The Las Vegas Shooting. A Tragedy That Frustrates Me On A Different Level

 

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Anger, sadness, and frustration are all understandable responses to the shootings that occurred in Las Vegas, NV last night. My heartfelt sympathies do go out to all of the family and friends effected by those lost or wounded as a result of this latest tragedy.

It did not take long for my facebook feed to fill up with messages of prayer and sorrow for the victims. The warmth and coming together that social media enables sometimes gets lost in the criticism of the form. And it is worth mentioning and encouraging.

However, not too many beats after the authentic sympathies were expressed, the usual gun control/ 2nd amendment disagreements ensued.

And while I understand it and I sympathize with it, I also get frustrated by it. I agree that we can and we should do more to prevent any shooting deaths let alone mass shootings. However in proportion to other threats. To things that all of us, today, can start doing something about, too many of us do not.

Image result for guns vs cancer

(From 2015)

On average 11.8 people die per minute from cancer. More people will die from cancer in the time it takes someone to wake up and drink their morning coffee than in Las Vegas last night. Currently about 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in America will get diagnosed with cancer. Further, one in four deaths in America come from heart disease.

While the NRA is a huge obstacle to gun control, reform/ legislation, they do not force anyone to smoke cigarettes, which according to the CDC is responsible for 480,000 deaths per year. And while smokers may choose to smoke, the 41,000 people the CDC estimates that die due to second-hand smoke, do not. I wonder how many parents who worry about gun safety for their children smoke in their homes?

Politicians who do not enact changes to gun laws do not force you to eat processed and fast food, drink to excess, not eat vegetables, and fruits, not get enough exercise, or sleep, and so on. Cancer and heart disease combined kill well over a million people a year. Dwarfing death caused from war, terrorism, and shootings combined. But I don’t see anywhere close to the same outrage. The same calls for change to positively impact exponentially significantly higher causes of death.

Sometimes I think about if there was evidence that cancer was actually a bio weapon of terrorists, we would care more and do more to find a cure. But I digress.

Is a preventative lifestyle a guarantee? While collectively deaths could come dramatically down.  Individually, no. There is no guarantee.  But the same things that give you a better chance to avoid cancer and heart disease, also assist with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and a host of other ailments. Aside from increasing your chances of avoiding the number 1 and number 2 killer, you can also feel better, look younger, be more productive, potentially save huge amounts of money in medical bills, and perhaps happier.

You want to change gun law? Make it harder for someone to get automatic weapons? I’m all for that. (And exploring the mental health component.) As we know this has been and will unfortunately continue to be an ongoing struggle rife with partisanship, politicization, and too much influence in the debate afforded to a powerful lobby. It doesn’t mean we do not engage it, but it is what it is.

However, for yourself, for your family, the people you love, and that love you, please take a more active role in your health and preventing these plagues from affecting you.

Cancer and heart diseases are far more likely to effect you than a shooting and they are something you can do something about right now.

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The Religion Of Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry Neil deGrasse Tyson And Devotees of Science, but…

Just because Science doesn’t have a God.
Doesn’t mean it is not a religion.
Doesn’t mean that it is free of misinterpretation or miscommunication.
Doesn’t mean that it is free of bias.
Doesn’t mean that it is free of corruption or fraud
Doesn’t mean that it should not be questioned (even by the “uninitiated”).
Doesn’t mean that it is incapable of prejudice.
Doesn’t mean it speaks the truth because it says it speaks the truth.
Doesn’t mean that there is not a reliance on faith.
Doesn’t mean the phrase absolute power corrupts absolutely doesn’t apply.
Yes, Science deserve recognition for all of its accomplishments.
Yes, Science deserves a prominent seat at the table.
Just don’t tell me that nobody else can sit there.
That nobody can question you.
That your methods (even peer review) are beyond reproach or flaw.
Because then Science… Kinda of what you’re asking for…Is that we… the unenlightened… worship you.
Can you see the irony in that Science?
For even if Science is or ever becomes perfect…
Scientists are still human.
And all humans, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, are not.

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If you like this post some others of possible interest:

Why Science Is Never Settled by Robert E. Hampson PH.D.

The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Science According To 270 Scientists by Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer, and Brian Resnick

Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals by NCBI PMC

And here is a previous blog I wrote on my other website, ComingTogetherToFightCancer.Com: Respect Science But Do Not Worship It

Daily News Columnist Uses Donald Trump To Race Bait. Why?

racist2jpgOne flaw that some writers (and readers) fall prey to is giving more credence to the opinions of others than the merits justify. And when those opinions get restated in enough outlets? Well then obviously (insert sarcasm) they are facts. Further “facts” that align with our own opinions are more readily accepted and less likely to be fact checked.

New York Daily News columnist, Shaun King’s, article dated November 22nd, Now that Donald Trump won the presidency, it appears white folk are finally watching the NFL again, includes enough information to present his case. A case that irresponsibly concludes the main reason behind the fall and rise of NFL ratings has to do racism. 

There are enough legitimate issues, race and otherwise that are challenging to overcome, we don’t need specious arguments to inflame them. They muddy the waters and make progress more challenging. We don’t need writers who we depend on to inform us, educate us, highlight areas of need, and progress, to derail us.

Let me get specific. Mr. King’s main point is that for most of the NFL season, ratings for watching NFL games has been way down. He states the reasons for the ratings drop as reported elsewhere are: 

  1. Netflix
  2. Cord cutting
  3. Concussions
  4. Too many games on now (Thursday night football)
  5. Over-saturation of fantasy football
  6. The games haven’t been very good
  7. The protest started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. (His kneeling before the national anthem)

Actually Mr. King hypothesizes that Kaepernick’s protest was the main reason for the ratings drop.

As evidence, Mr. King stated in a November 1st article there is a “definitive” study/poll that says that 56% of the people surveyed believed the anthem deal was the main reason ratings are down.

Mr. King states: “Several studies also backed Donald Trump up and said that the top reason some fans weren’t watching was because of the protests of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by black players.”

So, when Mr. King refers to studies, I clicked on the link he provides and it takes you to an ESPN article that contains information on one study, not studieS.

As stated the 56% refers to people’s opinions. This would be laughable (if it wasn’t divisive) because it is 56% of people’s opinions, not on what they are doing but on what they think others are doing. The latter, as recently proven in the presidential election, is not always accurate, how can you use the former as definitive evidence?  

And while there is a valid point to be made that Trump was trying to appeal to a specific voting segment by blaming the Kaepernick protest, that doesn’t make Trump right. It’s not like the President-elect was prone to making controversial, offensive statements while campaigning that had no factual basis right? 

Further, the one poll referenced in the ESPN article was taken at Seton Hall. How many people were polled? (841) What was the age, gender, race and ethnic breakdown of this one alleged definitive opinion poll? (Merriam-Webster defines definitive as: authoritative and apparently exhaustive.  Does one poll asking people the opinion of other people seem exhaustive?)

With the recent increase in NFL ratings, Mr. King concludes: “Every reason that people gave for the ratings being down still exists, except as soon as Donald Trump won, and white folk were given a testosterone boost to their whiteness, ratings magically went back up.”

Race baiting language aside, I would imagine that the “white folk” that voted for Trump, (of which I am not one) as well as the black folk, Latino folk, Cuban folk, women, and young people who voted for Trump, are all feeling good about themselves, at least as it pertains to the election. That’s what happens when your candidate wins.

Just like I am sure all the white folk et al that voted for President Barack Obama… Twice… felt good when he won.

Above, I list seven reasons that Mr. King cited as reasons for the ratings drop. An eighth reason, which I believe he intentionally left out of the 11/22 piece, was the presidential election itself and the huge boost in ratings cable news received for its coverage of it.

Why do I say intentionally? Because Mr. King mentions it in the inflammatory column he wrote on November 1st, entitled KING: NFL ratings are down because racists despise black men who are truly free. Nice. Has anyone ever told this guy about not yelling fire in a crowded movie theater?

Anyway, in this article Mr. King mentions the Seton Hall study and how the 56% statistic being cited as the main reason for NFL ratings being down, and how that is listed as an even greater reason then the presidential election cable news coverage. (FYI, 50% of the people in the same poll cited cable news coverage as a reason for the ratings drop, but this stat is left out of Mr. King’s article.)

Now, neither Mr. King, nor I, can say for sure how many people tuned out of NFL games due to the Kaepernick protest, or the election coverage, (or for any other reason) but I can share the following information regarding cable ratings during the election that may or may not affect your opinion:

  • From Variety, Fox NewsCNN, and MSNBC — have seen their total day ratings skyrocket (due to the elections) 73% from last year. 
  • From Salon.com, If the American public is as tired of coverage, as they profess to pollsters, this certainly isn’t reflected in cable news networks’ratings as the country barrels toward Election Day. In fact, this could wind up being a record year for cable news. 
  • From the L.A. Times, “Through the first six weeks of the football season, Sunday viewing of cable news channels CNN, MSNBC and Fox News is up 79% compared with 2015 in the 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. hours when NFL games air.”

November ratings for cable news have yet to come out but here are a couple of quotes/ headlines forecasting the expectations:

  • From Chicago Tribune: CNN and Fox make plans to cushion painful ratings decline after blockbuster election.
  • From FortuneWith the election over, the expectation is that cable news networks’ days of record ratings are also over, at least until the next big election. 

Okay, so lets review:

  1. We have the NFL experiencing low ratings at a time when cable news has record high ratings due to coverage of a specific event, the presidential election.
  2. All major networks, liberal and conservative, experienced a ratings spike.
  3. We can assume it is not just conservative white folk who were following the election coverage.
  4. When this event (the presidential election) and the coverage of it ends, we see an increase in NFL ratings and a significant decrease in cable ratings is expected…. Hmmm.

From this, the logical conclusion to Mr. King (and his wife) is that white folk are happy Trump won and that racists whites don’t like seeing free black men?  Well the status of black men as a whole in the NFL has not changed since the election so that eliminates one reason.  

And I’m going to lean towards the election coverage being over as the biggest factor. I believe that the NFL ratings would have bounced back to at or near the same level had Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein or Gary Johnson won the election.

All of the other reasons cited above, including the Kaepernick protest, and others not previously mentioned here, such as Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman pointing to the NFL rules are eliminating the fun of the game, the Red Zone channel, where viewers can cut from game to game to see potential scoring action, may also contribute to the ratings decline. To what end? Neither you, Mr. King, nor I can be sure but I see them as secondary to the election coverage being over.

I just don’t see how Mr. King can presume, definitively and with such assurance, that racism is the main reason. Of course it’s possible racism is the primary reason, but the TV data and historical viewing trends (cable news rating historically getting a boost during election cycles) suggest it is not. The fact that Mr. King completely steers clear of an analysis of election coverage ratings/ data, if only to refute it, suggests he is blinded by bias or intent.

Mr. King doesn’t come close to reaching the civil court burden of proof, let alone beyond a reasonable doubt.  I’m not suggesting don’t bring it up. Our shameful racial history justifies that.  I am suggesting don’t take it to DEFCON 1 level unless you’re more reasonably sure.

In concluding, Mr. King states “If you are reading this and refuse to believe the role race and culture are playing in the everyday decisions millions of people make, then you are blind to the country we are living in.” 

Here I sadly agree.  Yes in a country of 318 million people there are millions of people who make race based decisions.  Just because this statement is true in the general sense does not mean it applies to NFL ratings.  Nor does it justify race baiting language that makes it harder for races to come together.  

He ends the article by stating, “White fans are boosting the NFL’s ratings because they were throwing a fit over protests. Now that Trump has won, their egos can handle it.”

It is never good when you begin a critical statement by generalizing and stereotyping an entire group of people.  Is it wrong to say Black fans are… Mexican fans are… Jewish fans are… White fans are… Yes, it is wrong to all of the above.

I’ve used the term race baiting a few times.  Here is a working definition. From the Urban Dictionary: Race baiting definition – One who insinuates that racism or bigotry is a dominant factor with regards to an event that either does not involve race or in which diverse cultures are involved are simply a minor element.

Here is an example of race baiting from the Urban Dictionary:

Race baiter (insinuating race): A person of color was abused by a white at school today, just another day in the U.S. of K.K.K.A. 

I would suggest that racist whites and blacks, who profit off of division want to look for or create division and racism where it doesn’t exist. Or if it exists, but not anywhere close to the magnitude they suggest, race-baitors will exaggerate it to profit off division and hate in some way, (career, status, or ego.)  They seek it at the expense of other possibilities because that is their brand.

In some cases race baiters may be well intended and operate under a means justify the ends thinking. However, when invoking racism inappropriately… race baiting can hurt everyone, and slow progress for all people, even those the author may sincerely want to help. And that is an ironic shame.

This too is America 2016.

What We Can Learn From Ellen Page Coming Out

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(c)kathclick/Bigstockphoto.com

Ellen Page’s coming out speech at the HRC’s Time to Thrive conference about her sexuality was moving, heartwarming and refreshingly authentic.  (See the video below) Among other things, she said:

“I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered. My mental health suffered. My relationships suffered. I’m standing here today with all of you on the other side of that pain.”

These words are a reminder of the pain society is capable of inflicting on others.  And the pain we are capable of inflicting on ourselves.

This isn’t just about Ellen Page’s sexuality, or sexuality period.  Page provides a good reminder of society’s need to protect and perpetuate itself by conditioning its young to believe and behave in a certain way.

In opposition is the individual’s desire to express and be accepted for his or her uniqueness.  It’s an age-old battle born out of the need for survival, and of fear.  It will not be settled today.

When the conditioning doesn’t take or feel right to the individual, he or she is left to question:  do I, or how much of myself do I suppress for the sake of fitting in?  For the sake of survival?  Do I risk scorn?  My ability to provide for myself and my family?  Or  hurting the ones I love by expressing my individuality or that which I have felt the need to hide?

In her speech, Page alluded to years of succumbing to social pressures to behave and “represent” as being a person she was not.  She took responsibility for her fear and her lie, and admitted what the cost was.  She then courageously stepped forward.

Tomorrow, it may or may not cost her certain acting roles, and it may adversely affect a relationship or two.  But in the moment I’m guessing it felt quite liberating and a relief.

Hiding and lying by omission is not exclusive to sexuality.  Society puts pressure on us in many ways and in many forms.  Exerting pressure directly and indirectly on us to make certain choices and to look and behave a certain way.  It can be malevolent or benevolent, depending on the person or circumstance.  The intention is irrelevant from the point of view that when we succumb to this pressure, consciously or unconsciously, we give away a part of ourselves.  As was the case with Page, our spirits suffer, and our mental health suffers. That is the high price we pay if and when we disregard our emotional needs and our authentic self.

This isn’t a call for extreme selfishness, renouncing compromise or to break laws.  It is an invitation, to search ourselves and to be honest about who we are.  To see and measure if there is difference in who we are and what we put out in the world.  Where do we possibly sacrifice ourselves?  Not out of give and take compromise, but out of fear?  Out of selling ourselves out.  Not for survival but a superficial need.  What do we think we need to survive but in truth do not?  How in or out of sync is our internal and external self?  If we are out of sync, the questions are: by how much? At what expense?  Are we deluding ourselves with negotiations that state something to the effect of, “I’ll be myself when…”  However, does that “when” date always seems to get pushed down the road?

“Coming out”, is a phrase typically reserved for a woman or a man announcing that she or he has a same-sex sexual preference.  However, any of us that hide a true part of ourselves is capable of having a coming out moment.

It doesn’t always have to be a speech, and it doesn’t always have to be public.  It starts with you.  With being honest with yourself.  With weighing the cost of coming out, and doing what is right for you, when it is right for you, and with whom, versus living a life as someone or something less that what you want to be.

Depending on one’s circumstances, coming out can come with emotional, social and financial risk.  These consequences should not be taken lightly.  Nor should the consequences of not coming out.

The result of assuming one’s true self does always have to be negative.

Perhaps Ellen Page will experience an inner peace she has never known.   Existing relationships with some maybe become healthier and stronger.  And or new ones may form as well.  Those acting roles she might miss out on?  I am guessing there will be new roles and opportunities that will come her way that would not have otherwise.    Whether they will pay as much or do as well at the box office I do not know, but I’ll bet they are  more fulfilling, and without the spiritual suffering.  How much is all of this worth?

**THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.**

Stupid Facebook Post

Facebook

I was scrolling down my facebook page and read the following:

“For those of you having a drink tonight in Santa Monica we have a DUI checkpoint on ******* just south of ******* Blvd. You’re welcome!”

I intentionally left out the streets because I do not want to be guilty of the same act as the author of the post. 

You see there is a reason why drinking and driving is illegal.  There is a reason there are checkpoints.  And it is not to be a buzz kill.  It is to prevent people from killing others while driving intoxicated.

Maybe tonight, maybe someday in the future, someone will die because of this facebook post.  Am I being overdramatic?  Perhaps.  But fates could be changed by this post.  With all of the “likes” and comments received by it, there could be those altering their routes home tonight.  An accident that may not have occurred, might. 

Some, who may have received a ticket, will not.  Maybe if they had received a DUI, or DWI, this person would never drink and drive again.  Not receiving it, this person may go on to drink and drive for years, and one day get in an accident that takes out an individual, or maybe a family.

Fate is a strange thing.  I must acknowledge, that any fate altering comment or event has the potential to change things for “good” or “bad”.  Someone who otherwise would have gone out, could read what I call a stupid facebook post and for whatever reason decide not to go out.  Or decide not to drink since they can’t avoid that particular intersection.  Thus maybe saving a life.

However, we collectively come up with mores and laws with the greater good in mind.  Remove all DUI checkpoints and do you think that would have a positive or negative impact on fatalities due to drunk driving?

I get it.  Many of us don’t like rules, laws, or paying taxes.  But if we knew every enforcement mechanism in advance what would that do to the stability of our everyday life?  To our overall safety?  To our economy?  To our survival as individuals and as a society?

Sadly, it is the randomness of legal enforcement measures, not a moral sense of right and wrong, that keeps many of us in line.  Remove that randomness from the equation by telling us where all of the “checkpoints” are and things will break down.

Tonight, there is at least one checkpoint that will not be as effective as it might have been.  And for this we should thank the person who posted it on Facebook?  Somehow I don’t see anyone associated with Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers “liking” this post.

I hope it’s worth the cool points he’s getting with his FB “friends”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Have No Problem With Chris Kluwe Being Cut

ChrisKluwe

Some in the media have reported that if not for being outspoken in his social positions, such as same-sex marriage, punter Chris Kluwe may not have been cut by the Minnesota Vikings.  Or at the very least it was a factor in their decision.

However, shouldn’t there be proof beyond a reasonable doubt before convicting Minnesota of a politically incorrect crime?

The evidence doesn’t support the argument that Kluwe was cut for non-football related reasons. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com documents this very well, here. Assuming the action was taken for football reasons than speaking out on issues should not be a get out of being cut free card.

For the sake of argument though, let’s assume that Kluwe’s advocacy was part or all of the reason he was cut.  While not encouraging cutting Kluwe, I would still defend the Viking’s right to do so.

I think Fox Sports Jen Floyd Angel is off target when she says, “We say we want athletes to take stands and have opinions, but this is a lie.”

What “we” say is, we like it when athletes, when speaking about their sport, don’t just spit out clichés like, we have to take it one game at a time.  We are not sitting around the dinner table wondering what New York Giant Guard, Chris Snee thinks about when are we going to get out of Afghanistan.

Sports and entertainment provide a much-needed distraction from everyday life.  Work issues, family, politics, money, and survival; the attack of stress from different directions sometimes seems endless. And in this media age of TV, internet, tablets, smartphones and apps, it gets  harder and harder to escape from the reminders of all that weighs on us.  For many, sport is the last sanctuary.

When athletes, like Chris Kluwe step outside of their box, like George Constanza said on an episode of Seinfeld, “it’s worlds colliding”.  Except in this case it is the world of polarization colliding with the world of pleasure and escape.  It is understandable why many fans would prefer to keep this space separate.  It is understandable why a business like a sports franchise, would want to remain neutral.  Their business is entertainment not advocating or arbitration of social issues.

Lest you think my opinion is biased by the issues Kluwe was speaking out about, for the record, I recently wrote a blog advocating for same-sex nuptials, here.

If an athlete or an entertainer wants to leave their career behind to pursue advocacy or politics, I have great respect for that.  But I prefer when they don’t do both at the same time.

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Former controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and actor Sean Penn

Some things are better left separate.  For example, I don’t care what “Poppy’s”, the owner of a fine Italian restaurant, thinks about abortion (another Seinfeld reference).  I don’t care about Sean Penn’s view on the late Hugo Chavez.  And I don’t care about Chris Kluwe’s view on gun control.

When I enter the world of sports and entertainment I want to leave everything else behind.  I want to immerse myself.  Advocacy, whether I agree or disagree, takes me out of my immersion. It is an unwanted reminder and distraction of issues I spend plenty of time on otherwise.

Tim Tebow during a post game press conference.

Tim Tebow during a post game press conference.

Distractions are neutral in that the “good” ones, as well as the “bad”, can be detrimental to a team.  So whether it is advocacy, trouble with the law, or an insanely polarizing back-up quarterback who doesn’t have the accuracy to play the position, you better be clearly better than your competition at the position.  Because all things being close to equal, yes a team might choose a non-distraction over a distraction.

This is true not only for the business purpose of staying neutral to a fan base, but for the potential fracturing of a locker room that it can have.  What if Kluwe has several religious teammates who strongly disagree with him on same-sex marriage?  What if they decide to exercise their right to speak out?

A locker room fracturing can affect: team morale, wins and losses, jobs, playoffs, other people’s careers.  It’s not what owners spend hundreds of millions of dollars to own a team for, and it is not why most fans devote hundreds or thousands of hours to follow them.

When the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, spoke out, he did it on his dime.  He was an individual not playing a team sport.  The costs and rewards were his to bear alone.

Given that potential disruption in a group dynamic, is it a surprise that a team would want to steer clear of it?

Given Kluwe’s statistics cited in the ESPN article I mention above, I think he was cut for football reasons.  But if his outspokenness or social stances were any kind of factor, while I can respect his beliefs and principles, I can’t condemn the Vikings for it.

As for finding new work, let me ask you this; if you owned a business and had to pick between two potential employees, one who would draw extra attention to himself for non business reasons, make statements that would potentially alienate a significant percentage of your customers, and potentially divide the rest of your labor force.  The other would show up and do his job.  Who would you hire?

More often than not, that first guy would have to be clearly better than the second to have a chance.  It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s the way it is.

A Simple Solution To Same-Sex Marriage

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The current matters involving same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court of the United States notwithstanding, I believe it’s not a matter of if, but when same-sex marriage becomes legal throughout all, or much of the country.  Apparently right-wing commentator Rush Limbaugh agrees.

As far as what “the people” want, polling numbers  show it trending in the direction of legalization even amongst groups such as evangelical youth.  And sooner or later youth will ultimately help usher in the change as their voting numbers increase over older generations.

But that doesn’t mean the needs of those against should be disregarded completely.  While I do think the rights of same-sex couples trumps any argument to the contrary, there is a way to grant same-sex couples the rights of their hetero counterparts and preserve the institution of marriage.  And no, I am not talking about civil unions.

What I am talking about is creating a new institution.  Or more simply, a new word.  A word that means marriage.  A word that carries with it all of the rights and privileges of marriage.  But a word that is not marriage.

Sound crazy?  Well, there is already precedent in our language for such differences.  We have different pronouns to delineate gender.  We have different words to describe ethnicities.  We have different words for sexuality– gay, straight, heterosexual, and homosexual.  When we say two people engage in heterosexual or homosexual sex, there is no confusion as to what we are talking about.

We delineate in our language for clarity not to discriminate.

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Here is perhaps the best example.  In the Jewish religion, when a boy turns thirteen he is said to become a man.  In preparation for the leap into adulthood, the boy studies and reads from the sacred text, the Torah.  This occasion is ritualized in a ceremony called a Bar Mitzvah.  As unfair as it may sound, girls cannot be Bar Mitzvahed.  It is a right of passage only for boys.

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However, before you start drawing up the protest signs, you should know that when twelve year old girls turn thirteen they too have a right of passage laid out before them to become a woman.  It is called a Bat Mitzvah.  Basically, you take out the “r” in Bar and replace it with a “t”, making it Bat, and you’ve got the same thing.

The different spellings and pronunciations immediately identify if the ceremony is for a boy or a girl.

I am suggesting a similar solution for same-sex marriage.  This solution allows each side to get what they fundamentally want the most.  Same-sex marriage gets the full equality it deserves.  And those on the other side get to keep the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.  Never to be confused as being otherwise.

And again, this word play is consistent with how we delineate gender and sexuality linguistically already.

This may not be the final resolution the anti-same sex marriage camp hoped for, but it can be a way to salvage something—the “sanctity” of marriage, and provide a dignified path to letting go and moving on.

Given the presumed inevitability of same-sex marriage becoming legal, a fair question may be, what is in this for the gay community?  First, a new institution has the possibility of being equal but also distinct.  Something the gay community can make its own.  Second, presumed inevitability is not a guarantee, nor will it necessarily occur tomorrow.  It could still take time, maybe years, before full legalization comes to fruition.

Even with its ultimate passage that doesn’t mean that the other side wouldn’t fight to overturn it.  Once legal, overturning it may be doomed to failure, perhaps, but it would still require effort and angst to defend against the attempt.

Ideally, the suggestion of a different name can speed things along in terms of passage, and satisfy enough people that it puts this issue to rest permanently once it does.

Lance Armstrong, Ray Lewis And The Path to Redemption

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At first glance, these two amazing athletes may not have much in common.  And both are in the news for different reasons.

Lance Armstrong, arguably the greatest cyclist, for his admission of steroid use and abusive behavior that included suing and “ruining” the lives of those who said he cheated.  Ray Lewis, arguably the best NFL inside linebacker of all-time is retiring after this season, and he has heroically come back from injury to help lead the Baltimore Ravens to this year’s Super Bowl.

The swell of support and superlatives thrown Lewis’ way has brought back to the surface the charge of murder Lewis was indicted for (but later dropped) thirteen years ago, the plea deal he struck for obstruction of justice in the case, the $250,000 fine he received from the NFL, and the payoffs he made in the civil cases brought on by the families of the murder victims.  Further agitating Lewis’ detractors is his faith in God and his belief that God is on his/ the Ravens side.

The blogosphere notwithstanding, where you are bound to get a divergent set of opinions, we have  many of the talking heads at ESPN, and mainstream sports media in general, lining up to deify Ray Lewis and in large part not give much attention to Lewis’ past.   At the same time, they are hammering the cross in the ground with which to crucify Lance Armstrong.  For the record I am against crucifying either or anyone for that matter.  But let’s take a look at both cases…

The majority of venom being directed toward Armstrong seems to be more connected to his lies, covering up and legal/financial attacks on those who were telling the truth.  Many of the voices going after him have defended or  mitigated other steroid users to some degree so it makes sense for them to set that part of it aside.  Further, cycling is or was so rampant with banned substance use during Armstrong’s time that it makes it harder to make a vitriolic case against him for that.

No, the far more powerful case against Armstrong, in which I firmly agree, is the way he went after people who were telling the truth.  People who weren’t “ratting” him out or looking to cash in, but were compelled to do so or face prosecution themselves.  I find that disgusting and reprehensible.  Score one for the Armstrong haters.

Armstrong, was arrogant, and drunk with power.  I wasn’t a fan of cycling but I was a fan of his.  However, I am glad he has been exposed.  Fraud and lies of this magnitude always should be.  Whatever reparations need to be made to those he wrongly went after, I hope they get made.

But then there was his admission in his interview with Oprah Winfrey.  (In which Oprah did a great job) It seemed to bring out a lot of armchair psychologists referring to Armstrong as a sociopath because he didn’t convey the emotions they wanted or in the manner they wanted.

Others, such as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, went so far as to say (paraphrase) that the charity work Armstrong has done for cancer was a front designed to give him cover for his cheating and lying.  Smith wants bad things to happen to him.

This all puts me in the awkward position of defending Armstrong.  In reality what I am going to defend is the path of redemption.  It can be a long journey.  But like all journey’s it begins with a first step — a first step Armstrong took in that interview.  He referred to this moment as one of two low points in his life, the first being when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Three months after his cancer diagnosis he apparently started his crusade to start the Livestrong foundation and to raise money and awareness for cancer.  If Stephen A. Smith is correct, then that means while Lance was in a fight for his life and not knowing if he would live, let alone competitively race again, he came up with an evil plan to dope, win seven Tour De France races and build Livestrong so that he could use it to cover his cheating.  I think that is a wee bit of a stretch to say the least.

Steven A. went on to dismiss the 500 hundred million… That’s FIVE HUNDRED MILLION, that Armstrong helped raise for cancer, saying that people who believe in the cause would have donated the money to some other cancer cause if not Livestrong.  That’s ridiculous Stephen A., you’re smarter than that.

A lot of people care about a lot of causes but if you could have Michael Jordan work tirelessly to promote, appear, and speak on behalf of that charity… do you think it might raise a few more dollars?  Of course it would.  Maybe there is some validity to Smith’s point, but marketing 101 suggests that Armstrong’s efforts, fame, and personal cancer story, directly led to increased awareness and millions of dollars that would not have been donated otherwise.

This doesn’t lessen the severity of the bad… it doesn’t suggest that at Armstrong’s height of arrogance he didn’t also use Livestrong as a cover.  However, to suggest that he used it in totality, and that all of the good was malevolent from the outset, is a gross overstatement that is currently not supported.  You want to hate him for his lies and how he responded to those who were telling the truth?  That is your prerogative.  But know that all of the bad doesn’t erase the good he did do and the lives he has personally effected for the better.

Ray Lewis.

To listen to Ray Lewis supporters, he is changed man.  Not only one of the greatest linebackers of all time, but one of the greatest on the field leaders.  He is a mentor and has done great charity work.  The “black mark” on his record occurred thirteen years ago when he was a young man and he has changed this then.  We should let it go.

On the basis of his play and leadership he would make my all-time team.  I do not follow Lewis off the field but for the sake of argument I will except that he has become all that is good and everything that is positively said about him.  This would then be a man who has taken many steps on the path to redemption.  Many, but perhaps not the last and most important.

In Lewis’ case… All the good doesn’t erase the bad.

Stephen A. Smith’s partner in crime on First and Ten, Skip Bayless, recently asked, “how could anybody not root for Ray Lewis?”  Well Skip, I can see where someone who has a problem with a person who he thinks didn’t tell the whole truth about a murder, that he ultimately pleaded obstruction of justice about, wouldn’t want to root for Lewis.   For more details on Lewis’ case click here:

I would ask supporters of Lewis this question.  If you were standing on the precipice of heaven and the guardian of the gate said in order to get in you have to answer one question correctly and that question was did Ray Lewis tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the night in question on January 31st, 2000?  What would your answer be?

If the truth is no, then Lewis needs to come clean.  There can be no final redemption without doing so.  He is a religious man.  Confession is good for the soul and the truth will set him free… Since we honored Martin Luther King this week, here is a quote from the great doctor:  “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” ~MLK, Jr.

Isn’t telling the whole truth the right thing here?   What is he afraid of?  Who is Lewis protecting?  Himself?  His friends?  Not “ratting” on your friends may be good for “street cred.” But is it good for the soul?  Is it what the Lord he believes in teaches?

The victims are no less dead today then they were 13 years ago.  The family’s burden and pain lingers.  The “victims” of Lance Armstrong were said to have their day of vindication with his admission and were able to do a victory lap.  Soon, many will be financially compensated.  The victims in the Ray Lewis case will not rise from the dead; there will be no vindication for their families.  The deification of Ray Lewis during the run up to the Super Bowl, and his likely hall of fame induction in the future, will only serve to rub salt in their wounds.

Lance Armstrong has a lot of work to do to repair the damage he has done and to prove there is authenticity to his desire to change.   Oprah believes he can still be a hero: Click here

Ray Lewis can be a hero by doing what he doesn’t have to do.  He can take the last and perhaps most difficult step to redemption.  The law can’t compel him to say anything.  He has enough fans and support to shield him from those who criticize him.  But what about his God and religious beliefs?  Wouldn’t that compel him to be forthright?  Wouldn’t he be forgiven once he did?

To have the courage, far more courage then to hit a running back, or dance before a football game, to speak the full truth (he is immune from legal jeopardy) about what happened to his white suit the night of the murders 13 years ago, the blood in his limo and the rest of the details, would be a great example of accountability and responsibility.  It might not be vindication for the victim’s family, but it might give them a little peace.

Until that happens, supporters of Ray Lewis must understand that every time they glorify Lewis to the public there will be someone to remind us of the unanswered questions of January 31st, 2000, and that there is no statue of limitations on the need to do the right thing.

Just like thirteen years from now, if Armstrong won another seven Tours De Frances, (cleanly) raised another 500 million, lectured and mentored many, unless he spoke the truth about those he lied about and made restitution, his journey would not be complete.

It is not that I don’t like the redemptive Ray Lewis story his supporters tell,   it’s just incomplete.

It is not that I assume Lance Armstrong will complete a journey of redemption, that can’t be known at this time.  I just don’t see his deeds being beyond redemption, and for a man who just hit bottom, lets give it time to see how he responds.

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What Would You Do? A Question About Guns

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Fox NewsBill O’Reilly asked NBC’s Bob Costas if he was in that movie theater in Aurora Colorado when the mass shooting occurred, on the night of the last Batman premiere, would he prefer to have had a gun to protect himself or be defenseless hiding on the floor, hoping not to be killed?

Before I go on, here is the back-story:

In the wake of the murder suicide perpetuated by Kansas City Chiefs football play Jovan Belcher on December 1st, comments were made by NBC analyst Bob Costas during the broadcast of Sunday night football that has since sparked more debate and controversy than the heinous crime itself.  Costas was paraphrasing parts of an article written by FOXSports.com writer Jason Whitlock in which he talks about the culture of guns and that if Belcher didn’t have a gun, two more people would be alive.

Without taking sides on gun control, I can say that I do think it was inappropriate for Costas to comment when and how he did.  He was in fact “politicizing” an issue in a moment of mourning when the wounds of the tragedy were still open and sensitive to the touch.  Regardless of how you feel about the gun issue, in grand moments, when an issue captures national attention, and is of emotional concern, to borrow a sports term, it is time for a timeout, from where we disagree.

It should be a moment of coming together.  With the right sensitivity, the togetherness of the moment could then possibly be used as a means of having that serious conversation of how we can learn and improve things.  In this case, not only as it pertains to guns, but also mental illness and domestic violence.

If you’re reading this and are anti-gun or in favor of repealing the second amendment, imagine how you would have felt if instead of stating that Belcher and his girlfriend would still be alive if he didn’t have a gun, Costas spent a minute stating that Kasandra Perkins might still be alive if only she had a gun to protect herself?  Those comments would not have been appropriate either.

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I applaud Costas’ intentions.  The criticism he has faced is overstated but that is a byproduct of the sheer volume of the transmedia we have today.  It is just the way it is anytime someone veers off the politically correct course.

This criticism landed Costas in a chair opposite Bill O’Reilly and the question O’Reilly posed at the beginning of this blog.  Costas said he wouldn’t want a gun.  O’Reilly said he would.

Now that the proverbial can of worms is open, I will dive in.

My comment is this, the question posed by O’Reilly is incomplete and I would like to add another scenario.  Your choice is: to not have a gun, or for everyone in the theater to have a gun.

In this scenario maybe James Holmes never attacks that night.  But for the moment since he had body armor and superior weaponry lets assume he did.  My next question for the gun carrying audience is how well trained are they with their guns?  How accurate a shot are they?  How do they respond under this type of pressure?  Do they have an itchy trigger finger?   How will each individual respond to the shock of initial gunfire?  Will they know, immediately, who the attacker is, or might they mistake a fellow theatergoer as the attacker and shoot at them?  Or maybe they know who the attacker is but a stray bullet finds an unintended target.

The pro gun crowd likes to talk about personal responsibility and remove blame from guns.  Okay Bill O’Reilly.  If you’re in that theater and you’re carrying a gun and stand up and shoot me instead of James Holmes, you should go to jail for involuntary manslaughter and my family is suing you for wrongful death.  While I do respect your right to bear arms, you do also bear the responsibility of your actions.

Like many issues, spanning from dependency on foreign oil, social security, and immigration, gun control and its myriad of issues keeps getting kicked down the road.

And while Costas’ timing was admittedly off, he and Whitlock raise valid points about the gun culture, so rather then let that timing obscure the issue, can we have that conversation now?  Can we take action now?  Not to repeal the 2nd amendment, (I support it) but to evaluate and update its regulation, education, and enforcement?

Last question.  If you were in a movie theater.  One that was going to be attacked by a man in bulletproof body armor and assault weapons.  Would you rather everyone in that theater had a gun or that everyone did not?

What Do Guns And Marijuana Have In Common?

In the wake of the tragic shooting in Aurora Colorado, at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, early Friday July 20th, I couldn’t help but notice the back and forth twitter and facebook chatter regarding gun control. Good, passionate people on both sides using the events of the shooting to prove their point. On the one side, “if guns were illegal or harder to get, this wouldn’t happen”. On the other side, “if you make guns illegal, criminals and nuts will still get their hands on them leaving innocent people unable to defend themselves”.

Generally speaking, it is my friends on the left that support gun control, and it is my friends on the right that support the full expression of the 2nd amendment to the constitution.

This is where marijuana comes in, and where we see a reversal of logic used to argue in favor for or against.

With marijuana, it is my friends on the left that point out that:

  • The war on drugs has failed.
  • That we cannot stop those who want to use marijuana from using it.
  • That by legalizing it, we can greatly reduce the influence of drug dealers.

Further, we can tax it, regulate it, make it safer to consume, and so on. However, my friends on the right point out the ills of marijuana and how it hurts people, contributes to the moral bankrupting of America and on and on.

So, if prohibition didn’t work. If according to the right, gun control wouldn’t work. And if according to the left (and most others) the war on drugs is not working, why do we have this inconsistency in applied reasoning?

Perhaps those that support easy access to guns would argue that there are valid legal uses for guns such as hunting and defense. However, marijuana does have medicinal uses and is capable of being used in moderation.

The point here is if regulation, taxation, and legalization are good for one, because it makes it safer, more controllable and produces revenue, while a ban is impractical, because those who want it would get it anyway, how is it not so for the other?

I’m not saying you can’t argue for or against marijuana or guns for other reasons. Nor have I expressed my opinion on either in this blog. I just felt it necessary to point out this glaring hypocrisy of reasoning.

In the absence of, or while in pursuit of stricter gun control, and in light of the failing war on marijuana, perhaps some of the energy put forth to criminalize the behavior and demonize those with whom you disagree would be better spent looking for warning signs of abuse, disengagement or aberrant behavior. Or to put it more simply, guns and marijuana aren’t going anywhere, so the question is, what is the best way to deal with it, regulate it and keep everybody safe?

Doesn’t that seem more prudent than slinging arrows or pointing out extreme nonsensical statements hyper partisans posted on their twitter and facebook pages?