Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Would Call It "Things I Don't Get", but Sadly, I Get It

The recent Colorado shootings have had the proverbial guns blazing on both sides of the political fence regarding the place of firearms in our society.  

Gun laws in this country haven’t been this relaxed in decades.  There is more freedom to carry guns than there has ever been in my lifetime.   Still every day I hear the voices crying out that our gun rights are being taken away.  I have never heard President Obama speak out about tighter gun control laws, and yet gun enthusiasts continue to pillory him as the man who will take their guns away.

I just want to understand why guns are so important to so many.  Why do you want so badly to have weapons that kill people?  Don’t tell me, “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  Obviously a gun isn’t going to kill anyone without someone operating it.  I’m not that stupid.  What a gun does is make killing another person, or even a crowd, fast and easy.  There are guns that make it even faster and even easier.  Why do you want this kind of power in your hands so badly?  

Here is what the Second Amendment says:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

This is establishing a militia and points out that said militia should be well regulated.  Interpret that as you wish.  The Second Amendment is like the Bible.  Everyone thinks he or she knows what the “true” meaning is.

“But remember the Federalist Papers,” you cry. "We need to protect ourselves if the government turns on us." Okay.  Fine.  I get that. I also get that the framers of the Constitution were not all Federalists.   This was based around the fear that the young, untested government could potentially gain too much power, or even become a monarchy, if it didn’t face a threat from the general populace.  I think in revolutionary times this was a legitimate concern.  

How much of it is a concern now?  Democracy has proven to have worked, however imperfectly.  Are we really looking forward to violent revolution against the government?  Are your guns going to be adequate against tanks, nuclear missiles, grenades, and bombs?

Did the 20th century teach us nothing?  The last century showed us that revolution without violence is possible, and it works, thanks to the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  On the other hand, I have seen countless coups in various countries in my lifetime and none of them have resulted in peaceful democracies.

The problem isn’t guns.  The problem isn’t lack of guns.  The problem lies within our society and everything we as Americans hold dear.

Is the United States the only country in the developed world with gun control laws?  No, it’s not.  Are there industrialized countries in the world with much looser gun control laws than the United States?  Yes, there are.  Regardless of the gun control laws in any of these countries,  the crime rate is lower in every case.  That goes the same for drug laws.  To say that countries with looser drug laws have less crime is irrelevant when you consider that there aren’t many countries that allow any and all recreational drugs and yet it is the United States that has the highest rates of drug abuse and drug related crimes.  Canada has more guns per capita than the United States, but you don’t see the kind of gun violence in Canada that you see here. Canadians seem like happy, peaceful people to me.

What is the difference between the United States and other developed nations?  Well, let’s start with our lack of accessible quality health care.  How about the fact that our educational system is going down the toilet and advanced education is becoming impossible for more and more of the population?  Children go to bed hungry.  The gap between the richest and the poorest continues to widen.  The public square is disappearing.   There are no affordable places and activities where people can gather and have a community.  Downtowns, places where local populations could gather, are being replaced by strip malls and cul-de-sacs.  

Americans are some of the most violent-minded, paranoid, and entitled people in the world.  I know the credibility of this blog will go down if I start citing Michael Moore, but Bowling for Columbine made the very strong point that the problem isn’t our guns.  It’s our attitudes.  It’s our fear of “the other”.  It’s our belief that we have to take what is ours.  

While on vacation last week I was chatting with a local friend and gun enthusiast who said he didn’t want to come to New York because the gun laws are too strict and what if he went into a store and someone tried to shoot him first?  I have lived in New York my entire life and have walked into countless stores and no one has ever tried to kill me, even despite the fact that I live in an area infamous for high crime rates. 

This is what we are reduced to.  The simplistic belief is that if all of us are armed, we will all be so afraid of the other person shooting first that naturally no crimes will happen.  This is despite the fact that we are more likely to be killed by people we know than by strangers, particularly if you are a woman (if a woman is found murdered, the first suspect is always her husband or boyfriend).   We believe everyone is out to get us and it is our right to shoot first and ask questions later.  Poor Trayvon Martin learned that one the hard way.

What I find so interesting is that so many hardcore gun advocates also claim to be Christians.  I spent a lot of time in church in my life and I have never heard Jesus advocating violence.  I never read it ever mentioned in the Bible that He carried a weapon. 

Put up again thy sword into its place:
for all they that take the sword
shall perish by the sword

You have learnt how it was said: 'Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.' But I say to you, Offer the wicked man no resistance. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him."

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy"; But I say to you, "Love your enemies and pray for those whose persecute you."

You must love your neighbor as yourself

I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me . . . I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.

Words of a guy who really felt that people should be constantly on the defense and ready to kill, no?
In 2005, the Journal of Religion and Society did a study that shows that among advanced democracies, the countries with the highest percentage belief in God also had the highest percentages of social dysfunction (teen pregnancy, drug abuse, homicide, abortion) and also the lowest life expectancy.  Correlation does not equal causation of course.  It does say something about the character of Americans though.

Religions can make us feel morally superior to others, thus making the heathen less worthy of life.  At best it tells us if we do something heinous, we are potentially forgiven.  At worst it justifies horrible acts in the name of God (abortion clinic bombers, Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11).  I know I'll be accused of "Christian bashing" by saying this, but I'm not bashing.  I'm just trying to make sense of why practitioners of a nonviolent religion seems to care so much about instruments of death.  It's not Christianity itself that does this.  It's just the way that Americans use Christianity to justify the same paranoid, entitled behavior that defines our national character. 

I'm imagining a world where most Americans desire guns and carry them at all times.  In our society we are constantly competing with each other for who has the best stuff: the fanciest car, the biggest house, the most expensive wardrobe, the most sophisticated home entertainment system.  Our highways are an arms race of whose SUV is bigger and tougher.  If that guy's gun can kill 10 people in one shot, then I had better buy one that kills 20 in one shot.  Just as we spend more than we can afford on electronics and clothes and cars, we will be spending on the biggest, meanest shiniest guns.  It will be just another status symbol, because Americans have a right to their status symbols right?

Gun laws are not the problem.  The problem is our society.  You can imagine your happy little fun world where everyone can buy whatever gun he or she wants and it will be a peaceful utopia free of crime and murder forever.  Guns, or even lack of them, have nothing to do with it.  We need to change society's ills.  We need to fix what's wrong with our attitudes.  What we need, in short, is an actual society and not just a bunch of individuals out for themselves.  Sadly, I don't see this happening.  The killing will go on.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Irksome Facebook Posts of the Week

I have decided, as per a thought I had in one of my recent blogs, to have yet another type of "theme" post (joining "Things I Don't Get" and "Style 101").  I'm always seeing stuff on Facebook that ticks me off.  I feel my friends have a right to post this stuff.  I generally refrain from commenting because I don't want to get into it with people.  There are just too many people on Facebook and too many opinions and too much potential for ill-will.  Shipwrecked & Comatose is a dark little corner of the internet that no one visits.  I can sound off in my own little echo chamber and say exactly what I think of your small-minded drivel.  If anyone does decide to come and read and dare to contradict, I just delete.  (Here is where I flash my evil grin and do a little bwhahahahaha laugh.)

When we put stuff out on the internet, we always risk opposition.  That is my warning.  Whatever you put on Facebook risks being lampooned, picked apart, and otherwise torn down on Shipwrecked & Comatose.

So here's my first feature that really ticked me off.

You know what really ticks me off about this type of stuff?  Let me count the ways.

First, it's the implication that if you are an atheist, you are a fool with no capability of logic.  (Ironic that it's considered illogical to not believe in an invisible being in the sky who can read the thoughts of every person on the planet and interferes with their lives on a whim.)  Really, how many atheists do you know?  Have any of them done this?  Have you known any famous atheists who have pulled stunts like this?  I doubt Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris would have any need to prove anything this way.

Did this incident actually happen?  I tried to find a confirmation on Snopes.  As far as I'm concerned, until I get corroborated eyewitnesses, I dismiss the story as pure bull pucky anyway.

But I do have more issues with this piece. I have to say on behalf of the good service people of this country, if God is protecting them, She is doing a stupendously crappy job.  Soldiers are dying every day.  This country is seeing too many flag-draped coffins. Where is God protecting soldiers?  I'id love to see more of it please.  If I were this professor, I wouldn't be asking God why She won't knock him down.  I'd be asking why She has created a world where we are sending people off to die in the first place.

My next issue with this drivel is the fact that it mentions the prof is a member of the ACLU.  Now it's weird because the ACLU doesn't really have anything to do with the the prof's challenge to God.  However, the soldier in attendance has this need to remind everyone that he is defending the prof's freedom to pull this stupid stunt.  There is definitely a subtle dig here.  ACLU?  In other words, not a regressive Republican.  He's a liberal and all liberals hate the troops.  Liberals appreciate nothing.  Blah blah blah.  I AM SO SICK OF THIS CRAP!!!!!!

Do you know what I find really interesting about FB posts and emails like this talking about God?  Most of the people who send them are not the most devoutly religious people I know.  I don't see much of this type of stuff from regular churchgoers. practicing Catholics and evangelical Christians.  I get the impression that there are folks out there who invoke God online because it makes them feel more righteous.  Most of the very devout Christians I know, aside from the occasional Religious Right political post, don't bother spreading stuff like this.  It's mean-spirited and not terribly Christ-like and they know it.

So also this week I saw this.

My first thought was, "The learned English, got jobs, and paid taxes?"  Well, what are they doing that today's immigrants aren't doing?"  That was 'nuff said as far as I was concerned, but I realized that I might need to explain further.

Why do people come to the US? The come TO GET JOBS.  They are looking for employment and a better life.  You say they don't work?  What are all of those guys I see waiting around at the corner every morning, often carrying various tools?  Who is picking our fruits and vegetables?  Who is risking their health and their lives daily in meat packing plants and slaughterhouses?  They're not fluent in English yet?  Well, who is teaching them and when do they have time to learn?  It can take years to learn English by simply "picking it up."

We idolize our European ancestors because we see our own success a generation or two later.  While we love a good rags-to-riches immigration story, they are quite rare.  Most European immigrants had to bust their butts and live in poverty doing menial jobs when they first reached the US. They were looked down upon just as today's immigrants are.  You say they learned English, but I'll bet their English wasn't so great.  It has been proven again and again, even among today's immigrants, that by the third generation English is the first language, however that first generation is going to struggle, not know every word or phrase, and have a very heavy and hard-to-understand accent for life.  I have known a few US-dwelling, Italian old ladies whose English is bad or non-existent.  It takes a generation or two to achieve the American Dream.  Stop holding the people's desperate struggle against them. 


My irksome posts for this week.  I'm going on vacation next week, but we'll see what annoys me when I return!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

So What Are You Doing Right Now?

I'm thinking of coming up with a new "theme" post (like my "Things I Don't Get" series) where I take something I see posted on Facebook and post my reactions in my blog.  It seems FB posts are inspiring many of my blogs lately.

So what is today's Facebook post that has my brain turning?  Well, I'm seeing quite a few of these posts lately.

For the record, seatbelt  and car seat laws began in the 80s, so this piece is a bit bogus anyway.

And this

It's the same thing over and over.  Adults complain about how kids aren't going out to play and  using their bodies and their imaginations instead of electronics.  Oh the horror.

Why is no one addressing why aren't kids going outside to play?  No one is forcing them to stay inside with the video games and Facebook.

If you are an adult reading this, and especially if you are a parent, what are you doing right now?  Well, obviously you are on the internet reading blogs!  If your childhood activities were so great, why aren't you doing them and encouraging your child to do likewise?

Adults can't seem to get offline.  We're on Facebook constantly.  We have our smartphones permanently attached to us.  We say we can't live without our tablets (as if our tablets somehow control our respiratory, digestive, circulatory, excretory, and digestive systems).  What are we teaching our children?  We can tell them over and over again that it's better to play outside, that they need fresh air and exercise, that they will stimulate their brains more if they have to come up with things to do, but why should they listen?  Adults are constantly connected.  Adults are always online.  How are we supposed to tell our children the outside is so great if we don't go outside ourselves?

Here is the heart of the issue.  Besides the fact that adults seem incapable of setting a proper example for getting kids offline and away from the screens, we also have this stupid overprotective thing going on.  If you leave your kid outside, he'll die!  So even if a kid starts to wonder if maybe the bigger world has more to offer, he's too afraid to explore it.

If you have an issue with how kids these days play, try looking in the mirror.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Most Politically Incorrect Blog Post I Have Ever Made

…will never actually be posted.

I have had something on my mind for quite some time now.  I know that it would be a very interesting and thought-provoking topic for a blog post. 

I could never post that blog though.  That post brings into question one of our society’s most sacred of sacred cows.  It’s an untouchable subject.   Even my liberal friends would find it offensive.   Even my liberal friends who might agree with it deep down would still feel obliged to be outraged about it in public.  That post subject is pure taboo.

This post is not about that topic, but about the nature of blogging in general.  What lines should a blogger allow herself to cross?

As someone who has been online before being online was cool, I know very well that anything you put out there online is out there for criticism and judgment.  One major internet rule that everyone should learn is that if you put something out there (whether it’s in a forum, FB post, Tweet, or email) in order to get a reaction, don’t be surprised if you don’t get the reaction you want.  I love to think my politically incorrect blog would make people think, make people say that I’m making them see things differently,  but most likely, I’d be completely demonized by anyone who read the post. 

What’s interesting is that I started to consider what would happen if I posted it.  What if I made a lot of people angry?  Maybe it would bring my blog more attention. 

I imagined what it would be like if I posted it and the outrage went viral.  I’d be the most hated woman in the country, but I’d know my voice was heard.  If my blog were acknowledged by millions, I might actually be starting that conversation my post was meant to provoke.  I’m sure there are people out there who would agree with me.  I might have a network of loyal supporters and I could sit back and watch them debate my detractors. 

Could I handle that kind of fame?  As someone who craves attention constantly, I could be in my glory.  Maybe I would learn to enjoy all of the negative attention, knowing I had that much power to get a rise out of people. 

In the end, I know I will never do it.  It’s not just because I couldn’t handle the negative reactions.  It’s also because in the end, I don’t think making my opinion known, or even agreed with, will contribute to a better world.  I know that many people will feel very hurt by it.  My blog would not be intended to be hurtful to certain people, but I know they will be hurt by it nonetheless.  They wouldn’t be able to not take it personally.  I did consider for a moment about how this topic is a symptom of one of society’s greatest ills and that maybe I should post the blog to begin a dialog about the greater issue.  I know that’s not going to happen.  Our societal ills have been with us far too long and won’t be cured by a blog post.

I wonder how many other blogs I will wimp out of writing.  Am I being a wimp?  Am I being kind?  Am I being discreet? I suppose I am being all of those things.  The advantage of being a blogger is that ultimately you choose what it is you want to say. 

No, I am not going to tell you what the blog was about, so don't ask.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Can Someone Please Explain This To Me?

How did folks arrive at the belief that if you espouse liberal political beliefs that you are lazy and don't want to work?

Five years ago the small boutique consulting and investment advisory firm I worked for was bought out by a Fortune 100 corporation.  Last year the people at the top decided that after all of their many acquisitions they made over the years that they had too many customer service people scattered all over the country.  They were sure that the best solution for customers would be to consolidate all customer service employees into one call center in their main office in Denver.

The result was that I was laid off my job this spring.  Do I really believe this move was about consolidation and making customers happy?  I certainly do not.  They wanted to hire as many new and inexperienced people as possible so that they wouldn't have to pay the well-trained and experienced employees the corresponding salaries. They certainly could afford to keep us on, but they wanted the executives to have bigger salaries.  They wanted the money to buy even more companies.  I believe that if it weren't about the money, they might have offered my east coast colleagues and I positions in the new Denver call center, but they did not.  It certainly wasn't for the customers' sake.  My clients hated that call center and missed being able to call me directly when they knew what they needed from me.

I was angry and I was bitter and I still believe strongly that the "occupy" movements are doing the right thing and need to be fighting the good fight.  There is something wrong with the enormous amount of power corporate America yields.  No doubt about that.

Before my tenure at my old company ended, I began searching for a new job.  I continued after I was laid off.  I found a new job a month after my last day.  I kept working.  I'm working now.

I had friends and family ask me if I intended to collect unemployment if I didn't find anything right away.  I said I would not.  They said I had a right to do so.  They were correct.  I have paid into the system for most of my adult life and likely will pay into the system again at some point.  I am as entitled as anyone to collect government benefits.  I made the decision that I would not do so unless it was a last resort.  If no full-time job materialized after my severance ran out, I intended to put myself on a strict budget and do temp work. 

I'm a liberal.  I don't shrink away from the term.  I refuse to let regressives hurl it at me as a insult.  I own it.

I also work.  In fact, I prefer to be employed.  I'm not saying I've ever been super-successful.  I'm not ambitious.  I don't think that's because I'm liberal.  I just don't have any spectacular talents and I'm a bit lazy by nature. 

Birds of a feather flock together, so I have a fair number of liberal friends.  They're all employed.  I've never seen any of them say they don't want to work.  They have had situations where they have lost their full-time employment.  They looked for new jobs.  They did temp and contract work.  They found new jobs again.

My husband may not talk much in public about politics, but I can assure you he is a pretty liberal guy.  He's an executive at his company.  I have never seen such a hard worker as he is.  I doubt many people would be willing to work the long hours he works, even if they would love to have his salary.  Is it still true that liberals are afraid of hard work and will always be poor and will never amount to anything?

What about wealthy liberals?  The CEO of my former company was a strong Obama supporter.  The company was obsessed with sustainability. Lights and computers had to be turned off every night and polystyrene and paper cups were forbidden in all offices.  All office branches were practically required to do some kind of volunteer project periodically.  It is a billion dollar company and still growing.  Maybe it you're liberal and wealthy, you can earn the title of out-of-touch elitist.  (That's really a topic for another blog.*)

Do only liberals take government benefits?  I tried to search such statistics on the internet.  There really is no political breakout out there of who is receiving these benefits.  The best that I found was that "red" states have more (you read that right, more) people on food stamps than "blue" states.  The stats were a few years old and the concept of red and blue only apply to presidential elections, so I don't give the stats that much credit, but I think it tells a bit of a story.  Need knows no politics.  Plenty of Teabaggers are on Social Security, Medicare, and disability. 

Government benefits, first and foremost, are meant to protect the weakest among us - those who are unable to work.  I'm talking about the disabled, the elderly, and the children.  Let's not forget about the veterans.  Regressives love to pay lip service to service people, but no one has fully explained to me why disabled veterans need to have their own charity, and VA hospitals are in deplorable conditions, while the government spends billions of its military budget on defense contracts instead of people.  It's meaningless to say many recipients of earned benefits that they should "get a job". 

I don't think regressives have any problems taking benefits for themselves individually.  They just don't think anyone else should have benefits.  Even though we all pay into the system in one way or another (or will when we become old enough), it seems only certain people should be allowed to take them.  I can have it, but you can't.  I deserve my benefits, but you don't because you're lazy.  (I wrote more about that in this blog.)

I know, or have known, several people in my life who have had to be on some form of government assistance at one time or another.  The regressives seem to have it in their heads that lazy liberals can just call up President Obama and say, "I need money," and the check will be in the mail.  My friends have had to get blood from a stone to receive benefits.  They had to go through lengthy processes, fill out multiple forms, and provide fifty kinds of proof that they deserve the benefits they have spent their lives earning.  Benefits don't come easy and the administrators are not always nice and not always caring.  No one is making the process easy for the needy.

So why this liberal stigma?  I suppose it's because we do support a system of earned benefits, it's that we believe that the weakest among us deserve our support.  I don't care if a child has regressive parents or not.  I just don't want that child to go to bed hungry.  I don't want children to be punished for the sins of its parents.  Compare that with the expensive and useless campaigns to get welfare recipients drug tested.  Even if parents are on drugs, should their children go hungry because of it?  I don't see supporting earned benefits for all as laziness and  a personal unwillingness to work.  I see it as...compassion.

This is a shout-out to all of my liberal friends.  We're here.  We're employed.  We're not going anywhere.  We work as hard as anyone else.  Some work even harder.  Don't let this slander against us continue.  HOLLER!

*Blog on that topic will be coming soon