That white privilege thing

Usually when Dr. Phil comes on, I leave the room. Seeing people yell at each other is not therapeutic for me. Yesterday, my wife said you need to see this one as it was an interesting group discussion on race relations and white privilege.

In one powerful, illustrating exercise, young adults of both genders and several races, religions, sexual preferences, and countries of origin stepped forward or backward based on answers to a series of questions. At the end of about thirty or so questions, white people tended to be at the front of the room, while other races tended to be at the back.

As a now 60 year-old white man, I can pretty much go anywhere I want without repercussions. And, I need not have to worry for my life when I am stopped by the police or state patrol. A black man in his Sunday best has to move very slowly and visibly when stopped, thinking if he does not it may be the last thing he does on earth.

The show’s panel was a mixture of various races and invited audience guests offered their input. Listening to each other is a key takeaway. Understanding more about micro aggressions is also important (unintended slights). A white police officer said we should not use our badge as a threat, but as a heart to reach out to others.

A few white audience members felt they are victims and ostracized for being white. One woman lost her job for doing her job, as a video went viral with commentary that here was another white woman judging others. One woman grew up in a blue collar neighborhood and she felt disenfranchised as the blacks got more opportunities.

Perspective and context mean everything. A good example is captured in the movie about Jackie Robinson called “42.” Pee Wee Reese, the white shortstop for the Dodgers, went to see the owner Branch Rickey when he received a death threat for playing with a black ballplayer. Rickey said you got one threat and then proceeded to pull out gobs and gobs of death threats toward Robinson to illustrate his point.

Is there unfair back lash on some whites, absolutely?  But, people of a different color, religion, sexual preference, etc. have received gobs and gobs of discrimination over the years. And, lately under the divisive leadership of a certain US President, white supremacists, bigots and racists feel more empowered. Their hatred has become more normalized – and that is not good.

I often cite the lines written by Oscar Hammerstein about bigotry in the movie “South Pacific.” “You have to be carefully taught, by the time your are seven or eight. You have to be carefully taught to hate the people your parents hate.” We are not born bigoted, it has to be taught. By listening to each other, maybe we can teach the opposite. It should be noted a black man, who has convinced over 200 KKK members to give up their robes, did so by listening and asking questions. He heard them, which allowed him to be heard.

We are a potpourri of different people, but inside we are all the same. Let’s relish in our differences, but know we have the same foundation.

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Anatomy of a Liar

One of the biggest factors of more autocratic governments is difficulty with the truth. Vladimir Putin, for example, may be the world’s most adroit liar. This is a key reason that the US President’s frequent problem with the truth give people concern over where the country is headed.

Looking at the anatomy of a liar, several things jump out. At the center of these untruthful leaders is a large ego that bristles at any kind of criticism. For this very reason, a liar tends to take credit for all things good and deflect blame to others for all things bad. Close to home, it is not uncommon for the US President to claim things he did not work on as “disasters” and things he did as “beautiful” or the “best ever.”

A favorite tactic of a liar is to keep things simple and repeat it over and over again. Using labels and calling people names are key parts of this strategy. When delivered with bombast, these lies seem very convincing. Smugness is also a common tactic to delivery. Smugness and bombast do not make you right, but unfortunately people are fooled by them. As for Trump, when he punctuates a thought with “believe me,” he is most likely lying.

In today’s news, several lies are jumping off the page. Saudi Arabia continues to come up with a changing storyline on the killing and dismembering of a reporter. Putin continues to deny strong evidence he tried to poison a former Russian agent on British soil and interfere in the 2016 US election. He also tried to interfere in the French election, but Macron’s people knew this and placed incorrect emails in the trove they stole to lessen the impact.

As for Trump, he lies everyday at a rate of more than 2 out of 3 statements per Politifacts. He is even worse at his pep rallies, where he lies 3 out of 4 times. I have long ago stopped believing anything Putin says. I also chose to do the same with Trump. To be trusted, one has to be trustworthy. And, therein lies the rub.

Headin’ out that door

With the sudden passing of one of my wife’s brothers at the too young age of 61, our sister-in-law uncovered an old song in his paperwork. My wife (and her family) also lost a younger brother 34 years ago to leukemia at the age of 21. Maurice was a talented musician, who could play a mean guitar. His father was also a talented guitarist, but I am told his youngest son may have been better.

As he was undergoing treatment he wrote a song entitled “Headin’ out that door,” which he noted an alternate title as “Four walls.” Maurice died before I met my wife. When he wrote this, he was still on the more optimistic end of the treatment, but I am certain he knew the darker prognosis. He knew the walls were closing in one way or another. So, I feel the final few lines of each stanza could be viewed as a release from the monotony of the four hospital room walls in what ever form it may take.

Here are the first and third verses, which give you a sense of his talent and thoughts:

 

Trapped without your loved ones, no place else to go.

Wondering how they’re doing, with the passing of each day.

Gazing out your lonely window, knowing very soon.

You’ll be heading out that door again, heading out that door again.

 

Trapped inside a lonely place, closing in once more.

People come and people go, never say much more.

Ask ya’ how you’re doing, go on their merry way.

I’m heading out that door again, heading out that door.

 

As I read these lines, I try to put myself in his place. You are doing what must be done, and hope and pray it is effective. Yet, there is a monotony to the waiting in a place where waiting seems like an eternity. There is a monotony and anxiety to not knowing. It also helps remind me as a visitor that every visit counts. Being there counts. Listening is essential. Talking about things the person enjoys or updating him on friends and occurrences helps break the monotony.

As a visitor, you wonder by telling things going on, do you make things worse by saying what the patient is missing? These words instruct me that we should keep folks informed. The conversation is what keeps us closer. Each person is different and some may want solace. And, some guests may be more welcome respite than others. Yet, like any conversation outside the hospital, look for non-verbal cues and in another stanza, Maurice said for people to “listen.”

The key message to all of this is life is short, sometimes very short. Never miss a chance to give a goodbye hug or share your love for someone, even if it is a mere look, touch or just lending a good ear. Life is hard enough. Those moments are the tonic to make it easier.

Tired of this who wins and loses reporting

The media is not biased in the way many people think. Their greatest bias by far is toward conflict. Bad news will outsell good news any day. But, to keep readers and viewers interested, the media likes to pit people against one another. This is one of the reasons we are more polarized in America. Conflict sells, too,

This conflict is exacerbated by news outlets that spin the news for a target audience. I am reminded by the old joke when a relative from New England visits his cousins in Alabama. He is asked to kill their dog who has become rabid. Headlines in northern newspapers said “Visiting relative kills rabid dog.” The Alabama newspapers said “Damn Yankee shoots beloved pet.”

I have long been perturbed by TV news who put talking heads side by side on the screen to portray an issue as fifty-fifty. Yet, one side may be supported by a large majority, whereas the other is not. Climate change coverage is a good example. It is not fifty-fifty issue, as in the scientific community it is more like 97 to 3. Yet, when portayed as 50-50, a skillful arguer can win a debate to influence opinion, but that does not make them right.

Yet, another key bugaboo is not covering the impact of an issue, but instead focusing on who wins or loses. I truly think it focuses attention on the wrong thing. Here is a series of examples where we should focus on the issues, not on who benefits by the decision or event.

– It is good that the US is talking to North Korea. It is true we need to be mindful that Kim will likely never give up his nuclear weapons and is using this to drive a wedge between the US and South Korea, but talking is better than the chest-beating  and name-calling that was going on last year.

– It is good the NC minister was released by Turkey. The Senators and President should be applauded for this. I am also certain a lot of behind the scenes folks helped pave the way.

– While it is good the tax law change is helping a pretty good economy be a little better, we should not celebrate we borrowed from our future debt by $1.5 trillion to do so. The increasing debt which is currently at $22 trillion will provide growing headwinds to the economy as annual interest cost eventually becomes one of the biggest budget items.

– We should be mindful of the impact on the economy by tariffs. Supplies and sales pipelines are increasingly impacted and will provide headwinds maybe beginning as early as the quarter that just ended. The second quarter results were positively impacted as companies accelerated purchases before the tariffs became effective.

– Leaving the Paris Climate Change Accord is just an abysmal decision. We stand alone against the world. Coupling that with the significant attempts to make it easier for polluting companies, it will cost us dearly in money, health and lives. Fortunately, others are picking up the baton that our leaders are dropping.

– Civil rights are important for all. Our leaders should be beacions of that message and critical when others feel the rights of one group are more important  than another’s. My rights are important, but not moreso than anyone else. That is how our great country works.

There are so many more that we can draw from such as gun governance, healthcare, human rights, etc. I personally don’t want to hear if some leader or party benefits from a change or event. I want to know how it helps Americans and our world. Read past the conflict to understand the issues. Everything need not be contentious.

Smugness and righteous indignation hide other faults

Reading two pieces today, reminded me of two stories about politicians that are often fairly smug with people with whom they disagree. They also deploy what I call faux righteous indignation, which is insincere at best and disingenuous at worst. The stories involve Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Cruz.

Senator Hatch has been a lynchpin on two separate Judiciary hearings for the two Supreme Court justices who have been accused of sexual assault and harassment. His faux anger at both tried to  belittle the efforts of the women and elevate the men. His posturing aided the approval of these men.

Yet, the story that reminded me of another Hatch effort appeared today regarding the lack of oversight of the $50 billion supplemental drug industry. Hatch has led a crusade over the years to keep the supplemental drug industry less regulated. As a result, contraemptive and even dangerous chemicals find their way into these drugs. Yet, people believe these drugs are regulated and safe like medical drugs. They are also sold by retailers pushing product. People have been negatively impacted by these drugs. Smugness won’t change that. Action will. It should be noted Hatch has received many donations from this industry and his son is employed in such.

Senator Cruz has been a lightning rod for years holding up legislation. He has been quite strident and smug in his beliefs to the point of dysfunction. To me, his claim of solving Washington’s problems ring hollow, as he is representative of the problem – he refuses to collaborate.

As I was writing a comment about the need for more women in Congress, I was reminded of how ten female Senators stopped the US from reneging on all of its debts, a problem caused by Cruz when he  single-handedly shut down the government over Obamacare. Since Cruz is a Tea Partier, he was less concerned if we reneged on our debts. Yet, other countries were begging us not to do this as was the World Bank.

These ten women stepped in at past the 11th hour and negotiated a deal. Reneging on commitments does not show well. They saved the US from itself and uncollaborative people like Cruz. It should be noted that if Cruz was so concerned by the debt, why did he vote to pass the Tax Bill last December increasing the debt by $1.5 trillion? The word your searching for is hypocrisy.

Hatch is retiring from the Senate after this term. It truly is time for him to go. Cruz is in a competitive race with his Democrat opponent – Beta O’Rourke. He will likely win, but we will have a more collaborative Congress if he does not. To be frank, the only good thing about Trump winning the GOP nomination is Ted Cruz did not.

Smugness and righteous indignation do not make the person right. Many people reacted favorably to Judge Kavanaugh because of his righteous indignation. When you see it, dig deeper and ask more questions. There usually is more there.

 

 

Sixty feels like fifty-nine

I am no longer in my fifties. I know many reading this may have passed this threshold. More than being one day older, the milestone has caused a lot of reflection.

My boyhood friends that last to this day also turned sixty this year, with me the final entrant. We were reflecting on boyhood moments and achievements that seem like they were just yesterday. Reminding each other of what each remembers about an event is an interesting exercise as perspectives vary. I remember something that a friend forgot about it and vice versa.

Old friends are treasures. We cannot talk or text for a couple of months and pick up conversation as if no time had elapsed. We are like an old pair of jeans that are broken in real well.

With that said, my best friend is the one I married. My wife of thirty-three years is a constant. She grounds me and keeps me sane while driving me crazy on occasion. She is the best of listeners, one of those “rainy day people” that Gordon Lightfoot sang about. She makes me laugh.

We have had some family challenges like all families do, so we seem to always have a ball drop while we are juggling many. The other day, I sat down after putting a lid on one issue and had solace for eight minutes until the phone rang. After hanging up, I told my wife – eight minutes of solace.

I guess turning sixty reminds me of our recent loss that is painful for my wife and me. Her brother Joe passed away almost three weeks ago at the young age of 61.
He died young, but his body was hurting. She loved and admired her brother greatly.

We don’t know how much time we have. We just have to make the best of it. We need to live our lives with intent, not being a passenger in our own lives. We need to savor our friends and family. I hope many years remain for all of us. And, I want to thank all of my blogging friends for sharing their insights and stories.

Alleged sexual assailant and harasser gives counsel

A man who has been accused by about twenty women of sexual assault or harassment is giving counsel, not just to a SCOTUS nominee, but all young men. He says it is a really tough time to be a man with the #metoo movement. Men are deemed to be guilty rather than being presumed innocent.

While I understand his point, I strongly disagree with his message as he is missing that women have been victims of men like this accused man for years. Earlier he said if Dr. Ford was really assaulted, why did she not come forward earlier? Quite simply, it is because of the kind of response she is getting right now.

This man is trying to portray men as victims, but to my knowledge no other man has come forward and said this man grabbed his vagina in public. No other man has come forward to say how creepy they felt as a teenage beauty pageant contestant when this old man frequently walked in on them while they were changing clothes.

This man who is offering his counsel has bragged on how powerful he is to be able to grab a woman’s vagina, which several women have accused him of. By itself, he claims it is just “locker room talk,” but when you consider he was accused of doing this before this tape was aired, then that is more than interesting – it is indicting. It should also be noted some teens accused him of his wandering into the dressing room before he described his wont to do so to Howard Stern on his show because the man owned the Miss Teen franchise.

This man is the President of the United States. In addition to being a man who is on record as lying more than he does not, who is known to bully people, especially by lawsuits or threatened lawsuits, and demeaning people who disagree with him, he is accused of sexual assault and harassment. The sad truth is he has admitted to so doing. But, you men should know that is more than just “locker room talk.” It is sexual assault and harassment.

His son said he worries more about his sons than his daughters. As a father, I can attest you worry about both, but you are more concerned about your daughters. Why? Because there are men out there who do what Junior’s father was accused of.