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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Close-mindedness of the Modern Conservative

The title is just scraping the top of the archaeological dig. If I had time, I'd dig down to the history of conservatives in the USA. How the conservatives were behind the original Black Lives Matter of the 1800s. How conservatives were conservative in the system they followed but were never closed to ideas.

I am blessed to still know some true intellectual conservatives, but many of them are falling to the wayside of emotions. Irrational, emotional thinking is what the majority of us despise in the modern liberal but now it's their turn to do exactly the same thing.

I am a conservative-leaning moderate. I sympathize. I want to offer advice to these friends the very best way I know how: Through reason.

We've all seen parents give in to a screaming child. But we also know that grown adults shouldn't behave the same way. But we've also seen that government officials sometimes give in to interest groups if their tantrums are loud enough.
We all know the shoulds and shouldn'ts. We shouldn't carry grudges. We shouldn't direct hatred of an idea to the hatred of the person who mentioned it. We shouldn't try to be louder than the next guy: If our ideas are good enough, we should win the argument. In other words, we should try very hard to not be the people we despise.

And when it comes to healthy adulting, we should not allow ourselves to take an issue so personally that it brings us to tears...unless that issue directly affects us. For instance: If you hear of a white kid shot by a black cop and it's obviously an injustice, do you:
  • A) Write to government officials and news outlets demanding accountability
  • B) Go on to Facebook and get into heated arguments with others, start crying, and unfriend everyone
  • C) Do as Obama did and, before all the facts are in, declare that the white kid could be your son
We all know which answer we should choose. But do we choose that? Are we striving to be the people we should be?

I see self-styled conservatives saying and posting things that are - well, there is no other word for it - foul. They post memes that are inappropriate, disgusting, and hate-filled. Those of us who are Christians distance ourselves from such people when we should confront them with kindness, and I am guilty of that just as everyone else is.

The question is: Can you be a true conservative if you are an extremist who loves the fight more than justice? Are ideas no longer important? Is it now only a question of who the biggest bully is? You might eat someone's lunch, but in the court of public opinion... you've lost.

I was recently unfriended and blocked by a Christian who writes for The American Spectator. I had truly admired him. It saddens me, because he is still friends with the people who post garbage memes like this:

But I was never given a chance, never told how I offended the man. I had just been in a discussion of how the recent racially-charged Dove ad was offensive to myself and so many others, and I suppose that must have triggered him, even though I tried to keep it civil as my friends duked it out online.

According to Christian standards, he was very wrong. He should have discussed this with me and we could have rectified the situation. Or at least so I hope. I have another Christian friend who is black and a liberal-leaning moderate. There are times she has to unfollow me because my friends get on her nerves. The Dove discussion also enraged her. I get that. But she always tells me with love and gives me the courtesy of an explanation.

Recently a couple of friends had a dust-up and my friend Todd reached out to his combatant and invited him out for drinks. That is how a true conservative should behave. 

That is how we all should behave.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Races, Terms, Origins

"I don't consider myself a Native American," says a caller to a conservative radio show who may or may not be anything but a white man living in Alabama. "Instead, I'm fine with being called American Indian. In fact, I embrace it!"
Except...Native Americans really are NOT American Indians. Americans of Indian descent are American Indians.
Likewise, I'm Native American, because I was born in America.
African Americans may or may not be black Americans and black Americans may or may not be of African descent.
We need better terms.

Friday, August 25, 2017

How You Live Is...

I once worked for an exceedingly toxic workplace. 

 Some of you are survivors and we'll have a bond that will always be there as a result of it. 

 What was funny is that they are always trying to polish the turd. And despite how terribly they treated their employees, they would always try to say trite management and sales homilies in an attempt to pretend (at least to themselves) otherwise. 

 Our only place of peace was the bathrooms. 

 And then one day, even that peace was shattered when I went into a stall, closed it, and saw a sickly sweet sign that said "How you live is..." well, I forget the rest. Obviously it wasn't very memorable. But it was a polite chastisement - an attempt to follow us even into the place where we dropped our pants to remind us that we were never going to get away from their toxicity.

 I got angry. 

 Really livid. 

 And so I took that sign, took it home, scanned it, and altered it to be a more realistic one that I then taped in EVERY. SINGLE. STALL. 

 After that, no more stupid signs in our stalls. 

 It was a minor victory, but one which I'll always cherish.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Titan Medical Center: Making Violence Against Women Look Cute

An alert reader shot me over this advertisement that gave her the shudders:

Posted on their Facebook page on 8/16/17     See it here until they get smart enough to take it down.

Well aren't they just adorable. The thick-lipped thug is John Tsikouris, who is listed as the head honcho of Titan Medical Group, LLC, a small company in Tampa, Florida.

Perhaps John is the next best thing to the Pope...or Franklin Graham...or the Dalai Lama. But somehow I can't picture any of them standing there with a perky blond in pants that are as tight as a sausage casing. 

And I can't picture any of them bending her over and getting ready to beat her. 

To be fair, I'm told that she's his partner. What they do in their bedroom is up to them entirely, of course. If they hang from chandeliers smeared in Jell-O while warbling Britney Spears tunes, I have little to say about that (though their neighbors might).

However, this is a public advertisement posted...well, publicly. So it's only fair to subject it to public scrutiny.

Is this appropriate?

Looking at their Facebook page, there are tons of overly-sexualized photos of people, predominantly women. Looking at their site, they also repeat the theme: Sex, sex, sex. Under their FAQs on their site they ask you questions like "Do you have a decrease in sex drive?" and " Are your erections less strong?" and "Has it been more difficult to maintain your erection throughout intercourse?" The front page shows a disgruntled looking woman with a resigned man behind her. She's obviously conveying great dissatisfaction with his performance in bed.

Hmmm. A theme begins to emerge.

This sex-obsessed company is all about healthy living. Oh whoops, my bad... I guess it's pretty obvious what they're all about. This would make it a very threatening environment for some, and it's pretty much a given what you're looking for if you're there.

But this ad really takes it over the top, doesn't it? I wonder what went through John's head at the time. "If she's smiling, then it's OK to pretend to beat her for a laugh."

According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic abuse isn't a laughing matter. They write "we believe that jokes about violence only serve to diminish people’s perception of its severity. Abuse in any relationship – whether it’s between family members, friends, or people in an intimate partnership – is not acceptable, no matter the “reasons” behind it or the gender of the people involved."

In a great article by Aparna Balakumar (seen here) she notes "There’ll always be a small part of society that says to “lighten up” and “take a joke,” but by staying silent we implicitly condone behaviour. And in this instance, that’s behaviour that could be deeply triggering and hurtful to some."

Let's not stay silent.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Big Brothers / Big Sisters Problem: When the Underprivileged are Overprivileged



When my kids were no longer a daily part of my life, I succumbed to Empty Nest Syndrome.

I moped a bit. 

When you've spent a large portion of your adult life reinventing yourself as a parent, and that role is suddenly removed, you find yourself adrift without purpose for a while.

And so a well-meaning friend suggested Big Brothers / Big Sisters.

Before I begin my complaint, let me be clear: I know of some success stories. But I don't believe that my experience was an exception. Rather, I believe that theirs is the exception. As my story unfolds, you may come to agree with me.

When I went in to the offices of BB/BS, I was very excited. I filled out the applications, went through the screening process, and was accepted. In a couple of weeks, I was called to interview my first prospect: We'll call her Keneesha.

I met the caseworker at the home of Keneesha and her siblings. All 8 of them.

Keneesha was 6 years old, and painfully recalcitrant. I hesitate to use the word 'shy' because the caseworker and everyone in her family assured me she wasn't. But she was having a bad day, apparently, and refusing to talk to me. Her sister "Kendra" did all the translating. 

Their mother sat idly by, saying very little. I found that curious at first, but came to understand why, later. "Lola" was a pleasant enough woman and seemed to be a good mother. She was busy with her brood of 8 and cash-strapped, as the father of most of the children was in prison and couldn't pay child support. The father of the 2 youngest was living with them but working a minimum wage job. 

Lola was, frankly, tired. I imagine she was tired all the time. And Lola needed a baby-sitting service, which is where BB/BS came in. All of her children were enrolled in the program.

As I sat on the couch in their living room, trying to connect with a child that refused to connect with me in any way, I became aware that Kendra was animated, helpful, and willing to step out of her shell. So later I asked the caseworker if Kendra had a Big Sister assigned to her.

"Welllll," said the caseworker, hesitantly. "We usually don't like to pass over one sibling in favor of the other."

"You saw how Keneesha wouldn't have anything to do with me," I argued. "But Kendra is a gem! If she doesn't have a Big Sister, I'd like to work with her."

The caseworker reluctantly said it was a possibility but she'd have to check with the mother first. Lola readily agreed, and the match was made.

We were carefully warned to initially buy the children no gifts at all. As the relationship built, you could buy them an occasional trinket only. BB/BS was aware that people can be taken advantage of, and they wanted this to be about the mentoring of a child and not the enabling of a family. I was fine with that, but still planned inexpensive outings that Kendra and I would go on. I looked forward to our first trip, which was to the park.

However, when I picked up Kendra, she had transformed from a happy, helpful child into an older version of Keneesha. Initially I put it off as the nervousness of being with a total stranger. But as this continued over several visits, I expressed my concern to the caseworker, who urged me to keep trying to connect.

So I did.

I tried humor. I tried exciting her interest in new things. BB/BS gets a lot of corporate sponsorships. Companies will give them free tickets to major events, so we would get regular emails letting us know what concerts or events had free tickets that were up for grabs for us and our "Littles." These children were being treated to better experiences than children who weren't in the program, and they were, frankly. being spoiled by it.

One day when I picked up Kendra for one of our outings, I had very special news that I'd been waiting for a week to spring on her. "Kendra," I said excitedly, "I got us tickets to Jack Hanna's Wild Kingdom next month!"  

"Ah," said Kendra, with her usual lack of enthusiasm.

 What would it take to impress this kid? I'd already taken her to a couple stellar concerts, got her backstage with the band, they took pictures with her and signed the autograph album I bought her. I'd taken her to regular parks, a water amusement park, the beach, and other events. Some of these jaunts were on my own dime, most were sponsored by the BB/BS sponsors.

"Look, Kendra," I said, frustrated, but keeping my tone in check. "What IS it? Why aren't you more excited? Don't you know what it is?"

"Of course I do," she replied dully. "My Big Sister from last year took me to that."

And that's when it hit me. These children from the BB/BS program are, for the most part, living a more glamorous, more exciting life than the children of everyday people who are not enrolled. These supposedly underprivileged kids are actually overprivileged. 

Lola knew what she was doing. Her 8 children were all being taken to Disney World, Busch Gardens, water parks, concerts, events, and more while she got to stay home and not lift a finger as we chumps spent our own energy, money, time, and gas to ferry her children about like royalty. And the kids were so used to it that they were, quite simply, jaded.

I called the social worker and asked when she had been planning on telling me that Kendra had a previous Big Sister. That's when I found out she'd had a chain of them. I assume they grew tired of being a combination of chauffer and royal court jester. 

Certainly *I* had.

I quit.

But although the problem is obvious (and currently being ignored by BB/BS) the answers are easy...though not fun... to implement.

Different tickets and outings need to be rated. Say that an "A" trip is to a major amusement park. Whether or not a corporate sponsor or a "Big" has sprung for the outing, each "Little" only gets one or two "A" outings a year.

Now say that taking in a local ballgame is a "B" trip. That child can have up to 4 "B" trips. They can have unlimited "C" trips to the library, parks, the beach, and other less-costly alternatives.

Additionally, the "Littles" can't just use the "Bigs" for fun. The "Bigs" should be expected to help the "Littles" with homework and other issues. Since "Littles" often come from less-than-ideal circumstances, there are issues like anger management, education, career goals (and more) which a "Big" may be able to help with.

Limiting the fancy goodies that these "Littles" get would force the program to be more about developing genuine mentoring relationships. It also would encourage the "Littles" to not take so much for granted. And finally it would free up the corporate sponsorships and monies to be used more wisely. And isn't that ultimately what Big Brothers / Big Sisters was supposed to be all about? Teaching responsibility and preparing children for the world?

If we want to solve the problems of the Entitlement Generation, if we want to fix the problem of self control in our youth, if we want to truly encourage enlightenment, it must start with our charities and in our homes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Congressional Baseball Shooting

"Have you called 911?" asks an invisible bystander to the man who's using his phone to video the shooting today. 

"I assume people have been calling 911 already," responds the man taping the gunfire. 

And THAT is the danger we run into - too many people want to video an event instead of actually doing something to prevent it. 

At the end, he mutters as an afterthought "I hope everyone is OK." Everyone but the attacker survived it, so far...no thanks to HIM.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

12 Facebook Etiquette Rules

I have a couple people I care about that struggle with Facebook etiquette. Today I thought to google the topic and didn't come up with much that wasn't generic. Most of the advice is beginner level.

So in order to address the more genuine issues that I see people deal with, I decided to put together a little guide.

This is written with great love and respect for many of you that miss social cues in print. If you follow these simple rules, it may help you to avoid antagonizing people unnecessarily.

1. Limit your comments on a friend's post. This is difficult for people with OCD or Aspergers (and sometimes difficult for people who don't have either!) but it must be reigned in. If you post something and then another thought strikes you, it's often wiser to edit your original comment rather than create an unnecessary string.

Why? Because anyone who's liked or commented on that post will get a 'ding' on their phone or computer every time something new is liked or posted. Many people don't mind hearing when someone has something new to add, but endless 'dings' going off can be highly annoying. It also floods the feed and makes it difficult for people to follow everyone's contributions.

There are two exceptions:

1) Don't alter your comment if people have responded to it and changing the comment will change what they would've written. And 2) If there is an ongoing 'conversation' you're having with someone. But be careful that you...

2. Don't hijack a post. This means that if you suddenly get into a long public discussion with one person, it's best to take that private and use the messaging feature. Another way to hijack a post is to start talking about something else entirely, like your pet cause of the moment.

There's an exception to this: I have a couple friends who will occasionally hijack a post to run an ongoing comedic dialog between each other. It can be very entertaining and it's done for fun only - there are no vicious digs or off-color jokes. But you have to use your discretion: Maybe your ongoing discussion with someone could be of interest to other readers who aren't contributing...or maybe it isn't. If you aren't able to tell the difference, don't engage in this.

When a friend posts something, it is only OK to comment on that particular subject. For example, if someone posts a picture of their dog, it isn't OK to post something in the comments section about Donald Trump.

If you are unable to distinguish social nuances, ask someone who is more socially aware to weigh in on what's being posted.

3. Post what you want on your page but be cautious when posting on others. You may think that scatalogical joke is a hoot, but that doesn't mean you should post it on your wife's page. She may have all types of 'friends' in her list that include colleagues, children and acquaintances. Consider her audience. If in doubt, ask yourself if you would stand in a public square with a microphone at a large event and say the same thing.

4. Avoid ad hominem attacks. People may disagree with you for a variety of reasons, but none of those reasons may be that they're wicked or stupid or going to hell. Don't be accusatory in your responses.



5. In fact, when discussing controversial issues, you'll get your point across more effectively if you avoid all these:


6. If in doubt, see your 'opponent' as a beloved family member and treat them accordingly. And please note that you really shouldn't be seeing anyone as an opponent unless you're running for office.

7. Don't be quick to unfriend someone. This is seen as very insulting and is usually unnecessary.

If you have ties with each other and they irritate you, it's better to unfollow them. You can do that by gong to their profile page and look at their cover photo. At the bottom of that cover photo are 3 buttons. Click the 'following' for the option to unfollow. That means their posts won't show up in your news feed and you'll only have to see what they post if you go to their page.

If they are annoying you on your posts, you can always choose to exclude them from the posting. You do this by limiting your audience. You can choose "friends except..." and then designate whom you want to keep in the dark on this.

8. Don't post personal tirades. There are a couple different types, but they all make you look nuts.

A) The "Look at Me Look at Me" post. This is when someone posts something designed to get them attention, like "I don't want to live anymore!" or "Check out this bikini on me - is it too tight?"

B) The "I Hate This Person for a Good Reason" post. This is when you post a lot of personal information about a recent spat you had with someone, whether you name them directly or not. This only makes you look like a jerk and a little unbalanced. The exception is if the encounter was actually funny and it's not really personal. Again, if you lack the social ability to communicate this effectively, then avoid it entirely.

C) The "This is You" post. Here you post something bad, then flag your 'friend' and say publicly "This is so you, Bertha!" This doesn't mean that you can't post something bad and simply flag your friends on it. People may be interested in that post for a variety of reasons. But to specifically tell the world that your friend has that issue is uncool.

9. Don't constantly hype yourself or your products. If you sell Mary Kay, post about it very rarely. Instead, create a Mary Kay page and invite friends to join it so that they can see your specials there. It's OK to list what you do and who you work for on Facebook, though it's not necessary. Just don't use your friends and family as your client base. They will grow to resent you.

10. Don't engage in chain posts. Remember that people will hold you responsible for anything you post. An example of an unsubstantiated chain post is this meme. And any post that says you have to repost it to either get something or avoid some type of eternal damnation is also a no-no.

11. Don't attempt to introduce trends unless you are a fashionista. I recently had a friend who kept trying to introduce the little-used term 'enemedia' into all my posts so he could instantly nullify any news source that was reporting stuff he didn't like. That falls under an ad hominem attack and made him sound very childish, too. You will lose respect and ultimately lose your message while everyone ignores you because they think you're just plain silly. Perhaps you'll have a great point to make, but your attempt to denigrate others makes you look like a fool.

12. Do your best to not make it sound personal. If you are disagreeing with someone, it's best to not say "you" too often and avoid sounding accusatory. You don't want to look like you're trying too hard to pin them down - that falls into the 'sore loser/winner' category. You may be right, but you look so wrong. Here's an example:

"You did this yesterday, Tim!" as opposed to "I know some people who do this and I find it aggravating."

In summary: These rules can be encapsulated into the Golden Rule: Do to others what you want them to do to you. And if in doubt, ask a friend.