Posts in Category: Attention

I AM…

Note: I wrote this piece the day after I experienced the total eclipse, so time referenced is of that period, not this.

Yesterday I watched as the moon fully covered the sun, revealing its beautiful corona, revealing darkness where daylight should have been, revealing people from all walks celebrating nature and our amazing universe.

Yesterday also marked one year since ___ broke off our engagement.

Before the eclipse, I spent the day thinking about what ___ did, and how he did it (over email) and how it affected my past year: devastation, depression, a crushing fear that it might be better to wall off my heart and be done with it.

But as I drove around in the beautiful, green countryside of South Carolina I thought about that and I thought about the eclipse, and why I’d traveled hours south to be in the path of totality. It reaffirmed something about me that I’d forgotten over the past six years: I only allow experiences that add to who I am to have a lasting effect. The ones that threaten to take away are left behind as dim memories. Because of that, I actively search for experiences that will impact me in the most positive ways. And because of that ___ and his reasons for breaking our engagement are no longer important to me.

I’m called an optimist and idealist by friends all the time. It’s not that I disagree. I generally do think the best of people and life and I believe that my ideals are worth pursuing. These only describe me because while they may describe how I think, they don’t describe what I do. It’s important to make this distinction because knowledge of the self and motivations are vital to living by intention.

I consciously put myself in the path of totality, and that’s where I intend to live until my last day. I like the phrase “path of totality.” Astrologically it is the track of the moon’s umbral shadow over Earth’s surface. For me, psychically, (emotionally, personally, whatever term you like) it means the life path I choose in order to be the entire human being I am meant to be. And among other things, what I am mostly is a woman who lives with her heart wide open.

I sometimes wonder what attracts people to me. I’m not beautiful, I don’t have a sexy body, I’m not the kindest, most generous, or most loyal person I know. I’m not the smartest, either.  Sure, I have enough of all of that to get by, but not enough to make me stand out. What makes me stand out is my heart. My heart is wide open for everyone to see and, here’s the hard part, for anyone to take what they need. Best case scenario for me is to live with others who follow the “give a penny, take a penny” rule. Worst case is to live among takers. I usually have lots of “pennies” saved up, but eventually they run out and there I am, expected to keep giving when there’s obviously nothing left in the penny cup.

What does all this have to do with the solar eclipse? The event itself? Well, as I sat watching the moon cover the sun, I had this eerie feeling that something mystical was happening. I understand the astronomy of a total eclipse. I know that it is fully explained by science. I’m not anti-science at all. But if a big part of “I am” is that I allow positive experiences to affect me deeply, then by traveling to South Carolina to watch the eclipse, I was creating an experience that could be deeply meaningful. And when you experience events that, in the grand scheme of your life, have a deep impact, you feel it through the whole core of your being.

My heart raced as the light dimmed. I’d snap a picture, look up through my eclipse glasses, stare in amazement at the light and shadows all around, then do it all over again. All the while I felt intense emotions welling up inside me. Gratitude and joy and wonder. I felt brave for no reason, then the sun was suddenly fully covered and I understood the feeling.

When the sun is totally eclipsed, you can stare at it, unprotected. What you see is a white glow around a big black circle: the corona. It’s beautiful in a way that anything rare is beautiful, only there I am, a puny little human being in the face of a giant fire ball, and I’m staring it down.

Even more relevant is the idea that the light of the sun is so powerful that even when fully covered by darkness it still shines bright around the edges. And that’s me, the bright light around the edges. I love so hard and so strong that even when I’m totally obliterated by people and life I will still shine. And that shine is a promise that with trust and patience my light, like the sun’s, will shine full and powerful as ever in only a little while.

And that, my friends, is why I traveled to watch the total eclipse.

Why so militant?

closed mind

I’m going to be honest and tell you something right up front: Today’s post is a result of a conversation I was in the middle of yesterday when I was suddenly accused of being rude, insensitive, unsupportive, negative… and probably several other descriptors that generally don’t sync with who I am. It was especially startling because I know these accusers. They know me in real life and have for a long time. But suddenly, because my opinion differed from their particular view of what the world is and how it should be, I was this awful person.

The rest of this post will not be specifically about that experience, though. Honestly, it only served to crystallize something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Specifically, I have a big problem with anyone who becomes militant about their beliefs. It leads to a rigidity of thought that intelligent folks should fear and avoid at all cost.

When I think of a person as militant it’s someone who aggressively works to push their agenda. In case you wondered why aggression is necessarily a bad thing, please remember that aggressive and assertive and quite different in their basic nature. Militant believers are confrontational, commonly extremist, and often try to pawn off their belligerence as a healthy forcefulness or necessary in order to gain notice.

I disagree with those assumptions. Maybe it’s because I’ve been around for a half century, but I believe that aggression and belligerence are counterproductive. It could be that’s the way I’ve always been. It’s hard to remember how I thought about things or behaved in my 20s and 30s; that time period is all stain-glassed over by my brain as it is now. My point is, though, that confrontational will almost always result in a fight and a fight is only meant to have one winner. That’s no way to make lasting changes.

The argument yesterday was about breastfeeding. It was not, for the record, about breastfeeding in public, but I’m going to use that scenario as an example of militancy because it’s a more common issue than what we were discussing yesterday. Here goes:

Human boobs were designed to feed baby human beings. They have been sexualized, over thousands of years, which means there is a large portion of the human population that see boobs only as sexual body parts. I’m not weighing in here about the right or wrongness of that mindset, I’m just pointing out that it is. Since this is a common societal viewpoint there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable seeing a mother breastfeed her child in public. Again, I’m not judging, I’m pointing out a fact.

Breastfeeding mothers want the freedom to breastfeed wherever they want and whenever. Okay. I breastfed my daughter when she was a teeny, I get that. But this is where things get wonky. What I don’t understand is why some mothers feel the need to breastfeed their children in a public place and leave their entire breast out in full view.

I think that’s rude, but not because I have a personal problem with it. Why, then? My grandmother is a good example. She would have been incredibly uncomfortable to see a stranger’s boob in public. She’s been gone for almost eight years now, but I am sure there are plenty of other grandmothers still around who feel that way, too. They were born in a very different time. But more importantly, my grandma was a private person. She believed there was a proper time and place for things. I have a problem with breastfeeding women who militantly toss their boobs around in peoples faces because they see it as their right to do so. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t — but goddammit your right does not usurp everyone else’s rights.

And if you’re suddenly bent because I dared to characterize a woman breastfeeding in public as her “tossing her boobs around” chill the hell out. I’m making a point. And part of that point is some women’s boobs are ginormous! When they’re breastfeeding they’re even bigger, so even if it’s unintentional it sometimes looks like that boob is bouncing all out of control just coming out of a bra. Don’t tell me you’ve never noticed such a thing. It’s not vulgar to me by any means, but it can be startling. Right?

But to get back to my point, I honestly consider breastfeeding in public a similar issue as how we speak in different company. I’ll use myself as an example because I like to curse. I use fuck and damn and shit in everyday language. However, if I were to go hang out with my aunt, or meet a group of strangers, I would absolutely change my language choices. Or maybe I’m in a business situation that calls for more decorum than I use with a group of girlfriends. Here’s the thing: I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable because of words that I don’t need to use. I can say dern it instead of dammit. I can say golly day instead of fuck. I choose to alter the language I use (we all do!) in certain situations because not everyone feels comfortable when someone else uses colorful language. I’m okay with that.

I’m not militant about things, usually. There’s too much contention in the US these days and I try my level best to keep my head on straight so I can see all sides of an issue. I hate that people are rioting in the streets after police are shot and killed, but also when police have shot and killed a citizen. I hate that politicians are coming out with extreme (and extremely unAmerican) rhetoric about Muslims. I am offended when I see a Confederate Flag flying, just like I would be if I saw a swastika displayed somewhere. I believe the US spends far too much on the military and far too little on building up a well-rounded, active, and intelligent citizenry. I think the idea of mandatory vaccination programs is more of a big pharma scheme than a public health necessity. I recycle. I eat organic as much as I can. I meditate. I see an acupuncturist more often than I see an MD. But I try not to be an asshole about any of those things because they are all personal choices. I can choose for myself and still respect that you will make your own choices based on the different beliefs and experiences you’ve had throughout your lifetime.

Here’s my problem with militancy, or extremist thoughts/actions by any other name you want to use. When you become extreme in your beliefs it creates, in your mind, an environment where you are unable to see the blurry parts between your views and others’. That’s dangerous. Life is so rarely black and white. It would be nice and so much easier if it was, but it’s not. And if you can’t stop to consider that someone else has a valid reason to believe and behave in ways that are different than your own it can only lead to a fight. And like I said before, fights by their very nature always result in a loser.

Conflict, rather than fighting, can result in positive change. It can be extremely constructive when it’s handled properly, respectfully, intelligently. That should be our goal in American society. Not to win, but to create positive change.

So there you go, I’ve said my piece again.

Keep your guns (to yourself)

freedom

There’s this ridiculous misconception in America that non-gun owners want everyone else to give up their guns. Even worse, that somehow gun owners are being discriminated against because not everybody wants one, or wants to see one, out in public spaces.

For example, I saw this meme online yesterday about the Olympian,  Kim imageRhode. Apparently the fact that she only won bronze in a competition that isn’t followed by a large majority of Americans escaped the notice of whatever 2nd Amendment zealot took the two minutes to create this meme. Everything’s a conspiracy to trash a dude’s “God Given” right to bear arms.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not trying to diminish this woman’s achievements. “Just a bronze” in the International Olympic Games is amazing. That takes a lot of time, a lot of dedication, and even more talent. Still… I can’t get pumped about it. Basically, I don’t care about skeet shooting just like I don’t care about what some stranger on the street had for dinner last night. It’s just not interesting to me.

So here’s the thing about guns, for me anyway. I don’t own them. They scare the crap out of me because they are tools designed specifically to end life. They scare me like the thought of stage 4 cancer or heart surgery scares me. If I find myself in either of those scenarios, the chance that my life expectancy just took a nose dive is very real. Right there staring me in the face, real. That’s how I feel about guns. If there’s a gun around, my chance of getting shot by it increase by 100% compared to if there was no gun. That’s real math, folks.

But, honestly, I really don’t care if you feel the need to own a gun. Own it. Go shoot at a range and get good at using it. Respect the hell out of that single or double barreled killing machine. Just keep it the hell out of my face.

I’m sick of seeing photo after photo of people and their guns on Facebook and everyone else online. I want to see your gun about as much as I want to see your dick pic. Basically, not at all. I don’t need to know you have one, I’ll just assume you do. That’s okay. You have an ass crack and a 50/50 chance that you have a pair of undies on, too. I don’t need to see any of that either.

One step further, here, I’m going out on a limb to assume that a lot of those who get it all twisted that I don’t want to see your gun will also get it all twisted if a woman breastfeeds her baby in public. Or because the movement Black Lives Matter exists. Or if any other religion besides your own, Christian-based one, is attacked on a daily basis on the grounds of what a person wears or how he prays. The problem with insisting that your rights MUST NOT be infringed should go all ways, shouldn’t it? But, no, that’s not my experience with gun rights zealots.

Here’s another thing. The most common idea that gun owners have about open carry, or publicly carrying their weapon in any way, is that I’ll thank them if problems arise. I don’t feel that way at all. If someone starts shooting up a place that I’m also occupying I’ll duck and dive and hope for the best. Call me a fatalist, but if it’s my time to go who am I to argue? Besides, I’ve seen crazy before. The thing about crazy is that person has no idea they’re it. This is why I don’t trust gun carriers in public. If you think you need to carry a weapon at all times just to be safe that’s called paranoid, which happens to be a type of crazy.

So there ya go, I’ve had my say.

P.S. All comments are welcome, but if I don’t like yours I’ll delete it. Sure you have freedom of speech rights, but I own this blog and what I publish here is totally on me. You want to write about how anti-gun people are crazy, go right ahead… but do it on your own blog.

ForcingThe real problem I see with racism in America right now is that it’s become such a habit that a lot of folks don’t even know they’re doing it. When I’m writing, and I’m really on a roll, my leg starts bopping up and down, really fast, and totally on its own. I don’t even notice it until I stop to think what I want to write next and suddenly — hey! how did that happen?

It’s the same thing with racism. People have been trying so hard for so long to be “color blind” that they can’t see the problem for what it is: despicable. Like my leg bopping around they don’t know when it’s happening, how it started, or where in the heck did that habit start in the first place? It’s called an unconscious bias, if you care to know the social sciencey term. It means you have a preference for, or in this case against, something and you have no idea that you’re doing it.

Here’s the thing, though. When my legs is bopping up and down, and someone comes along and says why are you doing that? am I going to say what? I’m not doing anything! Actually, I might because maybe I didn’t notice. But when I stop for a moment to realize, or they point it out to me, what’s my reaction then? I’ll definitely say oh sorry, is that bothering you? I’ll stop. Then I will because I don’t what to be annoying. I don’t need anyone to feel uncomfortable in our shared space because of something I’m doing that I can just as easily stop. And I will absolutely become more aware of my body so that I can preemptively stop any accidental leg bopping that might occur later.

I’m not saying everyone’s like me, but most people are thoughtful. Most people just want to try to get along and share space and not cause shit. Of course there are those jerks on the fringes, there are always a few, but that’s the point they’re numbers are few.

So turning back to racism (and bigotry in general), do you see what I’m getting at? I think oodles and oodles of white folks in America are behaving in a racist manner because they don’t notice it. But the problem that’s loaded on top is they’re being accused of doing something that they’re not aware of and they’re PISSED. Nobody wants to admit to something they aren’t doing, even when they really are, but don’t know it yet. And by the way, these are the very people that are running to the GOP in droves because instead of taking a good look at themselves it’s easier to collectively say, NO! Quit calling me a racist. I don’t hate Mexicans because they’re brown, I hate them because they’re taking our jobs. I don’t hate blacks because of their skin color and kinky hair, I hate them because they’re killing cops. I don’t hate Muslims because I don’t understand them. I hate them because I’m scared of all the upheaval and violence in the world and they’re an easy scapegoat. Let’s face it, anger is always easy.

Do I have a remedy? Honestly, I can’t say that I do. I think the wisest thing I can say is, it’s gonna take time. Yes, it’s been 50 years since the Martin Luther King era of race relations in America. That feels like a long time, but the human race has been fighting over our differences for hundreds and thousands of years. Fifty isn’t even a drop in the bucket. I try to be an example, I suppose. And I write things that I hope might help others think about what they’re doing and why, and if it’s something they’re proud of themselves for. And that’s another thing, I see people all over the internet being proud of themselves: he lost 10 lbs! she graduated college with a 3.8 GPA! he started running again! she won a pie eating contest! Celebrate!

Yes, please do celebrate. But what if we started celebrating ourselves for being good and kind and thoughtful people, no matter what the situation? I’d like my social newsfeeds a whole hell of a lot better if we did <3

Cops in trouble vs. Cops are trouble

violence

512 Americans were killed so far this year as a result of police shootings. That seems like a small number doesn’t it? Considering there are 318.9 million of us living is this great big country. If you want hard numbers, that accounts for 0.00016% of us. That’s not a lot.

Let me ask you to consider, while you’re considering those cold, hard facts, this: Each of those 512 people had someone who missed them when they didn’t come home that night. Those were not numbers on a page, but warm, beating hearts stopped by bullets from department issued firearms.

This is the price we pay for maintaining a safe society. Police are hired to keep the peace. Cops have to do their jobs. Of course they do. I would never argue that point. But 512 lives lost? Shouldn’t zero be our goal? Is that in the mission statement of any police department? Or is it something nobody’s talking about because everybody’s okay with a few deaths if it means the rest of us feel safe. Only, I know a whole lot of us who don’t feel safe anymore, if they ever did.

Let me make a parallel, if you would. It’s going to hit a hot button, though, so be prepared. We have had one death related to the measles (according to the latest CDC stats) in the past decade+. Yet we call the decision by many parents not to vaccinate their children a dire societal failure. One person, in a whole twelve years. Sure, you could argue that it’s only because of the millions of children and adults who are vaccinated, but what about globally, where the vaccination rate is much lower? In the entire world, there were 114,900 measles related deaths in 2014 (most current WHO statistic). Comparing that to just 512, 114,900 that sounds like a lot, but that’s out of seven billion people. It comes to .000016%. That’s an extra zero in there compared to police shooting deaths, and that zero represents a whole lot of extra people.

This is not about vaccines, though. It’s not about whether you’re on the helpful vs. harmful end of the spectrum on the vaccination question. I honestly don’t care what you choose, it’s not my business. What this is about is what we find acceptable on a death certificate in the box marked cause.

Here’s the thing, if we call deaths caused by the measles an epidemic problem, why not death caused by our nationwide police forces? There are a lot more of them. I understand, you could well be thinking, the cops are just doing their job. I’ll give you that, but I’ll go one better. All those measles viruses are just doing their job, too. It’s not fair to target them and not the cops is it? So, what about this? How about we get our scientific community to start work on an empathy vaccine? We can institute a vaccination program for that one so everyone would be left with a super-healthy and active empathy brain center. That’s a mandatory program I could get behind!

…and so my arguments have devolved into ridiculousness. But please don’t take that for an indication this isn’t serious stuff. Our collective national police forces need improvement. They need to be studied for what is working, what’s not, and best practices to fix them. It must be scientific, but we MUST support the men and women in blue while they do their jobs. They’re human beings. They will always make mistakes. All we can ask, all we should ask, it that they are the right people for the job, are trained well, and are required to continue training throughout their careers. And let’s push for community policing. That, my friends, is our best option. It’s going to be a lot harder to shoot a man if you know his name and where his grandma lives.

To wrap this up I’m going to leave you with this. It’s a link to statistics collected by The Washington Post of fatalities caused by police officers nationwide. It’s not a judgment, it’s not an indictment, it’s just factual information about each event, where, why, and how it happened.

it’s important stuff and you should give it a click.

Do you have a finger to point?

Blame

These shootings. This violence. How do we make it stop?

Every single time I hear a news story about a black man being shot by the police I am stunned. Like a jab to my solar plexus it pains me, it takes my breath away. I am left doubled over in fear, then shame, and with a sorrow that radiates through the whole of me.

Then, as though we’re living in some sick dystopian story, filmed in black and white and red, the media jumps in with gleeful headlines that may as well read, LET THE BLAME GAMES BEGIN!!! This violence and the the strife that comes with it means dollar signs to the media. And I am disgusted even more.

Our behavior – that of the black folks who get themselves shot, or the cops doing the shooting, or the gunmen demonstrating their sociopathic rage by targeting whatever group they hate most while armed to the teeth with firepower meant for the battlefield – none of that behavior can be explained in a 2.2 minute news segment. Never mind that, the media isn’t much interested in helping us gain a deeper understanding of the problems or the people involved. It doesn’t translate well to “the general public.” Nobody’s paying attention to the news ticker streaming across the bottom of the screen long enough to list the myriad reasons we’re in this mess.

But that’s what I keep thinking about. We’re focusing on the symptoms, not the cause. Progress can’t be made that way. How can we cure this cancer with an aspirin?

Alton Sterling was killed selling CDs in front of a convenience store. Let me step back from that, as consuming a picture as it is, and take a moment to ask a few questions. Why was he out there selling those CDs in the first place? Why are we not fighting harder to improve our economy? Why, in the United Goddamn States of America, does a grown man have to resort to selling CDs in front of a convenience store to put food in his belly? Why do we hate him because he lives in an impoverished community? Why do we fear him for it? Why is it so easy for him to carry a gun? Why does he only feel safe when he carries one? And why, oh why do so many Americans simultaneously use the color of his skin as a cause and a justification for his killing?

Five Dallas cops were picked off by a single gunman. Senselessly killed. It was blamed on Black Lives Matters, on every single person directly associated with the group and even those of us who support its necessity. But what about these questions: How did no one who knew that shooter not notice his hatred? Why was he not identified as on the very edge of insane behavior? Are we so self-centered, so afraid to butt in when we know someone is troubled, that we no longer feel the need to turn a man around? Instead we wait until after and point fingers. He should have found God. His family should have stepped in. He shouldn’t have had a gun like that. Maybe all of those things would have helped. But let me throw this out there: If it takes a village to raise a child, how is a person to go on without that same community support? WE failed that man. Our sense of community is broken and he is only a symptom of it.

And what about the cops doing that shooting? Which “that shooting?” Any of them.They take a human life and are put on administrative leave. Blue lives matter too, ya know. Oh, really? It never occurred to me that when a human life, a human heartbeat, is purposely stilled that I should have compassion. This part, to me, is incredibly frustrating. Of course all lives matter, but up until Trayvon Martin, America didn’t prioritize the life of every American. Up until that time we only prioritized the monied and the connected, the “respectable” folk. Which is to say we prioritized quality of life of White Americans. The rest be damned. So Black Lives Matters sprung up around the country to highlight that unfairness. The injustice of one group of people being held as more important than all others. The name of the group is not ONLY Black Lives Matters, so get off your high horse and use your brain for once, then take time out to show you have a heart.

But let me go back to the cops for a minute. Why are we hiring men and women who are so hungry to use lethal force? Why are they so distanced from the people in the communities they serve they’re so willing to pull a gun and shoot? What the hell ever happened to the motto To PROTECT and SERVE? Protect comes first. And as a cop, only protecting yourself is not what you signed up for.

Where is the training to manage a risky situation without a gun? Why is training not a bigger priority? As a nurse, I trained for three years to earn my RN. Every year after I was required to prove my skills were still accurate and to continue my training and education. Is that something police have to do? Because I definitely see a parallel here. Medical mistakes and negligence have been a priority topic in health care for a while now. The fewer mistakes, the better. Why are we not focusing our attention on police departments across the country in this same way?

Playing The Blame Game is much too fun. It’s much more engaging and makes better headlines. It gets our hearts pumping. But it’s so ugly. And that’s what saddens me the most. We Americans have become so ugly, so nasty. If our behavior had a smell, it would be worse than a ripe pig farm sitting in the middle of an industrial waste site. If it had a color it would be the color of evil, whatever that is to you. If it had a sound? Unfortunately it does have a sound. Gun shots. That’s the sound of our collective ugliness.

Now I need to collect myself and take a deep breath because here’s the thing. I wish I could end this with some witty something or other to give you hope. Honestly, I’m too disgusted and depressed for that. Instead, let me show you something I found in our front yard”

Here are two pictures of a Sunflower bloom. BudBloomThe first was taken three days ago, the second yesterday afternoon. Stop and think about that for a second… What a difference a couple days of bright, warm sunshine can make.

Go ahead, take that as a metaphor, if you like.

A return to respect in politics

Respect

I read an article this morning about how Bernie Sanders was booed by a bunch of Democrats because he hedged when asked when he planned to come out and fully support Hillary Clinton. Commenters were up in arms that anyone dare boo their candidate of choice because how dare they?

Let me get this part out of the way first: I support Bernie Sanders. He has enough delegates to go the the Democratic Convention later this month and demonstrate to all of America just how important his message is. I applaud him for sticking to it and taking his supporters all the way to Philadelphia. I don’t know the guy personally, so I don’t know if its just part of his mystique or a real part of his core (I prefer to believe the later), but that he won’t back down from a tough fight is one of the traits I most admire.

My bigger point, in writing today, is to ask how have we become a nation that won’t tolerate dissent? How can we suddenly not stomach disagreement and wildly different ideas in this great big country of ours? I guess its not so sudden, really. I mean, four years ago I had a so-called friend tell me I should jump off the tallest building I could find because we were arguing over welfare policy. If you must know, I argued my point, he had no good counter argument, so instead of conceding, he thought I should inflict bodily harm upon myself. Some friend, huh? But I digress.

We live in a gigantic country. Google just told me it’s 3.806 million mi² to be exact. WOW. But, really, in all that space, we can’t eek out a corner for everyone to have their own opinion? And more importantly, we can’t give each other space to hold our competing ideals tightly against our chests? In my mind, a strong democracy is one where citizens who have distinctly different ideas will fight tooth and nail to find common ground and finally COME TOGETHER as one.

Anymore, we stop at the fighting part. How is that? Why?

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because the drama is in the fighting. Have you ever met a couple who fights constantly and seem to enjoy their relationship solely because they love the drama of fighting? I sure have and I gotta say I hate being around those people.

I’m definitely a peacenik. If I had my way we’d argue quickly and civilly and come to an agreement that suits everyone enough to create as much contentment as possible. Of course, nobody’d want to watch that on prime time TV. Plus, I understand that in politics especially, a lot of folks want to throw their chests out and make a big show of what they think. I’m always up for a good debate, but how about we lay out some ground rules? Because, honestly? Capitol Hill looks like a playground with an absent playground monitor most days. Which is pitiful because these are the people we’ve hired to take care of the business of running our country.

So how about those ground rules?

  1. Listen. If you’ve ever seen a counselor or read anything about human interactions you’ve heard the term active listening. All it means is really listen to what the other person is saying. Repeat back to them, in your words, their message so you’re all clear about what’s really being said and what’s most important. What this does not include is constructing your counter-argument while they’re still talking. You can’t take in what someone is saying that way.
  2. Think. Take a minute, take a few, and maybe a few more! In 2016 it seems we have no respect for reflection and rumination anymore. But to really roll a new or different idea around in your head, you’ll need some time. Take it! A little bit of thoughtfulness never hurt anyone!
  3. Focus. This is a biggie: pay most attention to what you can agree on. There’s always at least a sliver of agreement in two differing points. Start there. How can you grow that sliver?
  4. The Point. Stick to the single point at hand. It’s easy to take the issue you’re arguing and compare it to something similar, but then the argument gets wider, and more complicated, and you’re gonna get nowhere fast that way. Stick to the one issue and do not detour from it.
  5. Don’t Delay. While we definitely need time to think deeply about a disagreement, don’t put off the discussion for too long. Other issues will rear up and take precedence and then this first thing will never be resolved. Let’s face it, things like affordable higher education, racial equality, sensible gun regulations, etc. etc. need to be resolved.
  6. The Blame Game. Just don’t. It doesn’t help anyone to point fingers and find fault. It might be satisfying on some level to claim faultlessness, but the problem is still going to be there when you get done patting yourself on the back. This is a gigantic waste of time.
  7. Win-Win. Yup, we’re back to that common ground thing. If you’re going to make the largest portion of citizens happy or content with a decision, you need to look for the win-win. And let’s face it, win-win is never going to be on either extreme side of the realm of possibilities. I know this is particularly unpopular right now because politics has become some sort of extreme fight club, but it’s true.

If you got through that list, you might recognize it as a list of how to argue successfully in a relationship. Of course politics is about relationship. And we NEED to stop with the hate and the contention and the love of the drama because as an American, I don’t want to be a laughing stock on the world stage. I want to be proud of us. I want us to reach for our very highest ideals and quit with the hate and pandering to the ugliest parts of the human psyche.

And that, dear friends, is all I’m gonna say about that.

 

 

Hate is not okay

HateThe internet is overflowing with stories about the Orlando shooting yesterday at Pulse, a hot nightclub in the LGBTQ community there. Like always, Americans have differing opinions about what happened and why. Was it a gay thing? Was it a religious thing? Was it ISIS related? Was the shooter mentally unstable? Was he violent on a daily basis? Would the result be different if Americans didn’t have easy access to assault rifles? Should we ban assault rifles? Should we ban Muslims? Should we ban gays? Should we ban crazy people? Would changing any one of those elements make a difference?

All of this and more, I’m sure. Personally? I vote for banning assault rifles for personal use. Because, really? In what scenario does a private person need one of those things? When you’re living through a Hollywood-style apocalypse story is the only answer that makes sense to me. But I know a lot of people who disagree and think that placing any caveat on our 2nd Amendment rights will start a fast slide down a slippery slope. So…

Hatred, though. That’s the real issue, isn’t it? Somebody hates gays. Somebody else hates Muslims. Somebody else hates the Capitalist Pigs. We hate crazy people, disabled people, people with purple hair, brown skin, that dude with an extra toe. I’m willing to bet you can find an easy handful of Americans who hate at least one thing on the vast list of EVERYthing.

What I despise most about the internet, and our insta-news culture, is how every story is promoted with click bait. This inevitably leads to the following three (problematic) story writing rules

  • The story must be dramatic.
    • Drama sells. We want to read something exciting, right? Something to get our hearts racing, something we can have an opinion about. (Speaking of opinions, read this!)
  • The material must instantly evoke a strong emotion.
    • Love and Hate. If we’re talking basic human emotions, they’re it. If we’re talking emotions that are easily manipulated? You guessed it! They’re it, too. Now, love doesn’t sell much on the news circuit, unless you count baby animals being adorable. LOVE in the news, and most of the internet, is considered fluff. Insignificant: only relevant when there’s a spare corner or extra 30 seconds to kill. HATE, though. That’s meat and potatoes shit right there. If you want to sell a story, make it something everyone has a reason to hate. They don’t even have to be the same reason. Actually, it’s better if there’s a whole list of reasons to hate a story. You hit more demographics that way.
  • The concepts must be digestible in a three second eye-scan of the page.
    • This one drives me crazy, especially when it comes to social issues. They’re never simple. Bigotry, poverty, racism, sexism, extreme religiosity, etc, etc – none of it can be explained in a meme. And if you can’t explain a problem in three seconds, there’s no way the solution is simple either. Life is complicated (even on a good day), it’s multi-faceted, short term wins frequently lead to long term disasters, and ducking our heads in order to ignore these facts is absolutely unhelpful.

What’s happening as a result of our online culture? I’ll tell you. We are becoming an overly dramatic group of people who crave hatred and answers that require little to no thought or intelligence.

Hatred, though. We respond to tragedies like what happened at Pulse with more of it. We hate the shooter. We hate his religion. We hate gays for being the easy targets that they are. We hate the NRA. We hate the media for sensationalizing the very tragedy we spend 2 1/2 hours searching google, twitter, facebook, and the rest of the internet for information about. Our elected officials (BTW, I wanted to name them elected leaders, but I can’t.) jump on the bandwagon and make statements inflaming the hatred and promising simple answers. We hate them, too.

Are you noticing a political trend here? [[shudders]]

My answer is not LOVE. That’s also the easy answer, in my opinion. All you need is love? It’s a beautiful sentiment. First comes understanding, though, because I will never love racism, but I can understand the seeds from whence it stems. Same with folks who feel a need to buy a gun to protect their home and family. I don’t love their reasoning behind it, but I can work to understand it. I will never love the urge to cause a large group of people terror or physical harm and death. But I can try to understand how a person can reach that point. My point being it is difficult and almost impossible to hate a thing that you can understand. So I will always reach for a point of understanding.

Hatred, though… Can we just stop? Can we just, please?

If you know who I can attribute this photo to, please comment!

Inspirational?

Inspiration

I have a hard time with all the “inspirational” stories on social media these days. Today I found stories about: a little girl learning to walk with an artificial leg, a teen with Down’s Syndrome who is rounding the interwebz as this week’s most beautiful person, Alicia Keys’ #nomakeup movement, women breastfeeding in public, an ex-Army Ranger who is slowly rehabbing after severe injuries from an IED… I could go on.

Do I sound like a heartless bitch yet? I know. I feel like an awful human being because I’m sure that for every one of these stories there are real human beings who are only trying to be the best version of themselves. That is a good thing. But inspirational? On a deep and meaningful level?

Overcoming great odds inspires me. But a little girl with an artificial leg? I can’t quite stretch to inspirational for that one. Of course a girl who loses a leg is going to wear an artificial leg and learn to walk on it. Do you look at a lizard or starfish and call it an inspiration when it grows a new tail or leg after losing one? Nope. It’s just what happens. Living beings adapt to their circumstances. If they don’t, they are forever hampered. Maybe the little girl will learn to run SUPER fast. Or dance with her fancy, shiny leg; perhaps even gracefully. Or maybe she’ll learn to jump rope or play hopscotch. Those are all amazing for her, personally. I’m sure her parents are relieved that she won’t be permanently and wholey limited by her physical other-ness. And I’m glad for them that they have that sense of relief. But are they somehow super-humanly strong or tenacious because they – by accident, fate, or some other circumstance – had to face something they never thought they would? That none of us would rather.

I don’t think they are. I’m happy for them, but they don’t inspire me.

Why? Life is one long challenge, for every single one of us. If I hold one challenge (Down’s Syndrome) up as more admirable to overcome than another (Club foot) what am I saying to the kid growing up with trouble walking “normally?” Sorry, kid. Your disability isn’t “cool” enough. (P.S. Your parents should have had the money to spring for medical treatment so you wouldn’t walk so weird.)

Everyone has their own challenges. Some of them are invisible and private, others are impossible to hide. Instead of ranking them in ways that just end up as judgey, what if we encouraged everyone we meet to be their best? Actually, no. How about if we EXPECT the best out of everyone, instead?

That would be so nice…….

And just in case you’ve gotten all the way down here to the end and still think I’m a heartless bitch. Well, that’s your perogative. But in my defense, I am the consummate cheerleader. This means in every challenging situation, my nearest and dearest always count on me to be on their sideline cheering them on loudly and in probably an inappropriately boisterous manner. So I’ve got that going for me 🙂

Here’s my opinion…

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I’m slowly developing a Hate-Hate relationship with social media. My problem is the same as everyone else is having:

We have instantaneous access to 90% of what’s happening in the world and every damn one of us thinks it’s our right, no our duty, to have an opinion about it. Or to give advice or criticism, our perspective or maybe just a little piece of our mind. We have to have a say, right?

In the past several days, the story everybody’s up in arms over is Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old boy fell into its enclosure. Either you think the kid’s mom is an idiot for letting her precious child so close to the edge that he fell in. Or you think the zoo keepers are idiots for killing the gorilla. Was lethal force really necessary? Or you think the media are idiots for making the story into such a big deal. Or you think gorillas are dangerous creatures and aren’t safe around humans, so good… Perhaps you’re anti-zoo in the first place. I could spend hours working my way around all the different opinions people have about this singular event. However I look at it, all I can come up with is that it was tragic all the way around.

The reality is, I do have an opinion about what happened, but I am far from being an expert about gorilla behavior, so I’m okay with letting the experts make the call. I mean, just because I spend a few hours online learning about how and why gorillas behave the way they do, doesn’t mean I am anywhere close to being an expert. (Likewise reading WebMD doesn’t make me an MD, reading Wikipedia doesn’t make me an expert historian, taking a course on HarvardX about String Theory won’t make me any sort of a physicist.)

Am I against animal cruelty? Sure I am. But isn’t it cruel to trap a wild animal in a small space in the first place? And the part that honestly bothers me most is people arguing that it’s the mother’s fault that her kid fell in to start with. As though, whatever might have happened would be okay with them because BAD mommy! I don’t know if you’ve ever had your own 4-year-old, or knew one that could magically disappear (like Harry Potter magical) within a matter of seconds, but it happens.

What I can say for 100% sure is that I was not there; I did not see the events unfold. My opinion is, therefore, totally irrelevant.

But this is the state of online experiences right now. Nasty responses to events that don’t even indirectly affect us. Everyone’s gotta be up in arms about something. Why? I dunno. Are we so bored with real life we have to trick ourselves into feeling like we’re better than our everyday, real life points to us being? Could be. Is there a solution?

Probably, but you’re not gonna like it because I’m about to sound like your mom when you were 10: Get off the damn computer and go do something with yourself. Read a good book. Take a walk. Smell a flower. Learn something new. Jump out of an airplane. Build a table or a garden or a new friendship. Whatever you do, do something so you’re something more than your own, irrelevant opinions.