Candle in a jar

The tiny flame
from a candle in a glass jar
that a young girl holds up high
for the world to see
is stronger than the shouts
and middle fingers
of cowards who roar by
on the street in the night
on their way to hell.


Nothing silly about Trump, Nugent, Palin

“Silly rural Americans” are the last socially acceptable target for liberal mockery, a guy named Matt Bai tweeted today.

I’m not sure that’s true. I have liberal friends and family who openly stereotype Walmart shoppers, as just one example.

To state the obvious, those rural Americans and Walmart shoppers are all people. Humans, we all have much in common.

Still, Mr. Bai makes a good point, that taunting Trump supporters with a Beverly Hillbillies theme song parody (as @TrumpToons did so lamely) hardly persuades anyone to change their tune, or their views, or their votes for that matter.

Changing minds isn’t actually the objective of such stereotyping. It makes the would-be parodist feel good, I suppose, and gets a few laughs and likes, but it reflects badly on the perpetrator and on the “liberals” that Bai accuses. Conservatives routinely stereotype liberals, of course.

This is not to say that the people photographed with the president* aren’t themselves fair targets of criticism or parody. They are.

There’s nothing “silly” about Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin or Donald Trump. I don’t know much about Kid Rock and nothing about the other women in the photo.

Just lay off the generalizations about large groups of people. Not helpful.

When they is (are?) one person

Is there no better alternative to “they” for an individual who identifies as neither male nor female, but as non-binary? I’ve seen many alternatives but am not persuaded that any of them are better.

This has come up a a few times recently in my little corner of the world. The most recent example was in this NPR story about someone who “is no longer legally male or female and prefers the pronoun ‘they’.”

It’s confusing to use they in a sentence when referring to one person. Small issue, maybe, but it’s the only thing that bugs me about the story.

Well, OK, it’s not the only thing.

Far, far worse and infinitely more distressing is the hate that burbles up from the depths when stories like these come to light. I briefly thought about disconnecting from social media, or at least trying harder to avoid the vile, toxic comments that are so common in the world’s dark online underbelly.

I sometimes envy a good friend who no longer watches the news and has no social media presence or interest. I suppose part of the reason is that he is a lawyer, a former prosecutor who now defends the accused. I imagine he’s had more than his fill of exposure to the uglier side of humanity.

It’s hard for me to imagine disconnecting to that extent as a writer. So far, I’m unable to turn away. Maybe it’s because of my education and experience as a journalist, or some character flaw that makes me inordinately curious about the evil among us.

When “they” is among a person’s preferred pronouns (mine are he/him/his, BTW), I try to respect that, as difficult as it might make construction of a clear sentence.

The slimy creatures that spew hatred from greasy keyboards and incite others to commit violence against people who are different?

It is important to know that those people exist, but they deserve respect from no one.


The real definition of insanity

Don’t ever tell me that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

That is both trite and untrue.

I looked it up:

Definition of insanity

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is more like the definition of playing Powerball.

On jerking white knees and intellectual laziness

Those people are too easily offended. They like being victims. Whiny millennials. Redneck morons. Liberal idiots.

Many of us white guys react to ideas these days the way a healthy knee jerks when tapped with a reflex hammer: completely without thought.

keys 009Our reaction often is to dismiss the voices of those whose life experiences don’t mirror our own. Why? Because it is easy, and because thinking requires effort. We are prone to intellectual laziness.

It takes no thought to reflexively discount what we don’t understand. We can simply type out a slur or roll our eyes and shake our heads and go on our way.

We can read something like #BlackLivesMatter and take it personally because we’re not black. The easy thing is to lash out defensively, insisting that #AllLivesMatter, because of course they do.

In doing the easy thing, though, we miss the point entirely. We miss the message those other voices carry. We fail to understand that acknowledging the importance of their lives doesn’t diminish our own.

It takes some effort to ask questions like:

Why are those other people angry?

What is the problem?

What the hell is a microaggression?

Why do I have to worry about every damn thing I say?

Even asking such questions means admitting that someone has gotten our attention and that maybe their voices raise legitimate issues. The questions alone can make us uncomfortable and the answers, if we make the effort to look for them, are not always easy to understand.

We have a choice.

We can make the effort to hear and understand, or we can admit that we really don’t care.