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Showing posts from 2014

Sensitivity to race

Two years ago, when I visited Atlanta for Dragon Con, I blogged about some thoughts I had concerning racism.  This was my first time visiting Atlanta for more than just a few hours and it was my first time riding the public transportation here.  That visit and now living here have helped me be more observant to race issues.  Teaching at an HBCU has also helped me to better understand racism and related issues.

It's easy to convince myself that I'm race blind (or color-blind, as some put it).  As I understand it, scientific evidence points to the conclusion that it is impossible to actually be race blind.  I am aware of this intellectually, but I believe that the emotional understanding hasn't quite set in.  Today I was reminded that in fact I am not race blind.  That, in at least some sense of the word, I am racist.  Now, I use that word not to confess that I believe one race to be superior to another, but only to state that I acknowledge that I notice the difference of sk…

It takes all kinds

I have a very distinctive memory from my time in the LDS missionary training center back in 2002.  In the center, missionaries (who at the time were 19-26 for men, but mostly 19) are divided into groups called districts.  Each district is assigned a leader, which is one of the missionaries.  I was assigned to be the leader of my district.  Even though all it amounts to is really just being given the key to the mailbox for the district's mail, I took the title seriously and tried to do my best to keep the missionaries in my district in line.

I was very authoritarian.  I would scold my missionaries.  I would berate them for stepping out of line.  I was not very forgiving.  I expected all of them to fit into a particular mold--that of my own image of what a missionary should be.  One of the missionaries at one point said that it takes all kinds and that he's grateful for diversity.  I've thought about that over these years.

I often hear people saying things like "no on…

The dangers of patriotism

Back in 2007, I was very troubled by the things that I heard about what was going on with the USA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" and other things about the Iraq War.  I actually wrote a research paper about the Iraq War in 2006.  Prior to writing the paper, I was in support of Bush and all the tactics we were using.  It was while I was studying the matter that I learned more and changed my position.  I include here an exchange I had with another individual about the matter to emphasize the point I wish to make in this blog, which is that questioning authority is often a good idea and that blindly following is quite often detrimental.
I can't say I feel good about what is going on at Guantanamo. I do not claim I know what is going on there, but this is significant evidence that it is inhumane. You were just telling me about how Saddam Hussein was trying to avoid UN inspections, well now the Bush administration is guilty of that as well. I cannot ever support…

Why I blog

I've written about this before, but I do like to stop and take a minute to think about why I post the things I post.  And in my own mind, it isn't limited just to what I write here on my blog, it includes the things I post on Facebook and Twitter.  So why do I blog?

I blog because I see injustices in the world and I would like to point them out.  I believe that being more aware of injustice around us will give us better tools to help combat it, to lead to a more egalitarian and just society.

I blog because it helps me to organize the thoughts that I have.  When I am forced to type my thoughts into complete English sentences, in a more-or-less essay format, I think about them more deeply than I would if I were simply musing to myself.  I often find that as I end a blog post I took it in a different direction than I intended to at the offset, which is fine.  It shows that there is a different way to think of the issue at hand.

I blog because I see oppression and I wish to stand…

Teaching hate

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I just saw this picture in my Facebook feed.  It made me think about two different ideas simultaneously.  One is that suggested in the caption--that children are inherently accepting of all people regardless of race and the other is that children also do not inherently feel embarrassed or ashamed to show affection in public.

We teach our children much in their young years.  We teach them so many biases and prejudices.  Many of these biases are taught unwittingly.  We may not make a conscious effort to do so.  It's simply what comes naturally to us.  We teach our children the things that we believe to be true--the things that we call "common sense".  Albert Einstein asserted "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

I feel like there are two important lessons to learn here.  The first, and probably most important, is to be self-critical.  To examine one's own beliefs in order to ascertain which should be kept and valued and w…

Part of the solution

This post was inspired in part by all of the anti-Ferguson posts I've seen and in part by an article I just read about Mike Brown's dad partaking in a turkey giveaway.  I've noticed that many conservative people have reacted to all of the events in Ferguson by posting videos of looting and arson or articles talking about black-on-white or black-on-black crime.  I've seen all kinds of criticism being thrown around.  I have decided that the response I wish to give is that of a positive light shed on the black community--highlighting those persons in the community who are working to make a better world for themselves and for all people.  
I wish to explain my reasons for this.  The first is that, upon seeing all the negative posts, I have asked myself "What do you mean to accomplish by sharing this?  What is your point?"  There may be many reasons that people (honestly, it is mostly conservatives) choose to post the negative aspects of the protesting.  The first…

Righteous Indignation

I'm angry.  I'm angry because I see the hurt in the hearts of the black members of our community.  I'm angry because I see apathy from nearly all of the white members of the community.  I'm angry because only a handful of my white friends have even joined in the discussion about Ferguson or black rights or black lives, and nearly all of those who have joined in the conversation have not been empathetic toward black people, but have been critical of black people.

I have friends who post things making it seem like all of the protestors are rioting and looting--that the whole thing is a big mess of violence and crime.  This is so far from the truth.  It is extremely common for white people and even black people to be critical of the looters and vandals.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but all of those types of comments bothered me.  Then I saw something a black friend posted on Facebook which helped me understand his perspective on the matter.  If you truly do …

To riot or not to riot

Obama has called for peaceful reaction to the decision the grand jury in Ferguson has reached.  In his speech, he mentions what Mike Brown's father said about the matter--also that people should be peaceful.  I am a peaceful person.  I do not feel a need to personally be violent.  I see the wisdom in being peaceful and in striving for harmony with others in the community.

However, I do not agree with the argument.  Obama says that there is never an excuse for violence.  Of course I find that ironic because he's using violence left and right in the Middle East.  I am a pacifist.  I don't like violence.  I like peace.  But I cannot say that I feel there is never an excuse for violence.  I empathize with those who feel so frustrated that their only recourse is to turn to violence.  I feel even that it may be logical to do so.  When injustice reaches a certain level, revolting against authority figures guilty of creating that injustice becomes justified.  Or, as Thomas Jeffers…

The Libertarian dilemma

Conrad got in an accident yesterday.  A tow truck drove past and sideswiped him, damaging the side mirror.  When he got out of the car, he suggested exchanging insurance information with the other driver.  The other driver just said that he'd pay for the damage out of his own pocket, gave him his number, and drove off.  Since the damage wasn't severe, Conrad drove off as well.  Conrad called a repair shop to get a quote for the cost of the necessary repair and then called the tow truck driver, who agreed to meet to give him the money for it.

This story is what I wish all human interactions could be like.  It is a faith-promoting story for a libertarian.  It's good because it didn't involve the police.  It didn't involve insurance companies.  Two parties resolved an issue that existed between them themselves, without any need for outside help at all.  That's the most efficient way for issues between persons to be resolved.  The problem is that not everyone is t…

Ostrich-sized

I believe that ostracism can be a good thing.  I've talked about it a bit in earlier posts.  I consider the effects of ostracism.  When a society believes a certain action to be unacceptable--to be detrimental to the good of the society--its members often ostracize those who perform the action in question.  And this is often an effective method of dealing with problems.  Consider, for example, the recent action of Pope Francis.  He excommunicated a priest who sexually abused several teenagers.  The offender was apparently also sentenced to serve several years in prison for this action.  Both of these punishments--the excommunication and the prison sentence (which, if I understand the article correctly, he ended up not serving) are a form of ostracism.  Both actions send the message to the offender and to the rest of society "We will not tolerate sexual assault of minors."  
My parents taught me the value of ostracism in a very small scale.  For example, I was told as a c…

Meet the non-Mormons

The LDS-produced film Meet the Mormons debuted this weekend.  It was shown in 317 theaters and grossed $2.7 million, which ranks it as #11 for the weekend.  That's quite successful.  That's very impressive.  One thing that did surprise me was that it grossed nearly as much as many other movies which were shown in 4 to 6 times as many theaters.  As far as theater count goes, it ranked #19 for the weekend.  So I wondered why would the movie do so well in the 317 theaters where it showed?

I looked up the movie on Rotten Tomatoes.  This gave a more telling story than any other article I could imagine.  There were 8 critic reviews, all negative.  It got a score of 0% from critics (meaning all 8 of the critics labeled it "rotten", and none labeled it "fresh").  It got an average rating of 4.8/10 from these critics.  On the other hand, the audience rating is at a rather remarkable high of 91%.  Why such a discrepancy?  Contrast, for example, Guardians of the Galax…

To shrink or to grow?

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This is a reproach for me.  There have been too many opportunities lately where I have been able to assist people but have shied away rather than obeying the compulsion.  I can't explain why I do this.  I know only that I feel regret for it.  Regret and uncertainty.  In so many situations, I don't know what the "right" thing to do would be.

Last week, I was at the grocery store.  The family in front of me had placed nearly all of their groceries on the conveyor belt, but had left a few in the cart.  This was puzzling, but I've seen people break up their orders in two pieces before, so I didn't want to jump to any conclusions.  When the total was calculated, they grabbed one more item from the cart and handed it to the cashier, then paid for the food.  The remaining items were then placed on the belt and the cashier gathered them and placed them in a cart that seemed to be full from others' groceries who, at this point, I assumed lacked the money to pay f…

Soul searching

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If you haven't guessed by now, this is how most of my blog posts get started.  I see something on my Facebook feed and it gets me thinking.  I've thought about prayer many times.  When I was a believing Mormon, prayer was a big part of my life.  I'd pray when I woke up in the morning, when I ate any meal (even at restaurants), when I went to bed at night and even sometimes before I had sex with my wife.

This illustration does a good job of juxtaposing the unity that believers express in their common descriptions of their spiritual experiences with the anger they often express when discovering differences in their beliefs.

Perhaps the goal of the cartoon is to point out how ridiculous prayer is.  Perhaps it's to point out how ridiculous all religions are, by showing how no one can agree on which one is the correct religion.  Or perhaps there was some other intent.  Regardless, it made me think about prayer, as I have many times since I left the LDS church.

Many irrel…

Ideological Isolation

I watched a television series called Boy Meets World when I was younger.  I've been catching some reruns here and there recently.  One character I had completely forgotten about was a bully, with his two cronies.  The cronies are sniveling yes men who do whatever the bully tells them to do.  Of course, these three are a caricature, but this phenomenon happens all the time in real life.  Seeing an example of it in a thread on Facebook this morning is what sparked this post.

I was talking to my students the other day about race problems.  It's a topic I like to discuss with them, to get their perspective on the issues.  One of them mentioned white privilege.  I pointed out that one of the dangers of white privilege is that we white people don't feel privileged--at least, not always.  More often than not, a privileged member of a society does not feel that ey is privileged, rather ey feels like a normal member of the society and that everyone roughly has more or less the same…

Judge and be judged

The Bible says "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." (Matt 7:1)  Of course, the logic is flawed, but in practice that is generally true--the more you judge people, the more they will judge you.  However, I think that sometimes we go too far when we say "don't judge me" or "don't judge other people".  I think the anti-judging culture is harmful.  I believe that judgment serves a good purpose in society, and that it is helpful.

Judging others is a powerful tool.  It should be acknowledged and embraced, not dismissed.  When I first came out of the closet, I joined the bandwagon of people who said "don't judge me for being gay".  But there were times when I had to admit to myself that I was grateful for the input that people gave me.  Many of the people who voiced their opinions to me did so out of love and a desire to help.  It may not have been a pleasant thing for me to hear, but often things that we need to hear aren't pleas…

Weight for it

I have come to realize that maintaining weight is the easiest thing to do, as far as weight is concerned.  To gain weight or to lose weight is more difficult.  There is one mathematical/biological reason for this.  The more your body weighs, the higher your basal metabolic rate is.  That is, the number of calories your body needs simply to live (not counting any movement that you actually do throughout the day) increases as you grow bigger and decreases as you grow smaller.  Thus, the number of calories needed to maintain weight correlates positively with body weight.

How does this phenomenon affect weight change and goals of weight change?  Well, it makes it difficult to gain weight.  Why?  Because as you gain weight, you need to eat more calories to gain more weight.  Right now, to maintain my current weight, I need to eat roughly 2,500 calories.  When I was 285 pounds, I needed to eat roughly 3,000 calories.  So, if I'm trying to gain weight--say I want to get to 300 pounds--r…

You're Facebooking wrong

I've seen lots of criticism on what people should or shouldn't post on Facebook.  I've seen people complain about political and religious posts, about pictures of food, about exercise logs or weight logs.  I've seen people say that you shouldn't put anything negative on Facebook or that you shouldn't whine or complain.  You post too much.  You don't post enough.  I've seen people criticize nearly every type of Facebook post, including being critical of other people's Facebook posts.

I enjoy the variety of posts that I see in my newsfeed.  I love seeing posts about the things that are going on in the personal lives of my family and friends, particularly those that I don't get to see in person on a regular basis.  I enjoy seeing photos of them doing fun things or their new haircut or whatever other exciting thing is going on in their lives.

I enjoy seeing photos of the food that my friends eat.  Some of the photos are very delicious-looking, and …