so I get what it’s like to be a woman and constantly feel like prey” to “what must be like to never be able to escape this… to have no safe harbor, have my only real options be to deal with it or hide… I just can’t imagine” you are probably getting as close as you can get (and as close as you need to be to know you don’t want anyone to experience that… ever). When it stops being a co-opted phrase to describe your personal discomfort (i.e. about you), and becomes a heartfelt caring for someone else (i.e. about someone else)… you’re probably where you need to be. You are feeling actual empathy… and probably personal growth as well.

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).

September 30, 2015

Tom Brady, Donald Trump, and Civic Responsibility (this may be the only place you can see those three things linked together)

Tom Brady – in an “obvious” attempt to personify the issues we are having as a nation – said the following in a recent interview regarding whether or not he would be voting for his friend Donald Trump:

brady trump

“One way or the other, it’s so far away from when the election will be. And whatever I vote is going to be my own personal choice based on how I feel. I don’t even know what the issues are. I haven’t paid attention to politics in a long time. It’s actually not something that I really even enjoy. It’s way off my radar.”

While I (strongly) agree with Tom, that his vote should be his own personal choice, what concerns me is the “it’s actually not something that I really even enjoy” sentence.

Politics, the governing of our country, and the preservation of our way of life are not things that were ever meant for anyone’s personal enjoyment. Paying my taxes is “actually not something that I really even enjoy” but I still do it… because it is my responsibility. Fighting (and in many cases dying) across the Pacific, or in Europe in a world war was “actually not something troops really even enjoyed”… but they still did it… because it was their responsibility. Similarly, casting intelligent, informed votes isn’t “fun” … it is your responsibility as a citizen.

Upon first glance it may seem strange to draw a parallel between people laying down their lives in war and folks acting a bit cavalier about how they vote. However, when you look at why those people gave their lives (or pay their taxes), and you consider that having a democratic form of government was, to many of them, worth dying for… how can you not conclude it is critically important to take that responsibility seriously.

I know it’s dry, I know it’s frustrating, I know it does not stand up to the entertainment test like Game of Thrones (or Downton Abby, or Desperate Housewives, or whatever floats your boat), but I don’t care (and neither should you)… it’s your job. Watch a newscast, read the paper, watch the debates, know what you are talking about and vote accordingly.

If you don’t want to… if advanced citizenry isn’t your thing… there are plenty of dictatorships, monarchy’s, and other non-representative forms of government that would love to have you obliviously marching to the beat of their drum.

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.

May 21, 2015

With all Due Respect to Maya Angelou (and Mark Twain)

I love Maya Angelou, I don’t know if I’ve ever had an office that didn’t contain at least one book or collection of hers… this one is on my office bookshelf right now:

However, multiple times a week (sometimes a day, depending on how much free time I am wasting) I’ll see the following on Facebook or Pinterest or somewhere else:

Now, I get where she (and he, before her) is/was going with this. And, on an individual basis – complete with a healthy dose of proper context – I guess I wouldn’t even put up much of a fight about it. However, taken against a more general canvas I think I struggle with the potential message.

Here’s the thing, my entire bio on Twitter (and other places as well) consists of this “what you think of me is none of my business.” Now while that may seem a bit egotistical or something, I assure that is not where it is coming from. The point, simply is that my character, my self-confidence, and (most importantly for this discussion) my actions are not guided by someone else and their opinions… especially of me.

If I’m going to give (whether it is money, time, advice or something else) to someone in need what I’m not going to to is pre-screen that gift against what that person thinks of me… that is completely irrelevant to their need, which is what I’m (at least theoretically) addressing by my actions.

This thought process goes beyond giving. In my everyday life I don’t make decisions about what I think about people based on my perceived notion of how they view me. For starters, how fleeting would my opinions of people be in that instance; reevaluating them each time they had an emotional reaction to something I did?

There are people in my life that I view as priorities who I know for a fact do not view me as such. Some view me as options… some probably view me far worse than that. I don’t care, it has nothing to do with my feelings, respect, or prioritization of them. And frankly, if it did – and I was honest with myself – I’m pretty sure I’d find that petty and small of me. I’m pretty sure most parents have experienced the priority/option paradox with their children, and I doubt any of them are willing to throw out the (mostly grown) baby with the metaphorical bathwater.

So, as much as I revere and respect Maya (and perhaps even Mark.. although I certainly don’t have as “close” a relationship with him as I do her), I have to part ways on this notion. I get the “don’t be trampled upon” idea, but when taken generally I think the bad outweighs the good on this one. You can avoid being trampled on because of a slogan, or you can avoid it because of an inner strength and confidence garnered by setting your own compass, cutting your own jib, and being true to yourself and your feelings. If I were in the business of giving advice, I’d point people toward the latter option…

April 30, 2015

The continuing downward spiral of our standards for greatness…

I’m still (quite) bothered by the moniker of “mother of the year” attributed to the woman who used violence to express her disapproval of her son participating in a violent protest. Not necessarily bothered by her, mind you… that’s her family and her business, I’ve not walked a foot in her shoes, let alone a mile. My issue is with the media and their inability to see the problem with sending that message.

There are so many points of failure there. What would the conversation be if it had been his father rather than his mother beating him up over his protesting actions? Play that one out in your mind. I suspect that at best it would be ignored, alternately it might appear as one of many clips of “black on black violence” running rampant on the streets, further evidence of what is wrong with “them.” Two parents, same action, yet completely different responses… why? Are we celebrating her inability to be violently effective?

What of the mothers who children stayed home and read, or did homework, or went down the next day and cleaned up after the looters and vandals. If this woman was mother of the year… what are they? How about the mothers of the peaceful protesters that never turned to looting or violence, but exercised their right (some would say responsibility) as citizens to assemble. What did the parents of these men – who stood with the police, against the violence and criminal activities going on around them – do wrong to be considered also-rans for the coveted media “mother of the year” award?

I’ve wanted to physically interact with my children before… never done it, but I’ve “wanted to.” I’ve been frustrated by my interactions with them or my inability to make them understand something to the point that I felt the urge to “knock some sense into them.” So I get where Ms Graham was coming from, she did what many parents would want to do in that situation. I just think that sometimes there is a difference between doing what you want to do vs. what you should do, and far too often we seem to validate and even elevate folks for doing the former as opposed to the latter… probably because we can relate to their state of mind while they are doing it.

Maybe part of the problem we are having is that people doing the right thing, regularly and consistently, just isn’t newsworthy to us. Maybe we just aren’t inspired by lives well lived. Absent drama, those lives don’t feed into our more base desires or satisfy our need for some sort of action. When I’m angry or upset about looting, it’s easy for me to get motivated by a woman taking her rioting son out behind the metaphorical woodshed… it’s exactly what I want to do to her son (and all the other son’s of all the other mothers out there hurting people and damaging property).

But… that doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it constructive, and I don’t think it makes you mother of the year.

April 28, 2015

Cultural Cognitive Dissonance and the Baltimore Riots

I’m not one to condone violence or destruction of other people’s property, and I find the events in Baltimore to be truly tragic. But in scanning my Facebook timeline this morning I have to say I was equally disgusted with several of my “friends.” The level of hypocrisy emanating from those heaping vitriol towards protesters, rioters, and looters by those whose taste for vengeance is well documented on their own timelines speaks to a societal cognitive dissonance that I cannot see ending in anything but violence.

I’ve seen this image of a mother addressing her son’s protesting activities three times, each with a completely different take on the scene. Coverage (that I have seen) has ranged from “Mother of the year” to “Woman berates and dehumanizes son.” Think about that, same picture, same story… completely different representations.

That we make of the news what we want, is not “new news;” however, the inevitability of outcome, when we do so, always seems to be revelatory. I’ve read, this morning, about how the rioters are doing so “because they want to, and finally have an excuse.” I’ve also read that they are desperate people left feeling as though they have no choice, in the words of none other than Martin Luther King Jr “riot is the language of the unheard.” (Note: fuller context of that quote is below, and is very much worth the read for a better understanding of the message he was sending and the culture and climate he faced; which is not entirely different than that which many in Baltimore and across this nation feel they find themselves in today. I’m not going to try to say those people are right, or they are wrong, I’m just acknowledging their perspective, because without it there is no hope of understanding or addressing this situation).

One definition of cognitive dissonance is this: “In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.” What I am talking about is the manifestation of that stress and discomfort on a society that is at odds with itself. A culture that finds more and more to disagree upon, embraces divisiveness, and often eschews (even condemns) the ideas of compromise and moderation.

Given human nature and history, how can this society move anywhere but toward violent conflict? How can police officers not gravitate toward more violent arrests; and criminals toward more exaggerated forms of resistance and obstruction? When we call for the destruction of the foreign regimes over humanitarian violations, and launch wars in the name of the same; how do we reconcile condemning the use of violence or destruction toward a perceived oppressor that will not listen to complaints about, let alone act upon, these rising tensions on our city streets?

We have invaded nations in defence of “democracy”… an ambiguous concept (that we don’t even really embrace in full ourselves… but I digress); and yet we expect portions of our population to sit idly while members of their community are injured or killed without recourse.

Again, I’m not condoning or supporting the violence/riots/protests; what I’m suggesting is that we stop complaining about it, stop pointing fingers over it, stop generalizing, criticizing and stereotyping it, and get down to the dirty business of trying to prevent it going forward. As with all issues and addictions, this starts with admitting we have a problem.

We have a problem of us vs. them, a problem of hypocrisy, a problem of divisiveness… a problem of cultural cognitive dissonance. I often find myself a part of it and, most likely, you do as well. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Full MLK quote on rioting:

“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 27, 2015

Floyd Mayweather is my “Existential Crisis” (TM)

It’s not easy (metaphorically or literally) to stick a knife in your own back… but that’s kind of what I’m doing here. At least I’m doing it with eyes wide open I guess. Because, try as I might, I can’t root for Manny Pacquiao in the upcoming “fight of the century” (all 15 years of it).

Let me clarify, every time I sit down and think it through, intellectually, I’m all in for Manny. it’s an easy decision that I am unwavering on. However, and by contrast, every time I get into an emotional discussion or get hit with my “first gut instinct” for some ridiculous reason, I find myself compelled to root for Mayweather.

It. Is. Infuriating!!!

In case you are not up on boxing and it’s “celebrities,” I’ll let you know why this conundrum exists (for me). Floyd Mayweather is a dick (and I say that with full knowledge that if we ever met in a dark alley… I’m the one not coming out in one piece) who has been convicted of violent crimes (including domestic violence charges multiple times) five times. Manny Pacquiao… well… one time he got his assets frozen for tax evasion… for like a day… until he proved he paid them and all was returned to normal. Other than that, by all reports he’s a stand-up guy as far as I know (including serving as a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines.

Why?????????

It goes against everything I believe in, everything I preach, everything I believe I am. I’ve ranted about Brock Lesnar and his idiotic “go home and lay on my wife” blurt-o-neanderthal; Ray Rice and the cold awful reality of a man who can stand over his fiancee like that after knocking her out… and so on and so forth. But I just can’t get my inner compass moving away from Mayweather… and I don’t know why.

Except, maybe I do. Maybe it’s because, somewhere inside me I’m a little more “human” than I’d like to believe. Floyd “Money” Mayweather, should he win this fight (not so much should he lose), will go down as one of the all-time greatest boxers in history. His style is a manifestation of everything I try to coach (and emulate) in my sporting life (specifically the importance of mechanics, discipline, defense over offense, technique, etc. etc. etc. … in short fundamentals). And I think in some subconscious way, I want to be a(n ancillary, to be sure) part of that history.

It’s kind of embarrassing if it’s true because it’s something I try to steel myself against. Worse though, it’s scary. If I can’t control my emotions on an issue this obviously in my wheelhouse, what else am I reacting to (without the benefit of intellectual review) and acting upon. I like to think of myself as measured, and (at the risk of sounding braggartly) “good.” By that I mean I try to do the right thing when presented with “good” and “bad” options. But, in this case (at least out of the gate), I’m clearly not… and that vexes me.

I suppose I should be a little pleased that a window for potential personal growth has opened up, and perhaps over time I will be. But for now I’m busy being terrified at the monster that appears to dwell within me. It’s not a full-fledged “chill-while-the-elevator-descends-with-my-knocked-out-girl-friend-lying-at-my-feet” dark overlord of a monster… but it’s not a cute little minion either.

minion

I think most people have existential crisis’s (crisisi??) because they don’t feel like they belong to anything… for most of my life (when) I’ve had them (it’s been) because I felt like I did, and it wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of. Floyd “Money” Mayweather (completely absent of intent, of course) seems to be keeping that streak in tact for me. I react, therefore I am… but I also think and, as such, might not be. or something like that.

I’m certainly not going to watch the fight (and put money into the pocket of a serial domestic violence offender), but I suspect I’ll check out the results (maybe even follow the progress of the fight online) just to figure out who wins the battle-for-Soren’s-soul, and whether, ultimately, I “am,” or “am not” …

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 24, 2015

Of books, covers and other errors in judgement…

One of my favorite phrases is “I love it when I’m wrong.” I don’t actually love being a dolt, jerk, or simply being ignorant mind you. But I do love the learning opportunities being incorrect present, and last weekend’s NCAA tournament provided just such a chance.

For years, I’ve watched cheerleaders cry after their teams lost tournament games and, for what now seems strange reasoning, thought they were all broken up about their team losing. Part of that was probably my ego or something; since I’ve always been the one on the court it’s easy to look at things from that perspective. The media certainly portrays it as such… the broken hearted cheerleader, the devastated fan, etc.

But thanks to @roxiechalifoxie (Roxanne Chalifoux – ps super twitter handle!), I’ve been forced to re-focus my lens. I’m sure most (many?) of you know who she is by now, the Villanova piccoloist who “played on” through tears after the surprising defeat of her school in the second round of the NCAA tournament (they were a #1 Seed and lost to a #8).

Where my eyes opened up (pun not intended) though was when I heard an interview with her after the fact. During that discussion, she revealed she was crying because, as a senior, she was going to take off her uniform for the last time after that game.

Boom! Goes the dynamite!

Again, I have no idea why it took me this long to realize/process/accept/whatever this… but there it was. Darrun Hilliard (a senior guard on the Villanova team) was crestfallen at the end of the game, and it was discussed how tough it was for him that his career was coming to an end. Roxanne Chalifoux was having the same experience.

Years of practice, sacrifice, and dedication to her craft – a foundational part of her existence – was coming to an end. She was not an extra in the Hilliard/Villanova story, she was a headliner in her own (and the Villanova pep band’s) story. The same can be said for those countless cheerleaders. These events (which also happen to feature a basketball game) are the culmination of their college career and the long effort filled journey that brought them there.

I’ve never felt sorry for the Hilliards of the world. I have certainly felt compassion for what they were experiencing, but my overall feeling was more a celebratory one for what they had accomplished. “He has nothing to be ashamed of,” “when he looks back on his career, he will have much to be proud of,” “this game does not define him,” and other quotes like this come quickly to mind. When I saw Miss Chalifoux crying what came out of my mouth was (and I quote) “awwww.”

That was wrong, I was wrong, I get that now. Roxie Chalifoxie deserves more than “awww” for all of her effort. Those tears will not define her, she has nothing to be ashamed of (to her credit, she appears to have the “not ashamed” thing figured out), and she has much to be proud of. She is an accomplished piccoloist (who as of this publishing has played with The Roots on Jimmie Fallon) who appears to have a very bright future in front of her. One she built herself, the culmination of which we were lucky enough to experience with her.

I do love to be wrong, and in this case I really did learn (or at least recognize) and for that I’m grateful to the Villanova pep band and Roxanne Chalifoux… best finish of the 2015 NCAA tournament so far.

March 18, 2015

An Open Letter to the Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , , , , — sbj @ 10:07 pm

Note: I’ll start by saying that the open letter to which I’m writing is here, and is well worth your time to read. It talks about the importance of addressing and attacking the systemic roots of racism rather than identifying and personifying the issue via individual instances (that summary is what I got from it, apologies to Race Forward if I misinterpreted or misunderstood the intent).

race

Dear Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday (AKA Race Forward, AKA Rinku Sen),

I appreciate the focus you have placed on the institutionalized aspect of race and the importance of understanding these underlying tenets of our cultural fabric. I could not agree more (and, in fact, have written numerous times about this very need) regarding the urgency of pulling back the curtain in order to expose and address these issues.

Having said that, I cannot agree that individual conversations are unimportant – or – as stated by Jay Smooth in a tv interview, that it is sometimes better not to have a conversation if that conversation is not focused on the big picture. I get (and, again, agree with) the idea that entering the blame game does nothing but create defensive, closed off people who are no longer a potential part of the solution.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be like that. My father, for years, said “that was mighty white of you” whenever someone did something particularly praiseworthy. He grew up hearing it on a daily basis (never as a contrast to something being mighty black or brown by the way… it had nothing to do with race to him). *I* grew up hearing it on a regular basis (from him) and not really thinking much of it… until I went off to college that is.

I played basketball in college, and – as such – the racial makeup of my friends changed significantly (not a lot of diversity in a private Catholic high school in Reno Nevada). I never really got into my dads pet phrase so I never ran into a problem using it, but as I hung out with my new friends I found myself becoming increasingly aware of what was and was not racially charged. Suddenly, for example, the Cleveland Indians mascot was significant to me. Over the years, I sort of forgot about dear old dads expression. But then I went home to visit and *boom* there it was, big as life, and through my new world lens… unconscionable.

So I talked to my father about race, about bigotry, about reinforcing negative (or falsely positive) stereotypes… about “mighty white.” He was shell-shocked. What he was saying (the meaning rather than the words) had never occurred to him. Some would say my father doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, other would say everyone has some racism or bigotry in them and he is no exception; but either way, it is highly unlikely that anyone has ever said (nor are they likely to ever say) he is a racist in any way shape or form. The guy simply doesn’t have “race” or anything like it in his value system… people are people, their actions determine “good” or “bad.”

But here’s the thing, I could have talked to him for days on end about systemic racism or about institutionalized bigotry and it really wouldn’t have been something he could relate to. In his insulated world (he moved to Boise Idaho after I left for college… also not a hotbed of racial variety, especially in 1984) those idea just wouldn’t (couldn’t) resonate with him. His world, consisting largely of one race, didn’t really contain any racism. However, once I was able to illustrate how he, himself, was acting, it opened the door to the bigger, more substantive, conversation. Simply put, once he realized he could be doing racist things (without actually having any racist thoughts or ideals) the idea of a society so conditioned was no longer such a far-reaching concept.

My (long-winded) point is that the individual conversations do matter, in fact, they are important. It’s not the existence of these conversations that cause defensiveness, it is the method of delivery or approach. Most of society is not ready to take on big conceptual issues. Heck, much of society is already pretty occupied trying to get the kids fed and the house cleaned up in time to get some sleep before they start all over the next day. And, if they are potentially open to waxing philosophical about race (or gender, or sexual preference, or gender identity et. al.) they are probably more likely to do so if they are invested or the subject resonates with them in some personal way.

Again, I appreciate your focus on the more entrenched societal norms and how they effect race (and other issues) today. Those are the areas in which real and lasting change can take place. I’d just encourage you not to lose track of the value of everyday, personally relevant, conversation in the mix. It’s not a matter of settling, it’s a matter if being comprehensive and fully vested in your efforts, and I think that goes well beyond the shallow bar of settling for “okay.”

With Respect,
SBJ

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.

September 16, 2014

Can we please stop talking about Adrian Peterson’s child???

Not too long ago on a visit home I ate at one of my old favorite restaurants (name and location withheld for what should soon be obvious reasons). When my waiter (who I had not seen in quite a long time) came up to serve me he looked demonstratively different than he had in the past, in a very bad way. I was not comfortable asking him what happened, but I found out anyway as someone a couple of tables away did not share my compunction. He had been jumped by a couple of guys and they had beaten him senseless. It appears his hair was a little long, his clothes a little ratty, and the guys didn’t like “his kind” hanging around in their neighborhood (which also happened to be his neighborhood). A measurable portion of his face has no feeling (and it never will). He will never closely resemble the young man I had come to know. He will never speak clearly again (a portion of the “dead” part of his face is half of his lower lip).

I bring this up, in relation to the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Ray McDonald (et. al) stories of this week because I feel we are really missing a beat in the conversation. This is not an excuse piece for those guys (there is no excuse for their actions, here or anywhere else). It is not meant to condone, encourage or enable any kind of abuse. However, it is meant to say, maybe there is another lens we should be looking at these situations through.

What I keep hearing about is how a four year old feels looking up at Mr Peterson, or how a defenseless woman feels getting punched while trapped in a elevator, as if these circumstances need to be present for an act of violence to be wrong. While I am as disturbed as the next person at the mental image of a 4 year old getting whipped, I have to suspect that my waiter friend – if he were inclined to think this way – might be wondering “What about me? Is what happened to me really less abhorrent than what happened to Mrs Rice?” I, personally, would answer “no, it is not.” Someone else might say it is, but what is relevant to the point i’m trying to make is that this discussion does not take place, there is no narrative for him. Because we are so focused on the victim, we lose track of the fact that violence is not wrong because of who it manifests itself upon, but rather, because of it’s very existence. Violence is the problem, not “violence inflicted on a certain type of person.”

The target of a wanton act of violence should be irrelevant. As a society we have started to digest the idea that victim blaming (the act of saying, for example, “that girl was raped because of how she was dressed… she asked for it”) is bad; which is good, solid progress. However, it’s time to take the next step and stop using the victims to filter (or sensationalize) the dialog. You shouldn’t need to know the person beaten with a tree branch was 4 to think something is amiss; you shouldn’t need to know it was a woman that was knocked out in an elevator and unceremoniously dumped in a hotel lobby (still unconscious) to see a problem with that evenings activities. Victims of violence need to be supported, but they do not need to be demographic drama fodder in order to emotionally validate the moral integrity of Ray Rice’s left hook.

April 8, 2014

Of Jabari Parker and the tool that thinks he knows him…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 3:46 am

With all due respect to Dan Bernstein (and, frankly, I have no idea how much respect that should be, as I have only read this one piece) this article is exactly what is wrong with our society today.

I’ll start by disclaiming that I am a Duke fan… so all of the haters can dial out now, assuming I’m a homer with no other vested interest in this issue. For those that know me better, please stay and play along.

In short, the article essentially says Parker is an idiot (the headline uses the word “crazy’ the article itself uses “consciously irrational,” among other deprecating turns of phrase) if he chooses to stay at Duke another year instead of heading off to untold millions in the NBA. The argument is based on the tried and true(ish) refrain of “he can make millions and might get hurt and lose it all.”

A few points of clarification before we go on. First, he cannot lose it all, even Bernstein admits that he will be insured and the fact of the matter is if he lost both legs in a freak yogurt scooping accident, he would still cash a check for millions of dollars and be set for life (provided he isn’t really an idiot, cause, life isn’t idiot proof and neither is a stack of money). A torn ACL/MCL/whatever is not going to put Jabari on skid row… unless he is very determined to get there on his own.

Secondly, and more importantly to my point, this argument – when coupled with statements like “crazy” – has to have an antagonist, someone pushing Parker away from his desired path to being an NBA player right now. I have seen no indication of this whatsoever. His coach isn’t trying to get him to come back, the NBA isn’t saying he isn’t ready, media types (like Mr. Bernstein) are certainly saying he should stay… the fact is no one has suggested he pass up millions in NBA money to stay and toil away in college.

Who, exactly, is left pondering the decision? Jabari Parker (as it should be).

I haven’t talked to Parker. I have no idea why he hasn’t announced his intentions, other than my (rather obvious) suspicion that he is still trying to figure out what he wants to do. And therein lies the rub. Because, not everything is about making the most money you can as fast as you can. There is something to be said for, say, winning a college national championship and having that be part of your legacy when it is all said and done. Given Dukes recruiting class, if Parker came back you’d have to assume that Duke would be the pre-season #1 and runaway favorite to win the national title. Some people do take legacy over currency… the ’07 Florida Gators come to mind. Several of their players could have gone pro after winning the ’06 national title, but they didn’t. They came back, repeated as champions, and significantly enhanced their place in history.

I don’t know how many total players have won college national championships, but, after tonight 75 teams have “cut down the nets” (if they average 15 guys on a roster… that makes around 1100… give or take a few for repeat champions (UCLA really messed up my estimate, I guess). There is a similar number of players who have won NBA championships (based on my fuzzy math and the total of 66 professional championships prior to this year). Now, being one in roughly 1000 *in history* is pretty cool, but, what if you could join a club that makes you 1 of 40… in history. That’s how many players have won both a college and pro title… forty. To me, that’s a bit more historic, and, if the difference in wealth is that I’m going to be part of the 1% instead of the .1% I can see a valid argument toward going for it.

What I’m not saying, is that Parker needs to go back. I get that he might want to start the monetary waterfall flowing as soon as possible. And if he does, good for him. But, to say there is no logical or reasonable argument for him to stay, is – to me – beyond ridiculous. Moreover, as I mentioned above, it speaks to me of one of the biggest problems we have in our society. We no longer seem to be able to prioritize anything other than money. I solute Parker, regardless of what he decides. Because the only thing I really know about his decision is that he hasn’t rushed to it. I don’t know what he is thinking, but all signs point to the fact that he is thinking… and for that he should be given praise… not ridicule.

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…

August 3, 2013

What an unconditional apology looks like…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 10:26 am

Despite Googles best efforts to make this impossible, I am running out of space in my Gmail inbox and, as such am deleting old emails. Which is where I found this:

Usually when I apologize there is at least some aspect of that apology that I do not mean sincerely; but rather I simply say to keep the peace or to absorb your portion of the blame so that we can move on amicably. This is no such apology. There is nothing justifiable or or redeeming in any of my actions. You did not start, contribute to or escalate the situation, and yet in the face of my disgusting impersonation of pure evil, instead maintained a respectful and civil demeanor. Your quality of character, in stark contrast to mine at the moment, is unimpeachable.

Not that I deserve any quarter from your – as yet imperceptible – scorn, but rather so that you can at least have the knowledge – or perhaps take some comfort in the fact – that you have not completely wasted your investment in our friendship; I will explain why and how my grotesque actions do not reconcile with my usual attempts at more affable comportment…

I’d like to say, at this point, I said “stop… you had me at affable comportment” but of course this was an email so I lacked the ability to interrupt… plus I’d be lying if I said I thought of it at the time.

From there the author went on to describe what they were thinking and how those thoughts translated into their actions (those details are completely unimportant and astonishingly uninteresting given their introduction. it is amazing how trivial the things that seem to be devastating to our world can appear in retrospect.). The apology, of course, was accepted and the relationship maintained… at least until the authors recent passing… a transgression I am still working on forgiving…

As with so many other things that I could learn from my friends and family, this friend certainly demonstrates some acumen in an area in which I could stand some improvement. Most of my apologies take on a form similar this:

oops

I’m glad I saved this email (and am continuing to do so)… with any luck I’ll learn from it and become a better person for knowing my now departed friend (who, I should point out, wrote the most fantastic thank you notes in history as well).

I’d like to add a pithy wrap up one liner… but it’s 4:22 am… so I’m just going to say good night and try to fall asleep…

Good night :)

August 2, 2013

Riley Cooper should not be punished…

… but he should be shunned.

shun

Some folks might think that is overly harsh and personal, to them I say… you just don’t get it. Racism does not exist because a bunch of cowardly idiots wearing bed sheets and dunce caps (coincidence… I think not) burn the occasional cross or harass a random minority. It exists because a bunch of overly entitled white guys in an upscale bar can get together and when someone tells a “black joke” they all laugh and accept it (even if they feel uncomfortable about it inside).

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right in our country, and it is so for many very good reasons. I take advantage of that right each and every time i click on “Publish” while writing in this space. We all do it day in and day out, we should, it’s our right, and its a good things. But, while it is your right to think I’m an asshole for some of the things I write and you can elect to stop reading (or even discourage other people from reading my drivel) you are not entitled to punish me for what I say… because, no matter what it is, it is my protected right to say it and I violate no laws in doing so.

Neither did Riley Cooper. Which is why I say he should not be punished. The thing is, as a society, we need to stop trying to punish individuals and start dealing with our tolerance for intolerance (what did I just say???). Racism is a social issue, it gains its power from group acceptance not individual adherence.

LeSeann McCoy hit the nail on the head with his approach:

“He’s still a teammate. I’m still going to block for him. I’m still gonna show great effort. Just on a friendship level, and as a person, I can’t really respect somebody like that.”

Of course those first three sentences are only correct because our acceptance of racism at the corporate level is institutionalized. You see, McCoy, as an individual can make the choice to distance himself from Cooper; however, the Eagles cannot practically say “I don’t approve of your actions and I’m not going to be your friend anymore” (read: cut him). Why? because someone else will pick him right up, probably at a bargain price, creating a situation where the Eagles would be disadvantaged by doing so.

In other words, it’s not a financially sound practice to be morally or ethically upstanding; and when the choice is between money and morality we all know which was that door is going to swing. So the Eagles won’t drop him (some of them will even support him) and the beat will go one, the lessons about economics over ethics continuing to be reinforced, and the mock apologies over future incidents ensured because our corporate culture has given his actions its tacit approval. Even if they fine him (which really should not be illegal) it will not fix anything or send the message that his actions are unacceptable. It will simply set the market prices for being a racist. A price far too many people are willing to pay as a cost of doing bigoted-business.

July 10, 2013

This is why we can’t (or shouldn’t) have nice things…

Filed under: Environment,Observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 10:26 pm

A few weeks ago I took (public) umbrage with the faux-fact based facebook post:

My issue with it was (and remains) the distorted use of facts taken out of context (not to mention the poor methodology and small sample size of the actual study cited). Rearing it’s face again, the over simplification and reduction to a few choice, targeted words of a complex topic so that is is digestible and easy to repeat for the ignorant masses.

Note: I am not saying everyone who read or repeated this post is ignorant… I am simply talking about the objectives of its creators

If that notions offends you, I’m sorry… but unless you read the entire study (I did, for the record) you really shouldn’t be quoting it… let alone passing on someone else’s quote from it. Bottom line, you don’t understand it and shouldn’t be passing it off as fact (or anything else for that matter).

But this is just background for what I want to talk about today. More of the same to be sure, but on this one I can actually chime in with my opinion. You see, on most issues, like abortion, because I work for a non-partisan office, I cannot share my views (which has made for some interesting reading of some of the comments I have received… as people have assumed quite incorrectly what side of the fence I am on regarding some issues and railed against “people like me” when in fact “people like me” are “people like them” since we share the same view).

Alas, once again, I digress…

Today I saw this juicy tidbit on Facebook (take note of the highlighted text and the circled link in the image):

As I am prone to do before commenting, sharing, or even liking something on Facebook, I clicked on the available link (the one circled in the image above) to read the background and detailed information about the post. So, imagine my surprise when I read, less than half way through the article, the following:

It is a very natural process and scientists say it should not be tied directly to the very real climate changes that are also affecting this part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

You read that right… in the article referenced by the post stating “the time for half measures is over — we need climate action now” we are told in no uncertain terms that what we are reading about is “very natural” and that it shouldn’t be linked to climate changes.

Seriously, people???!?!??!?!??!?!?

This is particularly galling to me because I happen to believe in “Global Warming” and happen to agree with the folks that think we are creating our own extinction event on carbon emission at a time. And I don’t even care (…gasp…) how it effect profits (profits are of little concern to a uninhabited world, IMO). In other words… I completely agree with the message, and want to be able to re-post this. But I can’t, because it is rubbish (with regard to global warming… it’s still interesting from a purely scientific standpoint).

Simple minds are easily swayed, and I realize the path to political success is paved with mass ideological conscription. However, I can’t help feeling that with every Facebook post and Pinterest pin (of this ilk), we are chipping away our national intelligence quotient. And I’m not sure that’s a price worth paying to acquire a vote, or even an election, here and there. Democracy (representative or not) is based on an informed electorate casting informed responsible votes. When was the last time we could say that was the case for the majority of our voters? When was the last time we were even trending in that direction?

I don’t think the propaganda machines are going to stop any time soon (there is too much money and power to be accumulated), so it’s up to us, the “consumers” of this drivel to do our part. Read the underlying stories, research the so called facts, and most important… call people out on false or misleading statements (even, as is the case with the ice berg above) it runs contrary to your point of view.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

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