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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).

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