Let’s Re-Claim “Woke”

It’s about respect, not about censorship

I’m going to posit a new working definition of the word Woke.

Woke: Respecting the history and life experience of historically marginalized people and treating historically marginalized people with dignity.

Hopefully that’s a pretty straightforward definition for most of you. Because if that definition stands, then the opposite is also true.

Anti-Woke: Disrespecting the history and life experience of historically marginalized people and treating historically marginalized people without dignity.

I think that second definition is more useful. Sure, you can be anti-woke. Sure, you can disrespect marginalized people – but if you are disrespecting marginalized people get the f**k out of the public square and come back when you have calmed down and can behave with dignity and respect again. This doesn’t require the government to step in. It doesn’t require arguments about the first amendment. It requires adults to step in when someone has lost their head and setting them straight. And if you refuse to show marginalized people respect and dignity? Then we all know who you are and what you are about.

But, if you aren’t able to respect or dignify marginalized people… move out of the United States. Because this country is filled with folks who have historically been marginalized, daily life is going to be rough for you. Move away. This country is the land of the free and the home of the brave. If you aren’t brave enough to show people basic respect, you aren’t brave enough to be an American. You are too fragile to be American.

This brings me to a fundamental misunderstanding of humanity in our modern social media platforms. Facebook figured out that posts that elicit anger get more interactions, keeping more people on their platform longer. They didn’t realize that the anger is people’s innate instinct to reign in people who are being assholes. So the more they boosted asshole content, the more people felt the need to reign it in. Why does this matter? Because if you are going to facilitate the public square, you need to actually facilitate it. If someone is showing up and getting everyone to yell at them, it’s time to remove them and take some time to get their head straight. Not encourage their asshole behavior. When you do that, when you let regular people see that no one is going to stop the assholes, then you give the space over to the assholes. Without regulation, bad actors do whatever they want. You have now ceded your public square to the worst of us. Whatever discussions that educate, provoke the intellect, create friendly and loving connections, and stir the soul have now taken a back seat to assholes yelling.

Facebook and Twitter (every other social media platform seems to aspire to be them) have created a public square and signed up to be the facilitators. They seem not to realize, though, that the role of the facilitator is the most important role in the public square. If people can’t trust the facilitator to facilitate fairly and to make sure the public square is a safe place to be, they will leave. Twitter, at this moment, seems to be wrapped up in thinking they have to enforce everyone’s first amendment rights. But Twitter has no obligation to let everyone speak whatever they want on their platform. In fact, the opposite is true. If they allow everyone to say whatever, then the entire place will devolve into bots and assholes yelling at each other. Twitter, if it wants to maintain it’s user base, needs to let it’s users know that they can safely be there. So far, it has failed to do so. The first amendment only applies to the US Government. Twitter is not the government.

If you actually value conversations that help people to change how they view the world, you have to ensure that they are experiencing psychological safety. What is psychological safety?

For those of you who need a url, check out this url: https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/what-is-psychological-safety-at-work/

If you are a free speech absolutist, then you aren’t going to stop people from being punished, humiliated, or shouted down for sharing their ideas. Eventually, you are going to cede your entire space to the yellers – because people who want to do other things aren’t going to hang out in your space.

So how do you reign in assholes without making them feel like they are being targeted for their deeply held beliefs? That’s a hard thing to do. It takes a combination of skills and abilities – and even the people who are good at it are continually bumping up against new challenges in that endeavor. But we have no evidence that people who write code for a living are especially skilled in that work.

Of course, all that I’m talking about unfolds over time. We’re seeing the decline of facebook because they have demonstrated their inability to facilitate effectively. Twitter claims that they are doing well… but we’ll see the reality as the months and years play out.

In the meantime, folks, let’s keep showing people dignity and respect.

A Snapshot of American Well-Being

I wish there was a dashboard that we all could look at that would actually tell us where America, or any country for that matter, stood on a variety of indicators at any given moment. That way it would be real easy to actually see how things are going on a large scale in our country. For my viewing pleasure, and I hope yours as well, here is a snapshot of what I would include. I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out how to embed all of these graphs into this page so that they update automatically. If someone out there can tell me how to do that, I’d be very grateful.

Above is the Average Happiness for Twitter, courtesy of hedonometer.org. This graph starts at the very beginning of Twitter, from 2009. Below is the same graph, but for the last 18 months. You can see that the happiness being expressed on twitter has a steady climb upwards in the last 18 months. I like how helpful these folks are, that they have put notable events on the graph as well. It’s also notable that we’re currently getting back up to the happiness levels that we were at pre-Trump.

Below is the Happiness Index for the United States. This data came from the World Happiness Report, but was plotted by TheGlobalEconomy.com. Most of the rest of the graphs on this post are going to be from TheGlobalEconomy.com, so I’ll only put the source if the graph isn’t from there.

Not the sexiest looking graph in the world, but we don’t make graphs to score sexy points! I should point out, that this is the page I’m using at TheGlobalEconomy.com to make these fine graphs.

Next is GDP per capita. That little dip at the end there is the dip from 2019 to 2020.

Next is the Labor Force Participation Rate. I haven’t read a lot about why this could be happening, I’d love to see some explanations. Here is a definition of Labor Force Participation Rate, from bls.gov “The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and older that is working or actively looking for work. It is an important labor market measure because it represents the relative amount of labor resources available for the production of goods and services.”

For added context, I’m going to go back to the very beginning of this statistic being tracked on TheGlobalEconomy.com – 1990. You’ll see in 1990 that we had not hit the highest known peak yet, which we reached in 2000. We’ve been on our way down ever since.

Now to the unemployment rate, which is drastically different. This chart came directly from Google. According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, “In simple terms, the unemployment rate for any area is the number of area residents without a job and looking for work divided by the total number of area residents in the labor force.” It’s very interesting to me that the Labor Force Participation rate has been on such a steady decline since 2000, while the unemployment rate has fluctuated so drastically in the last 20 years. Could that be explained by the mass retirement of the baby boomer generation?

Here’s one that I would think would validate the experience of most Americans. The Government Effectiveness Index from the World Bank. Here is there definition: The index of Government Effectiveness captures perceptions of the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies.

The Control of Corruption Index, again from the World Bank. Definition: The index for Control of Corruption captures perceptions of the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as capture of the state by elites and private interests.

The Voice and Accountability Index is also a notable one, again from the World Bank. Definition: The index for Voice and Accountability captures perceptions of the extent to which the citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media.

I was wondering why the downward trends on the last three graphs all seemed to start in 2004-2005, then I saw this graph. It’s the Political Stability Index from the World Bank. What the heck was going on in 2004? I don’t remember things being so crazy here then. Definition: The index of Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism measures perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including politically-motivated violence and terrorism. The index is an average of several other indexes from the Economist Intelligence Unit, the World Economic Forum, and the Political Risk Services, among others.

Below is the Maternal mortality rate, from UNICEF. I don’t know why we don’t have data after 2017. You can see that 2018 had a rate of 17.4 and 2019 had a rate 0f 20.1 if you go to the CDC. The rates for those years for Non-Hispanic Black people are eye popping. Like double.

Interestingly, the Percent Income Earned by the Top 10 Percent of Earners – published by the World Bank, does not seem crazy. Or maybe it is, and I’m just used to it?

The World Bank also has Dependent People as Percent of the Working Age Population. So all of us who are working have more dependents, apparently. Definition: Age dependency ratio is the ratio of dependents–people younger than 15 or older than 64–to the working-age population–those ages 15-64. Data are shown as the proportion of dependents per 100 working-age population.

Life Expectancy will be interesting to look at once the COVID years are included.

Here’s the birth rate, births per 1000 people.

Here’s the Suicide Mortality Rate, from the World Health Organization.

Hospital Beds have been in a steady decline, per OECD. Why we don’t have data after 2017 is curious, however.

Finally, a graph that isn’t going the wrong direction! Below is Doctors per 1000 people from OECD.

Funny enough, when it comes to crime we start to get data that looks good. First is the Robbery Rate. This is from Statista.

Apparently our imprisonment rate is going down… Though I have seen other sources that have the same overall curve but with higher numbers.

As is our theft rate. This is from Statista as well.

Our homicide rate is interesting. It looks like it started to go up in 2015 or so. This graph is from Pew. Interestingly, 2015-2016 is when our indicators for happiness at the top of this page started to go down. Pew wants us to note that the 2020 data is provisional, and that the data came from the CDC.

This is the estimated homelessness rate, I found it on Statista as well. Though it looks like it originally came from HUD. As someone who works with people who are homeless, I should tell you that these numbers are rough estimates at best.

Finally, how’s COVID going? Here is the chart Google provides.

What are my takeaways from all of this data? I’ll break it down.

What’s trending poorly?
-Happiness, but it is beginning to rebound
-Labor Force Participation Rate
-Government Effectiveness
-Control of Corruption
-Voice and Accountability
-Political Stability
-Maternal Mortality
-Our amount of dependents
-Birth Rate (or is this bad?)
-Suicide Rate
-Hospital Beds
-Homicide Rate
-COVID (we’re now in a true second wave)

What’s steady?
-Percent of Income Earned by Top 10 Percent of Earners

What’s trending well?
-Life Expectancy
-Doctor Rate
-Robbery Rate
-Prisoner Rate
-Theft Rate

Overall, not good. One’s ability to be employed and avoid being the victim of property crime is trending well. But all of the indicators that are about quality of life look bad, and most of them have looked bad for a while. It’s no wonder that over the last few years some people have said that America is in decline. In some notable ways, it is. I’m tempted to link the sudden spike in our murder rate to a general feeling in our culture that there is a lack of trust and support – as illustrated by the other poorly trending indicators I have here… but that truly is just an opinion. I lean that way because there has been no corresponding spike in property crime – so the desperation that we think leads to property crime doesn’t seem to carry over to homicide.

I’m going to leave this here, all under the American Well Being category on this site. I expect I’ll only do updates once a year or so to this category, but it should continue to be easy to find when you come to my website. A big part of why I wanted to make this is so I could reference it when I need it – now it is here for you too.

The USA: A Nation at War

We’ve been at war for 206 of our 246 years.

We’ve been at war for 206 of or our 246 years of existence.

If you saw my last post, you know that I started looking at American wars as a way to see how many American Indian tribes we actually went to war with as a country. That led me further, however, to looking at all of our wars. Here is the data that I found, which I’m putting in the sort of overview that was certainly missing from my schooling when I was growing up.

We’ve engaged in 98 different conflicts. That’s one new war every two and a half years. At most, in 1918, we were in engaged in 8 conflicts at once. Many times, we’ve been engaged in seven different wars at once.

1855: Cayuse War, Apache Wars, Bleeding Kansas, Puget Sound War, Rogue River Wars, Third Seminole War, Yakima War

1856: Apache Wars, Bleeding Kansas, Puget Sound War, Rogue River Wars, Third Seminole War, Yakima War, Second Opium War

1858: Apache Wars, Bleeding Kansas, Third Seminole War, Yakima War, Second Opium War, Utah War, Navajo Wars

1865: Apache Wars, Navajo Wars, American Civil War, Yavapai Wars, Colorado War, Snake War, Powder River War

1917: Apache Wars, Yaqui Wars, Border War, Occupation of Nicaragua, United States occupation of Haiti, United States occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–1924), World War I

1918 (8): Apache Wars, Yaqui Wars, Border War, Occupation of Nicaragua, United States occupation of Haiti, United States occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–1924), World War I, Russian Civil War

2015: War in Afghanistan, Second U.S. Intervention in the Somali Civil War, Operation Ocean Shield, Operation Observant Compass, American-led intervention in Iraq, American-led intervention in Syria, American intervention in Libya

2016 (same wars as 2015): War in Afghanistan, Second U.S. Intervention in the Somali Civil War, Operation Ocean Shield, Operation Observant Compass, American-led intervention in Iraq, American-led intervention in Syria, American intervention in Libya

I’m taking this list of wars from Wikipedia, so keep in mind it may not be definitive. Some people may want to argue that some of these weren’t “declared” wars, or that they weren’t very “hot” wars, I don’t have any interest in really touching that.

I must confess that I did not even know that we occupied Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic at the same time – while we were participating in World War I. The heavy war years of the 1800’s demonstrate how completely we were fighting against American Indian tribes of that time. The Apache Wars went from 1849-1924, though fighting had mostly stopped a few years before 1924. That’s still a 75 year conflict that I knew next to nothing about – that’s 30% of the entire life of America as a country that we were engaged in the Apache Wars. The list above also illustrates how war-heavy our recent years have been, though we often act as if we are not a country at war in modern times. But I suspect, except for the major wars, it has mostly been that way.

A snapshot of the most violent years of the 1800’s in America
The violent years of the early 1900’s
Our most recent era

When was the last year that America did not engage in war? 1985. Our last sustained peace was from 1976-1981. Since it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to view a spreadsheet like this in PDF format, I’ll give you all this link so you can scroll through if you like.

In terms of amount of wars over a relatively short period of time, 246 years, I don’t know how we compare to other nations of the world. I find it unlikely that I’ll make the time to put together spreadsheets like this for a lot of other countries. Knowing that we have engaged in some sort of war every 2.5 years of our existence is quite informative, in my view. In the 96 years since the final American Indian conflict ended (the final action of the Apache Wars) in 1924, the US has engaged in 31 conflicts. That’s a new conflict every 3.1 years. That’s certainly an improvement over our overall average, but it’s still 3 conflicts each decade. In the 149 years that we were fighting American Indians, we engaged in 69 wars in total. During that time, that was a new war every 2.2 years.

What are my takeaways here? The USA has been at war in one fashion or another for 84% of it’s existence. It’s no wonder that we became active in foreign interventions once the ongoing wars against American Indians came to an end – the public and our institutions were already accustomed to near constant war. That energy needed to go somewhere. This year we have been involved in 4 wars, currently we are still active in 3.

It does seem that it would take a sea change in the way America operates, and the realities of international politics, for America’s thirst for war to go away any time. It may morph, a notable short term improvement in the way our military operates would be to simply stop engaging in conflicts with insurrectionists in foreign countries, but I don’t see our politics changing so dramatically that we are going to significantly increase or decrease the pace at which we engage in war.

For Indigenous People’s Day, I Made A Spreadsheet

You know if I care enough to make a spreadsheet about it, I really care

Something I heard a while ago has stuck with me. I don’t remember the exact wording of what the person said, at all, but it was something like this: “Of course there was vibrant, established civilization in the Americas before white people showed up.” Like, the land here wasn’t free for the taking. It was conquered, nations were destroyed, people were displaced.

Growing up where and when I did, this reality was downplayed when I was taught history. People who subjugated Native Americans weren’t outright celebrated for the subjugation, but they were often excused or celebrated for other reasons. I remember my high school history teacher excusing Andrew Jackson‘s exploits before and during his presidency by saying that the American people would inevitably have pushed the Seminole out of Florida, he just tried to do it as humanely as possible. Of course, Columbus Day was still a thing when I was growing up as well. I guess it still is.

Anyway, I’ve been reading this book

Excuse my phrasing here, but reading about Indian war after Indian war after Indian war after Indian war just got to be so much. Like, how much did we do this?

So I went and looked at the list of American wars on Wikipedia. Somehow it never sank in for me the true extent of how much war our country engaged in with Native Americans.

Here’s an image of my first version of the spreadsheet

On the left, each tribe that was involved in an American war. That’s 70 tribes. Some tribes were allied with the US for some wars. Most weren’t. Some were allies sometimes, enemies others. I haven’t, and will not for this post, gone into depth on all the wars that the US engaged in with Native American tribes. What struck me is the sheer volume. The nonstop war. From the moment the USA first started to exist (which I’m marking at the beginning of the Revolutionary War) until 1924 – a 149 year span – I only counted 32 years where we weren’t engaged in some sort of military action against Native American tribes. That’s over one hundred years of conflict. There were times, especially in the 1850’s and 1860’s, where the US was fighting five or six conflicts against natives at once. I counted eight conflicts, some years-long, that took place during the Civil War. Our Civil War cost us hundreds of thousands of lives, yet we had the bandwidth to fight eight other conflicts with Native Americans?

I counted 69 wars that America engaged in between 1775 and 1924. 42 were exclusively against native tribes. That’s 61%. Also… with all the wars put together that’s a new war every 2.2 years. That’s a lot of war. Take out the wars against Native Americans, and we still engaged in a war every 5.5 years. That seems like a lot. But this stuff is for my next post, not this one…

We went to war with some tribes so many times. The Cheyenne? Seven times. Arapaho? Six times. Paiute? Five times. Comanche? Four times. Seminole? Four times (The Seminole apparently fought us in a First Seminole War, a Second Seminole War, and a Third Seminole War). Shoshone? Four times. Sioux? Six times.

The drip, drip, drip of war against many of these tribes was something I didn’t understand before. If we couldn’t or didn’t get a tribe to do what we wanted the first time we’d just keep coming back over and over again. No peace was a final peace, it seems, until finally the Native Americans took whatever we were willing to give them. It seemed that as soon as we were done with one tribe, or one area, we would go on to another tribe and go to war against them until we ground them down too. Until we ground them all down.

Here’s the PDF of my spreadsheet, if you’d like to browse it. I was only able to put one link in each cell, so if you want to read about a war that isn’t linked just look amongst the other tribes to find a link to the war.

Of course there was a vibrant civilization here, it was nearly 150 years after the start of our country before it was finally beaten. Before that, more than 150 years as well.

All this data is off of Wikipedia, so it is should all be considered approximate. However, I think the greater point still stands…

Here’s what helped me understand Israel & Palestine

If you’re like me, you learned almost nothing about the ongoing conflict in school

Growing up in the United States in the 80’s and 90’s, everything around me was pro-Israel… without any real explanation of how or why. Nothing truly opened my eyes to the history of the region until I stumbled upon the incredible podcast series by MartyrMade: Fear & Loathing in the New Jerusalem.

Darryl Cooper does a great job of telling the history as well as dispelling many of the myths we’ve been hearing for years.

For those of you unaccustomed to history podcasts, spending hours listening to something like this can seem daunting. MartyrMade is one of the very best out there, and the time goes by fast. History podcasts are my jam, I listen to them while I’m commuting.

Dude, You’re In A Cult

I was scrolling through my twitter feed, as one does, and I saw someone had tweeted something to the effect of “Check in on your MAGA friends. See how they are doing. Do they have any big plans coming up?” I kept scrolling, but that idea stuck with me. So I started checking on my MAGA friends by looking at their facebook feeds.

It’s not pretty, y’all. I saw a lot of denialism. The bubble has not burst. In the past, I have engaged with folks on an argument by argument basis. Like “hey, you know that’s not quite true? Check out this data (citing a source) and this data (citing another source).” Only to be told that my sources aren’t true, and that I’m being lied to. But when I asked them for their sources, I would get nothing whatsoever. Or I’d be told to watch some youtube videos (ha!). Or I’d be told to google something, I’d google it out of due diligence, and find myself in a conspiracy theory and clickbait filled website that clearly has no journalistic integrity whatsoever. Engaging with folks about this stuff became Sisyphean. Yet they are still out there, doing their thing…

Now, I feel like we need to be talking on a different level than individual arguments. I just want to say “Dude, you’re in a cult.”

Always good to keep this handy

I don’t expect that simply pointing out to someone on their facebook page that they are in a cult is going to go well. I don’t expect that pointing out to them that their distrust of “mainstream media” has been weaponized to get them to willingly believe lie after lie after lie… will be accepted readily.

Don’t know the source of this…

But, what is going to make a difference? Back when I was in high school, we’re talking the late 90’s, I would just say the shit I had to say. I would just stir the pot. Some of the desire to do that is still in me. One of my favorite phrases is “the truth shall set you free, but first it shall piss you off.”

I do know from experience, that even if the truth is said in the most caustic way, if it’s repeated and inescapable it will eventually sink in. But how to do that online, during a pandemic, when this sort of communication is effective in person? How do we compete with the lies that are repeated and inescapable to our friends and family who have sipped the kool-aid?

In person, a person can see that when I’m telling them that they’re in a cult that I still love and respect and admire them. Online, I’m just words on a page. A person can think “do you think I’m so stupid that I would join a cult?!?” And I, not seeing that on their face, can’t say “no, being in a cult isn’t about intelligence. It’s about the cult meeting a deep unmet need that you have.” I imagine the person that is being told they are in a cult will think they need to defend themselves, lest they get cancelled, or defend their cult – because cults are bad m’kay. But I don’t want to make their life harder by telling them they are in a cult, I want to make their life easier. I want them to know that the world outside of their cult isn’t filled with scary, lying, evil people. It isn’t filled with communists. It isn’t even filled by deluded sheep that have had their minds numbed by the mainstream media. Really!

I haven’t written something like this before because I have been afraid of the backlash. People in cults don’t like being told they are in cults. Some of those people are my friends. Also, now that the events of the last few weeks have confirmed all of our instincts about Donald Trump as a president, it’s intellectually easier to call a spade a spade. Or a cult, a cult.

I’m not an expert here. I have read quite a bit about cults, and my biggest takeaway has been that no one is really an expert. We might just have to muddle through these conversations.

So, if you think this may apply to you, imagine when I say “Dude, you’re in a cult” that I say it with love. That I’m not attacking you, I’m inviting you to look at life differently. And if you aren’t ready to look at life differently, I’ll be here when you are.

Maybe It Takes Getting to Know One Another

“People aren’t being seen”

For a long time now I have been pointing out to anyone who will listen that community is broken in this country. At least where I live, in California. I think we are seeing the consequences of that brokenness all around us; in our crazy political environment, our high homeless population, the ridiculous numbers of people in prisons and jails, even in the wide wealth disparity. Our rising suicide rate, our daily mass shootings, the mind-boggling amounts of money we spend on health care – the list of symptoms of our broken community just seem to go on and on. Oh, our lowering life expectancy too.

Since I work with people who are homeless, I do a lot of reading specific to the field. Street Roots published an article about the cognitive reasons why housed people struggle to feel empathy for people who are homeless. Not only is the article relevant to homelessness, I think it’s relevant to every aspect of our civic culture today. The italicized portions below are from that article.

“People aren’t being seen,” (Harris) said. “If I’m a busy person, going through a city where there are tons of homeless people, and I have to stop and consider the minds of all of these people, that might make me feel very uncomfortable. Moreover, if I don’t feel like I have the resources to help, there’s nothing I can do to alleviate that suffering. That feeling stays with you. Our brain says, instead, if I take a second to stop and think about your suffering, it’s going to make me feel bad. So, dehumanization becomes a kind of emotion regulation strategy.”

Online, with social media, we have all faced a time where we were forced to consider the mind of someone who clearly has wildly different views than we do. How much easier is it to tune those people out than is it to actually think about what they are saying? How much easier is it to, then, just write off people who share those views and de-friend them or block them out entirely? How hard is it to have your ideas challenged online and to refrain from yelling or letting the conversation devolve into insults?

“We readily help kids and cute animals, in part because we know that whatever trouble they’re in, they can’t really be held accountable,” (Zak) said. “We’re less likely to be so understanding and forgiving when it comes to homeless adults or drug addicts. This tendency to judge rather than help is partly the result of a spot in the prefrontal cortex called the subgenual cortex. It’s full of oxytocin receptors, and it appears to modulate the degree of empathy by regulating the release of dopamine. No dopamine means no reward from engaging with the other person, which makes it less likely that we’ll reach out empathically.”

In America, there seems to be a very strong desire to withhold services from people who don’t “deserve” them. This makes sense if, when we feel powerless, we dehumanize the people in our communities who need help. Since they are still suffering, they are living proof of our failures….

I’ve been wrestling with the idea that humans have an innate desire to help other humans. That commerce is based on contribution. What do people pay for? They pay to be contributed to. Whether it’s food, housing, entertainment, interaction. We pay for other people to contribute to us, and we want to contribute to other people. When we see people who are homeless, most of us see people we can’t contribute to. Most of us see that we have failed to help them.

Is it easier to blame the homeless than to take responsibility, as a community? I would guess that most of us don’t even think in terms of our community. We don’t think about what services we want to be sure that our community members have access to. We don’t think about what we as a community are doing to alleviate suffering in our midst. Is it easy to say “they made their choices,” “they are addicts,” “they are getting what they deserve?” Maybe the people who say those things felt the powerlessness of dealing with someone who’s choices were chaotic and out of control. Maybe they had to detach from a loved one to maintain their sanity and control over their own lives. A real community has each other’s backs. What’s it going to take to start thinking like that?

“If we design interventions to help people meet members of such stigmatized groups and get beyond the stereotype and see the person behind the social category, they tone down their judgments and feelings,” (Hewstone) said.

Hewstone is literally saying that if we get people from different social groups to meet and interact, then we will ratchet down the judgement, the yelling, and the divisiveness.


So then, if we had strong communities, maybe we wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place?

Now I’m going to talk about politics. I think that the level of division in our country is a security threat. It is a threat to our democracy. It appears that multiple foreign countries have figured out how to manipulate our elections and political process for their own gain. Almost exclusively, they are preying on our own divisions to do so.

Is it an incorrect conclusion then, that the best way to fight for and save our democracy is to get to know our neighbors? To meet and get to know people in our community who don’t think or live like us? To talk with the homeless, the middle class, and the rich? To talk with brown, black, white? To talk with young, middle-aged, and old? With men, women, and everyone in between?

That seems like a logical conclusion to me. It seems to me that it is time to do our patriotic duty. It seems like, all it’s going to take to stand up for the principles that our country are founded upon, is for you and I to go out and bridge the gaps in our own lives.

Bridge the gaps, instead of fighting for our point of view. No one is going to do it for us.


Reuniting the US sounds like a Herculean task

How can I accept my country slowly, painfully tearing itself apart? A country who’s founding motto is “Out of Many, One.” A country that calls itself the United States.

A comedian friend of mine posted on facebook, that he wore a shirt that had some American flag themed decoration on it for his comedy set. That after his set, a lady came up to him and told him that he should not wear that shirt because he was obviously a liberal and liberals aren’t patriotic.

This is where we are at today.

We’ve been leading up to this for a long time. Way back in 2003, if my memory serves, I was working on a bond campaign for a local library. I was talking with a potential volunteer for the campaign, and he asked me if I was a Republican. I said no (I’m not registered with any party), and he said good – that he would never work with a Republican. But it was different then, than it is today. It wasn’t quite so… visceral.

I remember reading about a time when the political parties in this country could get along. Or at least, not view each other as the enemy. It seems to me that all that came crashing down when Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the house in the 1990’s. But the days of seeing allies across the aisle, if they ever existed, seem to be gone.

This is very upsetting for me. Because at some point, this state is a conscious choice for everyone involved. We choose to badmouth our political adversaries. We choose to lie about them. We choose to heap endless tons of criticism upon them. We choose to distort what we see to serve our political ends. We choose to tear down our fellow countrymen and countrywomen. We choose to shut out wide swaths of our own people from the political and policy making process. We chose this, and we choose it again every day. We are 327 million people (last I checked) choosing to do this to ourselves.

How does anyone turn that around?

I don’t know.

Maybe I have an idea, though. What I can do, is bring people together locally. Maybe that will make a difference. Maybe there are other people, in other parts of the country, who are doing the same.

Maybe getting people off of the internet, out from in front of their screens, and talking to each other – maybe that will make a difference. I feels, to me, that social media and media in general today is just designed to inflame. That we are all inflamed, and that’s why we don’t hear each other. That’s why people who think differently than us look like the enemy.

Normally, when I write about something that is bothering me, I write until I feel better. In this instance, I don’t know that I will be able to feel better about this. How can I accept my country slowly, painfully tearing itself apart? A country who’s founding motto is “Out of Many, One.” A country that calls itself the United States. A country where every man (and woman) is equal. The land of the free and the home of the brave. Maybe all that great stuff I was told about our country as a kid was hokum.

But that hokum is worth fighting for.

I don’t have easy answers here. Maybe all there is to do is to continue to move forward. To continue to try things, and to see what works. To continue to stand for what I believe our country should stand for.

Right now, that’s all I’ve got.