Archive for the ‘Civility’ Category

Giving

Sometimes there are events and incidents where you see your own limitations exposed, laid out all too clearly.

I have never been a particularly generous person. Growing up, it wasn’t demonstrated; parsimony runs pretty strongly through both sides of my family of origin.  Still, it sis possible to change, to learn hot to be so thigh hearted.

Over the past 10 years, I have learned to be better at giving, learned to be more generous, learned to think of others.  My friend Doug demonstrated it quietly when my men’s group met, by paying the bill or by leaving a 200% tip for the waitress. I learned too, from a friend who had been in the service industry and taught me to say a kind word and think of the servers and waitresses, their meager paychecks and difficult jobs.

I thought progress had been made. At least until…..

I was having a Starbucks with a friend, sitting outside the Mall on a chilly but sunny afternoon.  To my surprise (because we don’t expect this in Columbia, especially at the Mall) a man approached, asking for money. Now, while he looked a “panhandler” type, I though, “Okay, if he needs food let’s go inside and get him something to eat”. I was willing to help, but on my terms.  My friend was quicker, however.  She asked him his name, reached into her purse, quickly handed him a bill (I think it was a twenty) and told him  that there was no judgement on how he needed it, that she hoped it would help, and that he’d have a better rest of the day.

Instead of feeling generous with my thought of action, I realized how parsimonious I still was. I was willing to help, but only on my terms of basic need and in a way that I controlled.  My friend responded with openness, faith and charity that allowed him the freedom to use it as needed…for good or not, but as he saw fit.  And maybe with her attitude, it would encourage him to use it for need.  It was a surprising interaction.

I hope to do better next time the situation arises.

Email Anguish

There is a particular email frustration I have, that I’ve seen at work and in private life, that drives me up a wall. Part of it deals with senders of email, and part with repliers of emails.  It forces me to pull out my soap box and rant……

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For senders…..WHY for the love of electrons and in the name of all things efficient do you insist on putting a massive list serve alias in the “To” line instead of in the “bcc” line?!! By putting it in the to line, everyone can reply to everyone, which on a list serve can bollocks up, jam up, and overwhelm a system.  The better solution is to send the email “To” yourself and put everyone else in the “bcc”.  That way the correspondence is always between only you and one recipient.

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For repliers…….What The Freak makes you think you need to “Reply to all” when you tell the list server to take you off a list, or to say anything else??  If you NEED to reply, DON’T REPLY TO ALL!!!  That only adds to the system overload and problems.  Just hit “reply”.  This isn’t like your private life, where everyone on the alias is a personal friend that wants to read what you say.  IT’S A LISTSERVE….it could have dozens, or hundreds or THOUSANDS of names that DON’T WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!

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Thus endeth my rant.  I hope it helps 😀

Marine mess

There is, many think (and I agree with them), no greater fighting force these days than the US Marine Corps. Their bravery and ferocity are legendary. They have had a reputation of that for years, and while there have been a few groups who have been in the same category (in particular I think of the French Foreign Legion), none have remained atop the pyramid for as long as the Marines.

But I have to wonder about them.  About their mindset, their leadership, their ability to take care of their own. ESPECIALLY about the latter. Too much has come out in the past few years that shows they have lost their inner values and core beliefs. They’ve lost the corps, the unique mental aspect that differentiates them from other forces.

Camp Lejeune.  Storied home of Marine Corps basic training. For over thirty years the drinking water of the base was contaminated with a variety of toxic, cancerous chemicals.  Not only were the Marines in training exposed to it, so were the families living on base. Young families with children. For thirty-five years.  Even after it was known, it took years and years for it to be acknowledged; approval for funding for medical benefits didn’t occur until ….2017.

US Naval Academy.  Storied home of the best and brightest officers in training for the Navy and the Marine Corps. Duty, Honor, Country.  A Marine instructor pleads guilty to both obstruction of justice by lying to investigators, and encouraging another officer to lie.  His lie involved a sexual misconduct case with two female midshipmen that occurred while he was an instructor and ranking officer to them. So much for duty or honor.

Marines United. Sharing pictures (clothed and naked) and personal information on fellow female Marines, on Marine wives, on Marine girlfriends on Facebook, and since the story broke on dark web sites.  Violating the corps again, by violating fellow Marines.

And these aren’t the only cases, just the most recent.  Look back at the blood-pinning scandal of the late 1990’s. Look at the issues of rape within the Corps and where they are stationed (particularly Japan and Okinawa). Is there a thread here?  Yes. It is the callous disregard for the lives, the welfare, the well-being of others in the Corps itself as well as outside of it.  It is a failure of character and leadership that originates in the very heart of the training centers for Marine personnel and officers.

I value the Marines combat ability, their skills on the battle field, their superiority over our enemies.  But that can’t come at the cost of losing the character and humanity for which we are fighting.  Once again, and too often, Marine generals and leadership say this doesn’t reflect the Corps, that things will be changed.

The lack of change that occurs reflects, sadly, yet another failure of Marine leadership.

Pence pensiveness

There was a story that came out a few days ago about Vice President Mike Pence and that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.  Apparently the Twittersphere blew up on both sides over this (of course, there is an aspect of redundancy in that, as blowing up is apparently what Twitter is about these days).  The Right extols the practice, while the Left ridicules it.  And I end up with mixed emotions, but with a sense of unease that bothers me.

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On one hand, I think there are times for this sort of approach to life.  In particular Rev. Billy Graham has lived by this rule for his entire ministry.  In his case, it makes sense.  So many are willing to cast aspersions at even the smallest issue or sense of hypocrisy that avoiding even the opportunity for someone to create even the appearance of an issue seems appropriate. For the job he has, and the way ministry works, this seems right.

The article in the Post that has raised this whole issue is a bit odd. The sentence that started this is standalone, not part of a paragraph, and not directly related to either of the two sentences around it.  Simply, “In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.”  The reasoning is that this builds a zone around the marriage.

It leaves a big question though: how does he interact at non-dinner events with a woman?  If that answer is out there, I haven’t seen it. And it’s important because if it is dinner events only, it’s much ado about nothing.  If it is all types of meetings, it becomes a concern.  If he doesn’t meet with a woman or women without someone else around, what he has done is relegated them to a secondary status in the political machine.  Much political work is done in private discussions with senior staffers,chiefs of staff, private staff, etc.  If a woman in those roles can’t meet with the politician, then she effectively can’t be in those roles in his office or in anyone else’s office that needs to meet with him.  And that seems unduly restrictive. And totally patriarchal.

I think what has caused my sense of disquiet has been the reaction of the (religious) right (of which I know many) saying that this situation is as it should be.  It bothers me because it conveys a sense of impropriety/danger/problem inherent in individual male-female interactions. It has to be a pair reaction or it’s the appearance of something untoward.  It makes it seem as though neither gender can be safe around the other. I ‘get’ that people do wander, stray, cheat, etc.  But not everyone, not even most.  I have married female friends at work that I talk to one-on-one regularly.  At least one of them was a major reason I survived a nervous breakdown 7 years ago (thank you L1!). I value and seek female perspective, especially in a male-dominated work world.

If he wants to value his marriage, great and good.  But don’t do so at the expense of others.  Take a position where there isn’t the impact on women that comes from politics.  Take a position where you don’t limit the role and value of women.  Excluding half of the population because they have X not Y seems like bad solution.The world has enough problems; it would be nice if we could bring all our combined resources to deal with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shades of Color

As I watched the election unfold, and the reaction (mine and others) since then, I realize that compared to many, I’m very lucky.  As I look at the friends and acquaintances I have through the variety of my connections, they run an interesting spectrum of colors from far right to far left.

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I have friends to the right of me.  Far, far more to the right than I, both politically and religiously. I know folks who believe the Bible literally in every aspect, others who are strong believers in the Doctrine of Ultimate Depravity (which is almost as scary as it sounds). A couple are fervent advocates of the 2nd Amendment above almost all other rights.  And there are others who are just biased (pick a category, every category) and focused only on themselves.

I have friends to the left of me, some to the far left of me.  I’ve known some who are gay or bisexual, while others are ethically polyamorous.  Some are agnostics, some atheists, some just seeking or defining their own higher power. And there are those who are gamers, cosplayers, and even a couple of friends who are furries (look that one up if you don’t know it 🙂 )

Each one gives me aspects of their lives to think about. Each adds a shade, a color, a nuance, a perspective to my own view or positions.  My views on abortion, gay/LGBTQ+ rights, alternative lifestyles, have all changed by knowing people in those communities. There has been at least one case where a columnist has helped me to understand the view of the world from the life of someone of a different color.  In the end, what I had been harboring as a white,male, hardcore fundamentalist view has broadened to include, and care about, a variety of others that I didn’t know before.  It seems difficult, if you don’t know anyone outside of your pale, your tribe, your mindset, to appreciate the diversity as much as you can with broader contacts.

I’m glad for shades of color that help broaden and enliven my world.

Shades of Gray

In a sense, it’s a bit odd that while I am an engineer that you would expect to have a very rigid and formulaic mind, I don’t see things as black and white; rather, I see them in a whole spectrum of grays (not where you thought this was going is it? 😀 )

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One of my major issues with the talking heads and politics these days is that the details, the intricacy of issues, is lost.  No one wants to look at a discussion in-depth, everyone one wants to solve it with a simple pronouncement, one that ignores the raft of depths and complexity of every issue.  Every issue has some degree of intricacy to it, many are incredibly complicated. Reducing a topic to single aspect, a single fraction of the entirety, a single wavelength, violates the integrity of the whole.  And the tendency of society to move from detailed analysis to 140 character tweets or two-line memes isn’t helping to find solutions or even in defining the problems.  It’s like describing an impressionist painting by one dot of paint, trying to build a plane with one pieces of metal, defining a person by a 2-second interaction.

We need to learn to embrace the larger, more diverse, more expansive, more accurate and complete picture. The bigger, fuller picture allows us to find more appropriate solutions, ones that might actually work.  Looking at the bigger picture may allow to avoid more, or even worse, problems in the future.  But that requires us to consider hundreds or thousands of words, to consider the past and the future, to examine ourselves and others.

It requires us to look beyond a world of 140 character. The shrinking world of characters is already the bane of thought, and it may be the death of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safe Zone Sillies

There has been no shortage of issues from the election that have stirred thoughts and irritation with me this year. One aspect of the past campaign that has bothered me (there were lots, but we’ll focus on just one for now!) was “safe places”.  Really, when did we become like this?

Let me start with an affirmation that I firmly and unequivocally believe that there are people who have experienced great calamities, events that truly are triggering.  An unexpected reference or description of sexual violence can trigger PTSD in a survivor.  Or a scene of physical violence that could provide a reaction from a domestic abuse survivor.  Theres I understand and support.  The trauma of what they have been through should be respected, and consideration given to how they would react if the trigger were sprung on them unknowingly. They have personally suffered something and there is an aspect of it that requires particular care and deference due to the nature of it.  For this type of situation, pre-notice for them of pending possible issues seems appropriate.

But, Jiminy Crickets folks, not every mean word, opinion, reaction requires a safe zone! Contrary opinions and mean people are a way of life (even more so now in the anonymous safety of the internet). Dealing with criticism and harsh words are a part of life. Dealing with angry, unkind, spiteful people is (sadly enough) a part of life.  We need to deal with it, learn to handle it, learn to let it roll off.  Yes, there should be limits on some things, but the protection should be for the people who have gone through a trauma.

When we claim too broad a privilege it diminishes the value and purpose for those that actually need it.  Call for it too often and for too frivolous a reason and it becomes “wolf”, except that it’s not then the false crier who suffers by the silent sufferer.  And much like surface tension in an overly full cup of tea, once broken the spillage is uncontrollable.

Let’s be more judicious in calling out the need for safe spaces.  Let’s learn to hear and manage those reactions, take away the power they have over us.  Be sensitive to actual people who have experienced actual harm.  But not call “safe zone” just because our feelings are hurt.

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Standing with….

The flow of history is strange, with the eddies and currents that form, disperse, and come back to form again.  I’m mindful a commitment that I made, and now need to fulfill.

I just finished an abridged biography of the amazing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which reminded me of another  great German name, Martin Niemoller.  He is most famously known for the poem “First They Came”

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I made a post on a smaller social media site there I quoted this, and made a commitment to remember this and to support it. And so to fulfill my commitment, I need to speak out and state that….
I stand with the LGBT community, for civil liberties, for civil ceremonies of loving relationships, and against discrimination and hatred.
I stand with Muslims seeking the peaceful practice of their faith and their lives, the way I am able to practice mine in this country.
I stand with the immigrants, who seek the type of life that I have and are willing to risk everything in the journey to here to have it.
I stand with the refugees who flee all they have ever known, all that they have, in order to simply live.
And, I stand with America in continuing to be the land of Liberty, the land of welcome, the land of waves of immigrants assimilating into society, strengthening us, and helping us to be the beacon of light we have been for so many years.

 

 

No, God didn’t….

One of the more disturbing quotes I’ve seen since the election came from Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and an evangelical leader in his own right. I have, until now, had the greatest respect for Franklin Graham and the great good that has been done by Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.  However, his politics has become increasingly far right in recent years.   The quote I found upsetting was “….I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.”

No, God didn’t.  At least not the God I’ve known and worshiped.

I do not believe that God intervened in the election  on the politics of one side, because it would mean that God would be endorsing the politics and morals (or lack thereof) of the winning side. I do not believe that God intervened for the prayers of hundreds of thousands of Trump evangelicals and ignored the prayers of the hundred of thousands of anti-Trump Christians (yes, you can be Christian and be anti-Trump). I understand that the political evangelical community supported Trump over Clinton because of Trump’s anti-abortion stance (although it’ll be interesting to see how that works out).  I understand that many of that community would support a perceived pro-Christianity/anti-Muslim stance (from a man who has said he hasn’t had to ask God for forgiveness, because he hasn’t done much wrong, according to his own words in the campaign).  But did God intervene in the election to support a man who doesn’t need to involve God (Trump’s words)? A man who was unfaithful to his first two wives? A man who failed to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s in his taxes, or render unto God what is His? A man who has said he has little to ask God’s forgiveness for? Or whose whole campaign was the antithesis of the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)?  A man who used blatant lies about a birth certificate and faith to denounce, challenge, and belittle an intelligent, faithful man?

I am tired of the evangelical “christian” community invoking God’s name for all manner of things to make some political statement, usually one with some aspect of hate, division, self-righteousness.  This isn’t the first time the evangelical community has done this.  It has happened with California droughts, with AIDS, with Katrina, with Sandy.  And now this.  I see no respect for God or His word in this politicizing of events, especially in a case where the alleged benefactor is so totally an anathema to the Gospel of love and grace.

I wonder, though.  Perhaps the evangelicals should consider a case where God did answer the prayers of a people…prayers that were perhaps as equally based politics.  The Israelites wanted a king, they wanted one badly.  So God gave them one, Saul.  He was not what they hoped for, and in their answered prayer their relationship with God was forever altered, for the worse.

Whether in direct actions by the new President, or in the inevitable backlash of the rest of the country, I wonder if this “intervening” will work out the way they think.

#HoCoFaith

Civics

I wonder if perhaps we all need a serious civics lesson.

Not a lesson in civility (although God knows we desperately need that!) but in civics, the study of American government. I don’t know when they stopped teaching it, but it seems they must have abandoned its teaching sometime after I took it.  Watching the news and the protests, it appears that many have forgotten all about what the system is about, how it operates, what checks and balances are and why they are important.

I first became aware of this with some of the extreme right, and their fears.  The fears expressed were that the power of the President was sufficient to allow him to ban all guns, and to outlaw Christianity.  Of course, if the President had that power, I suspect some (several?) would have used it.   These, interestingly, are the same people who think the President can unilaterally build a wall and deport aliens.  Uh, no.  On all of those topics.  But I see a thread, that the fear of the power on one hand gives rise to its being used on the other.

On the other side, there seems to be some belief that the outcome of the election can be changed because it isn’t what some wanted, it isn’t what some desire.  Again…uh,no.  We have elections, and we have outcomes.  The outcome remains regardless of whether you agree with it or not.  The outcome was (in this case) arrived out without election fraud, bribery, hanging chads, or any illegal means.  Not liking the outcome and having it overturned for that reason….that just leads to anarchy, because once you do it to the candidate you don’t like the opposition will do to the candidate you do like that they don’t.  Total anarchy.

I suspect that it’s too much to expect an understanding of civics in a country where the most divisive and contentious election in memory fails to move 50% of the population to bother to even cast a vote (including a knee-taking quarterback and several quoted demonstrators on the west coast). Maybe that explains why half of those that did apparently think the President can do all manner of actions without regard to the law, courts, or Congress.

Maybe we need to bring Schoolhouse Rock back :/