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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?

February 19, 2017

A short story about empathy and understanding…

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

September 23, 2016

Often the most dangerous people don’t carry a gun, they carry a pen (or keyboard)

I’m just going to come right out and say it. While I support the #BlackLivesMatter movement (stridently), I think many of the people who are ranting about police shootings are missing the real point, and, moreover, the real opportunity (assuming there is hope for meaningful change, that is – which, as an eternal optimist, I hold out for).

Here is what statistics (in the only reasonably scholastic study I have been able to find) tell us: police do not appear to have a racial bias toward firing specifically at African-Americans when it comes to discharging their weapons. This is not meant to discount the lives lost or the suffering of the families left behind when an officer does take a life. However, I’ve yet to see any evidence of bias when it come to actually pulling the trigger (while, at the same time, I have seen evidence against the existence of such bias).

But here’s the thing… THAT fact doesn’t matter, THAT fact is not a reason to think things are okay. Because long before the relatively even handed act of a police shooting happens… the acts of systemic racism, and the miscarriages of justice, have already occurred. African-Americans are pulled over twice as often as their Caucasian counterparts, and that disparity grows when you remove moving violations from the mix. More to the point “investigatory stops” – where officers pull a car over for trivial reasons because they suspect something more serious may be going on – are wildly out of balance.

So you have more black people being pulled over, every single day. Once they are pulled over, they are treated more physically in almost every way (the exception, the aforementioned officer shootings), take a look:

Less someone be inclined to suggest that African-Americans are more prone to resist and that is the reason, lets take a look at “compliant” stops (where the person being pulled over obeyed all orders by officers):

The likelihood of police putting their hands on a black person actually increased and the number of times they were pushed into a wall were largely unchanged. These are people who are actively following instructions by police, and yet, they are getting abused at a significantly and consistently greater rate then people of different ethnic groups.

This is where the real underlying problems are, because these things are happening day in and day out. They, unlike police shootings, are regular occurrences… these are our habits. It’s also where – perhaps – some solutions lie as well. The question becomes why do officers treat black people differently than white people when their behaviors are relatively the same? Like many things, the origins of this may be rooted in the generalized action of our society. Culturally, in the United States, we have almost always rendered black people (particularly men) as fearsome creatures. There are many media techniques for doing this:

  • African-Americans criminals are not named in photos roughly half the time (leaving the general classification of their race to be associated with the criminal act), Caucasians are named roughly two thirds of the time.
  • African-American suspects are shown in motion about half the time (showing a suspect in motion humanizes them, and reduces association with general characteristics like race), Caucasians over 2/3′s of the time.
  • African-Americans are depicted being physically held or restrained 38% of the time (images where the accused is being held imply they are more violent), Caucasians are show without restraints over 82% of the time.
  • African-Americans are nearly 4 times more likely to be portrayed as criminals than police officers on television news.

This is just a small sample, there are far more statistical facts available in support of the simple premise that we are systemically creating and fostering a culture of fear when it comes to African-Americans. Let me say that more clearly: we are taught to fear black people.

Terence Crutcher, in the words of police, as he was being shot, was a “big, bad dude.”

Terence Crutcher is probably dead right now because Betty Shelby was trained (her whole life) to be afraid of him. We know she scared, in her own words: “I was never so scared in my life as in that moment right then,” To be honest, I’d be scared too if I thought someone was reaching into a car to pull out a weapon; but that’s not the point I’m making. I believe, and there is ample evidence to support this theory, that officers (and everyone else) are more scared of black men then they are of Caucasian men. I suspect Officer Shelby is no exception, and the reason this is true is because she has been socially conditioned her entire life to react just that way (note: this is not – in any way – offering an excuse for her actions, it’s just a possible path toward minimizing the number of times those actions are repeated by others in the future).

Which brings us to where I think so many of the protests are missing the mark. While there is a problem with police shootings, it is by and large a small number of people doing (very) bad things. For example, in one study covering 1.6 million arrests, guns were fired in only 507 cases (that is three hundredths of a percent – .0003 – for those of you keeping score at home). By contrast, most of our media is consistently reporting stories in the manner discussed above; specifically, with a significant amount of racial bias. It is this generalized fear-mongering that creates a culture of perceived threats, itchy trigger fingers, and – ultimately – dead black men.

The circumstances around police shootings are almost always going to be to grey, and – case by case – far too unique to form any generally prescriptive solutions from them; however, there is action that can be taken with regard to how the media reports the news. You can call your local stations (or, even the national broadcasting companies) and request (demand?) that they start to uniformly report on criminal cases. When they fail to do so, use the power of social media to call them out on it (when they succeed, call that out as well – their competitors will notice).

Step one is making people realize that African-Americans are not raging violent beasts, but rather, simply Americans, just like everyone else. Once we normalize the perceptions and get over the institutionalized fear, it becomes far easier to correct the issues as we see them playing out on the street. But make no mistake, the root cause of all of this violence and death is not people with guns… it’s people with pens (and keyboards).

September 30, 2015

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

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

brady trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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” …

March 18, 2015

An Open Letter to the Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday

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

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

race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Respect,
SBJ

March 6, 2015

Why I love “The Dress”

Yeah, I said it. I’m not sick, annoyed, confused, or tired of “The Dress” and it’s blue, orange, white, black, gold… purple, pink, green… whatever… hues. It’s not a waste of time, nor an extravagant distraction of the first world order, and here’s why. Because, to put it simply, it has made people think.

Today I saw this:

Sorry “time wasting” apologists… that is not a frivolous message; and it resonates with just about everyone with an internet connection and a pulse.

Not enough for you, how about science:

“These receptors, called melanopsin, independently gauge the amount of blue or yellow incoming light, and route this information to parts of the brain involved in emotions and the regulation of the circadian rhythm.”

Still not your bag… okay how about some deeper (there-is-no-spoon’ish) introspective thinking:

All is conditioning. All is social construction, thought forms, carefully built identities, established “facts” that aren’t really facts but merely mutually agreed-upon illusions we greedily suck down like wine.

Consciousness swallows all labels, spits them back out as origami ducks nowhere near in a row.

Which leads to this very interesting, contemporary and in some ways ironic discussion on the absence of moral facts (vs opinions) in our children’s perceptions of today’s society.

I could fill countless lines of blog space with links to fascinating and educational conversations about, or uses of, “the dress” (none of which, by the way, spend any time arguing about which color it is; those arguments seem to be being made by the same people who think facebook and twitter are all about pictures of burnt peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other wayward “this is my lunch” postings).

So, with apologies to those (very specifically some members of my family) who find “The Dress” to be some sort of productivity succubus bent on destroying the last vestiges of “time well spent;” I’m glad this little debate went viral, I’m glad we are able to recognize – if only briefly – that we all see things through a different lens, and that one view is not necessarily the right or only perspective on things.

We can all learn a something from that little rainbow of a dress.. as long as we don’t waste too much time arguing about it.

January 1, 2014

Happy New Years… maybe…

It’s New Years Eve and, as is the case some years, I have spent a little time reflecting on the year, my life, the state of the world I live in and my impact upon it. I don’t always do this… some years I’m very “New Years Snobbish” and convince myself that this type of reflection should be a daily occurrence and not something reserved for the end/beginning of the year. Those years I consider New Years Resolutions (or even “deep” personal introspection) to be anything from passionate pretense to pandering-preachy-(self)promotion (or at least an excuse for shameless alliteration ;) ). This is not one of those years (next year – or even tomorrow – I will undoubtedly hate myself for writing this).

I’ll start by sharing my basic frame of mind going into the day (and I’ll do it in classic egocentric form, by quoting myself)

I don’t currently recall when or why I said that (other than it was earlier this year) but I do recall how true it rang when I first said it, and I also recognize how much it resonates with me in these last few hours of 2013.

This should not be confused as some fire and brimstone sermon about how we are hurdling toward Armageddon (even if, perhaps, we are). In fact, as difficult as this may be to digest based on that quote, I am somewhat optimistic right now. I’m hopeful because of this other little narcissistic jewel I’m going to drop on you (once again, me quoting me):

See, I told you, I’m little Mary sunshine!

Seriously though, here’s the thing. While I struggle, on a day to day basis, to find much moral, intellectual, or even self-sustaining value in our society, I do continue to be reminded and confronted by acts of charity, compassion, and kindness; and in these things, in our humanity, I see hope for our species. It makes me think that, perhaps sometime soon, before it is truly too late we will begin to act – as a society – as though we are a community; a mesh network of interconnected (and interdependent) people, rather than an ever growing collection of individuals related by proximity… and little else.

To me, this would be the big turning point in the history of mankind (and the one thing that might enable us to overcome the threat of extinction). The ability to see ourselves as being a part of the same team, hoping to achieve the same goals, rather than adversaries competing for the same commodities.

So that’s my goal, or, if you prefer, resolution: To seek out, focus upon, glorify, and empower humanity; to find or build synergies with both my best friends and “worst enemies” for the sake of a common goal we may or may not as yet even fully recognize; and to do my part in fulfilling the potential and promise at the foundation of each and every New Years wish/dream/resolution ever made… to live happily ever after…

August 2, 2013

Riley Cooper should not be punished…

… but he should be shunned.

shun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alas, once again, I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 4, 2013

There she is… She’s Miss how-you-have-to-look-to-be-acceptable…

Filed under: Conversations,Observations,Values — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 11:45 pm

This post might seem a touch self-contradictory at best and outright hypocritical at worst… it’s probably a bit of both in reality. Yesterday I saluted a friend for an outstanding blog post on the ills (well, one specific ill, to be fair) of beauty pageants. Today I was called on the carpet by an old friend for doing so. Now, in front of you… I’m going to investigate that. I’m not sure where this is going to end up, because I haven’t really thought much about it… I just opened the “new post” dialog box and started typing…

Let me start by saying I still completely agree with Jeanne’s stance and actions and my subsequent words about them yesterday.

bsuits

The background:

The link (to her piece): http://idahobusinessreview.com/2013/06/03/a-judgment-call/

My comment on her Facebook page:

My Comment on my share of her piece on my Facebook wall:

Needless to say I was supportive… and again, I remain so…

But then I got an email from an old college friend… an excerpt:

Have you really changed this much, or are you pandering? To be blunt, we spent hours talking about physical attraction in school and one of your main tenants was always that beauty should be equal in stature to other qualities you might evaluate about another person – SO LONG AS – it was given equal weight with all of the other qualities of the woman. This seems to be the model in these pageants, so what gives? What has changed? Why are “intelligence,” “sense of humor,” or “compassion” (etc.) valid qualities yet “how well someone takes care of themselves” is not?

I’ll start by pointing out what is missing from her email… context. Our discussions centered on dating. Specifically, selecting a single person out of the myriad of potential companions in whom one would invest their relationship equity (AKA time). Within that context, I probably hold the same beliefs that I held back then (again, I haven’t given it much thought… I just read her words and started typing). I have long held that 1. it is wrong to judge someone solely based on their looks, body, or other physical attributes and b. that is is also wrong to ignore physical attraction when selecting a potential mate or life partner. I do believe that violating either of these (lets call them) “principles” almost completely precludes success in long-term relationships.

I’m going to assume everyone understands why physical attraction is important to the coupling process, and move on to the meat of the subject (if you are unclear, or think others might be… there is a comments area below… ask and you shall receive).

While physical attributes in a one to one relationship go beyond “fair” and move more toward “critical” in making one’s choices, that does not mean that they should be a key component in a societal view of a particular gender (or any other group of people). What it does (among other things, some of which I intend to talk about some I do not) is detract from peoples ability to find the best match for them. When we, as a society, define the perfect waist, chest, arm, or thigh size; we deprecate the ability of individuals to make decisions on what they personally find attractive. It creates an artificially high weight on the attractiveness factor based on the knowledge of what public opinion is.

In other words, if you know 90% of people like cool-aide and you are selecting a drink, there is a decent chance you will select cool-aide even if you prefer water simply to avoid dealing with comments regarding your choice. If you don’t believe me… order a water the next time you and the guys (I assume it is the same for girls… but I can’t say for sure) go out for a drink and see what happens. There will be comments… I assure you. For many, this is enough pressure to lead them to have a beer or a glass of wine they don’t really want resulting in an evening that isn’t as rewarding as it could have been.

This pressure is over a drink… now imagine how much greater is to for selecting your life partner. Someone you will introduce to your parents, your friends, your co-workers etc. If you KNOW someone you might otherwise like does not measure up to the image society has given you for a successful “hunt” how is that going to effect your actions?

Ignored (but not forgotten) so far in my ramblings is the effect on the folks on the other side of the equation… the ones trying to fit into that norm so that they will be considered attractive. I’ll let a few numbers talk to this point:

  • Of female students surveyed on a typical college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys nationwide use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives
  • The mortality rate associated with Anorexia Nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain or expand on those numbers and what they mean to both individuals and society on the whole. When society establishes a norm and exerts pressure on people to comply with that norm, the health of that society (and the individuals within it) suffers… the end.

Which brings me back to Jeanne’s piece. Pageants are not deciding, in a one-to-one-life-partner way, what is attractive for an individual. Rather, they are setting a standard for an entire society; and it is in this that they are wrong. One of the comments on her article reads:

Another read:

As I read these I couldn’t help but think about a radio interview I had recently heard about a woman who spent time in jail (for civil disobedience in protest of something… can’t remember what right now). The shows host asked her why she didn’t just pay the fine and avoid jail time and she responded that’s what the big corporations that she was protesting did. They built the fines for their unethical actions into their business model and treated them as just another cost of doing business; “right and wrong” were replaced by “profit and loss” as their guiding principle or moral compass. In her view, if it was wrong for them, it was wrong for her as well and so she didn’t just write a check to excuse her behavior, she paid the full price of incarceration.

But enough about other people, what about me.

Have I changed my views? Am I pandering? … No, I don’t think so.

I still believe that when an individual is finding their life partner all things should be considered (including attractiveness). I have a proclivity toward brunettes (sorry blondes… it’s nothing personal)… for whatever reason they simply trip a trigger in me that blondes don’t. As such I tended to gravitate that way when I was dating. Since I (typically, this piece being a bit of an exception) do not advocate or even share that preference, I do not feel badly about it effecting my personal choices.

Pageants do something different, however. They pit one (toned, fit and usually slight) body against another, in a contest to see who’s body is the best. It’s this public judging of one against the other than helps to establish, enhance, and uphold a cultural “norm” that our society – as a whole – embraces… with some pretty awful results.

I think, as Jeanne points out in her piece, it is wonderful what the Miss X pageants do in the way of community service efforts. For me though, it’s just not enough to offset the damage that being a standard bearer for what is and is not “attractive” in society causes. As Jeanne adroitly points out, with a few tweaks, this could probably work for everyone. However, if I am to blunt – as my friend was with me – as long as there are women parading around in bikini’s and high heals in front of other people judging them on how they look… all of that charitable giving just smacks of “blood money” and the ends simply don’t justify the means…

May 6, 2013

Why stupidity is worse than porn…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , — sbj @ 4:53 pm

Actually, stupidity may not be worse than porn, but since I was going to write about some of the evils of porn today and that was usurped by this stupidity, I guess, at least for today, I think that is the case.

Rather than attempt to restate ABC’s news report better than them, I’m just going to include it right here… as they presented it:

First of all, kudos to Josh for being dialed in enough to recognize street-harassment when he see’s it (even from a child’s plaything) and moreover for doing something about it. I’d be happy if most people simply recognized this type of sexualization/commodification, given that so many of us spend our days in some blissful oblivion about being surrounded by it.

After the above, the article goes on to point out how he went back and forth with Lego, and they eventually apologized and have taken steps to remove the product from the market and (more importantly) ensure nothing like it will make its way to store shelves again. Should be the happy(ish) end of the story, right???

Nope…

Here is a clip from the top of the comments section on that story:

Take a moment to note that these are the “Popular now” comments (highlighted in yellow at the top of the image). Not the most recent, not the most distasteful, not the most replied to… no, the most popular. I can only screen capture so many, but let me assure you it goes on (the next one down reads as follows “Wow. dude i think you might want to look around cause I am pretty sure your balls fell off somewhere”).

So, now we have compounded our sexualization of women with gross gender stereotyping; and this, right here, is why I harp on and on about stereotyping. This is the insidious nature of the beast. Would-be defenders of decency are shamed by idiotic gender bias into silence (or at least that is the attempt). “Take his man card away,” “peed sitting down,” and “shouldn’t he be doing laundry or the dishes” are all comments meant to demean Josh for his stance. Why are they “insulting” because they all mean you are more like a woman than a man, and what could be worse than that?

I have confidence in Josh… I believe his response to that question (“what could be worse than that?”) would be something like “if being a man means berating other people for having the courage to stand up for what’s right, I’m pretty sure I’d rather be more like a woman.” He might also go on to say “however, I don’t think being decent is a hallmark of either sex; rather, I think it is a defining trait of someone with character and integrity.”

The problem is, there are a lot more not-Josh’s than Josh’s out there. People – most of them – are cowed by shame, confrontation, lack of approval and any number of other disabling human interactions. Life can be challenging enough without having insults thrown your way or being treated like a social pariah (I’m looking at you “Kat” and your “American needs a sense of humor” comment). You see, while I didn’t choose to highlight them in the image above, “Kat’s” comment along with “G. Manitley’s” “thicker skin” observation they are just as damaging, perhaps even worse at times.

While many reasonable people are capable of looking at the “peed sitting down” comment and dismissing it as being rude, bigoted, or asinine far fewer are able to take a strong stance against someone saying “have a sense of humor.” No one wants to be the drag, the party pooper, or boring. As such this little “helper” comment gives legs to the more egregious ones, it chips away at the defenses of good people, and it emboldens (and as such empowers) the “Michael P’s” of the world.

A good man (Josh) did a good thing, and has since been pilloried for it. If that is not the poster child for stupidity, I don’t know what is. The result of that stupidity is a foundational furtherance of institutionalized bigotry. So, yeah, I guess I do think stupidity is worse than porn… in fact – as what I believe to be the true root of all evil – it just might be worse than pretty much everything…

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).

hater

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.

April 25, 2013

Go home Ken, you’re drunk.

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , — sbj @ 9:18 pm

I am sure, all things considered, being a plantation owner can be tough, with its own set of problems to overcome. However, I do not believe that meas that you get equate your issues with those of your slaves. Is this an unfair comparison, am I being too rough on this guy? Perhaps… lets take a look. I’ll describe what went on during slavery, and then we’ll see if we can swap out the word “men” for “slave owners” and the word “women” for “slaves.” If we can, I might be on to something, if not… I owe “Ken” and all of the men of the world an apology, here we go…

Slave owners oppressed, comodified, and degraded (among other things, like raped) their slaves. They build a culture which institutionalized the oppression of slaves while enabling and empowering the socioeconomic and political dominance of slave owners.

Hmmmm…

Although, to be fair, no one is advocating seceding from the union or a civil war based on the feminist movement (yet)… so perhaps I went slightly overboard.

Going further down the “fair” track, I do not believe that “Ken” really wants to equate himself with Barbie. I think he just wants to say “don’t forget about me, things can be tough over here as well. Everyone has issues, even Ken.” And, if he had said that, he’d be right (and I’d have nothing to write about today). But he didn’t… he said “…just as hard…”

With all due respect, “Ken,” no, it’s not. It’s not and – in all likelihood – it never will be. As I have pointed out about myself many times in this blog… white males hold all the cards in our society; every advantage is tilted our way. Can we still fail? Sure. Can we still have miserable lives? Sure. But, is it “just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie?” No, no, and hell no.

Metaphorical Ken oppresses, comodifies, and degrades (among other things, like raping) metaphorical Barbie. He has built a culture which has institutionalized the oppression of metaphorical Barbie and enables and empowers the socioeconomic and political dominance of metaphorical Ken.

This individual Ken (picture above) might not be doing it, but more of the Kens throughout the years have been doing it than not and they have, through their collective efforts, created an entirely uneven playing field. If one side, in general, is running up hill and the other side, in general, is running down hill… guess who is going to win the race?

I’m not mad at ken. I don’t dislike Ken. I certainly don’t think Ken is a bad guy. Fact is, he’s obviously struggling a little, and I really wish there was some way I could help him out, to be honest. However, what cannot come from that is a notion of implied equality between Ken and Barbie.

Ken and Barbie are not equal… that is what the struggle for equal rights is all about. While men can and do suffer, it is not the same, and it is certainly not “just as hard.”

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 20, 2013

It’s not what you know…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 4:47 am

As many of you have been around for a while know, I listen – almost exclusively – to NPR while driving my car. Today, while picking up my son and subsequently heading to the store I learned more about Tamerlan Tsarnaev (26) and Dzhokar Tsarnaev (19) than I have learned about Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson combined since I graduated from high school.

I learned about their college party years, and how the degenerated. I learned about their sports careers, boxing and wrestling mostly. I got to hear about their twitter accounts and the types of things they posted in the past, from this I know they were Guns N’ Roses fans. I’ve heard about their homeland, and its attempted rebellions and subsequent struggles. I heard from their mother, their uncle and various friends as well.

In short, I know all about the two men who tried to kill as many innocent bystanders as they could last Monday. I know more about them than I do some of my cousins (which is more an indictment upon me than anyone or anything else).

What I don’t know anything – or at least very little – about; however, are any of the victims, first responders, or hospital staff that worked on the victims. I don’t know anything about the family and friends who sat and waited for hours during surgeries and other procedures (for all I know some are still standing vigil over their loved ones).

I understand why we don’t hear much about the victims, they last thing they need are their lives rocked by media right after being victimized in a senseless act of violence. But why don’t we make a bigger deal about the people that help, why don’t we have hour upon hour of coverage on the positive side of humanity?

I don’t care to glorify, or even learn about two man who’s lives went so horribly wrong that they turned to an act of terror as a means of self expression. What I want to know more about are people that I can look up to… people who act heroically, or at least selflessly.

While listening to the coverage driving home today, my son said to me “why do people want to hear or see this stuff… it’s just depressing.” And they way it is typically portrayed I can’t really argue with him.

What said to him, though, was that while it is true that these situations can be very depressing, they can also show you the beauty in people as well. True, there were two boys that demonstrated the darker side of humanity, but there were hundreds of people who showed compassion, caring and courage as well.

There is a Mr Rogers quote that has been making the rounds recently. Not just this week, but in the aftermath of other tragedies as well. It it popular to the point that I am hesitant to use it. However, I think it eloquently articulates what I was trying to say to my son:

As with most things in life, what you get out of something is often very much hinged on how you view it and what perspective you use to interpret it. There is a good positive message in the reporting of these stories. I just wish it was as easy to find as a slideshow of Mr. Tsarnaev’s golden gloves boxing history.

April 17, 2013

If nice guys finish last… it’s because we let them…

So, I was minding my own business this afternoon, lying in bed browsing facebook intending to do nothing productive at all… when this popped up in my timeline:

There goes the neighborhood…

I spent last week attacking some of the stereotypes that plague women… focusing largely on sexpliotation in advertising and in practice. What I didn’t address at all was the sexist humor sub-culture. Because, honestly, I completely forgot all about it… which is part of why it is so insidious.

When someone tells you a joke (or even if you just see it online, to a lesser extent) it tends to be much harder to run contrary to it than some of the more blatant things we have seen recently. I’m sure very few people had trouble being put off by the cologne ad that was in the sexploitation post; but its much harder to respond harshly to a joke.

“It’s just a joke!” … “Lighten up!” … “You are no fun!”

Not only do you seldom get a meaningful conversation, but, often, you wind up being the bad guy (and not the good kind of bad guy… if there is such a thing). Speaking of which… there is this one floating around out there as well:

That rings more true, I think, and is far less a part of the problem… here’s why.

The first image nearly begs you to treat a woman poorly. It very clearly indicates that, in order to succeed with women (not be single) you mustn’t treat them nicely. Far and away, the number one reason for being single (read: failing in the dating game) – according to this epiphany filled experts guide to relationship Shangri-La – is treating women nicely.

Culturally, if I do not want to be shunned, I am allowed two reactions to this 1. I can think it is funny and laugh… giving it my tacit approval, or 2. I can attempt to imply empathy or comradeship (i.e. “true story, bro”)… seemingly giving it my explicit approval.

Either way, even if I don’t personally treat women poorly, I am enabling and advancing a society that encourages me (and everyone else) to do so.* A culture that fails by creating kids like the Steubinville football players we all know so well. A lot of things contributed to their depravity, to be sure. Not insignificant in it’s influence, I’m certain, is the cornucopia of exposure points for this type of subtle abuse-empowering messaging.

The fact of the matter is, however, that it isn’t funny or true. You can enhance your chances with women by being confident, assertive, and perhaps even a little brazen, but you cannot enhance them by being an ass (read: by being mean, neglectful or abusive). You may succeed in shaming or intimidating a women into not leaving you… but don’t be mistaken… you have not accomplished or “won” anything.

(For the record, being nice to her and no one else is only one small step in the right direction, and is not victory either. But I really feel the intent behind that “bad boy” is more the confidant, take charge kind of guy who is not by definition the bad kind of bad.)

The old phrase that goes “nice guys finish last” – thankfully – is typically (or at least universally) not true. However, jokes like the pie chart above advance a society that supports that mind set and, subsequently, a culture of abuse. It’s not easy to stand up to the weight of a social situation, especially against something the vast majority of people consider innocuous, and say “hey, that’s not funny (or true)” but if not you, than who?

Because at the end of the day, the only way nice guys (or gals) actually finish last is if we allow them to do so, and I really don’t want to live in that world, do you?

*The effect of this is, by the way, no different than it would be with any ethnic, racial, gay, or other stereotype supporting joke you may hear (or choose to tell), I just happen to be focused on women for whatever reason right now. Probably leftover angst over Steubinville, Halifax, San Jose etc.

April 14, 2013

Sexpliotation, is it really that big a deal… you tell me. (somewhat unsafe for work)

Filed under: Observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — sbj @ 5:07 am

“What’s wrong with caring what you look like/wanting to look your best all the time/being pretty.” I have been asked some variation of this question literally dozens of times since I posted “Putting your worst foot forward” on Thursday.

As I stated in my responses to these comments, I don’t have a problem with any of those things. In fact, I think doing your best is an admirable (and, if you want to be successful, mandatory) thing to do. However, as I pointed out to my good friend who has a sister who is (according to her) widely considered the “pretty, smart one” vs. her description of herself as the “helpful, quiet one”…

And there, in the final paragraph, is the rub. Women today are ranked first and foremost by their looks, and if you don’t “get it done” from an attraction standpoint in that area, you are instantly a second class citizen (you aren’t hopeless… but the deck is definitely stacked against you). Further, lets say you do make the grade. Lets say you are attractive… even “hot”… what happens then?

Well, you might be suitable for uncomfortable sex in the front seat of a car (although what you are really doing is selling Axe… for men):

You might be equated to (confused with?) an airbag (for the purpose of selling luxury cars… for men):

Your sexual past might not be considered important enough to eschew you (but **only** if you were hot enough, and you were willing to be used to sell used luxury cars… for men… of course):

If you are super hot and a philanthropist, you could even be a positive force for change in the world (if you were willing to imply indirect sexual conquest/consent… for men):

Orm best yet, you could be afforded the fantastic privilege of spreading ‘em for whoever happens to spray on a touch of Tom Ford cologne (you guessed it… for men):

All of this, mind you, is for the “winners,” for women who are at the top of the ladder in the category most commonly related to their success and closely tied to their value in society… attractiveness and sexuality.

Are there other ways to be successful as a woman? Sure, you could be a tennis player for example:

But two out of the top four Google search results would be about how sexy you were or were not.

You could be a soccer player:

Three out of the top six.

You could even be one of the most powerful people in the world. However, if you decided to not wear makeup and maintain your appearance you would be talked about for having been forgetful, having given up your ambition, or both.

And there you have it. You can, as a woman, reach the the pinnacle of success – Clinton could very easily have been our last president and she was a Senator and our Secretary of State – however, if you elect to go without make-up or contacts, you are news.

The simple fact is that women today are evaluated by how good looking they are… their waist, bust and hip measurements… how they dress and present themselves… and how they interact with men. If we are being honest – and speaking in general terms – that’s pretty much it. Certainly there are exceptions, but again, taken on the whole this is the state of our society.

So I say again, while I have no issues with the attributes of “pretty,” “beautiful,” or even “hot” in and of themselves, and I certainly appreciate attractive people and things… I do have an issue with those being the primary tools for evaluating another human being. Collectively, we need to get over judging our women by their covers. If that starts by letting our guard down a little regarding how we present ourselves on a regular basis, so be it.

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