Apologies

First, I’m sorry for this as I try not to do political posts here.

Second, to the world: On behalf of the U.S., I’m sorry for the stupid thing we just did.

Third, to the UK: I’m sorry, the Colonies are reclaiming the World’s Dumbest Vote award.  Pres. Donnie beats out a non-binding Brexit vote, I’m afraid.

 

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (with apologies to David Bowie)

I recently started reading Verlyn Flieger’s A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie and it got me thinking.  Flieger discusses the changes that were occurring in the world during Tolkien’s life, particularly during his late-teens and early-20s.  In many ways, this begins as a New Historicist read, noting the major movements and such that were part of Tolkien’s socio-historical context, beyond the old references to WWI.  Flieger examines the movements and countermovements that occurred in the early-20th century in science, art, and philosophy, thoughts and knowledge that changed worldviews.  The work of Freud, Jung, Einstein, Planck, Pound, Joyce, and Picasso.  Each of whom essentially changed how we view the world, or responded to such changes.

 This got me thinking about my grandparents’ lives.  They went from radios and public phones to four channel black & white TV and rotary dial to cable, smartphones, and streaming TV.  Even in my own, relatively short, life, the technological changes from VHS to Blu-ray, landlines to pocket size cell phones, green screen dial-up computers to tablets.  Not to mention all the scientific advances, medical advances, changes in psychology, and philosophies of the last three decades.

 Unlike Tolkien, I grew up with theories of uncertainty regarding the world and continual change, from Einstein to Schroedinger, Jung to Freud, and others.  I grew up with the idea that change is the only constant in the universe.  I grew up in a household with science and mythology, both of which essentially teach the same thing via different methods and languages.  I love the “uncertainty” theories, multiverse theory, and all the possibilities that come from them.

 But, I can also understand why some people desire the comfort of perceived solidity often found in conservative religion and revisionist history (the idea that history never changes, therefore our knowledge of history never changes).  The very things that I enjoy, the uncertainty they engender, can be frightening.  The perception of something going on, unchanged, for 1700+ years (as false as that belief is) can be a comfort, I suppose.  Personally, I think that way lies stasis, which is in many ways equivalent to death.  But, that’s me.

 The fear is then fed by our changing technology.  For instance, dissemination of news.  In my grandparents’ day, there was only an hour or so of news a day (on the radio and at the movies) and newspapers came out twice daily.  Reporters had to be good at what they did.  They had to condense the entire day’s news into an hour block.  Even in my lifetime, I recall only having news on TV at 5, 6, and 11, or about three hours of news a day.  Even then, reporters had to keep things condensed and focused.

 Today’s 24 hour broadcasts let reporters get lazy, with ten, twelve hours covering the same story.  The coverage starts with Geraldo, then Van Susteren, then O’Reilly, then Hannity, for instance, all talking about the exact same event.  It is easy to see why fear develops and gets out of hand.  It is easy to see how 10+ hours of coverage of the same event turns into the belief that multiple events occurred, thereby amplifying the reaction.

 While our technological advances have unleashed at era of unprecedented access to information, I’m not sure that it is good for society or the individual psyche, especially when the internet news and mobile update elements are added.

 Thinking about these things, I think it is easy to see why we appear to have increases in mental disorders, people (a shrinking number) clinging to conservative religion (theoretically stable and unchanging), and an inordinate growth of fear among the general public in developed nations, particularly the U.S.

Gun Control Myth: De-Bunked

Since my state’s legislature just passed a bill to arm teachers in public schools, I’ve been thinking about gun control a lot lately (as a citizen, parent, and educator).

The political right-wing in the U.S. would have us believe that all pro-gun control liberals: a) fear guns and b) don’t understand guns.

Now, even leaving aside the thousands (or more) of veterans and current military who favor gun control, this is blatantly false. I’ll use myself as the case study in this case, since I can’t speak for the backgrounds of others.

I favor gun control and am strongly against arming teachers (or school administrators).

I have no fear of guns.

I understand them.

I’ve done target shooting before. It came easily to me. So easily that I got bored with it. Admittedly, this was with rifles and muskets, so rifled and smooth bore, not handguns (never used one, no real interest). Iron sights only, none of these fancy scopes. Roughly 100-200 feet to targets. Let’s say that were I stuck in the 18th or 19th century wilderness, I wouldn’t starve (might go hungry occasionally, but would not starve). Sure, my shooting’s probably atrophied a bit over the intervening years.

The point is, there was a time when I shot a fair bit. I understand guns and, at the time, could quickly compensate for an individual rifle’s quirks. I think they are fine in fiction, paintball, or Nerf dart form. But, I don’t like the real thing in reality. I have my reasons, and they are varied (addendum: a gun is not the only, or best, form of defense, should one need it).

I think the writers for Dean Devlin’s Leverage said it best:

Head Mook: “You said you don’t like guns.”
Eliot Spencer: “I don’t. Never said I couldn’t use ‘em.”

Social Equality: Fact & Fiction

I try not to get too political here, but something’s been driving me nuts lately. Even so, I’ll try to tie it back to writing and fiction.

Let’s get something straight: feminists, atheists, LGBTs, and non-Whites in Western society do not want “special treatment” or believe they are “better” than men, Christians, straight & cis folks, and Whites. None of these movements—feminist, (racial) civil rights, LGBT rights, (religious) civil rights—are bad things. None of them are trying to destroy freedom or equality. In fact, they are all fighting for freedom and equality.

Here’s the thing:

Western society clearly tells us that straight, white, cis, Christian males (SWCCM) are better than others.

This can be seen in our courts, in our boardrooms, in our legislatures, on our streets. We see examples every day, from racial profiling to catcalls directed at women. But, most SWCCM are blind to this, because they aren’t the ones being derided.

The LGBT Rights movement is not saying that LGBT individuals are better than straight, cis individuals. Nor that they want to be treated better than those individuals. Rather, the LGBT Rights movement says they want LGBT individuals to be treated the same as straight, cis individuals both socially and legally. Right now, they aren’t—see marriage laws with attendant tax benefits and visitation rights (hospitals).

Non-Whites are not saying they’re better or want to be treated better than Whites. They’re saying they want to be treated the same as Whites, both socially and legally. That means an end to racial profiling for one thing—ex. that Hispanic guy stopped in Arizona and asked for his papers, his family’s been living on that land for 300 years (since before Arizona or the U.S. even existed), but he was stopped because he “doesn’t look American”, oddly the same sheriffs aren’t stopping White people to check their papers.

Likewise, atheists and non-Christians aren’t saying they want to be treated better than Christians. They are saying that they want to be treated the same as Christians, socially and legally. Right now, for instance, Christians make up 80% of Congress, less than 5% are non-Judeo-Christians and there are no non-theists in the legislature. Courts (the legal representatives of the State) make witnesses, jurors, and others swear an oath on a religious text (the default being a Bible). Elected officials are sworn into office on a religious text, typically a Bible. In both of the latter cases, the Constitution (or state constitution or city/town charter) ought to be used to demonstrate that the official is a citizen first and theist (generally Christian) second. (Typically, left wing Christians seem to remember this better than right wing Christians do.)

Feminists are not saying that women are better than men or that women should be treated better than men. They’re saying that women should be treated the same as men, socially and legally. Today, if a man goes out a buys contraception (to use a hot topic right now), he can do it over the counter and he’s congratulated by other men. If a woman tries to buy contraception, she needs a prescription and she’s often subjected to being called “baby killer”, “slut”, and/or “whore”. Tell me how this is equal.

The same really applies to the poor to middle class folks as well. Those of us speaking about income inequality are not saying that the poor are better than the rich (though for conserva-Christians out there, Christ says the poor are better, something about a camel and the eye of a needle). However, when the average CEO is paid (not earns) 394 to 415 times what the average employee in the same company earns, something’s very wrong, especially when that average employee is paid so little that (s)he needs to apply for food stamps and other assistance.

Racial, religious, orientation, poverty, or whatnot inequality in society and law are great, in fiction. They create tension, drama, and plot possibilities. In reality, they are decidedly not good because real lives are, sometimes quite literally (lynching, anyone?), on the line.

(Note: Yes, there are exceptions to the above statements. Every movement has its fringe. Case in point, not all Christians are awful people, but people on the Christian fringe, such as Pat Robertson, are.)