Of Common Sense and Half Truths

I often wonder what has happened to common sense.  I’d like to think my father emphasized common sense as a key foundational element in my upbringing.  Let’s go with that shall we?  I believe I have some because in a previous position, my good friend Dr. Starr used to say, “common sense isn’t.”  And then he followed that up by making me the VP of Common Sense.  I am far from perfect, as several of you can easily attest, but I think I’m pretty solidly filled with common sense.

As I take BART (aka the train) to and from work each day I’ve learned to both read and give visual clues about  needing to disembark.  People often signal their intentions.  Me, I tend to put my tablet away, put my reading glasses in my pocket and shift my murse (my nieces believe my messenger bad is really a murse, not a European carry-all) and glance toward the seatmate that will need to move.

Today, I went through my routine and the person next to me didn’t ask, they just immediately stood up.  I rarely like to stand up prior to the train stopping but I did a few seconds prior to that shake that pushes people uncomfortably together.  I moved into the aisle and she sat back down.  It was crowded, like a mosh pit at an oversold Foo Fighters show.  There was nowhere to go and the doors did not open.  2 seconds into this slight delay, a big guy pushed past me with a terse, “ ’scuse me!”  As I recovered from his shove, another woman pushed by, pushing me backward (like the mosh pit).  I politely said, “I want to get off too.”  And she cast a fearsome scowl my way.  I think whatever common sense there was lay bleeding at my feet.  30 crowded seconds later the doors opened.

Common sense has been heavy on my mind.  Yesterday as I waited for the train I stopped and wondered, “What are they thinking?”  Lines and queues are governed by common sense.  Much like stopping at a traffic light.  There is a 12 inch strip at the platform you need to stand behind while waiting for the train.  The spot the door opens is clearly marked.  But, there is no written rule of how far to stand behind that strip.  I tend to stand 6 to 12 inches behind the strip.  Keep in mind by the time the train comes there will be 20 or more people in line, curving toward the line for the next door.  Oh, and I go to the last door on the last train.

Sometimes people stay 2 or 3 feet back from other people. 12 inches is really the least you can stand back, respecting personal space and helping to make the line efficient.  Sometimes you see people much further apart as if the person in front of them is an Ebola carrier.  Yesterday, the person at the front the line was a solid 12 feet back from the stip.  And the person behind them another 5. This is a lot like the person at the stoplight who stays more than 2 car lengths behind the care in front of them.  5 or 6 feet is good at a stoplight.  35 is not.  If you need that much personal space, you should probably stay home.  It should be a law.

And then there is a new phenomenon I’ve noticed – people who believe that lines serve no purpose.  The hover around the line then push into it as it moves.  This applies to waiting for a train at commute hour, at the escalators and the turnstiles.  For the record, Chaos may be the state everything devolves to, but it is not helpful.  Common sense people:  pretend you have some.

I was debating things with my father the other night.  This was noteworthy because while it was heated and the volume went from 3 to 6, there was no yelling or name calling.  That never happens with us.  I first recall him yelling at me during the Clinton-Lewinski scandal as I had pimped her out.  I consider myself a semi-enlightened liberal, near the center and he is just to the right of Attila the Hun, parroting everything Rush, O’Reilly and Hannity tells him is true.    As you know, I believe as the good professor Jon Stewart has taught us, Fox News is Bullshit Mountain.  Of course most things those three pundits put forth (or more appropriately, spew) have their basis in fact, but they are rarely completely true.

My father and started debating social change in the US.  He pounded me for wanting to see the rate of change increase.  In his mind there is a natural speed of change and I think everything should change now.  No, I just believe that the rate is increasing and it should continue to increase.  He gets so lost in the hype that common sense gets lost.  This is sad, because I’ve always looked to him as fountain of common sense.

The rate of change in technology keeps increasing.  Why should our understanding of societal issues and civil rights not move as well?  Are we a static society content to keep things as they have been?  Using that logic, we might have prevented the auto industry from taking form to protect the buggy whip business.  We might just now be learning to build factories and decreasing our dependence on the manual loom.  As information grows and we our capacity for learning increases with each new baseline, the rate of change speeds up.  I’m not looking to change the world today.  But I am looking to support the good changes that are taking place and help move the needle forward, not back.

As the topic shifted to racism and police killing blacks unnecessarily in this country, he pulled out what I’m sure came from Bill O’Reilly, “More whites are killed by the police, than blacks.”  Of course I researched it.

Well hell, that’s true.  Or should I say half true; it is totally misleading.  Let’s look at the facts:

  • From 1980 to 2012 44% of people killed by police where white.
  • From 1999 -2011 2,151 whites were killed compared to 1,130 blacks.

Washington Times 4/21/2015

So yes, in gross numbers more whites were killed.  Lies, damn lies and statistics, right? But since the black population of the US is less than one fifth that of the white population, Blacks are almost 4 times more likely to be shot and killed  by police than whites.  Think about that.  That is not a nominal statistical fluctuation; that is a trend!  That, gentle reader,  is racism.   An indicator of the institutional racism that Fox News wants us to believe doesn’t exist.  I disagree.

Now, do I believe all police are racists?  Absolutely not.  Do I believe some are?  Without question.  The issue is how many and what do we do?  We’ve seen too many occasions where the police abuse or use unreasonable force with blacks.  Choking a man for selling cigarettes.  Shooting a man in the back for running from a broken tail light citation.  Everything in Fergusson!   Where are the examples of police abusing white people?  I don’t recall seeing those.  I’m sure it happens, but much more rarely than with minorities.  You may not believe there is a larger problem, but I believe there is.

Part of me is beginning to think that perhaps local law enforcement is beacon to the power hungry, to the racists in our society.  We even see horrid examples of racism in the liberal city of San Francisco.  So when my father asks if I think more than 5% of the police nationally are racists, I immediately answer yes. I hope I’m wrong, but I sincerely doubt it.

As a counterpoint, he immediately points to Baltimore and the riots and looting, while the police were told to stay back and let things happen.  We all saw it on TV, but did we see the same thing?  I saw an oppressed group reacting as the only way they felt they could.  I didn’t like it; I didn’t excuse it.  I understood it.  Common sense sometimes means seeing things from someone else’s point of view.  Seeing that racial oppression has not benefitted this country, is this really where we want to make our stand?  I believe most of us see there is problem in this country.  It is uncomfortable to acknowledge, let alone talk about.  We as society, as a loud single voice need to make sure the needle keeps moving, that change keeps taking place.

I say we have a problem in the country.  We are finally ready as a nation to see it for what it is and, as a country, are ready to acknowledge it.  We need to fix it and it will take a strong majority.  You may disagree, but my common sense says this is needed and is coming.  Why don’t you help be part of the solution, rather than perpetuating the problem? It’s only common sense.

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Politics, Lies and Hate Oh My! Trump that!

A common meme on the Internet this week is that the Confederate Flag has lost its fight with Skittles.  Cute, but in a sense it diminishes the two major sea changes we’ve just seen.  As a nation, we’ve recognized that the Confederate Battle Flag is a demeaning reminder of slavery and treason (Yes Virginia, secession was treason. I’m glad we can cut the “Northern Aggression” bullshit).  Voices have been heard and it has come down.  If you want to fly it, great, it is your right.  But let’s be honest — most people will see your flag in the same vein that they view Swastika tattoos.  It is not good.

And the Supreme Court verified a few key things this past week, all “Jiggery-Pokery” aside.  The affordable care act was not struck down for the umpteenth time.  Turns out that intent is key.  A misused word should not remove the health care of millions of Americans.  I know it does not affect you, but it affects many.  Get over it.  It is the law and it makes sense.

Speaking of making sense, marriage makes sense, if you want to be married.  There is no gay marriage, there is just marriage.  And while my religious friends may be having a heart attack that their religions are being forced to perform weddings for people they find unfit, they have totally missed the boat as usual.  Marriage started as a religious act so that the Catholic Church could access and control wealth and property.  End of Story.  Today, marriage is as much a legal necessity as anything else.  If you are not married, benefits can’t be had.  Want to visit your lover in the hospital?  It’s a crapshoot.  Want to inherit?  That will better be iron clad.  And those of you that are very religious, calling same sex relationships every nasty name in the book?  They don’t want you to marry them.  Please take your fear mongering to the bunker under your house.  That’s where it belongs.

I was struck this past week by the extreme amount of hate speech I saw this week.  A few key item included:

  • OBAMA Comes of the Closet!
  • Obama is Blackmail Judge Roberts!
  • Obama has corrupted the government – all 3 branches are now legislative!
  • Obama Wants to Take Your Guns Away!
  • Churches are now required to perform wedding ceremonies for same sex couples!
  • Obama is a Dictator with more Executive Orders Than any Other President!
  • Mexico Sends Rapists to the US! (Trump says what everyone is thinking)
  • Our Leaders are Stupid! (Thank you again Donald Trump)

I don’t know about you, but I felt like I was reading The Weekly World News at the check stand.  All that was missing is Michelle Obama is Bigfoot’s Love Slave!  Was there ever any better entertainment than the WWN?

Freedom of speech and civil liberties are cornerstones of our country, I’d never deign to suggest otherwise.  But freedom of speech does not allow one to yell FIRE! In a theater or remove the responsibility for not engaging in slander or libel.  You might not be arrested for your words, but they do have consequences.  You might lose your job. You might lose your friends.  There could be other issues.  Freedom of speech is not a silver bullet.  And yes the Holocaust was real, not matter what the deniers say.

That brings us to my friend Donald Trump.  I’m not sure if I’m more appalled at his bombast, his gall or his belief that people will buy into what he says.  He tells us in his presidential announcement that Mexico sends the US its drug dealers and rapists. And then he’s surprised that the largest Latino network wants to cancel its contract with him.  Good for them.  His threats of lawsuits shouldn’t matter.  His behavior crosses well over the line of decency and there must be consequences.  OJ went free.  I’m pretty sure that Univision, may have to go to court, but they’ll win.  Happily.  The good will they will receive from their audience will far out way the threatened $15 million law suit Trump threatens.

Of course I have another idea.  If I ran Univision, I would show Trumps beauty contests.  Of course I would also send interns to film it.  I’d hire catty mean girls (14-16 years old, of course) to announce it.  I would also run it at 3am, with commercials for the Hot Belt (!) running every 5 minutes to add to the drama.  Perhaps allowing viewers to live tweet pictures of Trump with donkeys and tequila to show on the bottom crawl.  I would accentuate the side show it is.   I think creatively fulfilling this contract might be a better statement than the current pullout.  The opportunity for satire is here, by the burro full.

But back to my main point.  Why do we hate?  Why do we tell ourselves that it is ok to twist the truth into pretzels and then get offended when rational minds question and debate the illogic that is so pervasive today?  I’m not trying to be politically correct.  I am far from PC.  I believe giving every kid who participates a trophy has its roots in a good idea, but the results suck.  I’m tired of hearing “but I tried” as an excuse for failure.  Sometimes it is very clear when people don’t try.  Let’s not be PC.  But can we be responsible? Politically Responsible.  I think the current environment allows too many people to believe they don’t need to be responsible. There are no consequences to their words and attitude.

Today the world is both larger and smaller.  The internet is helping to create a new type of isolationism and it is harmful.   Take a good hard look at what you say, what you promote, what you inspire.  Is it good?  Do you still believe there is a black conspiracy to take down police departments everywhere?    Do you still believe, what you are saying is right and justified?  Perhaps you should stop lying to yourself.

I think it is time to rethink our behavior and attitudes.  It is past time.  I believe we need to differentiate between the political and religious hate mongering that is taking place and freedom of speech.  Take Donald Trump’s latest vomit of hate.  How can we in good conscious not label him as racist? Not hold him accountable for his unsubtle call for others be racist?  Maybe it’s a publicity stunt?  I can’t imagine anyone would vote for him for president.    Honestly, I can’t believe anyone does business with him and I hope every Latin owned or themed business chooses not to do business with him, his businesses and his family.  I bet Ivanka loves burritos.  No Burrito For YOU!

This is the land of opportunity, where all men are created equal.  Where we take in immigrants that others reject (you know The New Colossus), “yearning to be free.”  Let’s be free.  But let’s be responsible.  I don’t recall anyone saying that George W. Bush made a deal with devil to gain the White House.  Nor did I ever hear anyone say Dick Cheney is evil – wait strike that, it is hard to argue that one.  If we are to fulfill our potential and truly be a great nation, a great melting pot of various ethnicities, beliefs and skills, we need to differentiate between what we believe, what’s a lie and what’s inflammatory.  I believe we have too long allowed hate to permeate our way of life and that both taints our achievements and impedes our ability to succeed.  If we are to improve and reach new heights, I believe this concept must be considered.

Allowing this behavior and these lies in the name of free speech are hurtful.  It’s a very nebulous line sometime.  For instance, if Bill O’Reilly believes something it must be true.  He was adamant there is not systemic racism in the US.  It depends what your definition of systemic is.  After all, if Fox, the arbiter of news laden with fair and balanced facts, says there is no racism there must not be any.  It is Fox News, not Fox Opinions, right?  Of course perhaps this is their way of hiding the racial divide that many are trying to breach and close.  Or its ratings.  And yes, there is still systemic racism.  I know it can be hard to see with your head in the sand, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Perhaps the noted diplomat and renowned healer of our times, Donald Trump can help us fix these issues.  You are right, I don’t think so either.  But what the fuck is his endgame?  I he really that egotistical that he believes he can win?  Even Marco Rubio’s kids don’t think so.

Footnotes:

All three branches of government have a hand in determining, making and validating laws.  It is that whole checks and balances thing.  Civics people, High School Civics.

Everyone wants to take your guns away.  This is not the 18th century.  We don’t need guns in every home.  There are exponentially more murders and crimes with citizen owned guns than there are justifiable shootings.  This isn’t the Wild West, no matter what Texans think.  The NRA and its lobby have way too much power.  But everyone else want’s your guns.  Seriously.  Of course the NRA can have too much power here, but does that mean that every other country has it wrong?  Fucking Europeans and their socialistic gun laws.  No wonder every American hates to vacation in London, Paris, Germany.  Not enough guns and shootings. Wait.  L

Obama not only has made fewer executive orders than almost any president of the 35 years, he has the fewest per year of all.  Bush 41 shouldn’t be ignored because he only got 4 years, not 8.  And let’s be honest, Obama didn’t make torture (I’m sorry – enhanced interrogation techniques) legal.  He didn’t stop medical research to appease the religious right.  (By the way, I fully support avoiding certain activities that are contrary to your religious belief.  But since it doesn’t offend mine, please don’t tell me how to live or act.  Impeding medical research on YOUR religious belief is wrong.  You don’t like abortion? Great, don’t get one. I respect that.  But don’t tell someone she can’t because YOU don’t believe in it.  That’s not too neighborly; it is preachy.  I won’t knock on your door to tell you are wrong.  Don’t impact how I can live or act.  It is my right.  Just as your religion is yours.  I may not agree, but I respect it.  Please respect my beliefs and the beliefs of others.)  Of course Obama did sign an order so that we can prepare for climate change.  How does that effect your ability to say “It’s all LIES!” and impact your life?  That’s right it fucking doesn’t.  Ignore climate change.  Ignore what you want.  But don’t get in my way of making this world better.  I’ll let you stay and share.  Remember when you thought lead in the gasoline was a good idea.  I thought not.