Sunday, September 24, 2017

De-evolution is real

Gotta painful swelling brain
Got me pulling out my hair
Gotta painful swelling brain
Clutching at my brain

~~ “S.I.B. (Swelling Itching Brain)” by Devo

I’ve been saying for a couple of years now that based on everything we are seeing happen in our country, Devo is a perfect soundtrack for our time. Their message of “de-evolution” that began in Akron, Ohio after founding members Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale experienced the Kent State University shootings in 1970 seems more relevant than ever.

I try to remain optimistic and I generally believe that we are moving forward as a society, despite how incremental our movement seems at times and despite the fact that we often seem to be going backward.

It was hard to feel optimistic this weekend as I saw the current resident of the White House assault one of the very things that makes our republic a great one: the freedom to peacefully protest. I won’t go into details because I’m certain that you’ve heard plenty about it. Suffice it to say that he is calling for NFL players who choose to peacefully protest racism in our country by taking a knee during the national anthem to be summarily fired.

Players have contracts and a union to protect them, so that’s a dumbass remark right off the bat. But beyond that, it goes against the very things that are enshrined in our Constitution. We have the right to freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who choose to exercise this are perfectly within their rights.

It did my heart good to see other players and coaching staff support the players who choose to do this. Even Terry Bradshaw kicked some ass by saying that the “president” was off-base and that the players have the right to do this, just like every other citizen in our country.

Some are trying to say that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespecting our country and all those who fought on its behalf. I do understand why some might feel that way but I don’t buy it. If you fought for our country, you fought to defend our Constitution, and the right to protest is very much a part of that. You might not agree with it, and that is certainly your right. But that is part of who we are. Kaepernick and others are exercising their rights.

I will defend that every damn day.

I have green eyes, too. 
In a related (kind of, but it’s a chance to mention my boyfriend in another life) story, James Comey gave a speech welcoming incoming freshmen to Howard University, his new, temporary gig as a guest lecturer and fellow. A few students decided to protest and loudly interrupted him as he tried to speak. He finished his speech but it was obviously not an ideal situation. Beyond my initial thoughts of “Leave him alone!”, I know that he’s a grown-ass man and as a prosecutor, Deputy AG, and FBI Director, he’s faced plenty of challenging moments, and he’s still standing (tall). It probably bothered me more than it bothered him.

I actually agree with the right of these students to protest. Considering what I said above about players taking a knee, how could I not? I would be a hypocrite if I said they didn’t have that right. I also think that they have a very valid point about racial bias in law enforcement. It is something that I think needs to be addressed.

But that’s exactly what Comey wants to do and it is what he was trying to do at the FBI before a certain orange thing fired him. (*sob*) He was working hard to diversify the FBI and it was an active push in his tenure as Director. Did he get some things wrong? Did he misspeak on occasion? Undoubtedly. But I don’t doubt for a moment that he is not even close to a racist and that he was and is committed to striving for justice and fairness.

So the students were within their rights but I wonder what they really accomplished? From everything I’ve read, Comey was always willing to listen to other viewpoints and try to learn from what others had to say. By shouting him down, they stifled that dialogue, and what end? Quite a few other students seemed to feel the same way and said that they were there to hear various viewpoints and learn and discuss (and he got a standing ovation after his speech...I’m so proud!). That is exactly what college should be about, but it is also what our day-to-day interactions should be about. As Comey said, when you have a conversation with another person, you both listen, you both talk, and you both come away smarter.

Shouting down your opponents has its place when they are merely spouting nonsense and rhetoric. Shouting down someone who is trying to have a conversation with you seems counterproductive and ultimately futile. It accomplishes nothing.

This is admittedly not always easy for me. I have tried to have discussions with others who don’t see things the way I do, and when the other person refuses to accept objective reality and measurable facts, it really is an exercise in futility. I don’t want to give up and there are some days that I have more patience than other days. I try to maintain my sense of fairness and a willingness to listen to others, but if you want to debate with me, you’d best get your game on, because bullshit, strawman arguments don’t fly with me. If you go with ad hominem attacks, you’ve already lost. A high school friend wrote in my yearbook that you never, ever want to get into an argument with me, because you can’t win.

I’m not sure that’s true, because I will admit when I’m wrong, but don’t fling bullshit my way and expect me to believe it. If you try to shout me down, you might have silenced me for a moment, but I will write a freaking blog post. So there. As my crest says on this blog, “Verba volant, Scripta manent.”

Words fly, writings remain.