Friday, June 26, 2015

My view on the usage of a word: racist

I'm deeply disturbed by commercial media's (broadcast and web) usage of the term racist, and I write this commentary with the hope of inspiring awareness among my friends. It is true that racism is, at least, one of the most profound and relevant problems facing our society here in the US. And I will say this right up front--although activism is important, one of the fundamental lessons we must all learn is how to speak the language of racism. The media's incessant harping of the word "racist" is doing insufferable damage to our ability to metabolize this language. And here I will attempt to explain, in my view, why.

Without going into an extended monologue summarizing our country's history of racial injustice, I think we can all agree deep and painful wounds have been self inflicted on our culture that must be dressed and healed. Now it's important to recognize, this inequity has been, over hundreds of years, institutionalized within our civilization. It has become a part of the narrative, how we understand ourselves. These institutions have even in some cases become enshrined by law, and the law of the land. And it has come to pass that the very core of our civilization is shaped by those self sustaining structures. Structures which have the effect of oppressing and privileging whole classes of people based (really) on nothing more than popular mythology.

So, I hope you understand how profound the issue of racism is, and how using the word 'racist' to label an individual is deflating and trivializing the conversation. There is of course a correct usage for the term, but it should not be confused with words like prejudice and bigotry. Yet that is exactly what our overly glorified media has been doing! I actually heard a person with the title PhD suffixed to their name say "Are there racists, yes; is racism a problem, no." I'm not interested in verbally flagellating such obvious incorrectness but rather to underscore the depth and significance of the harm that can be done by misusing these words. That a person with such a prestigious title cannot see the import in reserving the term racism for focus on the systemic, even tectonic issue at hand is, frankly, discouraging.

Please consider this deeply, take it to heart. Scorning bigotry is not the best way to battle racism, structurally embedded racial inequity. We must come together and spend time learning the language of racism. We must be able to talk to each other about this most subtle and often painful problem. We must learn to identify patterns and structures in our most secure and reverently held norms, patterns that result in discrimination and oppression of some while extending privilege to others. It is not an easy task, and inciting emotionally charged responses through the misuse of language will only cause more harm.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

\\//_ live long and prosper

I noticed my emoticon is starting to catch on.  So I need to document here that I truly was the first person to use this emoticon (idea came from Star Trek's Vulcan Science Officer Spock):


--you saw it here first--

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Love letter to my Beloved

Honey, I was thinking about what you said this morning and a new thought occured to me. There are two kinds of beauty in the world. There is natural beauty that is not all that common--it is based on certain social concepts of symmetry and balance. And make no mistake, for those few who accidentally have it there is a cost.

But there is another kind of beauty that is Earned. It's a beauty that is the reward of being a good person, caring about others, and helping when you can. Of that kind of beauty, you lack nothing. It brings about a certain kind of glowing to the complexion. I do not say this to rationalize--I really mean it--and I think you'll agree after you think about it for a while.

I've seen people with the (supposed) gift of natural beauty end up becoming as ugly as sin through mean spiritedness and selfishness. Mark these words my Love--you are a very beautiful person! And with every day that passes, every time you extend your hand with concern and understanding, you are becoming more beautiful.

I realize now that life gave me at least half a dozen chances to have love, but I screwed it up over and over. Then life gave me you; one last chance. Again I've done all I could to screw it up but you have been patient with me, you have loved me in spite of my scars and callouses. That, Dear, is why you are the most beautiful person in the world to me!

I love you,

Friday, October 22, 2010

The commercialization of politics

CSPAN Washington Journal: Former Members of Congress for Common Ground

I heard one of the gentlemen in this interview remark that the cost of getting elected has increased a hundred fold since running in the 70's.

It got me to thinking--$150,000 in 1970, $15,000,000 in 2008, hmm.  There is a market here, and not metaphorically speaking.  There is a vibrant market place around the buying and selling of opinion and policy.   I'm not just talking about the old school corporate pay-off and congressional extortion types of trade.  No, this is new, it is in fact a swap-meet for commercialized politics.  The commercialization of politics should be a scary thing.  It brackets an insidious movement.

I hear over and over the cry for "campaign finance reform,"  but I now see that it won't help, and here is why.  Ask yourself what creates a market?  It's a demand for something on one hand and a supplier of that something on the other.  It takes a supply and a demand to create a market.  Now when a political campaign accepts that it must compete in our commercial reality its strategy has already been fixed in a fundamental way.  That is, create effective memorable sound bytes and play them to the most people for the least dollars.  We are responsible, you and I, for creating that demand, and we shouldn't blame our media industry for stepping up to supply it.  They are just doing what all good capitalists do.  But we all see what kind of government is being grown in the soil of this culture.

We may think we're demanding transparency, but we're really demanding something completely different and much darker.  It is the true elephant in the room.  You and I must end the demand, turn off the commercials and find better, more productive ways of informing ourselves about the issues and people addressing them.  When we are willing to accept this responsibility, it won't take long for the media to respond, or our government for that matter, their livelihoods depend on it.  We should stop blaming Congress and look to our own capabilities in this matter.  We are not required to watch commercials just because there is an endless supply of them!


Monday, August 9, 2010

Understanding conservativism and liberalism

I heard an excellent discussion this morning between conservative and liberal scholars. The moderator asked the representative from the American Enterprise Institute "why are you a conservative?" The answer was:

I believe in individual liberty. A government should only have the powers required to protect personal freedom. But that freedom must not be allowed to go so far as to hurt other individuals in the society, hence liberty and justice for all.

Then the moderator asked the representative from Progressive Policy Institute "why are you a liberal?" The answer was:

I believe a society is only as strong as each individual's sense of responsibility to the community. A government must be entrusted with the power to implement policies that cultivate and nurture such a culture of activists.

The more I reflect on these answers, the better I like them!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How I get my news

Two years ago I started using these services for my news, in this order:
Project for Excellence in Journalism
Media Matters for America
Fact Check Public Policy Center

One year ago I turned off all commercial broadcast, cable, and satellite services!

Now I've become an avid C-SPAN radio listener and an adept Google Reader user. Judging by the commercials I see at sports bars, in magazines, on billboards, I'm not missing much.