Unaccountable

Any group of people with power or authority, who are not held accountable in some way, will end up doing bad things.
 
If you see any group; cops, politicians, priests, judges, jailers, professors, doctors, dentists, business tycoons, psychologists, faith healers, karate instructors, whatever… anyone with authority over others… who is trying to ward off attempts to check on their behavior either is doing something unethical or are afraid they are.
 
It’s not as if people set out to do bad things, generally, but the first slip happens, and if there’s no blow-back there are fewer reasons to fight against that next slip. If there are rewards for slipping, then pretty soon you have institutionalized secrecy as a rule for group membership…
 

“I don’t need to march for any rights,” she said.

I spotted this post on Facebook today written by a Trump supporter in response to the women’s march, a woman with an Hispanic-sounding last name.

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I am not a victim. I don’t need to march for any rights. I have the same rights as anyone else. I’m not raising a victim either. So let’s call today’s activities what they really are, an anti Trump rally for prochoice people. What a bunch of bullies and so much hate speech (scarlet johansen verbally attacking a woman – Ivanka Trump and Madonna talking of her fantasies to blow up OUR White House). I don’t want my daughter looking up to any of those nasty women.

Anyone involved in this farce, I am disappointed in you for being a part of such hypocrisy. You are not victims. I would have so much more respect for you if you just called it ‘Women marching against Trump in fear of losing (abortion) choice.’ I stand behind your right to march for that. Just be honest about what you’re doing.

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I want to discuss this point-by-point, so I’m including the entire thing. I’m also going to write about some things that are at least implied by her profile.

Point one: A woman wrote this. Women only slightly older than I am have told me about rights they only gained within our lifetimes. She seems to assume that, because she has these rights now, that she’ll always have them. Many, many, many women and men have fought for over 200 years to get to the point where she can feel confident that she has the same rights as the men around her. I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that she has these rights in part because ‘nasty women’ stood up to social pressure to fight for them.

Point two: A person with a minority last name, Hispanic in origin, wrote this. There are American citizens of Hispanic descent in the US today who face daily discrimination, including being subject to unequal policing and discrimination in the workplace. She lives in an urban area in North Carolina, so it’s possible she herself doesn’t see such discrimination, but I suspect that it would be an eye-opening experience for her to drive through some of the states along the Mexican border. Even in North Carolina, though, it’s probably only her economic status that’s shielding her. I hear people casually referring to Hispanic folks with really ugly racist terms, and assuming/implying that “the Mexicans” are only capable of being roofers, landscapers, or house maids. I wonder if she’d be comfortable being addressed with any of those terms, or lumped into those assumed limits.

Point three:I am not a victim” she says. That’s great. I’m glad that she feels safe in her life. I’d never wish any ill to her. But many of our fellow citizens are not so safe. I am able to see that just because I’m not personally being victimized, the incoming administration is putting many more of those citizens into precarious situations or outright danger.

Point four:I don’t need to march for any rights.” Nice. Apparently she doesn’t have the slightest sense of gratitude for everyone who has marched and fought for those rights.

Point five:let’s call today’s activities what they really are, an anti Trump rally for prochoice people.” I can’t call the marches that, because it would vastly understate the reasons I’ve seen my friends list for why they marched.

  1. Yes, some are pro-choice, but not all.
  2. Yes, nearly all the marchers are anti-Trump, but that wasn’t exactly a hidden motivation.
  3. I’ve seen people who are also marching against the incoming vice president and Trump’s choices for his cabinet and other administration posts; let’s not pretend Trump is the marchers’ only concern
  4. I’ve seen people marching in support of LGBT rights, which they see as being at risk with the new administration
  5. I’ve seen people marching in support of minority & immigrant rights
  6. I suspect the list is a lot longer than this.

Point six:What a bunch of bullies” The dictionary definition of ‘bully’ is: A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people. It’s essentially impossible for someone out of power to bully a person in power. I’ll ding her here for poor word choice at a minimum. Given the tone of the rest of the post, though, I would prefer to list this as a biased word choice. People are often cruel, and if the speakers were, in fact, being cruel, then I wouldn’t support that. If they were, rather, speaking emotionally and emphatically, then I totally support that.

Point seven:I don’t want my daughter looking up to any of those nasty women.” That’s fine. I hope that she models really good behavior for her daughter. I’d suggest she look carefully at her Facebook posts to see if she’s doing so. I’m also really curious as to whether she thinks Trump’s behavior is a good model for her offspring. Would she really feel comfortable sending her daughter out on a date with a young man who spoke about women the way Trump does? I think she’s exhibiting a double standard by defending Trump, but accusing the speakers at the march as being nasty.

Point eight:You are not victims.” How can she know that? Her assumption — that everyone at those marches is as safe in their lives as she is in hers — goes beyond simple privilege into territory I find offensive. She is invalidating the concerns of millions of other Americans just because those concerns aren’t hers. Outrageous.

Point nine: In her second paragraph, she accuses the march of being a farce, and the marchers of being hypocrites. To use the word “farce” to describe hundreds of thousands of people taking (in many cases) days out of their lives to express outrage and concern about a long list of political and social issues is just plain slander. It makes me doubt her claim that she would stand behind the right to march against Trump and for reproductive rights. She reinforces my doubt with her accusation of hypocrisy, because, again, the marchers have worked really hard to list their concerns on social media, on the signs they carried, and in innumerable blog posts, speeches, and interviews over the last two months. I see no hidden agendas, no hypocrisy.

Final point: I saved this for the last, because it would have been redundant to make it for each point above. To assume that — because you have a right — you will always have that right, is to ignore history and ignore all the people who fought and sometimes died for these rights. Rights, once gained, need to be actively protected for many years, and jealously guarded from attempts to diminish them.

To return to the subject line of this post… Why are people marching? People are marching to keep and extend the rights that this woman takes so much for granted.

Marcher in New York City on Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Robert Stribley, used with permission.

Marcher in New York City on Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Robert Stribley, used with permission.

Trump… and a meditation on buying stuff to make yourself feel better.

Most of us know — or suspect — that we don’t always buy things because we need them, but because we think we’ll feel better/more complete. Advertisements and reviews can hint that you’ll be better looking/cooler/more manly/more well-liked (or whatever) if you just had this watch, or that jacket, or the new car, blender, book (OMG the promise of books…).

Then we buy it, and often experience buyer’s remorse, or just a vague sense that it  just wasn’t right. In any case, the promised perfect future isn’t here.

Most people either run out of cash to keep trying again or go deep into debt to keep buying more/ better quality/faster/bigger/more expensive things. Some people with more money actually buy stuff and then give it away soon after to make room so they can buy the latest stuff.

Some recognize the futility and try to find other paths to personal fulfillment, or try things like volunteering instead of purchasing.

These are really hard paths, not least because our whole society is set up to keep us hoping the next gadget or guru will be The One.

Even volunteering to help people can lead to the same disappointment; “oh, look, there are still homeless people, I’ve failed again.” (I’m not trying to discourage volunteering, by the way. 🙂 I just suggest that you meditate a little on why you’re doing it. Being really clear on your motivations will probably keep you focused for longer and prevent burnout. Heck, it might even keep you from being badly used.)

But now imagine that you are so rich that you not only have marketing people manipulating you to think “this is it!
you also have hangers-on manipulating you to keep spending money because their chance for wealth depends on you thinking that.

If you’re not particularly self-aware, it’s not even likely that you’ll recognize what’s going on.

It’s certainly easy to see this pattern in Trump. If he can just build the best resort, the biggest tower, the fanciest golf course… he’ll get the adulation and satisfaction he craves.

Picture Trump in 2015: his 70th birthday is looming. He may not have many years left. He has his name on towers, golf courses, luxury resorts. It’s all a bit flat.

He sets his sights on a new project; running for president. It’s absurd, over-the-top… it’s classic Trump. Ahh, now the hangers-on are really excited. This next vanity project is one that they can not only make serious money on, but maybe even get serious power, which is the ultimate prize at this level…

It’s easy to see Trump as a buffoon; it’s less easy to remember that nearly all of us have similar base urges; we just have more obvious limits. If you make $30,000 or $100,000 a year, you’re pretty likely to run into your limits fairly soon. If you make $10,000,000 a year, your limits are probably less obvious.

I’m not saying that understanding that we have something in common with this guy means letting him off the hook. We absolutely have to fight him; and even more importantly, we have to fight the manipulators who helped him get to the point of being elected as the President of the United States, but we should at least be aware of our similarities, even if… or maybe particularly if… looking in this mirror makes us uncomfortable. I suspect that it’s hard to fight efficiently and effectively if we are in denial about our own weaknesses.

People who annoy me. November 29 installment…*

<rant>

  1. People who confuse the flag and the concepts the flag stands for.
  2. People who promote something close to worship of the American military.
    • There are MANY people who risk everything to help others. Why aren’t you in awe of those folks as well? If you can’t figure it out, you may want to contemplate whether you’ve been taken in by an elaborate marketing scheme. (Corollary: not all veterans are combat vets. I was in the Navy. I washed floors and managed storerooms. Probably most military jobs are at that level of ‘glamorous…’ keeping things running so the small minority who are fighters can be ready to do their jobs. All of these jobs are important to keep the organization in a ready state, but don’t assume every person who was in the military had some deep combat experience)
    • Any organization is made up of people. People who are given large amounts of money and power are at grave risk of being corrupted by the attractions of money and power. We should be as critical of the U.S. military as we are of any other organization, to make sure that they’re not falling into abuse of power or theft/mismanagement of resources.
    • Supporting the troops shouldn’t mean blindly supporting everything the military does. How about supporting the troops by not sending them into danger for stupid reasons? How about supporting them by taking care of them when they get home?
  3. People who think freedom of religion should only apply to their particular faith.
  4. People who assume that if you are religious you’re more moral than non-religious folks… against much evidence to the contrary.

</rant>

*prompted by current threads I’m seeing on Twitter, of course

PS: Get off my lawn.

My bias against bullies

I’ve been thinking about one of my biases, and how it undoubtedly influences my view of current events.

My entire school career, from about 3rd grade until I left school, I was the designated safe target for bullies.

My experience of trying to get help was that it leads to teachers telling you that you should not to make up stories, because those boys came from good families and would never do such things. It’s of teachers punishing me if I dared to fight back, and never protecting me or punishing my tormentors.

Nine or ten straight years of being called faggot, nerd, loser. Having my homework stolen and destroyed, having food thrown at me as I got off the bus, of being beaten repeatedly, of hiding during recess, of having drinks poured over me, of being told I was entirely worthless.

I’ve had an absolutely great life since I left school. Amazing adventures, the craziest jobs (and finally finding my niche), great friends. I no longer suspect that I’m worthless, and I don’t hang around with people who don’t value me.

But I still twitch in reaction when I hear people shouting mean things; I assume they’re targeting me, I guess, at some deep level.

When I recently learned the word “gaslighting,” I understood it — and its implications — right away. I was told for years that, essentially, the bullying was my fault. Or that I was just imagining it. Or that I was just weak and should let it roll off my back. It has taken me a long time to stop believing that.

I’m not writing this to get sympathy. That whole thing ended 38 years ago. A guy I knew in the Navy talked me down from the last serious bad reaction I had. Done.

I’m writing because when I see stories of bullying, this is why I’m more primed to believe the victim’s stories and disbelieve you when you say “that was staged” or “this is just people being too sensitive.”

So there’s my bias. I freely admit to being on the side of the underdog, not the side of the bully, the big man on campus, the Good Boy from a Good Family.