Maybe not so current by the time you read them.

Every once in a while I wake up with a migraine so bad it gives me black eyes. Like my nose caught a softball. Or a fist.

That’s today.

Pain killers, dark rooms, sleeping it off – the only thing that actually works is waiting it out. The migraine either goes away or retreats to a point I where I can function until it does.

A while back, before I discovered it was connected to my migraines, I wrote about this experience. In light of the discussion around the violence suffered by Janay Rice by her husband Ray, I am re-posting what happened to me when I had a black eye.

Does the current awareness of how to empathize and assist battered women translate into action? I’ll let you know if anyone comments on my shiner or looks askance at my explanation.

I haven’t watched the video of Rice knocking Janay unconscious. I have seen men hit women, and each other, in person and it’s horrifying enough to stick in my memory without a video refresher.


BLACK EYE March 12, 2012
I have a black eye.

I woke up the other morning with a shiner like I caught a softball with my nose. No trauma, no injury, no logical explanation. I went to see an internist who had no idea what it was, who sent me to an ophthalmologist who had no idea what it was.

After extensive questioning they could tell me what it wasn’t – it wasn’t a sinus infection, an “allergy shiner”, or related to vision, optic nerve or glaucoma. Nor was it related to any vitamins or medicine I take. They also asked if there was any domestic violence in my home. There is no violence in my home and I told them so, but I also said I appreciated that they asked.

This has been an odd experience for me, to say the least. It has also been hard on my husband to know that strangers think he hit me. Even though he doesn’t know them and isn’t with me every moment, he knows the world has judged him.

The eye looks nasty, and even after careful application of makeup, it is clearly visible. Reactions have been interesting. Some glance at my face and look away. Some stare fixedly. Some see the black eye and then give me a once over. What people are clearly doing is creating a story about how I got a black eye. Yet no one looked me in the eye or asked me how I got it.

Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? I am sure the majority of look-away-quickly people assumed my husband hit me. Some of the long stares were probably looking to see if I had work done. Some of the once-over folks were clearly judging me as someone who “allows themselves to be hit”.

While I would have been appalled at the assumption I would also have been pleased if any stranger (or the mild acquaintances like the women at my gym) had asked about my eye or even said “I hope you are OK.” But so far there has been four days of silence.

I remember when my sister was living with her (physically and mentally) abusive husband. Knowing how he treated her, and being profoundly upset by it, I once talked to people at the local domestic violence shelter and found out what to say and how to say it.

“You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. He does not have the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. I will help you if you chose to leave.”

It took almost fifteen years for her to separate from him. She left and went back to him a dozen times, and I have no idea what her situation is now.

I started to wonder what I would say if I saw someone with a black eye. Now. In my current crunchy, suburban life where things like that are not supposed to happen. But they do. We know women (and some men) are physically and emotionally abused everyday. The statistics are awful – One in four women and one in nine men are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lives.

We need to ask ourselves tough questions. ‘What would I say and how would I say it?’ And ‘When is it my responsibility to say something?’ Or more importantly, why isn’t it everyone’s business to end domestic violence?

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I’m working with one of my coaching clients  – I’ll call her Sally because I don’t know anyone called Sally – on strategies to manage a couple of her problematic team members.

The guys Sally is dealing with have been bad apples for years. They have toxic personalities that affect everyone. Consistently rude in emails, nasty, demeaning comments to colleagues in meetings, a whole gamut of objectionable, rogue behavior that we’ve been teasing apart so she can address it layer by layer.

It may seem shocking that this behavior is tolerated in a workplace, or maybe you recognize this kinda guys and try to avoid them every day, either way Sally’s problem exists because other folks chose to kick the can down the road.

Former team leaders decided, for whatever reason, that they were not going to confront these guys about their behavior. “Not worth it”, “bigger fish to fry”, “that’s just how they are”, is what I’d probably hear if I asked prior team leaders why they didn’t step up.

When Sally first approached me last year about coaching her she explained that she felt she needed help figuring out what to do about the problem “because it’s the right thing to do for my group.” She felt obligated by her position as team leader to confront the issue.

I pointed out that confront at its essence means “to face”, not “to fight”, in my mind this is turning your face toward the work that needs to be done, and I agreed to coach her.

Yesterday while discussing a thorny obstacle I reminded Sally that my job as her coach isn’t to get these guys to change their behavior. My job is to support her to so she can grow her skills, confront the problem and not feel compromised. Despite how much she (and other clients) want to credit me with “giving advice” my coaching provides a frame, resources and guidance, but the work is all hers.

This morning I watched a video talking about Ferguson and I thought of Sally because she clearly knows herself as the person who is obligated to address a problem. That’s worth more than solving the problem in my book.  Because she knows who she is.

Ferguson has been on my mind and tongue lately as it has with a lot of people. “What should be done?”, “What can be done?”, “Who should do it?”, “Where are the leaders?” – are all questions pinging around in “the national discussion.” The man in the video linked below eloquently reminded me this morning that in all situations we need to know who we are before we can know what to do.

Or recognize the fact that we are the ones who should do it. Watch and tell me what you think.

 What No One Wants to Say About Ferguson

photoVideo courtesy of PRINCE EA – Richard Williams, better known by his stage name Prince EA, is an American rapper, music video director and rights activist from St Louis, Missouri.

Thank god for cell phones.

The images of the protests and police reaction in Ferguson, Missouri over the past week are grotesquely similar to images from the civil rights confrontations from the 1960’s. One difference being the real-time broadcast to the world of events that seem like they should be taking place in another country.

A country at war.

Maybe its the litany of names that is making it hard to ignore the truth but it seems like attention is finally being paid to the institutional racism that is fact in the USA.

I watched a video blogger this morning reading and reacting to a HuffPost story about how white suspects are treated better than black victims. What struck me about it wasn’t his outrage, but the fact that institutional bias and subtle racism are still news.

A lot of people still don’t believe – no matter what evidence is presented – that we live in and have created a country of unequal treatment, unequal opportunity and unequal justice under the law.

People of the American “Cis-majority” – people assigned to white privilege at birth – need to understand the magnitude of difference in how they experience the world and how African-Americans experience the world.

The concept of white privilege seems to have stopped shocking people the way it once did. Maybe a concept of “Cis-majority” can rattle the cages of those who do not count themselves among the culpable.

We are all culpable. Everyone operates from unconscious bias. I do. You do, no exceptions. All of us have power to do harm.

Some of us just happen to have the power to do grievous harm when choices are informed by unchecked unconscious bias and institutional structures that aid and abet racist outcomes.

Some of us just happen to jump to the conclusion that a black man, by his very existence, is dangerous. Some of those jumping to conclusions carry guns.

All of us, no matter the degree of our “Cis-majority”, can at minimum shut up and believe black people when they say they are experiencing discrimination, racial profiling, disproportionate arrest and wildly disproportionate incarceration.

Black people standing in the streets in Ferguson are not “complaining”, “defying the rule of law”, or “being disrespectful to police”, they are protesting. Exercising a right that’s supposed to belong to all American citizens.

Oh wait, we’re not comfortable with “them” exercising that right because it makes “us” uncomfortable what with “them” being so prone to violence and all. It just goes on and on and on and on.

Heres a hope. When he gets back from vacation maybe President Obama can work with the slogan “Shut up and believe” since he can’t seem to get behind “Hands up, don’t shoot!”

Something has gotta change. Now.

Read the Huff Post article here.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

 

 

 

My writing about politics and current events has been in a long summer drought. I didn’t check out of the info stream because I was so consumed with summer vacations and fun, I just stopped writing about it.

It got too heavy. I got discouraged.

This happened back when Clarence Thomas was confirmed despite the testimony about his character from Anita Hill. I took it personally and went into a funk of refusing to pay attention to news.

In hindsight being personally hurt by the treatment of Anita Hill at the hands of the Senate (and the world) was out of proportion. However, there’ll never be enough Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s for Joe Biden to escape his culpability in the long, L-O-N-G term effect that his fear of being called a racist in 1991 has on SCOTUS today.

Now Robin Williams’ unfortunate suicide has snapped me back into writing about current events.

In the work that I do the phrase “Mountains are mole hills piled one on top of each other” is used to describe the cumulative effect of  the slights, attacks, and subtle obstacles that make the person complaining about the mole hills look like they are crazy or overreacting.

Like Anita Hill trying to explain all the ways Thomas’s behavior added up to harassment.

Anyway, the relentless “molehills” of, among other things – abortion clinic closings, the Hobby Lobby ruling, Jill Abramson getting fired, and wars! wars! wars! – added up to a mountain of silence for me. So I stopped writing or even commenting on current events.

My mountain, in the very low stakes arena of blogging, is nothing compared to the final teaspoon of dirt that makes someone feel like the only escape is to kill themselves.  How can suicide be the answer to any question? What makes the weight of the mountain unsustainable?

I am not writing to judge, but to understand.  How can we accept depression and mental illness openly enough that we have more warning when someone is considering suicide? Is it a stigma issue? Do we fear our own vulnerability? I have not experienced a suicide personally but I know people who have. I can’t begin to imagine what they feel. The shock of unexpected death is horrible enough, so the magnitude of the shock when the death of a loved one is by their own hand is unfathomable.

That molehill/mountain metaphor provides an alternate perspective on the accusation “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill”, but doesn’t it doesn’t do much with the fact that we’re still left with a mountain.

It doesn’t seem to matter if that solid, heavy sucker was created one teaspoonful at a time when the result is still enormous. So how do we cope when things feel too hard, too big, too overwhelming? How do we dismantle our mountain so we don’t feel like the only option is suicide?

There’s all kinda ways to cope with or check out under pressure. Denial, avoidance, escapism (drugs, TV, drinking, books – the selection here is extensive), silence. Suicide.

I kept coming back to the idea that I need a better way to take it apart when I feel overwhelmed. A teaspoon against the mountain is just too much to think about. And my twisty mind arrived at monkey bread.

Monkey bread is made by rolling pieces of dough into balls and piling them on one another in a baking dish. Then, when its baked, you can tear off one piece at a time. You can’t see molehills once they become a mountain because all that dirt just slides together, monkey bread still has enough definition that you could manage one chunk at a time.

Less pressure.

This is a lousy, rambly comparison between my being depressed into writing silence by the state of the world, and Robin Williams being depressed into believing his only choice was to end his life, but there it is. My first post back after a break is usually ugly, so apologies.


I am so sorry for anyone touched by suicide.

I can only hope that because Williams was such a high-profile, successful person his unfortunate death will help shine a light on how anyone can suffer from major depression.

 

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Many years ago when I was studying Ancient Greek we used a primer about a farmer and his family. It was the Dick and Jane of the classical era with many simple phrases and repetitive descriptions.

Nearly every chapter started with a phrase that translated as either the word “first” or “on the one hand”. While I have forgotten all the Greek I struggled to learn, the phrase “on the one hand” always reminds me of that class.

While not quite the Acropolis, I was talking to someone recently who described a freedom of information request as being used to “strangle” a government office. Now I am a big supporter of the freedom of information act, and have written often in this blog about free speech, so I had an automatic biased reaction that the the “strangling” comment was an overreaction. As the conversation went on it became apparent that this was an actual a quote from an email.

It was suggested in a group email that records requests was a strategy that could stop a government project the group opposed. Foolishly (or perhaps as a threat?), the email described how they would make hundreds of record requests, tie up the legal department, grind everything to a halt and then put out the message that their requests were being denied.

The intention of the strategy was to create the public perception of an uncooperative government office withholding information from citizens. The emailer said the accusation didn’t have to be true, people just had to believe it.

On the one hand: I know it’s their right to request as much information as they want. Sunshine Laws (Open Public Records and Open Meetings Acts), provide a way for citizens to have oversight of their government outside of the ballot box. Free speech and free press necessitate access to public records. A more politically engaged citizenry is a good thing.

Who is to say that the suggested strategy was not prompted by repeated denied requests? Possibly equally obstructionist behavior on the part of the government office/officials? One would assume you ask for a government record because you want/need it, not to create obstruction.

On the one hand (the book never did say “on the other hand”): Using the Sunshine Law as a tactic deflates me. I don’t want to be reminded anymore than necessary that politics is a game and the side with the best marketing wins.  These kind of stunts get pulled out and pointed to when folks want to undermine perfectly good and useful laws. The “unnecessary burden” of transparency. That doesn’t feel like activism to me.

Maybe the emailer’s strategy was scuttled by others in the group. Maybe its hearsay. Maybe I’m naive.

And so I end Sunshine Week 2014 with the Beatles.

Happy Spring.

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An uncomfortable truth is hidden under the national discussion about music being played too loud, and the hoodies that criminals wear. Racism is not going anywhere.

I feel this observation needs to be made especially in light of the recent Academy Award’s presented to Lupita Nyong’o and John Ridley. I don’t wish to minimize their achievements, just to point out that they will eventually be used by someone as an example of our post-racial society.

I’ve written this particular post several times since mid-February when the trial of Jordan Davis’s killer was in the news. I filed rather than published because I’m always weighing the relative merits of my opinions about racial justice issues against the fact that I am white, female, suburban and part of the “chattering class”, which may actually be a generous stretch for this blog.

I hesitated because as good as it feels to vent, or in this case Rant, self-righteousness and hyperbole are rarely positives. I care too much about these issues to be flip or off the cuff.

It is the impact of these “Stand Your Ground” self-defense cases that is haunting my thinking at the moment. Specifically the no duty to retreat provision.

The institutional racism of our judicial system, or any kind of systemic oppression, is a hard sell when people are not willing to acknowledge their own biases. So anyone talking about how the killings of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin are racially motivated is derailed, shouted down and marginalized.

The national discussion of the Stand Your Ground laws invariably skirts racism by focusing on an individuals right to protect themselves against a perceived threat. Self-defense is at the core. Rarely is the fact established that the act of being a black male in our culture IS automatically a perceived threat.

If you are afraid for your safety, and there is no need to de-escalate, a “reasonable person” would be justified in protecting themselves. Media generally presents black men as dangerous, so a “reasonable person” can be expected to be afraid of black men. Except that second sentence is never stated.

Klappstecker_SicherheitNo duty to retreat is the linchpin to this specific kind of institutional racism. Subjective perceptions of threat trump evidence and facts. My feelings about your potential to hurt me justifies necessary force. It’s quite disheartening.

I have heard some folks saying that the celebrating of 12 Years a Slave by the Academy shows that we as a culture are ready to talk about race and slavery in an honest way. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe its true.

If we are ready to talk about race in the US, let’s start the conversation by believing that racism still exists, there is no such thing as the race card, and actions count more than intentions. My recommended moderators for this national conversation:

Onward and upward.

The word Queer is one I have not used in a very long time. When I was in middle and high school we (meaning the girls) used it as a pejorative for anything “odd”. In hindsight the “oddness” was easily translatable to outside the heterosexual norm. Haven’t thought about that in years.

The association I have with Queer now, which only came to the surface because I was taking a SafeZone training at work, has to do with AIDS activism from the 1980’s and 90’s. HIV/AIDS was a new and ugly scourge. A death sentence.

In those days I was in the midst of activists and performance artists raising awareness, fighting against stigma and ignorance. I wore a Silence = Death pin, marched at PRIDE and knew people flying to France for experimental drugs they could not get here. And they are no longer here.

Now I know HIV positive people who are continuing to live their lives and Queer means something different. Far from the NEA Four days, the word Queer is being reclaimed in Queer Theory and Queer Studies.

I wonder how much the early activism is forgotten in the face of progress? I hope it remains part of the narrative as we continue to fight for legal rights in the face of counter legislation advocating discrimination.

I would love to direct a staged reading of the play Bent somewhere locally. I think its time to remember.

So we don’t forget.

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For the last week I’ve been listening to the chatter about the Congressional Budget Office report about the impact of ACA on the economy.  The Republican interpretation is that 2.5 million people will suddenly quit their jobs just to qualify for the ACA subsidy. While its clear this is Republican propaganda, I kept thinking, who are these people? Who are they trying to demonize?

The default target is poor blacks and Latinos but the ACA subsidy isn’t about poor people it’s about the folks in between poor and rich.

In Ohio, to qualify for the ACA subsidy my family of three would have to make between $30 – $78,000. At the top end, the cost of a health plan would be roughly $8,500 with an $1,100 subsidy. At $55K the subsidy becomes $3,500, and at $30K the subsidy is $7,200 meaning the plan costs about $100 a month.

Someone who makes $30K a year in Ohio does not exactly fit the Reagan profile of welfare queen. So who is this person willing to lower their income in order to “play the system?” What job would they quit? They would still have to pay the premium, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs up to with less money every month.

So who are they demonizing this time? I haven’t figured it out yet.

There is always abuse of any public welfare program (see Welfare, Corporate: “JPMorgan Chase, which made a preliminary $13-billion mortgage settlement with the U.S. government, is allowed to write off a majority of the deal as tax-deductible, saving the corporation $4 billion.”), or the fact that whole industries pay workers so poorly that they still qualify for public assistance while working full-time.

But the ACA subsidy isn’t about fast-food workers because they already qualify for Medicaid and Food Stamps. Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation are asserting that people will turn down higher paying jobs if it jeopardizes their subsidy. The same argument they make against unemployment benefits by the way Again I ask – who?

Why do the richest people in our society assume that poor people want to stay poor? All the poor people I have ever known would gladly give up any and all benefits for a decent wage and a nice place to live. Public assistance on its very best day is still degrading.

The disincentive argument seems knee-jerk and thin. I dont think its going to stick unless they can find a particular group to consistently demonize. The GOP as a whole is out of touch in a way that is amazingly dangerous to their future.

Then again conservative Americans can usually be counted on to vote against their own self-interest, so who knows.

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There has been a lot of discussion lately about poverty in the US both because of the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s War on Poverty, and the proposed extension of federal unemployment benefits. An unfortunate amount of the analysis centers around why LBJ’s war failed, and stresses and how social programs like welfare and unemployment benefits cripple a persons natural drive to succeed.

At the heart of the belief that handouts hurt is the old “bootstrapping” narrative. The rags to riches, work hard and pull yourself up by the bootstraps, anyone can be a Rockefeller stuff of American legend.

This kind of twisted, blame the victim argument really gets under my skin. Not only is it not logical – by the rules of logic not just my opinion – but it is also usually spouted by millionaires. In this case millionaire politicians  – 1% of Americans are millionaires, but more than 50% of Congress are. Go figure.

I find myself irritated by all the talk about poverty and no talk about poor people. I’ve seen working class, lower-middle class and the working poor all used to describe the same income brackets. That would seem to indicate that there is still a stigma to being called poor.  Of course stigma is minimized if you are “hard-working”, “upstanding”, “church-going” , or other kinds of credit-to-your-station adjectives.

Maybe referring to poor people as the Un-Wealthy would be more in line with current attitudes. Or better yet Pre-Wealthy so we can still incorporate the idea that just a little more effort on their part will propel them to the promised land of the middle class.

As the Senate debated the extension of unemployment benefits the people affected become in Janice Yellen’s words “less employable”.  Talk about a downward spiral.

Studies are showing that the longer you are unemployed the less likely you are to actually get a job. Not having a job is being used as criteria to screen applicants. And its legal for hiring managers to do so. If you don’t have a job there must be something wrong with you so why would we hire you? What part of that is being lazy, unmotivated or entitled?

While the unemployment extension bill is not 100% dead yet it is certainly on life support. Maybe 6 or 7 of those wealthy GOP senators will be persuaded over the weekend to stand up for the un-wealthy. It’s not too late for me to suck up to Rob Portman is it?

A logic refresher since I promised myself I wasn’t going to rant about bad reasoning. Today.

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It’s taken five years but I feel I am now fully trained. I got really excited yesterday when the six Republican Senators voted to allow the vote on the bill to extend unemployment benefits. I was ready to email Rob Portman’s office and thank him for being one of the six! Positive reinforcement and all that. Cloture is now sexy!

Then, this morning while reading the transcripts of Obama’s speech, I thought about how I had gotten excited about a bipartisan vote (of the slimmest margin) to prevent filibuster, which of course doesn’t guarantee those same Senators will vote for the actual bill.

The bill would only extend benefits for three months, the media is still full of the “lazy poor” bullshit narrative and the House is floating the idea of passing it in return for a one year delay in the Affordable Care Act so its likely dead in the water anyway.

The political obstructionism we’ve lived with for the last five years has trained me to treat these scraps of cooperation as victories. Maybe it is progress but I sure felt conned. Congress has trained us to expect nothing from them so NOT having a filibuster counts as progress.

I must not be cynical about national politics yet if I can still be conned. That’s something at least.

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The budget shenanigans of the 112th and 113th Congress have irritated me more than any other idiocy they have indulged in. Even the 30+ house votes to repeal the ACA had some comic value compared to brutal reality of 16 days of government shutdown, sequestration, and the debt ceiling crisis.

We very nearly have a federal budget that will prevent shutdowns for the next two years (woohoo!) but as we all know it ain’t over till it’s over. A test vote isn’t the final vote. Why? Because “some Republicans who voted yes on Tuesday’s procedural vote said they would ultimately oppose it.”

So even if though it got through the Crazy House, it can still fall apart in the Senate because someone is up for re-election which means the Koch Brother and the Tea Party are breathing down their necks.

So here I am rooting for a budget that boots millions of unemployed off their benefits and doesn’t restore food stamp cuts because NOT having a budget is even worse. And this is being praised as a “rare bipartisan accomplishment.”

It’s no mystery why the 113th Congress approval rating is currently below 10%. Let see if they get it done.

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It is disheartening how little impact the mass murder of 20 elementary school children has had on gun regulations. Increased background check legislation stalled, restrictions on automatic weapons and military grade ammunition not happening. I guess the horror fades for some folks if it’s not your kid, and the political will to take on the gun lobby is clearly nonexistent.

In fact “In the 12 months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law“, however, of the 109 laws passed 70 eased restrictions and expanded the rights of gun owners.

Unbelievable in the wake of the unspeakable.

Below is what I wrote a year ago in reaction to the massacre of 20 children and the 6 teachers trying to protect them.

December 21, 2012

It is such a short trip to the land of fear. It’s a place you can get to from just about anywhere.

The predictable response from the NRA to the massacre in Sandy Hook was to blame every other societal ill beside gun proliferation. And of course to advocate for more guns because “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre points to our “blood-soaked culture” as reason for the violence rather than the ease of obtaining military grade weapons equipped with high-powered ammunition. One of many arguments based on the idea that our culture has disintegrated, youth are desensitized, music videos glorify thug life, and we are not safe.

What we are is a gun culture. And the easiest way to perpetuate the need for guns is through fear.

After it happened, we talked with our daughter about Sandy Hook. She talked about the intruder drill they had at school the next week and how unsatisfying it was. She said she didn’t feel safe with this one particular teacher, and that the room had too many windows. The drill had kids hide under the desks, and most of them are too big to fit, which doesn’t matter anyway because it’s about as useful as  “duck and cover.”

When she identified other rooms and teachers she’d rather be with if “something happened for real”, I asked her to imagine what she’d do if she was in charge of that classroom. She had an immediate answer. I said if something “real” ever did happen, she should trust herself if she didn’t think the adult could keep her safe. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I don’t know how better to clarify that we trust her to trust herself.

This conversation was actually Part 2 of an earlier conversation about fear. We were in a run down neighborhood and she remarked that she always felt a little afraid in poor neighborhoods but then she feels bad because she is afraid that’s racist. (I think the DSM-V should consider including this as “The White Folks Dilemma.”) We teased apart what she was afraid of and why, and it was clear that none of the reasons were because the people were black. Poverty scares a lot of people. It can look like desperation, potential crime and violence.

What I was afraid of with The White Folks Dilemma was that she would talk herself out of her instincts. Our bodies always know danger faster than our minds. And our minds are trained to overrule all sorts of useful signals. It’s useful to be afraid sometimes, it heightens your awareness. It’s not useful to be afraid all the time because, again your mind is overruling instinct.

It’s so easy to give in to fear. Its much easier than joy, or love or trust. But that kind of “the world is a dangerous place” fear, seems implausible to me. I’m much more afraid of easy access to semi-automatic handguns than I am of a shooter going in my daughters school. Or randomly shoot me through the floor to ceiling windows in my office, which just occurred to me today after 8 years in this office.

I don’t have any solution except to keep reminding myself and others that fear is just one of our emotions. And I will continue to stumble stupidly through the world believing that humans are inherently good. I am a Platonist at heart – “To know the good is to do the good”.

Now we just need to teach the NRA the meaning of “the good”.

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Driving to work today I heard a report about the victims of the recent Philippine typhoon. The story was about the role of the Catholic churches in the recovery and the lives of the victims.

One of the women was talking about her trust in God. The typhoon reminded her that we can’t rely on our own powers, that what we can accomplish is nothing compared to God’s help through prayers. Another woman spoke about how material things are secondary in light of still being alive after such a disaster.

The priest was telling the congregation to take strength through the suffering of Jesus.

This is a phrase that has never been accessible to me. I understand accepting ones suffering because the other choices are railing against the elements or fate or allowing your circumstances to make you bitter. What I don’t understand is the minimizing of ones personal suffering because it cannot compare to Jesus’s suffering on the cross for all mankind.

Someone will always have it worse than you and Jesus is the ultimate trump card.

“Offer it up to Jesus” was one of my mother’s go to phrases when faced with a complaint from any of her children. Along with “Some people don’t have any legs.” Same difference – I wonder if she had criteria for when a complaint qualified for one or the other?

The problem I have with “offering it up” is that it seems to demand that you stop feeling what you are feeling because someone else has it worse. Maybe that is my interpretation.

I think you can always find perspective when you consider the scope of your problems or suffering (the first world problems meme covers this handily), but its okay to own feeling bad for a minute before you get perspective.

I recently read an article on Daniel Radcliffe (the Harry Potter actor) who mentioned that whenever he would complain his father would say “You’re not down in the mines.” Granted there is a lot to say for knowing that your worst day will be better than some folks best day, but everyone is entitled to grouse once in a while.

Suck it up, do what you need to do, don’t wallow in self-pity. I agree with and use this philosophy with my daughter, but I find it more powerful if there is a moment of comfort where her father or I acknowledge “Yeah, its sucks, wish it weren’t so.”

I hope the Filipino’s find a moment of comfort when the priest reminds them of Jesus’s suffering. It is a deeply Catholic country. I hope they find grace and God’s love in the aftermath of the typhoon and the ongoing national disaster.

And for what its worth, I wish it weren’t so.

Learn about climate justice here

Context matters. Until it doesn’t.

Watching and listening to the story unfold of how NFL player Richie Incognito bullied and used racial slurs against teammate Jonathan Martin, I noticed a theme in the commentary and reactions about how “context matters”.

Not quite “boys will be boys”, the explanations and defense of the NFL locker room culture sounded almost antiquated. Most apologists have couched what sounds like hazing, threats, bullying and racial slurs in the context of team camaraderie that only the initiated can appreciate.

It didn’t take long for those “the way things are” arguments to sound ridiculous despite their apparent accuracy.  The truth of the NFL culture (in or out of the locker room) permitting and, if Incognito is to be believed, even encouraging racist, bullying, and harassing behavior goes beyond what most people can justify or excuse even from a violent and aggressive sport.

I have to stress the word “most” because fans commenting on stories think this is the stuff that’s turning America into a bunch of sissies. Being “overly sensitive” to abusive behavior when, in the context of the physically and verbally violent sport of football, the abuse has been historically accepted and expected. Again and again context is the excuse.

I feel sorry for Incognito. The cultural change in the locker room, as small as it may end up being, will be the hardest on guys like him. The new expectation that things do not cross a certain line when players are busting each others balls will be tough to figure out when there was no line before.

The idea that you could be considered a racist if you use racial slurs will be the new context. And a reason is not an excuse. That may be a bit deep for most folks, but I’m putting it out there anyway.

The context arguments reminded me of a scene in the movie Babe when the cow says, “The only way you’ll find happiness is to accept that the way things are is the way things are.” The duck (who is fighting becoming Christmas dinner) says “The way things are stinks!” For whatever reason Jonathan Martin, like the duck, could no longer accept the way things are.

I hope the NFL follows suit.

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So it all boils down to this.

The GOP does not believe health care should be a government responsibility. War, prisons, executions, walls to keep immigrants out, tax breaks and subsidies for billionaires, restricting and limiting voting, these are all the governments business, but not health care. Unless that health care has to do with women’s reproduction, that of course is an acceptable place for GOP noses to go poking. Continue reading