February 25, 2017

To Be An American Citizen…

(reposted from facebook, the text below this box is exactly the same as the text within it)

I imagine there is a certain, simple, satisfaction in not actually having an argument or an awareness of facts; but rather simply blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind, or the most recent thing you’ve heard.

I cannot fathom putting partisan orthodoxy or talking points above intellect, logic or reason. However, I watch people (intelligent people) from both (all) sides of the political spectrum do it every single day.

It seems “having an answer” (or, in most cases, simply a retort) is all that matters. Validating that it’s a reasonable response often isn’t part of the equation.

As listeners, more and more, we passively ignore (therefore tacitly accepting) this behavior; failing to engage in conflict with conjecture, thereby further weakening the resolve of reality.

what is an american

A government “of the people, by the people, for the people” requires an educated and engaged populous. Democracy does not (cannot) support a race to ignorance. Thomas Jefferson, when addressing the need for a literate electorate, said that – given the choice between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government – “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

If you favor our form of government, our freedoms, our open marketplaces then the time is now to fortify the failing foundations of that framework. Put away your partisan talking points, your canned retorts, and your simplistic meme’s, and actively engage others who don’t do the same.

Living as an American in the United States was, by design, intended to be advanced citizenry; not for the lazy or feint of heart.

No matter how comforting or safe it may feel, you simply cannot be ambivalent and a patriotic citizen of this country at the same time. They are mutually exclusive conditions. The question is, which one are you going to be?

August 2, 2013

Riley Cooper should not be punished…

… but he should be shunned.


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.

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).


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.

July 12, 2012

Freedom of cowardice??? I say no!!!

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , — sbj @ 11:25 pm

Make no mistake, I am a fan of (equally distributed) freedoms, civil rights, etc. So it may come as a surprise to those that know me that I agree completely with an Idaho court ruling ordering a newspaper to help identify someone who had commented anonymously on their web site. I’m into freedom, even freedom of speech…but not freedom of cowardice.

bill of rights

I would defend, to my last breath, a newspapers right to protect their sources or an individual’s right to speak freely (and have other people respond to them equally freely, cause, yep… it works both ways) about that which vexes (or pleases) them. However, when you hide behind a screen name and lob hate bombs at someone else you get no quarter from me.

You are not a source for the newspaper; you are a coward, and I’m sorry to say, that’s just not a protected right. You are also not speaking freely, so guess, what… freedom of speech does not apply to you.

What do you typically see when you read a comment section in a newspaper, a blog, or anywhere else? How often does it improve your reading experience? I am actually only half-rhetorically asking this question because for the most part I have stopped reading them. Comments (typically) are a cesspool of hatred and discontent, and, while I’m happy (I guess) people have a non-physical venue in which to let off some steam… I seldom see any value there for me.

If you want to argue (usually about one of 4 or 5 issues that keep coming up no matter what the topic of the piece is) this is the place for you. But, if you are looking for some open, insightful dialog about the topic, you might as well head to the local strip-club (no offense to the workers there, I’m sure many of them are quite intelligent, but the patrons are rarely lively conversationalists… at least while they are there).

Commenters are not adding value (read: sources) nor are they speaking freely (rather hiding behind a screen name) and as such I couldn’t be happier that a court has ruled that they are not only unprotected, but that the newspaper much cooperate in identifying them.

With any luck (I’m not holding my breath) this will have a trickle down effect on comment sections all over the net. It has no bearing on freedom of speech…but could strike a major blow against the perceived right to freedom of cowardice… and that would be fantastic.

May 7, 2011

Do as I say…

I do not think Bush, Cheaney, or any other prominently places US official had anything to do with orchestrating the events of September 11th, 2001 (other than the actions of men in similar positions than the afore mentioned pair years earlier and US policy in general that is). I do not believe that Osama Bin Laden was a “good guy” or patsy, a victim of propaganda or anything like that. What I do think is that he was a desperate person who did what desperate people do… desperate things.

I don’t believe any of these things, but… I know a few pretty intelligent people who do. Because of their beliefs, I find myself questioning their thought processes and conclusions on this matter but not – at any point – their intelligence.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because a football player has been held over the fire for about a week now for publicly denouncing the celebration of another mans death and for questioning the involvement of people such as those mentioned above in the tragedy of September 11th, 2011. it is suspected that he will lose endorsements, fans, and – as a result of the previous two – that his personal finances will be (to whatever degree) compromised.

Folks – and I’m gonna be blunt here – this is just stupid. If we, nestled comfortably in the land of the free and the home of the brave, need to live in fear of exercising our right to speak our opinions (clear and present danger issues not withstanding, of course) what is it everyone was extolling when they were singing (and saying) “proud to be an American” after Bin Laden’s death was announced?

If I am to listen to what “they” tell me… in Iran, you need to be afraid of what you say… it may come back to haunt (hurt) you (especially if you are a woman). In Iraq, Syria, Saudi (oops, I don’t think I’m supposed to say bad things about Saudi Arabia cause we are friends… regardless of the actual conditions on the ground there… sorry… my bad) I am told by those I’m supposed to trust to know what they are talking about that the same is true.

I am supposed to be excited about all of the civil unrest in these countries, about UN sanctioned and executed no fly zones etc. Why? because it is all supposed to be ushering in an era of democracy and freedom in the region. It is supposed to make them more like us… enlightened and tolerant.

Unless… of course, by “us,” you happen to be a running back who has an opinion running contrary to the oh so profound refrain of USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!

Rashard Mendenhall is doing **exactly** what we are over there fighting (and over here preaching) about, exercising his freedom of speech. He has hurt no one (unlike many of his unpunished peers) and he has committed no crime (again, unlike many of his unpunished peers). No, what he has done is practice what we have all been told from as far back as we can remember is your right and responsibility as an American… when you have doubts, questions, or opinions – open your mouth and start a dialog about them.

He embraced the American way, the constitution, the bill of rights… everything that is what we (supposedly) hold dear. In return “we” have spent a week making him retreat from his words, reiterating in our actions that despite all the blather to the contrary a person really isn’t free to speak their mind in this country… at least not without consequences.

I just struggle to understand all of the national pride in our freedoms, and all the interest in “fixing” other parts of the world so that they can enjoy them as well when it doesn’t seem to actually be a core value to the average person on the street here. Freedom to agree is not the same as freedom of speech…

November 11, 2010

I guess I’m not done with Amazon and pedophiles…

I seldom do this, but as a result of some of the great comments I have received, I’m going to comment on my own post.  Actually… perhaps a whole new post is in order…

First of all, I may have led people to believe that I supported a “freedom of speech” claim used to defend having this book available.  I do not.  My comment about “how close to yelling fire in a theater does one need to be” was supposed to indicate clearly that I thought this was clear and present danger.

What danger you ask?

Well, lets start with this.  If you are in a crowd, someone tells a racist, sexist, homophobic or other similar joke; and you laugh or say nothing about the inappropriate nature of what was just said, you are enabling (if not encouraging) that persons mind set.

In fact, in my opinion, you are complicit in anything that person does going forward of a bigoted or predjucdicial nature… up to and including a hate crime.  Thats how seriously I take this sort of passive support of bad behavior.

I am admittedly judging a book by its cover here, because the damage can be (and is being) done by the cover alone.  In writing, publishing, or reselling this book the parties involved are blatantly excusing, encouraging, and attempting to protect those who commit crimes against children.

I do not defend their right to freedom of speech, rather, I flatly state that not only do I not think it is protected by the constitution, but further it is unlawful by the Imminent Lawless Action test established by the Supreme Court in 1969*.

My assumption is that there is no imminent call to action in this book, however given the rapid and repeating practice of sexual abuse in children, I would say that the crime is imminent at virtually any given moment.  Consider that, depending on what numbers you choose use, a child is estimated to be sexually abused every 1 to 2 minutes in the United States. Cases that have been reported and substantiated, which is obviously a large minority of instances, are documented to occur every 6 minutes.

Clearly abuse is happening and, taking the most “optimistic” number, I think one – on average - every 6 minutes is pretty close to imminent (if there hasn’t been one since you started reading this… there probably will be one before you are done).  Are they all caused by this book? No.  However, the chances of someone who would otherwise not commit such a crime gathering the courage to do so after reading the encouraging words in this book – or even simply hearing that such a book exists and perhaps thinking someone is sympathetic to their desires – are, in my opinion, very real, possibly even likely.

And that has to be considered a clear and present danger of a imminent and lawless action… if its not, I don’t know what it.

At the very least, this is socially irresponsible of Amazon.  I shudder to think about the consequences of anything other than “at the very least.”

*By the way, this test actually replaced the “Clear and Present Danger” test that everyone is so fond of quoting these days and is the test commonly used in courts when deciding freedom of speech issues.  So, with all due respect to Judge Holmes, the most relevant use of the terms Clear and Present Danger in todays society is in reference to a spy novel (a really good spy novel, but a spy novel none-the-less).  Just a little tid bit of info you might be interested in :)

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