Mar 27 2017

Cell phone provider ads, mic drops, and barriers to communication

I hate cell-phone ads. Except for AT&T, whose ads are humorous and typically don’t bad mouth any other carrier. I’ve always hated Verizon ads since they got rid of the “can you hear me now: guy, which all come off as “hey, stupid people, we’re the best cell phone carrier!” The comes Sprint, which cleverly hired the old “can you hear me know” guy to say Sprint is almost as good but cheaper. They every are spoofing the “mic drop” ads.  Clever, but still kind of obnoxious. Then there’s Metro PCS, who’s better than Sprint. And so it goes. 

One thing that particularly bugs me about the current Verizon ads is using the “mic drop” approach. These upset me. For one thing, I appreciate a good microphone, and cringe every time I see someone drop a good mic on purpose. It’s as stupid as Pete Townsend’s guitar smashing thing.

The second thing wrong with the “mic drop” is that it is an attempt to signal that this is the last word, there’s nothing left to discuss. Or, at any rate, the person dropping the mic is unwilling to continue any discussion. It’s sole purpose is to shut down communication. Many of us like that, actually, but it’s a bad thing.

Reasons for wanting to shut down a discussion include

  • Insecurity about what you believe
  • Hiding ignorance about a subject
  • Wanting to appear to be the authority (when you’re not)
  • Wanting to push your agenda through because it benefits you more than others
  • A neurotic need to be right
  • Just wanting the pain to end

These are bad, for the most part. Conversation and discussion, on the other hand, are typically good. It’s good to have your ideas challenged, and to question purported statements of fact (“alternative facts”). You’ll never grow in understanding without this, and you’re likely to live in your own state of alternative facts rather than actual truth.  

When anyone tries to shut down a discussion via a mic drop moment or some other tactic, you know you’ve hit a nerve. It’s up to you to decide how you are going to respond. Just never accept that it is truly the end of discussion.  


Feb 25 2017

People Are People

People are people so why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully
So we’re different colours
And we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs ~Depeche Mode, “People are People”

There are a lot of things I don’t know and that I don’t understand. But, I try.  Take, for instance, this patent’s story, published in the Washington Post:

It’s almost impossible to deny a person’s humanity after you’ve shared a cup of coffee with them. Most people in our lives, people all across the political spectrum, had never met a trans person before they met Henry. But after they spend a little time with her, learn a little more about her, not a single one would insist she use the boys’ bathroom. https://wpo.st/Olyd2

The one thing we need to know about LGBTQ people is that they are… people.  That’s pretty much it.  People are different–I’m different, and you’re different. We all have different issues, different strengths, and different needs. Categorizing someone as a thing, which we’re doing when we relegate them to just a part of a certain group that we can dismiss or judge, is to completely disregard their individuality, and their humanity. 

In the early days of this country (The United States), only white males had ALL of the rights afforded by the Constitution, and it didn’t even occur to those white males that women and blacks should have equal rights. “All men are created equal…” didn’t apply to those categories of beings that were of lesser status, which also included the Native Americans, which we nearly thingified out of existence.  

200+ years later, most of America has matured to the point where women and non-whites are no longer thingified. However, while a minority, there are still far too many misogynists and racists still out there, and the rest of us will continue to stand up for true equality.  

The New Frontier

True equality, however, applies to everyone. While you may have various views on homosexuality, bisexuality, intersexuality, transsexualism, etc., under the Constitution we should agree that equal rights are for everyone. Equal rights means that all lesser categories of humans have been done away with; there should be no thingification of people who for whatever reason don’t fall into neat categories. 

I find the whole concept of classification to be an issue. For example, “upper class,” “lower class,” and “middle class” are Marxist terms.  Who needs them? What do they do, except to make people compare themselves against others?   And race–there is really only one race. Do we classify each other as Germanic or Scandinavian or whatever?  The only real reason to classify people groups by our origins is so one group can thingify another group.  People are people. Classes are not.

With regard to gender and sexuality, we are all individuals, and don’t all fall into neat categories. All humans fall somewhere on a spectrum of male-female traits.  Many men lean toward the feminine in some areas, and many women have some masculine traits. And with regard to gender identity, there is also a spectrum, although a smaller percentage of people are non-cisgendered. That’s just the way it is.  You can deny reality if you like, but that’s just Trumpism.

The bottom line is this: All people are people. We each have our own strengths and struggles. Some of us have issues that others of us have a difficult time relating to.  Whenever possible, we should try to help people, rather than force them into some thingified category so we don’t have to deal with them.  As the old song goes, “before you abuse, walk a mile in my shoes.” Or as the parent above wrote, “It’s almost impossible to deny a person’s humanity after you’ve shared a cup of coffee with them.”

GLBTQs are not non-people. They aren’t things, and they don’t belong to some less-then-fully-human category. They are full people under our Constitution and under God, and are entitled to all of the rights and privileges thereof. 

People… ALL people… are people.


Jul 9 2016

Confessions of a Privilege Addict

[Note: I realize that some of you will not agree with my perspective here, but this is my story, so…}

Hello, My name is Alden, and I am a privilege addict.  

I’ve known that I was privileged (although I never thought of it in those terms until recently) since I was a child, and I have relished every minute of it.  I know that many of you will doubt or dispute this, as I have never been part of the “1%” and have usually hid my elitist arrogance, but it’s true. 

I believe that humans are inherently tribal in nature; our brains, as my daughter recently explained to me, naturally categorize and order things in order to attempt to understand them. We do the same thing to ourselves, categorizing and ranking ourselves within the greater culture. As children, we are dependent upon others and finding our way in the world outside of our immediate family (or sometimes even within the family) can result in insecurity. The sooner we organize ourselves–finding our tribes, so to speak–the sooner we will achieve some sense of security and belonging.  

As a typically insecure child, I found security in my birthright categories:

  1. I was an American, living in the best and most powerful nation in the world. In a world where war was the norm, there was confort in knowing that we could blow up any nation that challenged us. And yes, there is still some comfort in knowing that in spite of the threat of terrorism, we could destroy any country we wanted to.  I have no real comprehension of living in a country where being invaded is a very real possibility.  I am privileged to be an American.
  2. I was a Christian, living in a Christian town in a Christian country.  It was a small town, with perhaps one Jewish resident. Better yet, I was a Lutheran, belonging to the largest and most impressive church in town, which also happened to be the most theologically correct church (and yes, I still believe that, but my belief now is based on study, not culture).  We were superior. There was no persecution of any kind for a Lutheran in Minnesota.
  3. I was a male. “Man” was the default.  Adam was a man, Jesus was a man, etc. “Man” was the generic label for humanity.  This was kind of a mixed blessing, as males had more expectations put on them than women.  We had to learn to be providers, we may have to go to war, etc.  However, these decisions were in our power, as men were the leaders. 
  4. I was white.  In my home town, we were all white.  And, being all white, we could be benevolently and safely non-racist. Everywhere I went, it was clear that white was the norm. Jesus was white, Santa Claus was white, the President was white, and nearly everyone on television what white.  It was obvious that whites were the majority, and the norm, and that it was in our power to be gracious and accepting of non-whites.  It was in our power.  

So there I was.  And here I am, a straight white male Christian middle-class employed American, with a great wife and children, living in an idyllic setting in a peaceful, small town in Oregon.  I am privileged, and I enjoy it very much.  From the comfort of my climate-controlled home, I can view the hate and hurt of the rest of the world, and pretend to have empathy.  

But, I know I can’t. I will never understand what it is to grow up being one of the not-privileged.  Not really.  Twice in my life I have been in situations where I’ve faced armed policemen, but I’ve never experienced it as a black, an Hispanic, or a Native American. I’ve never interviewed for a job as a woman. I’ve never been refused service or the right to marry because I’m gay, or been reported as a terrorist because I speak Arabic. 

I know I am privileged; I am the norm. I don’t feel guilty because of it; as Lady Gaga sang, I was born that way. I admit that I am glad that I am privileged, because I know that my life is a little bit (or a lot) easier because of it.  I am addicted to being privileged.  I like it. I can’t change the fact that I’m a straight white American male, but I can admit that it makes me automatically privileged, and acknowledge that it’s wrong.  To make the Declaration of Independence a reality–where all men are truly equal–I have to be willing to sacrifice my privileged status; that’s the way equality works. 


Mar 16 2016

How Not To Become A Liberal

One of the greatest fears a conservative has is that of becoming a liberal. The next greatest fear is that someone you know will become a liberal.  In these confusing times, I thought it would be helpful to give a bit of advice on how to stay solidly conservative.

  1. Avoid the Mainstream Media.  News outlets like CNN, NBC, The Washington Post, and PBS will constantly challenge conservative thinking and values by quoting liberal sources and facts.  Stick with news sources that you can trust to provide you with good, common-sense conservative information, like FoxNews, Breitbart, The Blaze, and folks like Rush and Sean Hannity. You need to have your conservatism constantly reinforced.
  2. Don’t listen to your children, especially if they attend public school or liberal arts colleges. If you can’t indoctrinate homeschool your children in a good, science and philosophy free environment, there is no telling what kind of liberal concepts they will adopt. It’s common for schools to teach things like equal rights, which in reality is just a way to erode white male privilege, and unproven scientific theories like evolution and climate change. They will try to challenge your conservative ideals, and they may even make sense. But ignore them anyway.
  3. Regular Evangelical Church Attendance.  There’s no better way to fortify your conservatism than to surround yourself with like-minded conservative Christians, and to hear good, Evangelical Bible teaching. But, beware of those churches who talk too much about grace and forgiveness; grace is just a slippery slope toward liberalism.  And, in that same vein:
  4. Don’t Read the Bible on your own, especially the Gospels, without a good conservative Study Guide or Devotional.  Reading the Gospels without external guidance is a sure way to start thinking like a liberal.  It’s very easy to misunderstand Jesus’ teachings on social justice, loving your enemies, and not judging sinners, which on their face can seem contrary to the conservative evangelical doctrines we hold dear. If you have to read the Bible on your own, read it in small bits, so you can avoid taking the verses in context.

I hope you have found this helpful.  It may sound like a daunting task, but take comfort as you look around at the millions of other people desperately hanging on to good old American conservatism.