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March 6, 2017

Et tu, Seuss???

For some background, see this piece on the racist cartoons of a young Dr Seuss.

Seuss Race

This is where redemptive stories get tricky. I watched The Shack last night, which has as a major story line, forgiveness (in this case without any real redemption).

Some of Seuss’s later children’s books have fantastic messages running completely counter to what was clearly his head-space early in his career (there is an argument for an amount redemption here – I’m not taking a side on it, just acknowledging it is there).

In The Shack, we are supposed to forgive a child murderer and move on; however, I’m not sure how to do that here. Do you condemn the entirety of the man for his early actions? Do you separate the man from his – decidedly disparate – message(s)? The adult from youth? The cultural context of an era from a moral and ethical true north that is itself a social construct?

I’ve spent hours spinning the tales of The Lorax and Horton to my children as examples of “who to be”… now I’m faced with the creator of those upstanding examples being (at times) reprehensible.

I’m seldom at a loss for a solid decisive path on issues, but have to admit, I am a bit torn on this one. Which, I think, is ultimately a good thing. “Good” and “evil” are certainly subjective concepts, relative to the lens of the person perceiving the action. This will lead to more (probably really good, because they are older now and have so much to add themselves) conversations with my kids. We’ll talk about “early-Seuss”, and how he effects the messages and lessons from “later-Seuss,” why this matters and how to apply it to our lives.

I’m sad to see a childhood icon fall, to whatever degree, from grace; however, I’m excited about the potential growth that fall might bring.

Maybe I’ll even have something more concrete to write about after that’s all said and done………………

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.

July 1, 2015

I Love it When I’m Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

April 1, 2015

This is how you do it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 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.

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 :)

April 2, 2010

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

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

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

The Youtube playlist below is the result of that solicitation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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