📰🌈 Fighting the Misinformation

As it is the start of Pride Month, I feel it is appropriate to post these thoughts that have been going around in my head. This all got started last week when I answered a question on Quora about whether trans rights would be the downfall of America, and the ensuing questions and answers that arose therefrom. It made me realize the level of misinformation that is out there, and the stunning ignorance that results from people not listening and thinking. So I’d like to do my part to clarify things, at least from my understanding as a cismale person.

First, there are three distinct things out there that are seemingly being conflated by those on the “anti-Woke” (henceforth !W) crowd:

  • Transgender. This is the condition when the physical body that one has is not congruent with the gender identity in the mind. It is something that is really hard for most of us to think about — after all, we never think about our gender as something different than what our sex organs are. But there are those who have that condition. When they do, they have a range of options, from hiding their identity (bad idea), to expressing their identity in various ways. They can simply dress and adopt the lifestyle of the gender they seem themselves as. They can go on the appropriate hormones. They can avail themselves of various surgical options. All of these things require psychological counseling and multiple years; surgery in particular requires years of living as the other gender before it is even considered. Many trans folks don’t have surgery. It is important to note that individuals under 18 DO NOT have irreversible surgery, unless some significant medical reason requires it. Before age 18, puberty blockers are used to delay puberty (there are rare side effects), and in later adulthood, hormone therapy may be used (the “at birth” gender reasserts itself if those hormones are stopped). In other words: Nothing irreversible is done before age 18. It is also important to note that suicide is very common for people suffering from this dysmorphia, and the impacts of the medicines are much better than suicide. It is also important to note that trans is independent of sexuality and sexual desire. Lastly, note that the percentage of folks that are trans is very very small, when compared to the overall population.
  • Drag Queens. Drag is just another form of cosplay, and drag queens are just actors inhabiting a persona. Drag has been around for a long time. In Shakespeare’s time, all “women” actors were played by men. We had folks like Milton Berle in the 1950s and 1960s, there was Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in the 1950s, there were TV kid show hosts; there was Flip Wilson and Bob Hope; and of course, there was Mrs. Doubtfire. This is just acting. It is not recruiting kids, and it is not sexual. KIds just like playing around, putting on costumes, and pretending to be other people and using their imaginations. Nothing about sex at all. They like watching people in costume. The important thing here is that drag is for entertainment.
  • Cross-dresser. A term for people who dress in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by the other sex, but who generally have no intent to live full-time as the other gender. Some of these folks do get sexual pleasure from doing this, but not all. Again, these folks don’t recruit, but do it for their own pleasure.

Different things. None of them recruiting kids.

It is also useful to understand life is rarely binary, and there aren’t simple dimensions in this area. Sex isn’t XX or XY; genetically there is a wide range between the gender (see this article). Gender is a societal construct that changes over time, and it is also a spectrum from male to female to ambiguous areas in-between. There are also dimensions that are spectrums with respect to romantic attraction and sexual attraction (not always the same). And, of course, there are folks who just want to have no part of any of this, and just to live their own life on their terms. We should not be judging on this. As the Skittles ad says: Enjoy the rainbow.

So, the next question is: Should there be laws limiting this stuff? The answer here is a resounding “No”. Such laws are un-American, where the Constitution explicitly permits freedom of expression. Gender is a form of expression. Simple as that.

You say your religion is against it? Then don’t do it yourself. But don’t use your religion as a cudgel to force other people to agree with your religious views. That is also un-American, where there is freedom of religion.

What about bathrooms you say? A few points here:

  • If you were in a ladies room, and saw someone dressed as a guy walk in, you would be upset. Similarly, if you were in a men’s room and saw a woman walk in. So the rule should be simple: Go into the restroom that matches your gender expression.
  • The notion of genital inspection to enforce restroom usage is just plain stupid. If the government does it, it goes against the 4th amendment: unreasonable search. If a person does it, it is essentially sexual assault.
  • But what about exposed genitals in the restroom. I don’t know where you go, but I don’t see them except at the trough pissers at a baseball game. Go into a private stall, mind your business, do your business, and wash your hands.
  • But what about bathroom assaults? I have yet to see a pattern of proven incidents involving transgendered, drag queens, or cross-dressers. The one report I did see was someone where the victim had a previous sexual relationship with the attacker, and invited them into the restroom. Restrooms attacks are more often done by the angry entitled men who have a negative view of women. That’s a different problem, and one that needs to be addressed. Similarly, sexual attacks on children are often from those in a position of power, not from people already marginalized. Again, we need to address that (and note that the folks riling you up against the marginalized folks are those same folks in a position of power, who want to keep that power).
  • What about shared and open showers? That’s a bit of a harder question, for you want to respect others as well. Such rooms typically have a private area for those who need it (it’s not just trans or different gender-presenting folks). Use that private space; but it may mean waiting until you get home (or turning away out of view). You might need to talk to the management. But remember: It is as much a concern for the person being seen as the person doing the seeing.

What about sport teams, you say:

  • Personally, I think we should get rid of gendered colligate and professional teams, and go to weight and strength based classes, independent of gender. That’s a fair and equitable solution.
  • Otherwise, at the College and Professional Level, there should be a requirement to have been on the appropriate hormone for a significant period (which weakens or strengthens muscle mass), with private changing areas. This does actually tend to be quite rare.
  • For kids? We shouldn’t have the gender distinction. Just provide the appropriate changing areas, and let the kids have fun playing together.

It boils down to this: Treat people as you would like to be treated: with respect. Call them what they want to be called. Treat them as the gender they present as. Don’t judge, lest ye be judged.

Oh, and let the drag queen read to your kids. They’ll probably enjoy the story, and maybe will learn a very important lesson from the drag queen: reading is a lot of fun.

What? You were thinking they would learn something else?

P.S.: If you note, the concern seems to only be with men presenting as female, never the other way around. Ask yourself why that is. Does it say something about men? Does it say something about what these men are afraid of, or how they view men who want to be woman? What does that say about how they view women? Quite telling.


📰 Kill the Pig?

I know, I’ve been listening to too many podcasts about Carrie — The Musical, but that’s not the reason for this post. Rather, a friend shared on FB an article about a supposed movement to cancel Miss Piggy: this is when I realized that this diversion and distraction about “cancellation” is going to far. For those jumping to the conclusion that he’s going to talk and complain about cancel culture — well you’re wrong as well.

Let’s get this straight: The owner of intellectual property has every right to do with that property what they will until it is in the public domain. They can withhold it from the public (as the Seuss estate is doing with six books); they can put it in context (as TCM is doing with a number of “classic” movies), or they can do nothing. That’s not the supposed cancel culture: that’s a business making a business decision about how continued marketing of their product will impact their future business and how their brand is viewed in the future.

But let’s turn to the question of Miss Piggy, and her behavior in contrast to another recent discussion topic, Pepe Le Pew. I think this comparison leads to some interesting and important conclusions about how the owners of the IP should behave. It also sheds light on what the Suess IP owners should do, and what similar IP owners should do.

Question 1: Is the problematic aspect of the character the only aspect of the character? Is the character one-note? For Pepe Le Pew, that’s certainly the case. The entire joke around the character is a skunk (which looks like a cat with a white stripe), falls in love with a cat with a white stripe, who wants nothing to do with the skunk. Remove that, and you have no character. If you just had a skunk with a French accent, placed in other situations, there would be no joke. What makes the Le Pew character is his clueless advances. The same is true for a character like Speedy Gonzalez. What makes that character is the accent and characterization. Remove that, and you essentially have the Road Runner.  On the other hand, take Miss Piggy. Her chasing after Kermit is only one aspect of her character. Other aspects, such as self-love and bossiness, can exist independently. Indeed, her lust for Kermit has been toned down in recent portrayals. They’ve eliminated the problematic behavior and an interesting character still remains. Thus, there is no need to cancel “Miss Piggy”; indeed, her change can be viewed as a lesson in itself.

Question 2: Who is the audience for the character? Although the Looney Tunes shorts were originally aimed at adults in the 1940s, they rapidly became children’s cartoons. That’s where they exist today. And little kids don’t have the maturity to put things in historical context. That’s the problem with the Suess illustrations and problematic Looney Tunes. They are aimed at little kids. That’s why the fresh publication of these problematic characters is ceasing. But the older images remain, and adults can look at them and put them in context. But Miss Piggy? Although she has been on Sesame Street, the oldest episodes of that series where she chased Kermit are long out of circulation. Kids aren’t seeing them. They are seeing the new Piggy. Her other appearances? [Edited: Piggy was never on Sesame, although she appeared with some of the characters] [Muppet movies and the Muppet non-CTW TV productions] are aimed squarely at adults (secondarily at children), who can put past behavior in context. Audience and its maturity matters.

What we are doing now: Reexamining past art, and recognizing when it was reflecting wrong attitudes, is a good thing. Making clear the context of the art, when the intended audience of the art can understand placing it in context, is a good thing. It can serve to teach, and to show us how we have changed and when we need to change. But if the intended audience can’t understand the art, it is reasonable to rethink whether it is still worth putting out there. It is also appropriate for businesses to think about how what they put out in the present day reflects the values and morals of their business. Past portrayals and images, no matter how cherished by older customers, may not be appropriate today.


👩🏼👨🏾👧🏾🧑🏼👩‍🦰 You Have To Be Carefully Taught

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

I have some news that may be surprising for you. We’re finally becoming adults. We’re finally realizing that we did some stupid things when we were young. We’re finally realizing that perhaps we don’t have to keep those pictures that we took of ourselves drunk, naked, and peeing on a car available to the world on our Facebook page (and don’t go looking for them. They do not exist). When we grow up, realize we did something stupid, and change our behavior and repudiate what we did in the past, that isn’t “cancel culture”. That’s finally being an adult.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Mary McNamera does a great job of saying it in the LA Times:

Look, I am a white person raised in the United States of America, albeit by fairly liberal parents, and I can say from personal experience that it is very hard and disappointing to realize that beloved books, music, movies and brand packaging once considered perfectly acceptable were and are in fact racist, sexist, homo/transphobic or otherwise offensive. That many of these “classics” were and are tools used, intentionally or unconsciously, to reinforce stereotypes that have allowed one group to dehumanize and dominate other less powerful and less privileged groups in many ways and for far too long.

I loved “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” as a child, and though I can’t remember noticing the Asian character in it, that’s probably because, unfortunately, offensive caricatures of all sorts of people were considered perfectly normal when I was a child … and a teenager … and a young adult. The Asian character, or the African ones in “If I Ran the Zoo,” didn’t register because their portrayals were consistent with much of what I saw in the culture around me. A culture that was just beginning to realize that “Whites Only” signs were not only unacceptable but a facet of the same problem.

It’s disturbing and mortifying to realize that those Butterfly McQueen-as-Prissy imitations I did as a child were completely and horribly racist, or that Charlie Chan, whom I also adored, was a double-edged sword. Yes, he was one of a very few Asian characters allowed to be a hero lead, but only when saddled with a welter of stereotypical traits. Turns out that “Ah-so, number one son” is not something Chinese people actually said; who knew? Well, every Chinese person in America, for starters.

But being embarrassed or feeling threatened or deprived of a beloved object when the offensiveness of certain images, stories or words is pointed out doesn’t give you an excuse to perpetuate or even defend them. Neither embarrassment nor that kind of deprivation is on par with the pain of living in a society that continually presents demeaning versions of people who look like you. Failing to realize that something you enjoy or take for granted is racist doesn’t necessarily make you a racist; but doubling down and getting all defensive after this racism has been pointed out — well, now, in the words of my faith, you are sinning with full knowledge of the sin.

The  removal from publication of 6 Dr. Seuss books, by the owner of the books, is entirely within their right. I recall reading somewhere that the author was uncomfortable in later life with the racist work he did in his youth (and yes, Geisel’s early work was racist). An article I found noted:

Like many political cartoons from this period, some of Geisel’s political pieces are, today, considered racist—particularly toward Japanese people. While Geisel did not outright express regret over these pieces, contemporary critics believe that his later works—many of which revolve around themes of tolerance—atoned for these mistakes. Still, his early attitudes cannot—and should not—be dismissed. “We all have blind spots,” Richard H. Minear, the author of Dr. Seuss Goes to War, explains. “I use that as a teaching moment—even Dr. Seuss went astray.”

We tend to romanticize our upbringing. We recall only the innocence of what we read in our childhood, and of those times. The lovely family unit of Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best (both of which were in all-white small town America). The early days of Disneyland (with its depictions of colonizers, sub-human African natives, white men and Indian villages, etc.). Our children’s books, like those by Seuss, and Curious George and … Going to Sambos for pancakes. All of these had images that were accepted at the time, but looking back we wince with horror at the messages we were sending our children.

Were these authors and artists wrong or bad people? Probably not. They were reflecting the attitudes of their times, and were trying to do good and entertain. But we look back now, with newer ideas, and those attitudes we realize no longer hold. Settlers in America in the 1600s believed that many women were witches and burned them. We now view that as antiquated. They put Jews in ghettos. We know that is wrong. They taught the earth is flat, and that bleeding someone could cure disease. We know both aren’t true, and no longer teach that.

It holds up with children’s books as well. Beloved series of old don’t hold up to modern standards. Have you ever read Mary Poppins and seen its attitudes towards negros?  Seuss comes as no surprise at all. Depending on how the authors estates handles this, they may be reworked to redraw problematic art, fix some language.

For adults, we can put things in context. Adults can confront the racism and racist images in some (but not all) of Dr. Seuss’ work. With older children, we can explain why the racist stereotypes used to illustrate Asian people (slanted eyes, wielding chopsticks), African people (monkeylike) and Arab people (man on a camel) are wrong. We can do like TCM, and place discussions around classic movies about both what they get right, and what they get wrong. Adults can understand this stuff.

I have a large music collection. Over 49,000 songs. I know that some of the songs in my collection are racist, or have a problematic past. That happens with folk tunes. That happens with pieces written before we were aware. But I’m also old enough to recognize that context. I can separate the tune from the words, and recognize the problems with the words. I’m an adult. I have that capacity.

But our littlest kiddos? Those under 5-6 — where these Seuss books were aimed — don’t understand context and nuance. They are sponges. They absorb the imagery, internalize it, and believe it without question. For them, the answer is simply to pull the materials. Perhaps when they are older bring out an archival copy in context. But when they are young… This is why — as beloved as these pieces might be in memory — the owners of the material are right to keep them in the vault. We don’t need the smiling Chinese man in a pointed hat carrying rice, or Brer Rabbit and the happy slaves. Geisel’s estate can keep those books in the vault, just as Disney can keep Song of the South locked away. Owners of material can do what they want with the material they own, for whatever reasons they want. Especially when we are working with young children, we need to be careful of what we are teaching them, and the images we are presenting.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

Rogers and Hammerstein, who wrote those lyrics for South Pacific, also developed the culturally insensitive Flower Drum Song. It is difficult from any artist from any area not to have reflected the values and images of the times. That’s why we must teach carefully. It is worth nothing that the R&H estate authorized updating Flower Drum Song to adjust the sense and remove the stereotypes.

We can learn. We can change. We can see that things in our past were wrong, and decide not to perpetuate our mistakes. We have to remember we are under no obligation to remind the world that we were young and stupid once.

P.S.: For those who bring up Hasbro’s decision to rebrand the Potato Head line: Please note that Mr. Potato Head remains a Mr. What is changing is the name of the product line: Hasbro decided it made no sense to call the line Mr. Potato Head when it included a Mrs., and so they dropped the title from the line. That’s it.


👩🏼👨🏾👧🏾🧑🏼👩‍🦰 From Mistakes and Missteps Comes Learning and Realization

For some reason, the whole mess at Gimlet Media related to the Reply All Test Kitchen series and its fallout, which I wrote about in my last post, has continued to fascinate me. I’ve been reading tweet threats by those involved and related: Eric Eddings, Starlee Kine, PJ Vogt, Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Alex Goldman, the Gimlet Union, Emmanuel Dzotsi, and others. As a long time listener, I never quite understood what the Union drive at Gimlet was about. One sees a company by the image they project, and I viewed Gimlet through the eyes of the Startup Podcast and Reply All, through Science Vs and Little Known Facts. This incident has made me realize that what I saw was a facade. More importantly, looking back, it showed they didn’t listen to what they were reporting.

As I noted in my last post, at the time of the starting of Gimlet, Alex Blumberg noted that there were major problems with diversity in Gimlet’s staff. They planned to do something about it. In an episode of Reply All that I cite to this day, they explored why diversity was so important in the workplace: when you hire people from the same background and the same institution, you always get the same view and the same answers. Yet even with that reporting, the recent Test Kitchen series and the subsequent fallout made clear that Gimlet didn’t learn. They hired the team and people from other podcasts they knew: from This American Life and Planet Money and NPR — all of whom had the same views and background and cliques. Just like the Bon Appetit situation they wrote about (at least from what I’ve been reading and hearing), they didn’t give spaces for the other voices. Well, perhaps they did for a short time, but they didn’t last. It was tokenization, not representation. At least, that’s from what I’m hearing and reading. I’m a long time listener, not a podcast. Just like with live theatre: I’m an audience member, which is vital for the industry.

But what is more disappointing is that this pattern of behavior is common across the podcast industry. Helen Zaltzman and the Allusionist podcast left Radiotopia. Why? Zaltzman cited a lack of racial diversity at the Radiotopia: “I have raised this fact repeatedly, recommended existing shows or potential showmakers to approach, questioned the excuses given for why the line-up stayed very white – small capacity and limited resources and insufficient money were frequently cited. So I offered money. And now, in case it makes more space and resources available, I’m removing myself.”

The problem is real. Stephanie Foo wrote a piece in 2020 about diversity problems in public media. It was her third time having to write the article, because people were not learning.  She first wrote it in 2015. In the introduction to that article, she noted: “It’s about time that public media came to terms with the fact that it does not serve the public as a whole. More hosts and program directors realize that a market of POC exists — and if they don’t cater to it, they’ll fail to grow their audience. And I’m glad the people in charge are realizing that when it comes to attracting minorities, throwing some hip-hop beatz as a transition between stories is about as effective and transparent as Mitt Romney’s spray tan. Finally, finally, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the solution to our diversity problem is hiring producers of color, and that diversifying your business is smart from a content perspective.” But did people listen? Did they really change their workplaces? Evidently not.

Back in 2015, Wired wrote about the lack of diversity in podcast voices: “Don’t replicate the stale listenership of public radio, and offer yet another way for the same culturally dominant demographic to tell each other their ideas. Rather than build a wider network of white male voices and listeners, let’s take the momentum and support of networks to promote some podcasts featuring everyone else.” There was an article on this in 2016. This was pointed out again in 2017: “Diversity is another huge challenge faced by the podcast industry, according to the report. As of mid-2016, only a few of the top-100 iTunes podcasts — shows like “Code Switch” and “Snap Judgment” — were designed to amplify diverse voices. Most podcast hosts are also male.”

But just as with theatre: diversity in the hosts at the front is only the visible tip. Diversity needs to be throughout: from the researchers to those pitching the stories to those producing to those editing to those marketing to those … The Reply All podcast perhaps said it best back in 2016:

LESLIE says that Twitter’s lack of diversity doesn’t just affect the workplace atmosphere, but it goes straight to the heart of the product itself.

LESLIE: Obviously if you don’t have people of diverse backgrounds building your product, you’re going get a very very narrowly focused product that may do one or two things really well or just may not do anything really well. And if you look at Twitter as a product, it doesn’t a lot of the simple things. It doesn’t do direct messaging well. It doesn’t do media sharing well, right? And if you had people from diverse backgrounds, you may have been able to expand, you know, what what you thought was possible?

GOLDMAN. Let me ask you this how must of your desire to see diverse workplaces comes from the fact that it’s just morally correct to have diverse workplaces versus it will make your product much better.

LESLIE: Yes. The answer to that question is yes. It’s going to, you know, diverse teams have better outcomes, that is, there’s so much has been written on that in the last 30 years I don’t even know why we’re talking about it. And and I think, you know, I hate sounding like, you know, like a total socialist, but arising tide lifts all boats.

Looking back at this transcript, you know what stands out at me? Who did the interview. Alex Goldman. Not PJ.  And in the latest problems at RA, who was there arguing for diversity and its benefits and the union. Goldman.

As audience members — as listeners to podcasts — I’m starting to wonder if we are hearing but not listening. The problems with diversity have been there. People have been talking about them for years. They have been writing about them. But I’m not sure we have been hearing. But they have been coming to the foreground now. We are learning about the problems at Radiotopia and Gimlet. It is just like how in mid-2020, we because to learn and understand about the problems in the Broadway theatre, and that we needed the diversity throughout.

So what can we — as the audience — do. I think we need to let the podcasting companies — Spotify, Earwolf, NPR, etc. — know we want diversity throughout. Not a host here and there, but in the research, writing, producing, and technical staffs.  We need to find podcasts that exhibit those characteristics and make it know that we are going out of our way to listen to them, and that we want those diverse viewpoints. Although I’m pretty backed up on podcasts, I’m open to recommendations for podcasts that fit this mold.

I also hope that Gimlet uses this incident to do what it does best, and what it did when it started: Turn that microphone on itself. I’d like to see the remaining hosts at RA — Alex and Emmanuel — explore how diversity went wrong at Gimlet, going back to when the problem was first cited in 2015, to when RA touched on the importance of structural diversity back in 2016, exploring the diversity problem in the podcasting industry. They might even be able to salvage some of the Bon Appetit story. But most importantly, I hope they can talk about how the problem is being solved, and being solved in a permanent, long lasting way.


🗯️ Equal Chance, Equal Footing

Yesterday, while writing my post on Trump’s meaning of the “American Way”, the phrase “Equal Chance, Equal Footing” when mentioning White privilege. Society has been pushing the “Equal Chance” notion for years — essentially, it is this notion of color-blind and other forms of supposed race / sex / gender / etc. blindness in academics, hiring, promotion, policing. But aside from the fact that it has never been truly and consistently implemented, it is also a meaningless notion unless everyone starts from the same place.

But this is where Equal Footing comes into play, and it is often the most important piece of the puzzle. You can’t have equal chance if your starting point isn’t equal. Equal footing means, for example:

  • Equal risk of the police targeting you and your family
  • Equal opportunities for education in schools that provide the same learning experience
  • Equal economic comfort for families so that parents have time to spend with children
  • Equal access to job
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Equal appraisals of home and people, independent of racial and economic factors

When we talk equality, often the focus in on the legal aspects. Do these groups have the same rights as others? Can a {woman, LGBT…, black, hispanic, asian, …} do the same thing as {white, male, straight) can do? But equality is more: It is equal chance, and most importantly, having an equal footing.

When you hear talk about “privilege”, it is often a reference to unequal footings. Being white in America gives you a better footing — less chance of bad police interactions, growing up in better neighborhoods, more opportunities in school, more opportunities in jobs, etc. Being male in America gives similar advantages due to societal biases. Similar if you are in the predominant religion – some form of Christianity.

If we are to achieve true equality, we have to work for more than just being equal under the law. We need to be equal under societal customs; we need to provide equal footings. We then need to make sure that are our processes are also equally blind — and that means not only blind to the first level aspects (skin color, orientation, sex, gender, religion), but equally blinds to the second level aspects (what school you went to, where you live, what you wear, how you speak, etc.). True equality is a triad: level, footing, chance. Right now, we have a very wobbly 3 legged stool.



🗳 Struck by a Statement

While reading a summary of the closing night of the RNC, I was struck by a statement of President Trump:

“This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it”

Understand what is being said here. The “American way of life” Trump seeks to defend is one in which:

  • The wealthy get wealthier, and the poor … get poorer or stay the same.
  • The Whites retain their privilege in society.
  • Women remain 70% citizens, and decisions about their bodies are made by men.
  • Blacks and minorities are inherently viewed as something untrustworty.
  • Militaristic policing is acceptable.
  • Bending, exploiting, and cheating the system for personal gain is acceptable
  • The rules don’t matter if you have wealth.
  • Religion should dictate the rules we follow.
  • The dictates are caring about yourself, and leaving others to fend for themselves.
  • Election interference by foreign governments or to benefit the party in power is acceptable.

The supposed “radical” movement is one that believes the notion of equal justice applies to all, and that injustice to one is injustice to all. The “radical” movement believes that for society to be healthy, everyone needs the ability to be healthy — in mind, body, and spirit. The “radical” movement believes that government should work FOR the people, not for their personal gain or the gain of their friends. Oh, and that “equal justice”? That also means that wealth does not allow you to bypass justice or societal obligations: you are part of society, you are subject to the rule and you pay for the upkeep of society. Oh, and that “radical” movements believes elections should be fair, and that every citizen should vote and have that vote counted.

Funny, but I don’t see the “radical” group as destroying America. I see them preserving and defending the ideals that made America great, not the invasive attitudes that are destroying it. I see this radical group as building America back, better.

B”H 2020.



Today is Juneteenth: A day that commemorates when word of the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves reached Texas in 1865. As a friend wrote: “Though Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox over two months before, and what was left of the Confederate government had declared itself dissolved four weeks before, Texas had continued to hold out. The Confederacy west of the Mississippi was effectively governed by General Edmund Kirby Smith, who paid little attention to Jefferson Davis. (And so the area was often called “Kirby Smithdom”.) Kirby Smith finally surrendered his troops on June 2, and it had taken the Union several days to load a force under General Gordon Granger and sail it to Galveston. Once there, General Granger promptly issued his decree (on June 19, 1865), at last giving the freedom that the Emancipation Proclamation had declared at the beginning of 1863, two and a half years before.”

Thought the Civil War has been ended for over 150 years, and although Civil Rights and equality of all races is the law of the land, it appears that that message hasn’t penetrated across all of this country. There are still pockets where White Supremacy reigns or defacto exists, there exist a culture of white privilege and white superiority in law enforcement and so many other areas. Spreading the word of emancipation and equality didn’t end on Juneteenth — it just began. We need to keep spreading the message that equality of the races (and indeed, equality without qualification) is the law of the land, and that racism in any form has no place in this nation.

Let’s keep fighting for the equality that is the law.


📰 Words Matter

The other day, I saw a post on Facebook musing on the phrase #BlackLivesMatter. It pointed out that this was a bad choice of phrase, as it invited the “AllLivesMatter” response. What was needed was something more active; the poster suggested #SaveBlackLives . The advantage, claimed the poster, was that this was less susceptable to “SaveAllLives” (for that is clearly not their position). Believing something matters is much weaker than actually wanting to save the lives.

I bring this up because of the current trending #DefundThePolice notion. The vast majority of people do not understand what that means: they believe (as evidenced by Trump’s recent tweets) that it means a desire to eliminate the police departments. But those who know understand that #DefundThePolice means to move away from the notion of militaristic “policing” as practiced today, to a position of community-based public safety. It means not having our police department be the first line of defense against mental illness and poverty based crimes. It means addressing the underlying problems that leads to the crime, and not meeting the symptom (the actual violation of the law) with violence and anger. It means having community-based officers working with, and being part of the community — not being an outside adversarial force.

Our words matter, and #DefundThePolice is misleading. May I suggest instead: #SafetyNotPolicing , or the positive spin: #FundPublicSafety or #FundCommunitySafety . We need to make it clear we want to go beyond “reform” of existing institutions and their cultures, to reformation and creation of new institutions, with new cultures focused on community engagement and safety.