In Need Of…Anger Management

On Wednesday, I pulled up an entry I wrote in December 2012 about America’s mental fascination with guns and violence.

We haven’t a learned a thing about it. When I looked at the stats, a total of 31 people clicked on the blog to read the post.

Thirty-one. Five years since it was written.

Nevertheless, I’ll link this entry again, this time with some added observations below.

It has become unnerving to read the many narratives, the dismissal of narratives, and the over-emotional shaming that people have resorted to on social media about the latest incident in Florida. The listed reasons are plenty.

“It’s a parenting problem.”

“It’s mental illness”

“Gun control”

“Angry white male”

“The boys are not all right (this from the NYT op/ed piece)

I got news for all of you…it’s not one specific thing.

It’s everything.

Parenting, gun control, isolation, disconnection, bullying, labeling, and on and on.

All of the vitriol is a perfect storm. How we behave, think, and view others and the world around us is predicated on how we react.

We are a bunch of angry people, plain and simple. 

The common denominator to all of this is anger.

When I sift through all of the factors, it isn’t too hard to see.

Being angry about anything that sets us off.

Anger didn’t occur when the gunmen were able to get access to guns. It started in the classroom, in the home, the office, where ever.

It started with the kids. There are kids who are bullied, picked on, slighted, and ignored, because they are different

Adults, on a daily basis bully, harass, and demean other adults. At work, in the store, and on the streets. In the bar, at a concert, and in front of the kids. Kids pick up the traits of their parents. If a parent was a bully in school, it’s likely their children will be one. If a parent was picked on at school, their children is likely to emulate their parents, or become bully themselves.

It’s about control and a self-sense of power.

When adults and kids are made fun of, bullied, and rejected, the resentment grows to where there are two ways to resolve it: internalize it, drive themselves out of control, and give up…

…or lash out as a means of revenge. “I’ll show them. No one will laugh/harass/talk about me like that anymore.” The seeds of violence were already planted before the irreversible decision to walk into a hallway and open fire.

MSDFADO EC007
Michael Douglas, as William Foster, in “Falling Down” (1992). (Cineplex)

Anyone remember the movie “Falling Down” starring Michael Douglas? Douglas played William Foster, an unemployed defense worker, on his way to visit to his daughter’s birthday party at his ex-wife’s house. He encounters a series of events, trivial or provocative, that sets him off and he goes on a shooting spree. This is where the “white male anger” narrative got tossed around for the first time.

The “angry white male” narrative, though prevalent, has given way to people of all walks of life feeling like William Foster. The real narrative is that we are angry. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, lesbians, straight, man, woman, and child.

Everyone is angry as hell about everything.

Angry about a breakup, being fired, being laughed at, losing a game, facing discrimination. Angry over an election didn’t go their way, a tweet, an opinion…

Everyone’s pissed off about something.

Most of us don’t know how to handle our anger. Some of are not violent, but we go on social media to attack people as a way to unload our anger. The scary part, as sports talk show host Steve Czaban pointed out (48:10 mark), it’s smart educated people with good jobs and lives who turn into monsters behind a keyboard, going apeshit about anything that sets them off daily, small or big.

The “dark side” of social media is an expose of people who feel that they are losing control of the world around them and feel the need to say whatever they want, without filters. They forget that there are consequences with words and actions. It doesn’t matter if they are white or black.

These are the people who have lost all sense of reality. Demeaning those who are not as smart as they are (anti-intellectualism), labeling others for having opinions that are not aligned with theirs, and shaming people for small or egregious mistakes.

This stood out to me in that blog: “We can pass tougher laws, but making it harder to prevent the wrong people from having them isn’t going to stop them.” We can’t stop all wars, robberies, and murders , and we can’t stop all violence, unless we don’t look at how mentally screwed up we are in our actions and behavior.

The above tweet was at the heart of my counseling session this week. I overheard my therapist and the office manager talking about the past week’s events. I felt comfortable enough to tell my therapist my thoughts about all of this. I’ll get to this tweet later on.

Thank goodness I’m not telling this to an irrational emotional angry person who will fly off the handle without giving it an opinion a considerable thought.

In reviewing that 2012 blog, I brought up something that should be of concern: our mental fascination on using guns as a way to resolve our problems. Breakup with your girlfriend? Hunt her down with a gun. Lose your job? Shoot up the workplace. Get bullied and treated like a misfit? Gun down the jocks and the homecoming queen. Someone spill a drink on you at the bar? Walk out to you car, and come back “packing heat.”

How can we be a nation that want gun control, and yet when we go to the movies or watch television, we celebrate and glorify the bad guy who gets shot up or a machine gun takes out a fighter jet? Our need to have a weapon in our hands gives our ego and confidence a boost. 

Which leads me to repost a important scene from the comedy movie “Friday”. Craig (Ice Cube) tells his dad (John Witherspoon) that he is carrying a gun to protect his pal Smokey from being roughed up.  Craig’s dad shakes his head, and tells his son that there is another way to protect himself and to resolve a conflict.

We’re so quick to pick up a gun to resolve problems in this society. When was the last time you witnessed two people squaring up to settle something…with their hands?  “You win some and you lose some, but you live to see another day.”

The tweet above is very important to me. I have battled mental illness for a better part of 25 years. While I do think that there are individuals with mental illness who are likely to commit violent acts, there is a difference between “mental illness” and “mental health.” Mental illness is a condition that a person has that affects them. Mental health, in general, is how we mentally view things and act upon those feelings and actions.

America has a mental health problem with gun violence, and violence in general. We see it as the ONLY way to end a dispute, get revenge, and feel good about it.

All because we are angry about everything. People makes us angry, issues makes us angry, that damn remote control that doesn’t work propels us to hurl that against a wall.

A former colleague posted on Facebook that that he’s tired of being told to “calm” down about the latest school shootings. It took a lot of restraint from me not to reply back. Only because I do not want anyone to tell me that I need to show “anger” about something I can not control. I understand his anguish, but that is not how I deal with a sensitive topic like this one. I need time to process the information, look at it in a calm manner, and then offer a thought.

In which I did by typing this entry. Flesh out what I know to this point, read and understand it, and write my observations.

I don’t know everything. Neither do you.

I am in counseling because I have internalized being slighted, discriminated, and being verbally abused for most of my life. When I was younger, I was prone to losing my temper. Later on in my life, I kept all of that miserable crap to myself. I had no outlet to unload my anger.

I was too afraid that my anger could do harm to myself and others.

I had to find help. I made a choice, as an adult, to get help. Kids are not that lucky.

By hearing the stories my niece tells me about junior high today, I understand why students in today’s schools are stressed, disillusioned, and angry. Many resort to going online to find a community that accepts them for who they are when those in real life (IRL) rejects them. Then when those online starts to reject them, they are faced with “fight or flight”. Some will take their own lives (flight) to end the bullying. Other commit acts of violence against others (fight) to stop it.

The adults experienced those feelings as well. Who uses Facebook or Twitter more?  Adults. Who gets upset more easily? Adults? Who refuses to get help?  Yeah…you got it.

There is no middle ground.

That’s where we need to start at, whether anyone wants to or not.

The middle ground when it comes to understanding how to handle our anger and stop taking it out on others and on ourselves in a destructive manner.

Which is far too often these days.

 

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“I’ll Give You a ‘Trigger Warning’ About Uber…” and other observations

“I’ll Give You a ‘Trigger Warning’ About Uber…” and other observations

A few observations this week…

  • The NFL Draft is this week (Thursday night). I don’t know when it happened, but I stopped caring about the incessant draft over-analysis and speculation of who is going to where. I don’t know which player will be drafted and what draft order they will be selected in. I only care about one thing…will the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets find a way to screw it up again?

 

  • The biggest, and most important, news story in Iowa isn’t Chris Soules (not even close). It’s the Jane Meyer vs. University of Iowa civil suit case in Des Moines. Meyer is suing UI for discrimination. Meyer was a top assistant athletic director at Iowa. Meyer was reassigned in the athletic department. This took place after Meyer’s partner, Tracy Griesbaum, was fired as Iowa’s field hockey coach. You can follow the trial here from Des Moines Register’s reporter Grant Rodgers.

 

 

  • The topic of free speech on college campuses is one that is messy, but it needs to be had, regardless if many go out of their way to censor it. The same goes for sensitive and uncomfortable topics. Dayna Troisi on Bright (through Medium) pens a piece about how using “trigger warnings” to give students advance warnings about distressing topics are meaningless. (Side note: as much as many try to block out the discussion of topics and individuals who do not reflect your views, you need to hear them. You don’t have to agree with them. That’s not the point. The point is individuals have viewpoints that are favorable or unfavorable).

 

Unpopular opinion: the “shutting down” of people on social media. That term is stupid. If you oppose a view, you oppose a view. It would be beneficial for sites like Twitter and Mashable to stop using “shutting down”, and for people to stop trying to act like they’re doing a public good in attacking back.

 

  • Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to reconsider public transportation, taxis, or someone you know to give you a ride. At the rate that Uber is going, I doubt if Lyft and other entities can withstand such backlash. (Yes I linked a Mashable story. I’m guilty of using clickbait).

 

Judging others is easy. It puts them in a category that makes us comfortable, it gives us excuses to either do or not do something with or to a person, it helps us convince ourselves we “understand” people better this way. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking of truth. It asks you to listen, learn and think, rather than making an instant judgment.

Mary Richards Wasn’t Alone…

Mary Richards Wasn’t Alone…

Actress Mary Tyler Moore passed away on January 25th at age 80. Moore was synonymous with two character roles that cemented her place into television history: Laura Petrie from “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, and the iconic fictional WJM-TV producer Mary Richards in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (MTMS), both were on CBS.

Moore’s role as Mary Richards has been lauded for opening doors for women during a very important era in American history. The role of women in the 1970’s was starting to evolve from housewife to living independently, taking on non-stereotypical careers, and having a larger role in society.

As important as she was, whether on television or in real life as a role model, Mary Richards wasn’t alone during the era of the 70’s as it relates to influential and groundbreaking TV female characters.

Ever heard of Alice Hyatt, Maude Findlay, or Julia Baker?

You should.

mtm2
Cloris Leachman, the late Mary Tyler Moore, and Valerie Harper.

Let’s start with the supporting cast on MTMS. Des Moines, Iowa’s own Cloris Leachman was Phyllis Lindstrom, Mary’s snobbish landlady, Valerie Harper played Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary’s best friend and neighbor, the amazing Betty White as the sharp-tongued man-hungry Sue Ann Nivins, and Georgia Engel as Georgette Franklin, the loyal girlfriend (and later wife) of dim-witted and vain weatherman Ted Baxter.

MTMS made Harper, Leachman, Engel, McLeod, Anser, and Ted Knight superstars. MTMS was one of the first television series with an ensemble cast that was as talented as they come, and was one  of the first series to create successful spin-offs series for Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant (character played by Ed Anser).

MTMS wasn’t the only show that featured a female as a star and living a life that was unconventional during that time.

“Early to rise, early to bed, and in between I’ve cook and cleaned and went out of my head, going through life with blinders on is tough to see, I had to get up, get out from under and look for me…” – lyric to “Alice”(version 1) sung by Linda Lavin

“Alice” was another significant series, in my mind, as it relates to the changing roles of women.

Linda Lavin played Alice Hyatt, a widowed mother who moves from New Jersey to Phoenix to start her life over again with her son while she pursues a singing career.

She takes a job as a waitress at Mel’s Diner, working for Mel (Vic Tayback), a grouchy bombastic owner and cook. She works alongside shy and awkward Vera (Beth Howland), and Polly Holliday as the sassy whip-smart Flo (of “Kiss my grits!” fame). Diane Ladd later joined the cast as Belle Dupree and Cecila Watson played Jolene Hunnicutt. Alice produced a spin-off for Holliday, titled (of course) “Flo”.

alice
How do you keep Mel in line?  Flo had the answer:  “Kiss my grits!”

“Alice” was important because she was “starting over” after a tragedy by moving away from home to pursue her dreams and a better life for her son Tommy and her. Along the way, Flo, Belle, and Alice helped Vera grow from an awkward and less-confident person to one who could stand up for herself during one of Mel’s put-downs and then falling in love and getting married to police officer Elliott. They met when Elliott gave Vera a ticket for jaywalking.

If Mary Tyler Moore was the gold standard, then “Maude” was not far behind. Bea Arthur played the “uncompromising, enterprising, anything but tranquilizer” Maude Findlay, an older woman who was never shy to speak her mind, much to the consternation and admiration of her fourth husband Walter (Bill Macy). “Maude”  was groundbreaking in several ways. The series tackled topics such as “women’s lib”, abortion, and the clash of cultures.

The abortion episode is worth watching (Part I and Part II) if you want to see how Maude and Walter handled Maude’s pregancy.

Maude” was spun off from “All in the Family” where Maude clashed with Archie Bunker and driving her conservative neighbors the Harmons (Conrad Bain and Rue McClanahan) crazy with her liberal viewpoint. Arthur and McClanahan would reunite nearly a decade later, with Betty White, to do “The Golden Girls”.

Her relationship with African-American housekeeper Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) was insightful in that she clumsily tries to show how liberal and open-minded she is when interacting with Florida, to which Florida usually gets the last laugh at Maude’s expense.

maude
As progressive as Maude Findlay was, Florida Evans suffered no fools and got the last laugh at the expense of Maude.

Florida ended up having a spin-off series of her own:  “Good Times”.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. There are other shows below that, along with “MTMS”, “Alice”, and “Maude”, were shows, in my opinion, that showed women in starring roles and in turn becoming role models during the 70’s for women through television.

The Liver Birds: British series about two single women living on their own in Liverpool, England during the 70’s. Carla Lane and Myra Taylor, two Liverpool housewives created and wrote the series. (Sidenote: the alternative theme song is catchy.

 

“Julia”: Diahann Carroll stars as a widowed nurse Julia Baker. The series was one of the first to cast an African-American in a white-collar professional role.

 

“Laverne and Shirley”: We all know about these two. They were the American version of “The Liver Birds”. Schlemiel! Schlimazel!

“The Partridge Family”: Shirley Jones is persuaded by her five children to quit as a bank teller to form a band. Yes, we have the theme song.

Fear Merchants

Fear Merchants

Fear.

A paralyzing and debilitating sense that creeps into our human souls, infiltrating our physical and mental psyche until it consumes us. What we fear in our own minds, in fact, can become true in our own minds by emotion and feelings, not by scientific fact.

Over the past few months, I have been addressing a certain fear that has paralyzed me mentally for nearly 20 years. I’m seeing a therapist to address it. It’s not a major deal for many, but it is a big deal for me.

The “fear” that I am dealing with, over the years, had developed into a “narrative”, or a story that is fictional.  It was a creation of my mind. I believed it was true, when it’s not.

Fear shadow

Oddly enough, the perception of fear goes hand-in-hand with recent events, notably the political atmosphere (what else is new?)

As I scour through my social media networks, television, and newspapers (yes, they still exist, folks), we have continued this long-running episode of a fear mentality that are not entirely real.

Are these fears that people believe in really true, or are they just what they are, “fictional stories”?

I do not have a rooting interest in regards to the candidates for President of the United States, but it is clear that the fear of unknown is driving people batty…including smart people, who has thrown rational and pragmatism out the door.

Our society has become “fear merchants” in order to sway people from what is true and what isn’t, by using fear. 

Here is one example. Follow me here: how plausible is it that Donald Trump is going to build a wall?  Not hardly, if you walk through each step that he has to take for that to happen.

The Great Wall of China. It took 20 years for China to build it. Don't expect a wall of this magnitude to be erected in America.
The Great Wall of China. It took 20 years for China to build it.
Don’t expect a wall of this magnitude to be erected in America.
First, he has to get Congress to introduce a bill on the floor, go through committee, be debated, and then to be voted on by both the House and the Senate. Is it possible someone will introduce a bill to build a wall? Yes. How feasible is it for anyone in their right minds, regardless of party lines, to pass such a bill?

Zero percent.

Congress has to appropriate funding for a wall, hire contractors and employees to build it, and how long will this “pork barrel project” take to be completed?

Finally, the courts have to determine if it’s legal to construct such a thing, adding the liability, engineering, and other things to consider.

President Richard Nixon is shown after he addressed the nation on TV regarding a cease-fire in Indochina, October 8, 1970. (AP Photo)
President Richard Nixon is shown after he addressed the nation on TV regarding a cease-fire in Indochina, October 8, 1970. (AP Photo)
That is why we have “checks and balances” between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It’s designed to keep all three branches of government in check. For anyone who attempts to defy the checks and balances should look at the guy on the left as a cautionary tale.

This “wall”  talk is a fallacy…concocted by fear.

Yet, a large number of people keep touting of fears of this level because they “believe” it…and they expect you to believe it, even if you don’t.

All of this hubbub is similar when President Obama introduced the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (I refuse to call it by its nickname. Personally I think it’s a stupid nickname for it)? People started talking about “death panels” and the like, fearing about what the plan will do (in their own minds), without taking the time to fully read it and ask salient questions.

Fear.

It’s disturbing that very smart people become “fear merchants” about anything that trips their trigger. Whether it’s about someone building a “wall” (that’ll never happen), free college education (college profs and faculty are not working for free), and fearing that not-so bright people are mounting an anti-intellectual war against them.

Smart people need to take a chill pill…and stop pumping fear, because they are the ones who are listening to the very thing that they are fighting against:  fear.

Our fears are based by what we hear, and we adopt it as fact…when most of it isn’t true.

It’s a story that we create mentally to satisfy our irrational and lurid imaginations of what we are afraid of.

We spend more time imagining the most vivid or outrageous things, and we ignore the subtler and slower ones that are brimming underneath .

What is a more likely scenario?  A wall being built around the United States, or possible disruption and  infighting for delegates between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia?

We know as a fact that Sanders has yet to give up his campaign run, and after the debacle in Iowa and Nevada, it’s clear that it is possible that Philly could be a mess. It could be prevented…if Sanders should decide to end his campaign and endorse Clinton. We will see.

In her 2013 TED talk, novelist Karen Thompson Walker said that “…we can’t possibly prepare for all of the fears that our imaginations can concoct.”  Walker detailed the events that took place after the whaleship Essex was struck by a sperm whale in 1819.

Late last week, I took the first steps in getting over my particular fear. I had conjured up so many scenarios in my mind that may never come true. Having a cluttered mind isn’t always good, especially for those who observe and soak up information like me.

I have to take a pragmatic approach to fear: stop fearing of what “might” happen, based on hearsay. I don’t know what is going to happen. No one knows. That’s why I have decided to stop worrying about things that may not happen.

Fear is an imaginative illusion.

Especially those that make no sense at all.

“We Were Going to Get Here Anyway”

“We Were Going to Get Here Anyway”
We have a hard time accepting and practicing this term.
We have a hard time accepting and practicing this term.

By definition, the word “patience” is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

For most of my generation, patience means little. In my 30’s, I learned that not everything will happen when you demand it, and on your time.

The recent events over the past week has proven again on why “patience” can be irritating and beneficial.

Let’s start with the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision last Friday striking down the ruling that same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. I laugh when I see people react like fools on both sides of the issue: pastors setting themselves on fire, people changing their Facebook profile to show their picture in the colors of the rainbow, which is the universal symbol for the LGBT community.

I’m not surprised.  That’s why we’re humans. We behave in ways that I shake my head in disbelief.

Whatever happen to people like me who saw the news and said “I may agree (or disagree) with it, but I can live with it.”

I said this in 2013 in reference to NBA player Jason Collins: we will come to a point where no one cares about an individual’s sexual preference. The same can be applied to different forms of marriages.

I learn how to adapt, accept it, and go about my day. It’s time for it to happen.

We would going to get to this point anyway, whether we liked it or not.

But let the social media mob run roughshod on just about anything, and you want to quit Facebook to get away from the silliness.

When asked for my opinion of the ruling, I calmly said “That’s nice.”

“What do you mean, ‘That’s nice?!?’ Are you happy about it? What IS YOUR OPINION OF IT?!?!?!”

“I’m cool with it. If you expect me to jump up and down about it, you’re talking to the wrong guy.”

“You mean, you’re not surprised about this? How can you be so calm and passive about this?  This is a big deal!!”

“Why in the hell should I be? We were going to get here (with this news) anyway.”

That person wasn’t sure if I was a fire-breathing religious conservative or a bleeding-heart liberal.

It doesn’t matter if I like or reject the ruling. What is important is that I follow the rules, adhere to them, and live my life.

Sadly, for many people I know on Facebook, Twitter, or in real life, that’s not a good enough response from me. They wanted more of my “reaction” to the SCOTUS ruling.

Nice try. That’s my response and I’m sticking to it: calm, sensible, and practical.

I’ve long since stopped making a fuss about many topics, including same-sex issues. I had mentally “accepted” years ago that same-sex marriages should be legal. After all, interfaith marriages and interracial marriages happen everyday. And there are people, liberal or conservative, who are not fans of either of those types of marriages as well.

We were going to get here anyway.

Moderates, like me, witness historical events and we’re going to roll with it. For better or for worse. Democrats and Republicans lose their proverbial shit about anything that moves on Twitter.

If you let a political party dictate how you feel, I can’t help you there.

We’ve been down this societal road before: smoking, civil rights for minorities, and other events.

Nothing is going to be perfect. Never have…never will, so let’s stop with the Pollyanna narrative as it relates to Friday’s ruling. Same sex couples will divorce, bicker, and go through domestic violence  just like heterosexual couples.

Not all marriages are perfect. They take work and patience.

Which brings up the Dixie (Confederate) flag. Now, let me address the shootings in Charleston first. I think it is lazy of us to treat the shooting deaths of nine individuals in a historical African-American church as a secondary item, so we can spend most of our time debating about a flag. The very same flag that was a symbol that we ignored for so long, it’s pretty embarrassing and hypocritical.  The shootings and the flag are two vastly separate issues in my opinion. Let’s treat them as such with common sense.

It doesn’t erase the fact that a deranged person who had very dark and sinister racial attitudes walked into a church and opened fire.

Now, how many of us knew why the LGBT pride flag is a rainbow flag? You learn something new every day.
Now, how many of us knew why the LGBT pride flag is a rainbow flag? You learn something new every day.

Those who quickly brought up the flag moments after the shooting, clearly had an agenda to propagate: get rid of the flag, because it cause the shooter to kill innocent victims.

The flag didn’t cause that individual to kill people. He had his mind set on harming people because he chose to do so.

My take is this: the flag should not be used in a public setting (government buildings, post offices, et cetera). Yes, people are going to display it on their own personal terms. Much like those who will display the Nazi flag, any offensive materials (racist, sexist, juvenile, to name a few), and yes the LGBT flag, along with an Iowa Hawkeyes or ISU Cyclones flag.

We can’t completely eliminate its use. You can thank the 1st Amendment for that.

That’s the way it is. If you want to fly the LGBT flag, you have a right to do that. So does someone who wants to fly a Dixie flag…on their own property.

If anything, negative symbols should remind us of our history and the impact it has caused. This country has a history of great and very ugly moments. To wipe clean of the ugly, is to deny the fact that it happened.

We can’t change the past…but do we really learn from it?

The answer is no, because we hate to learn from history. History doesn’t “wow” us. It’s boring.

History is relevant to how we face moments like now: with clarity or with irrationality.  If we don’t learn from history, we’re screwed.

The Civil Rights bill got a lot people talking and taking sides 51 years ago this summer. What happened? People accepted it and moved on, whether they agreed with it or not.
The Civil Rights bill got a lot people talking and taking sides 51 years ago this summer. What happened? People accepted it and moved on, whether they agreed with it or not.

How did America react when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964? There were some knuckleheads for sure on both sides, but overall, the majority of Americans knew that it was going to happen. When it did, we accepted it the best way we knew how and we moved on.

The same here with Friday’s ruling: we’ll accept it, like or hate it, but we move on.

The hashtag “love wins” has been used by everyone who is in favor of the ruling. But, I have to ask philosophically, why are we still so hateful towards (immigrants, homeless, handicapped, atheists, etc.) others? It’s pathetic.  “Love wins” when it’s for one group, and not all humans. Something is wrong with that. Doesn’t “love” incorporate everyone, including those you disagree with?

Hypocrisy…all of us are guilty of this.

Did #lovewins move the needle? Or do we still need to really work on that?
Did love really did “win”? We still have to work on that before we finally say that “love wins.”

Love only won the battle. It hasn’t won the war.

For every person who wag their scornful finger at the South for continuing to fly the Dixie flag, are they the same people who blindly ignore the various forms of de facto discrimination like housing, employment and institutional racism in the North?

How many minorities live in Beaverdale?

Why are residents who live downtown against having low-income residents living in their buildings? Are they afraid that these “poor people” are going to “trash” these high-end luxury condos? Low-income or restricted-income residents are not always the ones who trash homes and places, driving the property value down.

When we brag about how progressive we are in Des Moines, why does it feel that we continue to ignore and not include certain groups and neighborhoods?

Just when you think you know what SCOTUS will rule on...yeah, keep guessing.
Just when you think you know what SCOTUS will rule on…yeah, keep guessing.

Everyone’s happy that same-sex marriages are legal, and yet we can’t seem to get our shit together. People are ecstatic about same-sex marriages but we give the evil eye to interracial and interfaith marriages.

It has been an interesting week, but I’m not celebrating or booing about the news. I knew that, eventually, it would happen. It was only a matter of time and circumstances.

It was being patient. It can be irritating and yet beneficial.

We were going to get here anyway.

Closing the Book on “Mad Men”

Closing the Book on “Mad Men”
Sterling Headshot
“Remember, when God closes a door, he opens a dress.” God bless you, Roger Sterling. (PopSugar)

Tonight, it ends.

The story of a guy named Don Draper and the life surrounding an advertising agency in New York’s 1960’s. But, this story doesn’t begin with a script written by Matthew Weiner. It actually began, innocently enough, with a group performing in Des Moines one night. Critically acclaimed group “RJD2” performed at Vaudeville Mews. Popular for the tune “1976” and “Ghostwriter”, little did anyone, or even the group, would know that that another tune “A Beautiful Mine” would be selected by Weiner to be the opening theme to “Mad Men.”

Yes, Des Moines, you had a small part of television history, besides being the home of January Jones (Betty Draper Francis).

We tend to easily toss the banter of “greatest show ever” at anything we just watched (“The Sopranos” and “MAS*H” for examples), but there is something about television series that pulls us in like a black hole. But, there is validity to what The Sopranos and Mad Men mean to today’s television. It was unique, it had interesting characters that resembled the people we’re around these days.  I dare you to tell me you didn’t run across an Uncle Junior, Paulie Walnuts, or a Roger Sterling in your daily lives? Or wait, we wished we would run across people like that…

Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1?  My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)
Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1? My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

Anyway, I have always been fascinated in how we watch television: how we view it, how we expect it to end and the reaction to it when it ends in the way that we did not anticipated it.

Do Colonel Henry Blake and Rosalind Shays come to mind?

As I wrote back in 2010 about the ending of The Sopranos, the idea that we want a perfect ending to a show is only wishful thinking. Shows should challenge our thinking and attitudes on what we think our perceptions are and to get us to view it a different way.

Larry Gelbart nailed it when how he described on MAS*H killing off Henry Blake. The viewers were upset that the writers would create such a killjoy in adding in Blake’s death, but the writers’ had another angle for viewers to understand: MASH wasn’t just a sitcom…it was a sitcom/drama about the reality of war.

So, as AMC closes the book on “Mad Men” this evening, don’t be surprised if the ending you expect isn’t the one you want.

Mind you, Weiner did work on The Sopranos. Anything can happen…just don’t expect it to live up to your own unrealistic expectations.

Baker’s Dozen: Most Insightful Stories of 2014

Baker’s Dozen: Most Insightful Stories of 2014

I have not done a considerable amount of writing in 2014 (21 blogs to be exact) for me to pleased about. Life does get in the way. It was a good and bad thing. The good is that I’m not using my laptop excessively. The bad is that I missed some opportunities to write about something.

My goal for 2015 is to write more. That’s a personal goal of mine, and I hope none of it is about Skip Bayless.

I didn’t have the desire to write about all of the stories that took place in 2014. Social media has a large role in my decision. It is hard, at times, to have a voice, ask questions that no one else will ask, offer a perspective laced with facts and experience, only for it to fall into the “noise” machine.

Trust me when I say this: I’m not alone with that sentiment.

As I start re-focusing my priority to this blog , I have a Baker’s dozen list of selected long-reads (columns, articles, or stories) that I have archived throughout 2014. Regardless if I agreed or disagreed with what was written, these pieces gave me insight into topics and perspectives that I wanted to know more about.

The format is set up in this manner: a synopsis of each story and a quote from the pieces are in bold italic.

Without further ado…

Bruce_Braley_photo
Bruce Braley is a nice guy, but he’s no Tom Harkin, and that’s why he lost, according to Michael Gartner.

1. Michael Gartner held nothing back in his weekly commentary in Cityview’s “Civic Skinny” column about the Iowa U.S. Senate race between Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst. Gartner, a staunch Democrat, didn’t resort to blaming Ernst for Braley losing, like many liberals did. He blames Bruce Braley for losing the race himself. “…while Harkin was disciplined, Braley went off on his “merry way”. And unfortunately for Democrats, that “merry way” led back to Waterloo.”

2a. Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny (Salon) with a strong piece on  the day when Jon Stewart “quit” and The Daily Show became irrelevant when it comes to activism. “Real activism doesn’t work that way. You can’t appoint a progressive messiah and listen to him snipe through your flat screen and expect for things to magically get better.”

2b. If that didn’t help Stewart, his comments on Election Day, didn’t do him justice either, according to Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post. “While there’s no denying that a surge of support for Republicans was going to make this a nasty election for liberals like Stewart, his viewers are part of the problem. We’re talking about young voters, who sat out the election and helped cost Democrats votes.”

Ben Bradlee presided over a golden era of the Washington Post, which included Watergate, and bring in talented writers like Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodard, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.
Ben Bradlee presided over a golden era of the Washington Post, which included Watergate, and bring in talented writers like Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodard, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.

3. Rachel Jones of Voice of America remembering the late great Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Bradlee was larger than life, but as Jones wrote, Bradlee used his authority and power to empower and take Jones under his wing at the Post. “There is a magic that is potent beyond human understanding when someone in a position of power extends him or herself on your behalf, based on nothing more that a belief in your potential…And that moment when Ben Bradlee took the time to act as my personal career counselor sealed my fate.”

4. Rob Havilla of The Concourse with a great long read about Craig Ferguson‘s tenure on CBS’ “The Late Late Show” and why the show and Ferguson was a perfect match. “He (Ferguson) has a very silly but somehow also calm, comforting, genuine-feeling rapport with a very specific genus of up-and-coming actress; some may outgrow him, fame-wise (think Anna Kendrick, maybe), but many refuse to abandon him.”

BenMilne_headshot
The startup community in Des Moines continues to push boundaries and evolve, thanks to those like Ben Milne and Dwolla, Geoff Wood, and many others. Expect that to continue in 2015.

 

5. Dwolla’s Ben Milne on being an entrepreneur and the emotional toll of being away from home while building a  startup and a dream. “It’s time for me to go home & that’s ok. When it’s time for you to go home… Don’t lie to yourself and convince yourself it’s not ok.”

6. Credit to SI’s Richard Deitsch for this story by N.R. Kleinfield of the New York Times. A man faces his phobia of water and makes “the leap” into the pool to conquer it.   A lesson about how we have to work on conquering our fears, be it big or small.

7. Blogger Batty Mamzelle took issue with feminists who use racism when their efforts to slut-shame women and other feminists (notably Beyonce and Nicki Minaj) falls flat. “…our feminisms will differ depending on our intersections, and that’s okay. It is perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that different women have different needs. But the constant gatekeeping of mainstream feminism reveals the deeply entrenched racism within the movement.”

8. David Carr, the stellar media reporter, for the New York Times, on how the Washington media whiffed on Congressman Eric Cantor’s loss and their propensity to be blinded by all things in the beltway.

9. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic writes about a personal pet peeve of mine: people who say they want hard news, but really don’t. “Ask audiences what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy…Audiences are liars, and the media organizations who listen to them without measuring them are dupes.”

10. Carl E. Esbeck writes an opinion for Christianity Today on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of allowing prayer in public meetings, based on the case of Town of Greece vs. Galloway. Esbeck said that while most evangelicals call it a victory, he cautions that not all Christians are exuberant about the ruling, because it’ll open a door to a lot more trouble. “Already this is occurring in the Town of Greece, where a Wiccan priestess has offered up prayers to Athena and Apollo. An atheist has also petitioned, by appealing to “inclusion,” that she be allowed to take a turn at rendering the invocation. She did so, not because she wanted to pray, to protest the city policy by rendering it absurd. The Supreme Court’s ruling means we will be seeing more of this mischief.”

Mara Wilson (of Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda fame) didn't fall into the proverbial traps and pitfalls of being a child star.
Mara Wilson (of Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda fame) didn’t fall into the proverbial traps and pitfalls of being a child star.

11. This column is from 2013, but it is so good, everyone should read it. Former child actress Mara Wilson (“Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Matilda”) pens a guest column for Cracked of her experience of being a child star and her perspective on how child stars go crazy and self-destruct. “Years of adulation and money and things quickly become normal, and then, just as they get used to it all, they hit puberty — which is a serious job hazard when your job is being cute.”

12. The Daily Beast’s David Freelander on the growing rift between Democrats and EMILY, an organization that supports female candidates that are pro-choice. Most liberals are claiming that EMILY is on the wrong side of the political divide. ““I think EMILY’s List has really lost their way,”…“Here in Hawaii they seem to not understand the politics. Brian Schatz has been a 100 percent down the line supporter of women’s issues. I understand their rule is that they only endorse women, but they don’t have to endorse at all when they have a champion running who is a man.””

The New Republic 's owner Chris Hughes (left), and editor Franklin Foer (right). The union between owner and editor deteriorated over time, with Foer being fired and most TNR's writers leaving en masse.
The New Republic ‘s owner Chris Hughes (left), and editor Franklin Foer (right). The union between owner and editor deteriorated over time, with Foer being fired and most TNR’s writers leaving en masse.

13. Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker on the epic downfall of The New Republic, which is one of the best I’ve read this year. “(Franklin) Foer wanted to hire someone with a strong background in magazine publishing, but (Chris) Hughes overruled him, selecting Guy Vidra for the job. In a press release announcing that he’d been hired, Vidra described T.N.R. as a “storied brand,” a corporate phrase that rankled some writers there. The release made no mention of Foer and suggested that Vidra now had editorial control of the magazine.”

That’s a lot of stories to cover. There are a few more, but I’ll stop here.

The takeaway is that it we think we know the story, but we really don’t, until the entire story is told.