Tag Archives: Human Rights

The War Inside: If You’re Not Uncomfortable, You’re Probably Doing it Wrong

angry goat

(Image/trinitypropertysales.com)

I’m a little outraged by all the outrage.

One group of people is outraged because an NFL quarterback chose to remain seated during the U.S. national anthem before a game.

“It’s disrespectful!” “If he doesn’t like America, he should get the hell out!” “People died for that flag, man. Honor the troops!”

A separate group is outraged for the very reason San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has decided to protest the national anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

49ers fans posted videos of them burning Kaepernick jerseys to let him know how they felt about his decision.

Some of my friends badmouthed him at my fantasy football draft yesterday.

I don’t know how many of the angry people can accurately explain Kaepernick’s reasoning. I think it’s fair to assume at least some of them jumped to conclusions, and that most if not all of them have never been targets of harassment, racial profiling, or discrimination in any fundamentally dehumanizing ways.

Similarly, I don’t know how many angry Black Lives Matter activists can accurately explain official police procedure for officer-involved shootings, or have ever been in the type of highly stressful, life-threatening situations most law enforcement officers volunteer for to protect innocent people and, by extension, our very way of life through the preservation of civil order.

I think maybe some people just like to scream about things.

‘What’s wrong with the world?’ This. All This Self-Righteous Certainty.

Men often say how exhausting it is for them to have “talks” with their wives or girlfriends. You know—the ones they didn’t initiate. The ones that force us to deal with things like criticism, or questions about certain behaviors, or listening to the women we love tell us how we make them sad and miserable.

We have all kinds of reactions:

Silence.

Walking away.

Defensiveness.

Retorting with complaints of our own.

Haughty moral superiority.

“I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

Fighting.

Sometimes we fight because we think it might end the conversation. We often regret that once the anger subsides. We apologize and try to make peace. But nothing gets resolved because we never actually listened to her with focus and intention in any kind of effort to instill personal changes that would solve the problem.

If she decides to bring it up again (which she often won’t simply to avoid the fight, even though it hurts her a lot to do so) sometimes we just get angry all over again. Maybe we accuse her of “always trying to pick a fight!”, or “always finding something new to complain about!”

It’s bullshit.

Having the conversation she wants to have is making us uncomfortable because it forces us to look inward for answers, and ask ourselves hard questions. It forces us to deal with our flaws, it exposes our weaknesses, and brings us face-to-face with our demons.

That’s when we squirm.

The hard truths make us squirm.

The prospect of needing to change makes us squirm.

This is why people are angry about Colin Kaepernick.

This is why people are angry about Black Lives Matter.

This is why people are angry about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson.

This is why people are angry about atheism.

This is why people are angry about God.

This is why people are angry about feminism.

This is why people are angry about Red Pill philosophy.

This is why people are angry about homosexuality.

This is why people are angry about abortion.

Talking about these things makes us uncomfortable. These are the things that make us squirm. It’s because we all have stories that we tell ourselves about each and every one of these things, and it hurts when these core (and sacred-feeling) beliefs are challenged.

EVERYONE has different points of view. And EVERYONE usually has some kernel of Truth—or at minimum, some real-world, first-person experience—at the core of whatever they believe.

We MUST Discuss Uncomfortable Things, Else Nothing Ever Changes

I love the American flag and the national anthem. Americans piss me off constantly. Our federal government is something of a dysfunctional, financially inefficient pool of incompetence. But I love my country, my flag, and our anthem. I have problems with many things in our country. But I will not protest the flag.

But I am WAY more outraged by the people who think Kaepernick exercising his Constitutional right to free expression warrants insulting him, harassing him, or suggesting he’s un-American and should leave the country.

That’s just my opinion. It might be unpopular. Let’s talk about it.

Let me ask you this, Outraged NFL Fan or Outraged American who thinks Kaepernick’s national anthem protest is disrespectful of the men and women who have died protecting the many freedoms we enjoy as American citizens.

Which is the greater crime against patriotism: Kaepernick’s sitting down during the national anthem (a PERSONAL decision he didn’t seek attention for—a media member approached him about it, not the other way around), or the NFL accepting millions in taxpayer dollars to promote “patriotic” displays before and during NFL games?

And here’s another: Which is the greater service to our brave military men and women—standing at attention for the national anthem, or actually getting off of our asses to donate time and money to the tragic problem of what happens to many of our veterans when they return home?

I’m raising my hand on this. I am one of you, and we are many. The people quick to criticize a man not doing the same thing we would do during the national anthem in the name of patriotism, only to turn and look the other way when we hear about the sad state of veterans affairs in the United States.

Why?

Because it makes us uncomfortable. It’s easy to scream at Kaepernick.

But it’s HARD to solve real problems.

I love the police. I assume the reason my house isn’t regularly broken into by gunmen who might hurt my son, or why my car isn’t stolen, or why there aren’t more high-speed fatalities in neighborhoods where kids play and people walk dogs is because of the police.

You know what else I love?

People NOT getting shot and killed (especially children) who do not present a deadly threat to police or other people.

Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t we strongly support the police AND respect and honor the feelings of those participating in Black Lives Matter?

White people in suburban neighborhoods around the country never experience or even think about what racial discrimination or oppression looks like. I get it. I’m a white person in a suburban neighborhood who almost never experiences those things either. But how are WE the Arbiters of Truth on issues affecting black communities? We couldn’t be more ignorant about it if we tried.

Millions of black Americans believe police officers have unjustly killed children or their friends or their neighbors or just someone with the same amount of melanin in their bodies.

Worse yet, many believe that the people doing the killing are unfairly enjoying paid leave instead of being scrutinized the same way they or other people they know have been scrutinized by police.

Maybe all of the officer-involved shootings were justified.

Maybe none of them were.

I’m not focused on that (even though they obviously merit our concern). I’m focused on what a shitty job everyone is doing at dealing with it.

Thought Exercise: The Goat-Sex Conundrum

I hope you’ll take this seriously.

Would you prefer to:

  1. Have sex with a goat, with assurances that no one will ever find out. Or,
  2. NOT have sex with a goat, but everyone will believe you did, no matter how much you protest or try to convince them otherwise?

Normally, this mental exercise is designed to help you figure out whether you place more value on what you think and feel about yourself, or on what others think and feel about you.

I intend it a slightly different way.

Maybe the Police are a bunch of racist murderers. Or maybe they’re not.

Maybe the Black Lives Matter movement is totally out of line and wrong in their beliefs.

And to either side, I’d say: Does the truth even matter if no one believes it?

Maybe Exchanging Stories and Ideas with People Who DON’T Share our Life Experiences Can Help

We avoid conversations and experiences that make us uncomfortable.

It’s just easier that way.

But I wonder what might happen if every police department in the United States invited community leaders, Black Lives Matter representatives, and everyday citizens to a friendly and public conversation about these issues.

What if law enforcement officials collectively spent more time investing in understanding the day-to-day lives of those who mistrust them? What if BLM officials invested more time in police ride-along programs to get a closer look at what our bravest first responders face?

People (mostly men, I think) scoff at the call for empathy.

They’d rather bitch and moan about whatever new controversy is on TV before getting back to the routine of not paying attention.

The most powerful and healing move we can make in ANY conflict—from international disputes and wars, down to our most personal relationships, is simply to pour energy into understanding what daily life or a specific situation looks like through the prism of another person with sometimes intensely different lenses and filters.

It’s easy to dismiss our relationship partners. They’re being crazy.

It’s easy to dismiss our political opponents. They’re obviously stupid morons.

It’s easy to dismiss people of different faiths. I just want what’s best for them!

It’s easy to dismiss people who make different lifestyle choices. Those people are freaks, and nothing like me!

It’s easy to dismiss people from different cultures. We’re already doing things the best way!

Because NOT dismissing them makes us squirm.

NOT dismissing them makes us explore questions we’d rather not have to answer.

NOT dismissing them forces us to have the uncomfortable conversations we’re all constantly avoiding.

But maybe those are the only ones that actually change things.

I’m With Kaep

It’s easy to criticize Kaepernick. My initial reaction was to do just that.

No matter what your beef is, you should honor the flag! But that’s my personal opinion.

But after hearing what the man had to say?

What do you want from him? To shut up and do things your way?

Is that what you want your wife, and people of different faiths and different lifestyles and different political opinions to do?

We have TWO choices:

  1. Have a group take over by force, overpowering or enslaving the opposition, and then imposing new laws which everyone must follow. That’s one option.
  2. The second option is freedom. The second option is acknowledging that everyone gets to be and do and think and feel whatever they want so long as doing so doesn’t restrict those same freedoms of others.

Please let people be themselves. It is the best way I know to be less of an asshole.

And please accept this truth about ANY disagreement discussed with kindness and empathy:

In the end, you’ve either proven how smart you are and helped another person understand your point of view, OR you’ve been properly convinced of a better idea and evolve into a smarter, higher-functioning human being.

It’s the Everybody Wins Strategy.

And it would save the world if we would just let it.

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The Flammable Heart

heart-on-fire

I used to be homophobic, an unabashed litterer, and so pro-life that I would argue passionately against the idea that women should have a right to choose whether to abort babies.

I used to believe all illegal immigrants should be deported. I used to believe that any system rewarding racial or gender quotas was shitty and unfair. I used to believe racism wasn’t a problem in the United States and was limited to a few uneducated rednecks with nothing better to do than hate people.

I used to think that if you didn’t believe Jesus was God, you were ignorant, uneducated and doomed to a life of dissatisfaction and an unpredictable afterlife.

And if you didn’t agree with me, you were wrong.

I don’t like to write about religion or politics or any controversial subjects where, afterward, you might decide you don’t like me because we don’t agree on the same things.

Because that happens.

Really conservative people find out Matt Damon and LeBron James stumped for President Obama and all the sudden both guys are morons and “I’m never watching Good Will Hunting or the NBA again!!!”

Really liberal people find out Gene Simmons is conservative and that Ted Nugent is a gun advocate and enthusiast and all the sudden both guys are morons and “I never liked their shitty music anyway!!!”

I don’t want to write things that cause division.

I don’t want to write things that cause anger.

I don’t want to write things that could lead to you thinking I’m a bad or stupid or foolish person.

I like exploring all of the things that connect us and not the things that divide us.

But today? I want to write about what I think and why.

And I want to write about the process of believing one thing and then changing my mind, and what that might mean.

Maybe I’ll offend you. Maybe you won’t like me afterward. I hope that’s not what happens. And if you do disagree I hope you’ll tell me why because I love to discover other perspectives that help me evolve.

That’s So Gay

Maybe it’s because I was raised in a really conservative, Catholic environment in a small Ohio town where boys played football and never wore pink. But I was always homophobic growing up.

As far as I knew, I didn’t know any gay people, but they probably all had AIDS and wore leather chaps. And if they were guys? They all probably wanted to shower with me naked and touch my penis and convert me to gaydom.

I was also taught that God got soooo angry at gay people during Old Testament times that he destroyed an entire city with fire where everyone was apparently having gay sex. It was soooo bad that if you turned around and looked at the city while it was being destroyed you turned into salt.

Being gay must be REALLY bad!

And then I grew up and met a bunch of gay people. Not ONE has mistreated me or displayed a tendency for unkindness. Ever. Not one ever wore leather chaps in front of me. No one ever tried to hook up with me except for creeper Giovanni that one time.

EVEN IF you subscribe to the premise that the act of homosexual sex is sinful because the Bible says so, it dawned on me one day that a bunch of straight people have sex all the time too even if they aren’t married and that THAT is also a sin, according to biblical teachings. Yet, we don’t see this huge groundswell of anti-premarital sex opponents boycotting organizations or forming lobbying groups against pre-marital sex rights.

Want to know why?

Because basically everyone thinks about sex all the time and wants to do it and most people actually do even if they’re not married. And because people are hypocrites and capable of justifying damn near anything, they think their straight sins are less bad than gay sins.

I don’t like hypocrisy. And I don’t think I’m in ANY position to start “ranking” sins. So one day I stopped.

And now? I want people to do what’s in their heart. And to love who they love.

If the God I believe in exists, that all-powerful creator will sort out all the nonsense in the next life.

If my God doesn’t exist, my consciousness will simply shut off like a light bulb when I die and I’ll decompose in the ground and worms and insects will eat me, and being unkind to people because they liked to have sex with people of the same gender will not have done me any good.

Oh, Those Environmentalist Whackos!

I used to litter all the time, mostly by chucking cigarette butts out my car window. But I would also sometimes throw out empty cans or used napkins or whatever else. Garbage that would end up in a country road ditch.

This lasted until I was 22 and moved to Florida and started hanging out by the whitest sand and clearest water I’d ever seen.

I’d find cigarette butts and discarded trash on the beach. How could they do that!?!?, I’d think.

Then I realized what a hypocritical douchebag I was being and stopped throwing cigarette butts out the window for someone else to clean up or to wind up in that beautiful water.

I was also a newspaper reporter and I covered the power companies in Florida. I began to research and report on stories about certain power plant emissions into the air and discharge into nearby waters.

The mercury levels in fish got so bad near one power plant that people couldn’t eat it. I learned about how high mercury levels in your body are virtually irreversible and can cause serious illness over time.

I started to think about how the planet was here long before me and how it will be here long after I’m gone. I started thinking about how our ancestors were such good stewards of the land, and how we’re so shitty at it. We just mow down trees and wipe out various species because we want to build another strip mall, or build a new deck from exotic Brazilian hardwoods.

I decided it was bullshit. I’m not for punishing businesses based on incomplete science. But I am absolutely for erring on the side of taking good care of the world around us. And I’m absolutely blown away that it has become a political issue.

There’s a place in the Pacific Ocean called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” because it has so many plastic particles floating on or near the surface. I want to know what political party is in favor of that.

The Right to Choose

Is there a more divisive topic? I don’t think so. It scares me to talk about and write about. Especially because I’m a guy and believe my opinions are worth about 20 percent of what a (potential) mother’s opinion is worth because I will NEVER be faced with some of the very difficult choices pregnant women sometimes face.

For all my life, I believed abortion isn’t a whole lot different than killing a baby.  I’ve never understood the argument that an eight-month-old baby in her mother’s womb is different from a two-week-old baby outside the womb. I have a couple cousins in their 20s who were born premature. After six or seven months.

And my brain is simply incapable of coming to a conclusion that we MUST protect that baby outside the womb, but that deciding the fate of the child still in the womb is somehow optional, even though, mathematically, the child in utero may actually be older.

It’s all very messy and confusing.

I’ve come to believe that Roe vs. Wade is unlikely to ever be overturned, and that even if it was, it wouldn’t stop abortions from happening.

I have made a choice to not debate it. The only pregnancy that is any of my business in the history of the world is the one that involved my wife and son. The rest are not my business.

Some people are so passionate against abortion that they protest outside of abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood buildings and intimidate young women who might be scared and need help. They usually do this in the name of Christianity despite acting NOTHING like Jesus ever did. A few of them have even bombed clinics or killed doctors who perform abortions. I can’t stand with people like that.

The Immigration Issue

Because I was ignorant, I used to think of immigrants as only being poor people from places like Mexico or Cuba. I never took any time to think about the fact that my great-grandparents immigrated to this country in the 1930s, and opened a bakery in Cincinnati, Ohio before getting freaky and making my grandmother who loves Liam Neeson and remains alive and well.

Did my great-grandparents do it all legally and pay taxes? Yes. And is there a difference between that and the way some people sneak across the border and live undocumented in the United States and other countries? Sure.

But imagine being a young child growing up in Mexico. And your grandfather and your father and your uncles and your older brothers all snuck into the United States and worked for cash and sent money back home so your family could eat food. Imagine if that was the only thing you ever knew. How could you ever believe it was wrong?

While I very much want people working in this country to pay taxes and contribute because our country is essentially a failing business right now that needs to find a way to become a profitable one if we’re going to survive into the future, I have to be a human being first.

And anyone who thinks money is more important than people will never find themselves on the same side of a debate as me.

People have to matter most.

No Racism Because Obama, Jordan, Hendrix!

Because I was obsessed with Michael Jordan and most of my sports heroes were black and Eddie Murphy was the funniest man alive, there’s no way racism was still a problem in America.

Lincoln freed the slaves in 1836!!!

I used to think that when I was a kid. Want to know why? Because I’m white and despite growing up a little poor, I STILL was able to attend private school and almost never had anything really bad or dangerous happen around me. Because police never once suspected I might be up to no good because of my skin color or because of how I dressed.

I’m a white, straight man. As the hilarious Louis CK once said: You can’t even offend me. That’s how good straight white guys have it. I’m trying to think of a time someone discriminated against me and I thought it was unfair and was somehow denied an opportunity because of it.

I’m drawing a blank.

And if you’re like me? And you can’t think of a time like that either? Maybe it would be wise to join me in my quest to be less of an asshole and pretend like I understand what it’s like to be black or female or gay or an immigrant in the United States.

I Have Faith, But I Don’t Know

I have believed in God my entire life but I can’t and won’t say that I know there’s a God.

I’m sorry. I can’t do it.

I don’t know.

I believe, based on my personal experiences, that there’s a God. God makes sense to me. I look around at all the miracles and intricacies that make up this amazing and awe-inspiring world and universe we live in. And I see purpose. Intent. Design.

Other people look around at war and kids with cancer and injustice and ask: How could a benevolent God allow such things?

It’s a fair question. And I don’t have any answers. Some of the best people I know are tested the hardest. They don’t deserve it. Other people are heathens, and they seem to have everything in life go their way.

Why?

The most important thing to happen to me as an adult is when I realized and admitted that I just don’t know.

Don’t know, what?

Don’t know anything. Not in any sort of big-picture sense. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I die. And I’m not going to act like a lunatic and pretend that I do. It’s foolish and a time-waste.

But I know things about how my mind and body respond to things that happen around me.

I know that injustice makes me feel rage.

I know that tragedy makes me feel sad.

I know that being helpful and giving more than I take gives me meaning and purpose.

I know that love—not just romantic love—but the love I feel for us, for people, sets my heart on fire.

And if that isn’t a good compass to follow for how we should live, then I’ll never know what is.

I don’t have any answers but I have a whole bunch of questions.

Sometimes, things make me feel shitty. I’m going to try to not do those things.

And some things make me feel awesome. Like I really am connected to you and him and her and them, no matter what they think and no matter who they have sex with and no matter what color skin they have and no matter who or what they pray to.

We’re all going to die. But not today.

And the things we used to do or think that were wrong have no bearing on who or what we are now.

None of us can change the entire world.

But every one of us can change our own.

Maybe go tell someone you love them. Right now.

Then do something about it.

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