My Bike Helmet

Biking with youngest through our beautiful neighborhood

It's been 2 months since I last wore my bike helmet for reasons other than protection from police officers looking to incite violence by shooting people in the head. Apparently, here, they've moved to smash and grab tactics this week, so... Woo progress?

This picture fills me with joy. Embedded in it are so many blessings that others are not allowed access to.

In that picture are thousands of dollars of unexpected medical and mental treatment. My job pays well enough that we are not destroyed by these expenses (of which insurance has paid 0%, to whom we pay thousands more for the privilege, woo!). This is a weekday, and I'm home sharing the burden of care and instruction for my children. We make enough that Elnora can devote years to them, and my managers are understanding enough to make room for me to assist. We're going to piano lessons. That's not my only bike. I'm surrounded by greenery and public land. My neighbors are not threatened by my passing because of skin color. My employment has not been in jeopardy because of the other uses I've put that helmet to. When I've been threatened by officers these months, I could always choose to walk half a block and take off the helmet, and I'd be assisted rather than threatened.

I, and Elnora, and our parents, and their parents before them have worked hard, assisted by society and luck and to be able to have any of the things in that picture. I am not so foolish or self centered as to believe that that work is what sets me apart from those less fortunate than I.

In less than three weeks there's an election, and I'll be voting for people that demonstrate an ability and willingness to empathize, to respond constructively to criticism, to welcome oversight, to lift up those around them rather than themselves.

But, our job (of which I've been derelict most of my life, and periodically will be again, I'm sure) is to provide those opportunities for empathy, criticism, and oversight, so that that willingness and ability gets exercised more than once every term.

So that maybe some of the wonderful people I've met the last two months can take a similar picture and feel the same joy, pride, and security that I do

On Cancel Culture

There's lots of hand wringing about "cancel culture" (blindly boycotting people for past behavior/words) and how it's going to destroy society. I tend to agree, we are all human and deserve to be treated as such.

The sheer hypocrisy of groups whose entire platform is "rich straight white male christians are the best" being the primary groups pushing this narrative is so galling to me this morning. They don't care about cancel culture. They created this horrific weapon, used it for centuries now, and are now upset that parts of their constituency (theoretically including me) are possible targets for the first time.

How does "Oh dear, I might lose my job because I abused my power and made repeated unwanted attempts on my employee" be a cause for public worry about that boss, and yet we're fine with stripping/denying the rights and access to the american dream because people dared be female, or non-white, or LGBTQ, or muslim/mormon/atheist, or poor. (And only one of those "or"s is even moderately a choice).

This is not a screed in support of "cancelling". This is one in favor of us getting some perspective about who the messengers are, and what we should be trying to protect and conserve in this great land of ours (hint: lifting up the downtrodden is generally a good move)

Mob Rule

I've seen several comments lately about how our wise founding fathers designed our electoral system to avoid "mob rule". And there is certainly plenty of documentation that many of them were afraid of "mob rule", including crowd favourite Alexander Hamilton

In 1789, 6% of the population was allowed to vote (approximately 66% now). The requirement then was white rich male. Since we've partially gotten rid of the white and male requirements, let's look at 6% of the modern population. That means you personally would have to make at least $250,000 to even be allowed to vote. And remember, this 6% is the rabble that our system was supposedly wisely designed to keep under control and prevent from having a say.

Ah, but we're more inclusive now, right? Let's pretend there was no voter suppression. To help keep this mob down (those slobs that only make a little over $300,000), our senate has two senators per state. Due to the way the population is distributed, on average, a black person's vote has 80% of the power of a white person. Hispanics, 58%. Sure glad we can feel proud of improving things from... 60%. (To be fair, the 3/5ths in the Constitution was giving the owner an additional 3/5ths of a vote for each person you owned, which is so very much worse that how we normally tell that story).

What about voter suppression you say? Well, that's a hard thing to track. We as a country are horrible about voting, and we make it hard to vote, and we try to convince each other our votes don't matter, and our Attorney General says we shouldn't trust votes any way, and then we intimidate, bully, reduce access, and implement policies that make it hard for undesirable populations to vote that are different from poll taxes and literacy tests in name only, The net result? Exit polling suggests 70% of the voting populace is white, while we make up 61% of the adult population.

So, when we nod sagely and talk about how we are protecting ourselves from "mob rule" (that you probably didn't even qualify to belong to back then)... Maybe you haven't thought it through, and don't intend it, but you are rooting for the disenfranchisement of your fellow citizens, and due to the system you are extolling, they probably have different a color of skin than you, and that, my friend, is the very manifestation of systemic racism.

Heartfelt Apology

To the women (we were kids then), who had the courage and strength to argue with me (in high school's Intellectual Traditions of the West class) when I claimed that preventing women from ruling wasn't a restriction of their power.

To the young black district leader in the MTC, surrounded by a sea of white, who had the courage and strength to share with me his experiences and fears after I spouted some racist garbage about his supposedly less valiant ancestors.

To the family in Costa Rica that had the patience to teach me and love me after I complained about how Spanish weakened their culture.

To the atheist friend whose father had just died that sat and smiled and listened while I preached intricacies of Heaven, when all he needed was a hug.

To the LGBTQ people in the boardgaming and trail running community, who share their hobbies, families, love, joy, sorrow, pain, and humanity with me.

To my coworkers that gently correct me as I come to terms with their youth in contrast to my own.

I'm so sorry. In my shame, there are many more stories like these, and probably countless times I don't even remember or notice. My education should not have been (and sometimes continues to be) your burden to bear. That I am still in touch with many of you shows me your capacity for forgiveness and love that I aspire to.

Thank you.

Purity of Language

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend that said that they had been made afraid by political correctness, and that that was one of the ways things were getting better now. I was confused, but I didn't dig in at the time, and then my own concerns escaped my simple needs, and I never got back to it. For that I'm sorry. This is my woefully inadequate attempt to fix.

My earliest memory of "political correctness" would have been early high school. That puts me right into the middle of the second great debate. Most of the concern at the time was around our society grasping new words to try to be more inclusive of women in our discourse. As an antiquarian or paleophile at heart, I was on board with words like "chairperson" being an abomination. Until, one day, reading a book of essays on recreational mathematics (as one does for fun in high school), I read this by Douglas Hofstadter, and my mind melted and formed anew.

https://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html

Go on, read that. I'll wait.

Anybody who was forced to (or for fun (hi!)) read 1984 should recognize that language has power. For me the danger presented by post-Regency English is pretending that people that are women, BIPOC, LGBTQ, disabled, poor, other/no religion, etc. don't exist. And that damage is what "political correctness" is working to undo. Now, I have to believe that this term has come to mean something else to the Fox presenters who yell it at me every day as I walk past the TVs at work. Those talking heads tell me that it somehow forces a uniformity of thought and action. That it threatens me, and those I love. I don't understand, and would love for those that pay more attention, or have felt afraid to help me there.

As I've taken Hofstadter's arguments to heart, I haven't seen increased uniformity in my life. Learning that different words mean different things to different people at different times. Choosing phrasing that includes people not like me within the realm of possibility. Thoughtfully listening to the pain of others mocked and ostracized for not fitting in with our default American image. These experiences have made me better (not good, just better), and given me a richer, more colorful, joyful life. Seeing the options available to my wife and son and daughter, compared to then gives me hope. I assert that having society ask me (an introvert) to get to know and pay attention to people is an improvement for me and for it. Pretending we're all the Cleaver family and nothing else exists is so much less interesting and less true.

So please, those of you that disagree with me. Let's have a conversation. I promise not to mock or make afraid. I promise to make angry eyes at those that do. If we're lucky, it'll be a fruitful discussion, and we'll both learn something new.