Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hide and Seek

Sometimes the weight of life can really press on you.

This oppressive summer, adjusting to a weird work schedule, worrying about career, worrying about money, worrying about society, worrying about political ramifications... blah blah blah. The mind is insanely powerful, but it's also something that ... has a mind of its own. 

Think about your dreams. You have no control over them. You're just along for the ride. Those dreams can be pleasant, or very unpleasant. Deal, because you're not stopping them.

There's been a lot of loose madness this year. Aurora. Wisconsin. Syria. I think we're living in a really unsettled time. The latest insanity is the debate that flared up Sunday when a congressman who could become a senator issued forth some idiotic, anti-reality views about rape.

It's 2012. Yet we have people who are clearly out of touch with reality in a position to be joining others like him in determining the rules the rest of us have to live by.

People are arguing about whether or not rape is "legitimate." How can this be?


In a couple of days my daughter starts college. I'm worried about her. More worried than I know how to deal with.

I know that college can be a dangerous place. The world can be a dangerous place. Hell, it IS a dangerous place. I wonder if she's ready. And she is 18 and smarter than everyone else so the things I want her to think about are falling on deaf ears.

Never have the rifts among us been greater. For all the progress humanity has made, why is there still so much strife? Whites vs. Blacks and Browns. Men vs. Women. Left vs. Right. Religion vs. Religion. Rich vs. Poor. Straight vs. Gay. There's so much division. It's overwhelmingly sad.

How do we fix this? I feel like we're all so far apart.


I saw a guy yesterday riding a scooter with a phone pressed between his ear and his shoulder. Stupid, risky and... why? What could be so important? And I heard a story of a young girl looking at her phone and walking right into the side of a car.

Some people think the world has gotten smaller, and that technology has brought us together. With Facebook we are able to find long lost people and keep those links to our old lives open. Everyone has a phone so we can talk to anyone at any time. That's connectedness, right?



I'm not sure it is. This technology has put a cold layer, a fence, a DISTANCE, between us. Everything is done electronically. Very little is done with a truly human interaction. You don't see someone's face. You see a picture. You don't smell them, share their air, see them smile or unless on a phone hear them laugh. You don't notice how their hair is messed up or falls a certain way, you don't see their mannerisms, you can't touch them.

Instead they sit alone and you sit alone and try to pretend that you are together.

I'm not sure I like the way this has gone.


I read yesterday that half a billion people were "unfriended" on Facebook last year. I've contributed to that. But it's kind of cold. Click a button and someone is "deleted."

I know some people who have programs that tell them when and who has done this. They get pissed when their little collection breaks free.

But what these people don't get is that human interaction isn't a contest, and you shouldn't be keeping score.


This weird dynamic that is "just the way things are" today is part of what worries me about my daughter's impending collegiate experience.

Kids starting college this week are the 9/11 generation. My daughter was 7 when that happened. Probably one of the first things these freshmen vividly remember is this terrible thing, but at the same time... was it, is it, real to them? Even those of us who knew what it was about had this odd feeling that it almost seemed like a Jerry Bruckheimer action scene.

So within months we were at war, and within two years, another. These kids have lived during war almost their whole lives, but with one huge difference: Unlike wars past, they never knew that one day they'd have to be the ones fighting them. I think when it was a requirement that people had to perform military service, there was a lot more pressure to make sure that human capital wasn't wasted.

There's a significant disconnect among young people. That's another war: Reality vs. Perception. Kids today think "reality" is what they see on TV. They even call it "reality television" even when it's impossible for that intrusive and inherently artificial setting to be real.

With the erosion of journalism and the partisanship that's in place and on public display on TV and all around us, Michael Moore was prescient and right. We live in fictitious times.

It takes work to find the truth because it isn't readily available. If it doesn't come to us, we're too distracted to seek it out. And if it lasts too long, we're too ADHD to soak it in.

How does a young person fight through all this? What if they haven't had the guidance to know how to find out what's really real?

Clearly even a lot of people of my generation are disconnected from reality. Otherwise, there would be no need to use a term like "forcible rape."


Into this crazy world my daughter sets forth.

I feel like the stakes are higher for her, and that she and many others on her journey are unaware of the dangers.

I don't want harm to befall her. I worry about her being around Wooderson types and the other con artists in that world. And there's not much I can do about it. If I thought prayer would work, I would try it.

My daughter isn't stupid, but she's inexperienced, and you don't have to be dumb to make mistakes.

I made mistakes, and I did dumb things, and I was lucky not to get more burned by any of them than I was. But I wasn't a woman, so I already had an easier path regardless.

I had also seen, by age 18, a lot of negativity that I associated with alcohol. So I never really drank that much, and certainly less than 75 percent of the people around me. I don't like barfing, I don't like falling down, I don't like getting the spins, I don't like having to pee every five minutes, I don't like peeing on myself, I don't like drunks. So alcohol had less appeal. I preferred to be a little more in control. And there were other ways to maintain control and still have fun.

Nevertheless, when I went to college I (like a lot of kids) struggled with how to manage all that freedom. I allotted too much time to fun, and not enough to the goal. And I paid for that, for a long, long time. 

And I was lucky to live in an age that was a little less mean. And a lot more connected. You couldn't tell someone to fuck off on Facebook, you had to tell it to their face. And that inhibited some of that bluster and bravado.

So now you CAN tell someone to fuck off on Facebook, but the aftermath can be the same as if you did say it to their face. And as we've seen in recent years, there are plenty of unbalanced people running around out there.

I don't know if I could NAME 500 people, much less 500 I consider "friends." Try it. Name 500 people.

Hell, name 100. Don't count family. Go.

Thought so.

Yet we invite hundreds of more or less strangers into our lives. And the more you add, the more likely that some of those people are going to be ... out there.

That's why it was probably better when your "friends" were usually people you actually met.

Now, the online access has changed MY life. I met my M online, and have met some true friends online. These people I hope are in my life forever. So I'm not suggesting that the online world should be chucked, that's ridiculous. But there needs to be a balance, and there needs to be perspective.

And sometimes the perspective of the young takes a little more seasoning than they've gotten to that point.


All these thoughts were spurred by the song posted at the top of this, "Hide and Seek" by Ani DiFranco. When men can hold government office and not know what "rape" is, it should worry any man who has a daughter set to enter the adult world. Ani's song talks about the abuse men perpetrate against women. These women are then left to deal with the consequences, emotionally for the rest of their lives.

And, if the GOP has its way, the women who are raped would be forced to bear the children of their abusers.

That's INSANE.

And that's the world my daughter is potentially subject to. And it scares me, because she doesn't know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Policy Papers: Politics

It's an election year.

If you don't know that, we've already got a problem.

There's a phrase, "intellectual curiosity," that is something I aspire to. I like knowing things. I hunger to learn more. Every day I read, trying to find out more, to be more informed, more aware. This is what drew me to journalism and why even today, as journalism struggles to reinvent itself, it is appealing.

I'm very troubled by the loss of journalism, and the loss of truth in our world. This is especially true of politics.

Like them or not, you're going to be affected by politics. It's easy to believe that politics on a national or global scale are too big to be relevant to your daily life. The irony is that you would not have the life you have right now if it wasn't for politics, because politics = government, and government provides your roads, power grid, communications, schools, law enforcement, public health and safety regulations... the list is literally endless.

Unless you live in a tent somewhere on an island that you own or no one knows about, you're touched by politics.

In my introductory piece, I talked about how important it is to me to be honest. This is also something that lured me into journalism. I believed that it was a place where honesty and truth were paramount; the kind of journalist I wanted to be didn't take sides. Instead, a journalist gathered as many facts as possible on a topic, and left the interpretation to the quotes from experts and the readers. A good journalist doesn't have to take a side; a good journalist just reports the facts, and the truth should be obvious.

Simplistic? Somewhat. Naive? I don't think so.

In 2012, we live in an age of propaganda. When I was in J school, "advocacy journalism" was a little frowned upon. Again, let the facts speak for themselves. Today, almost everything is advocacy journalism. It's gotten that way because of Fox News.

Fox News is NOT JOURNALISM. It's a political operation funded by right-wing operatives and meant to push a right-wing point of view. Check this piece on Fox mastermind Roger Ailes in a May 2011 Rolling Stone article.

And yet, a large percentage of people consider this outlet their main source of information.

My problem with Fox is that they are great at inflaming public opinion among the right-wing base, and not great about actual facts. And what are proclamations that are not grounded in facts? OPINION.

Newspapers used to clearly mark their opinion pages. You knew that someone was bringing a particular slant to a topic.

I just want a world based on facts.

So this is why I have a problem with some people at this time of year. A lot of people think of me as a "liberal." On many topics I have liberal views. I also have very conservative views on some things. I am amused at the things I think about... socially, I'm extremely "out there." Fiscally, I'm pretty conservative. I find wisdom across the board... I don't know many people who think that both the Occupy movement and Alex Jones have ideas worth pondering.

I've voted for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Green Party candidates. I've voted for candidates with no publicly disclosed political affiliation. I vote for people who I think are honest, and who I think will do the best job.

I don't think America is best-served by the current almost exclusively two-party system. That is not freedom of choice. Gore Vidal said they are just different wings of the Money Party, and more and more he seems to have perfectly captured that reality.

I was in Dallas when Ross Perot made noise in the 1992 election. He wound up with almost a fifth of the popular vote. That's as close, by a huge amount, to a legitimate third party as I've seen in my lifetime. What undid Perot was some inconsistency in his attack -- he didn't have a machine like the Democratic or Republican Party behind him -- an out-of-left-field VP choice, and some personal idiosyncracies that were picked apart by the establishment. Had he been more strategic, history could have been very different. What would the world have been like without Clinton, or with a third party rising up?

The two-party system should be abolished. There should be no party machinery. It's too limiting. The Electoral College should be done away with as well. It's an antiquated idea that works against the "one-person, one-vote" concept. We're (theoretically) a much more sophisticated country than we were 200 years ago. Time to let some old ideas fade into history.


I vote the way I do because I value facts over opinions. Although I lost a friend last night over politics, he could have kept me in the dialogue if he hadn't merely spouted political postures and slogans, but instead came at me with facts.

You say Obama will cut $700 billion from Medicare? That's true, according to the International Business Times. It will do so by making the program more efficient, and turn those savings into funding for the Affordable Care Act. In other words, he's going to save $700 billion in the next 10 years.

The GOP plan is to gut ACA, and give seniors "vouchers" to pay for health care. In other words, privatize health care. Because that works so well, doesn't it? If health care costs go up so that the vouchers don't cover everything? Seniors will have to find a way to cover the difference.

Those are the facts. My opinion? That's not right. I've been around enough older people to know how tight most of their finances are. To me, the idea of a political action that puts their health at risk is unconscionable.

So I can't vote with the GOP on this one.

What about gay rights? Can't go with the GOP on that. Gay rights = human rights. You don't have to approve of anyone's sexual orientation, but you can't legislate against it. At one time, legislation existed against minorities, against women, against interracial marriage, against a lot of things that are matter-of-fact now.

What about abortion? C'mon now... is anyone FOR abortion? Not even pro-choice advocates want you to have an abortion. What they want is the FREEDOM to choose what you do with your body.

If you don't support gay marriage, don't marry someone of your gender. If you don't want an abortion, no one is forcing you to have one. Also, if you are a man and you think you have the right to legislate what a woman does with her body, then does that mean you would give women the same rights to determine what you do with yours?


Government should look out for us. Because government should BE us. Too often now it's portrayed as "us against them." TV and millions of Web idiots paint government as waging a "war" on women, Christmas, Christianity, etc.


Government is us. We put these people there. If you don't like what they're doing, get off your ass and change it. Join Occupy. Run for office. Write a letter. DO SOMETHING other than just bitch about it for a few minutes before you sit down to watch "Jersey Shore" reruns.

Just be real about your politics, and your expectations. If you're too lazy to find out the facts, you probably shouldn't be voting anyway. It's not unimportant. Be a citizen. Respect your rights to vote, respect the freedom you have. Freedom does not come without a cost, but if you blow off your responsibility to know the facts, you're not respecting freedom. And if you can't do that, you can't be my friend.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Policy Papers: An introduction

Because of a significant amount of recent turmoil, and because it's an election year, I think it's important to be very clear about one's policies and positions.

For me, this is important stuff. I've been thinking a lot lately about my identity. Who am I?

For a large portion of my life, I was an accomplished liar and fraud. I'd say most of the people I have ever met have been equally guilty. People put on faces. Many years ago I spent some time visiting a quack therapist. This person should have never been in a position to help people, because this Doc just wasn't very good. Sometimes a rose is not a rose.

Anyway, although this doc didn't perform the work I needed, I did learn three things that were very useful. One was that to some people in the field of psychology, the concept of falling in love is seen as a sort of temporary insanity. It's irrational; people "in love" do some crazy-ass things. The doc didn't actually come up with this argument, but pointed me to a study conducted by two clinicians. I still have several copies of this paper, which I have given to certain folks.

The second valuable thing I learned was that when it seems like the world is in chaos, and you're buffeted by the storm around you... know that if you have no control over events, your efforts will be wasted. In other words, sometimes you just have to ride that thing out. Similarly, if you are someone who tries to manipulate results, you're going to have a lot of work to do, and those results may vary. Most likely, no matter how you try and shape the behavior of others to fit into your hoped-for outcome, you're likely going to fail.

Lastly, another interesting read (why did I pay this person $110 a session, exactly?) given to me compared our daily behavior to having a closet full of faces. At work we are one person, at home we are another person, on a date we are another person, behind the wheel we are another person, etc. We wear these personas depending on the situation, and in the process, we are not our true selves. We are instead either an extreme version of one particular facet of our numerous characteristics, or we are presenting an outward image that is false compared to the totality of ourselves.

On a date, guys often will open car doors, be exceedingly polite and charming, hold in farts, be chivalrous, and so on. In other social settings, guys often do none of those things. Same guy, very different results. And so, in some ways, false. Because you're not free to be fully yourself.

It is very, very difficult to be fully yourself all the time. Societal constricts frown on going barefoot in an office environment, for example. A guy I work with now has some visible tattoos. He has to hide them before he goes to work. He has to play ball with someone else's arbitrary standard. His body art has absolutely no affect on his ability to do the job. And he's not really in a public setting where it's likely he could be seen as representing the company. But still, he has to project an image based on someone's idea of appropriate.

This seems deeply fucked up to me.

Think of the energy we waste in stifling our true selves in these various settings. What kind of a toll does that take on our mental health? Subtle though it may be, by conforming to these arbitrary rules, we are being told that there are parts of our personality, parts of our worldview, that are unacceptable.

It's dishonest.

George Carlin joked, brilliantly, that if honesty was the best policy, that made dishonesty the second-best policy.

But dishonesty is not healthy.

It took me a long, long, long, long, too long time to learn this. For years... decades... I was a manipulator... a deceiver... I was not a good person. Most of the time I felt like no one was really being hurt by this, that what I was doing was not solely in my own best interests, but also in the "big picture" best interests. I might have been right, many times. Or most of the time. But the fact is, if we all weren't so goddam busy playing these stupid mind games, we'd just shoot straight with one another, and truth would win out.

That's where I am now, and I'm fortunate that that is where I have been for some time now. I was never good at office politics because they are counter to the mission, which is to do the best job possible. I always try and do the best job possible. I want life to be like the NFL: a meritocracy. If you are good, you will have success. If you suck, you will fail. It's just business.

When I interviewed in LA in May, it was the best process I have ever been through as far as objectivity was concerned. You had to nail three parts of the process and you either did, or you didn't. No charming people. No backslap/secret handshake. Do or do not; there is no try.

I missed that shot, even though I think I did very, very well. I was bummed to not get it, but I also know that it was fair.

Honesty is fair. It's sometimes hard to accept, but it's fair.

I strive to always be honest with you, and you, and you, too. It's important to me to be truthful and transparent. I'm human so sometimes I will fail, but I will always try and do the right thing and say what I think. I will always try and provide an accurate representation of  myself, because I respect you too much to bullshit you.

My policy starts with honesty.