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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).

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.

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…

July 29, 2013

And another thing… (Trayvon Martin thoughts, cont.)

murder

I do not mean to be insensitive to the Martin Family (or any of Trayvon’s other loved ones), nor do I mean to offend anyone who has taken up or adopted his plight but I am concerned about the singular attention this case has been given and the exclusion of so many other stories and other families who are suffering no less than his.

Over the past two years (for which we have statistics ’10 and ’11) there are an average of 42 homicides a day (roughly 30,000 over that time, 22,000 of which were by gunshot). Which means that during the jury deliberation portion of the trial alone (16 hours) 28 people would have been murdered (if the averages were maintained during that time).

That’s 28 people neither you or I (in all likelihood) will ever know the names of, or the circumstances of their demise. That’s also 28 people who are no less dead than Trayvon, with families no less torn apart than his.

We know that only 10% of homicides victims are under the age of 18, so maybe that makes it a bit more palatable that only 3 children murdered while those deliberations took place. The same source (the U.S. Bureau of Justice) tells us that 48.1% of those murdered are black… so that gets us close to only one murdered black child during that time.

Perhaps that child was Darious Simmons, or Nazia Banks or perhaps it was one of the several hundred other black youths that I was able to find that had been shot to death within the last year or so – none of whom I have heard of (including those in this tribute to the 108 Chicago area children killed in 2012)

My point is that while Martin, his family (along and Zimmerman et. al.) have become (certainly unwilling) celebrities, the circumstances of this tragedy continue to repeat themselves each and every day. So, while I think it is great that there is a growth in national awareness that is coming from the Trayvon Martin case, I fear that the wrong conversations are being had.

All of the conversations are important, but, this case has gone on long enough… lets start talking about Darious now. Lets discuss Nazia (and Kentan, and Porshe, and Sergio… and… and… and so many others from the Chicago list… all 15 or younger), then lets get over the racial aspect and talk about Latino children, and white children and every single child that is in harms way.

42 people a day (30 of them murdered with a firearm, for the record – and before the NRA apologists get into the act, these are homicide numbers, suicides etc. have already been baked out of the equation)…and yet for over a year our nation (and news media) was gripped by the drama generated by just one of these cases.

Trayvon Martin has become the face of the problem, the personification of it, and as such, I fear that when the news about him dies down… so will the associated (and very important) conversations. Put another way, the reality of young black people (or people of any age or color for that matter) being murdered will continue but the national awareness will not because our focus will have moved from the ongoing issue to a temporarily sensationalized example of it.

If we are not careful, the tragedy of February 26th may be re-doubled because we miss out on the chance to talk about the entire forest due to our interest in this particular tree.

July 16, 2013

Trayvon Martin (no fancy titles today)

I’ll start with a disalaimer, I did not start following the Trayvon Martin case closely until this weekend… so I am absolutely a johnny-come-lately on this issue. However, that does not mean I do not have things to share. The very first thing I saw this morning (on my computer) was this:

And with that, for the first time since February 26th of last year I felt good about something related to this case. Far to often we focus on who did what wrong and how should we hold them accountable for it. Few and far between are the conversations about what could have been done better and how can we learn to conduct ourselves better in the future as a result of this instance.

Even when we do see the latter, it is usually in the form of “slut-shaming” (perhaps we could call it “slum-shaming” in the case of a hooded teen walking alone on the streets at night?). You know the routine, “what did you expect to have happen wearing those clothes?” “I wouldn’t let my son walk around in the dead of night looking all gangster and stuff” etc. etc. etc.; ignoring the fact that the victim, by definition, does not commit the crime.

At this point I’m going to take a moment to point out that I do not know what happened that night in Florida. Based on the small sample of evidence I have heard from the trial and my limited knowledge of Florida law, I probably would have had a tough time convicting Zimmerman on the charges brought before the court. However, that should not imply in any way that I consider him innocent. I do not “stand with” Florida’s “Stand your ground” laws. For a more detailed look at my views written by someone other than me, check out this piece. His opinions mirror mine to the point that I’m willing to just let them speak for me.

Getting back to my point, what was so nice about the tweet above (if we were to look at it in specific reference to this situation) was that it focused on what could be done different not by the kid in the hoodie, but by the guy who shot him. Even better though, is that it can be applied to any situation where someone in Zimmerman’s shoes encounters someone in Martin’s. Further, and this is the best part, it is a blueprint for life even if you aren’t a volunteer neighborhood watchman on patroll, or even if you don’t run into a kid in a hoodie who you feel might be a touch menacing.

I love this because it says you can be a good person anytime you like. You (probably) do it all the time when you hold open a door for someone else or let them scootch in front of you in traffic when they don’t even have the right of way (what madness is this!!!). This simply encourages is raising the bar a little and doing it when it really matters.

I love this because whether you think George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood, got caught up in the moment and foolishly took his life in a bit of a rage, or truly was justifiably fearful of his life and acted in self-defense… this advice still works and is a blueprint that would have (most likely) prevented the entire event from occurring.

I love this because, well, I want to live in a world where people hear a result like the Trayvon Martin verdict and respond with “how cool would it have been if he had offered him a ride instead.” Today, I didn’t have to pretend or wish… it was the first thing I saw (on my computer) when I woke up. And while that won’t bring Martin back or allow Zimmerman to undo his actions, it might just give some other people who have not faced their Feburary 26th yet a little perspective when they do… perspective which might save the life (or lives) of the next Trayvon Martin(s).

April 24, 2013

Inspired by segregation???

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 9:30 pm

In a word, no. However, I was, nonetheless, inspired as a result of this story. Today I received links to the following video by three different people:

The reason the video exists is appalling. In the year 2013, it appears, we still have a (partially) segregated south. This is shocking, offensive, mind-numbing, and (perhaps surprisingly) not at all what I want to talk about.

Instead I want to focus on the 7 conversations I have had about it today; each and every one of which contained some version of the following observation on the part of the person I was talking to:

Can this really be happening

or

This can’t be real, right?

And, as difficult as this is for me (and if you’ve known me or followed my writing for any length of time, I’m sure you know how hard this really is), I want to focus on that for a moment rather than the offense of the situation itself.

Because that is what gives me hope. The fact that every person I know (that I have discussed this with) has moved beyond offended and entered the world of bewildered and a touch incredulous is very encouraging to me.

Change starts (and stops and starts and stops and starts… you get the idea) when people get angry about things; however, change becomes embraced, owned and institutionalized when actions contrary to it are more befuddling and more of an assault to common sense than they are infuriating. I think we, in general, are starting to get there on this issue, and that excites me.

So, a big sticker to these girls (in the video) for taking a stand and working toward righting the ship in their corner of the world… and another one for all of you who looked on in shock and disbelief as the video played out. Your mind set, and that of those you interact with and effect, will be the instruments that will make this cultural shift a reality.

And to the folks tearing down the signs and trying to maintain the segregated dance… no sticker for you.

Actually, on second thought…

April 21, 2013

For better or for worse…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 5:32 pm

There’s probably some danger in titling a post “For better or for worse” and then starting it off with “I was talking to my wife this morning” … but that’s exactly what I’m about to do…

I was talking to my wife this morning about Facebook, specifically why she doesn’t really get all that into it… and doesn’t really get the rush that leads people to get “addicted” (words that came from an ad we heard while driving). She spoke of political propaganda, people spreading things they had heard without verifying the (in many cases lack of) facts, and of how folks manipulated situations toward their own ends (etc. etc. etc.). I can’t say I disagree with anything she said (although this doesn’t stop me from being a moderate Facebook user).

So then we got home, and I pored a bowl of cereal and headed to my computer to browse the internet while eating (kind of like reading the paper over breakfast but woefully less cool). Over time I drifted over to facebook, and the first thing I saw was this picture:

To which I responded:

I’m not really sure what makes me sadder, the fact that someone intentionally co-opted this policeman’s good dead for a malicious and small attack, or the fact that over 60,000 people have liked it, over 18,000 have shared it and lord knows how many people have commented upon it.

I take solace in my belief that many (if not the majority) of the people who have propagated this are doing so based on the picture itself, and perhaps the first few lines. That they have not seen, have chosen to ignore, or have dismissed the last line as trivial.

Nonetheless, it is an embarrassing and candid look at the downside of social media in general… and a strong argument for not over investing in such. If this was my primary exposure to Facebook (et. al.)… I’m certain I’d have the same view as my wife; because, this certainly qualifies as “worse.”

ps – this is a particularly difficult post, and this image struck me harder than it normally would have – I am sure – on the heals of what I wrote on Friday about the bombing in Boston. I was actively looking for the good in this story… thought I had found (some of) it – which, in reality I did, of course – only to have my optimism dashed by some simpletons idea of wit.

February 28, 2012

Movie Review – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Filed under: Movie Reviews — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 10:53 pm

Remember way back when I did movie reviews… here’s one for old times sake.

There is probably going to be a spoiler or two… so think about that if you haven’t seen it and intend to do so.

tattoo

I’ll cut right to the chase, because, despite there being a lot to like about this movie, there was one aspect that left me walking out of the theater wishing it was made while I was still in college so I could spend the entire night/weekend/whatever talking about it with my oh so smart and worldly (sarcasm there, in case that wasn’t obvious) friends.

The last scene alone would have provided hours of poetic waxing about the commodification of sex, the dysfunctional aftermath of abuse, and the joyously flawed character reveal… tantalizingly delayed until the very end and yet not really withheld at all.

There are so many conclusions that can be drawn throughout the movie about the relationship building between Lisbeth and Mikael; however, in the end – regardless of what you thought would happen, or what you thought should happen – it went down exactly as it should.

In the movie, we do not see any significant relationship building between the main characters. While we witness extreme circumstances leading to outlandish actions, we are made aware of nothing foundational between Salander and Blomkvist. We see sex (which at first seems like mercy sex, and then seems like utility sex, but never appears to be passion or affection), we see inter-dependence, we even see a life saved; but we never see commonality or synchronicity.

Surely, to Lisbeth, the act of sexually communing with Mikael was a major investment. Her sexuality has always been an unhealthy yet integral part of her value. People have abused her for it and blackmailed her for it and now she had found a place where she actually wanted to not only use it… but perhaps find meaning in it.

Mikael, by contrast, in sleeping with Salander, is cheating for at least the second straight time (that we know of) and appears to tragically undervalue their physical intimacy. It was inviting, fun, and enjoyable…but never appeared to be terribly significant.

The inevitable collision of these values was foreshadowed well by his distraction during their encounter in the hotel and climaxed (pun intended) fantastically in the final scene.

Blomkvist, of course, goes back to his life – including his married girlfriend; oblivious to the idea that anything significant was going on with Salander. Lisbeth, by contrast, confides in her most (only?) trusted companion that she has started forging a relationship with someone that he “would like” (or “approve of”, can’t remember which word she used but the intent was the same); only to find him laughing arm in arm with the previously mentioned other woman.

The couple in front of me at the theater, as the credits started to roll, began to speculate on whether it was his daughter (we only see the woman from behind, so the part about his being with the married woman above is my speculation… and clearly what you are supposed to think), or if he was going out with her one last time to break up with her… or… or… or.

I haven’t read the books (although I am about to start as I see tremendous potential beyond just a good intrigue novel now), so I don’t know what comes next. Perhaps the half-fullers in front of me are right on one of their guesses; and, honestly, I won’t have my feelings hurt if they are and everything I have speculated on is dead wrong. There is a certain pleasure to be taken in thinking that these two broken people might be just what each other needs to cobble a happy and productive life out of their respective pasts.

But, if their not, and it is as I saw it… while it won’t be all “happy Hollywood,” this movie is a great and candid look into humanity and the ravages of abuse… and one hell of a conversation starter.

Even if it is just a few years too late for me to take full advantage of it…

May 2, 2011

No thank you, I’ll pass on the bubbly…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 9:02 am

September 11, 2001; I was sitting in my house watching what was probably the 8th or 9th hour of coverage from New York.  There was a shot of a man clinging to the side of the WTC, shortly before letting go and plummeting to his death.  The imagery was poignant enough but just before the man leapt one of my friends, who I happened to be on the phone with at the time, said something to the effect of:
“that’s just an ordinary guy, he probably has kids, and a wife.  He has a life full of hopes and dreams, just like you and me. This was just another ordinary day, and now he’s dangling there, some 1000 feet above a sidewalk that – until today – has been a seemingly insignificant part of his daily routine… a sidewalk that will soon be the instrument of his death.  He knows it’s all gone and he’s probably trying to figure out, in these last desperate seconds, what the hell happened.”
The enormity of those words still weigh on me every time I think about what we have come to refer to as nine-eleven.
Tonight, as I watch the news coverage of Bin Laden’s demise, I am curiously brought back to those same thoughts.  As I watch people reveling, stating their pride in being American, and as I receive links – via email and social networks – depicting varying degrees of celebration from the rather somber “glad we got him, perhaps this can all be over now” to Photoshopped pictures of Lady Liberty holding his decapitated head (bad form, whoever you are); I can’t help coming back to the stark reality that more people have been killed. More lives have been taken and with them, more sets of hopes and dreams snuffed out.

I am by no means a  Bin Laden apologist, I do not condone killing in small doses and as such I certainly cannot cotton to it on the massive scale that Osama is reputedly guilty of orchestrating.  But still, in the end, more life is gone, and I cannot bring my self to celebrate that, regardless of who’s life it is.

Sometimes killing is necessary, I recognize this rather unpleasant reality of the human condition and accept it. I also understand, or at least have been led to understand, that every effort was made to take him alive and to reduce, if not eliminate, any collateral damage.  My, admittedly ignorant, understanding (at this very early juncture) of the mission was that it was as close to the “right thing” to do as one can come, and I am glad for that.  However, I still cannot bring myself to celebrate another man’s death, regardless of what that man has done.

I hope that we (as a global community) have turned a corner today, that this is the first step in the de-escalation of hostilities in the middle east.  I hope that the net result of today’s actions are a decreased western presence in the area and – splashed on the canvas of a recent groundswell of (what I perceive to be) positive, democratic, civil actions in the region – this all manifests itself, over time, into a more stable, peaceful, and cooperative global climate.  I am hopeful for many, many things; and yet, I am saddened – not celebrating – over the loss of more human life.

I was mortified, and recall all to clearly how I felt, when I saw the clips of people in other areas of the world adulating over the tragedy of September 11th.  I remember those feelings turning to a gentle rage when I superimposed them against the individual story line provided by my friends fictional narrative of that one man’s last moments on earth.

I loath the idea of anyone, including myself, being able to look at my country through that lens; to see our people acting in that manner. I want to believe that while we are glad this part of the action has played itself out, and that we are hopeful of better days ahead for ourselves… and for the rest of the world; we are, at the same time, above celebrating the death of anyone… friend or foe.

If we aren’t… I don’t understand what have we been fighting to protect the past 10 years… or the 235 years before that, for that matter…

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