Posts in Category: community

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.