Chuck fear mongering under the bus

We, as a people, have used fear and anger to drive our existence for thousands of years. What we have to show for it is a dotted history of violence, genocide, war and generations of conflict. Are we not better than that at this point in our short history on this planet? What makes a person wearing a hijab any different from someone wearing a shirt and tie? They both breathe the same air, both walk with legs, have similar composition of blood pumping through their bodies. Our world culture has created a system where people are classed based on wealth, religion and nationality and made judging others a normal part of life. What right do we have to judge another person, that we don’t know, merely based on their appearance? What visual references do we draw upon that tells us, without impunity, that someone is a terrorist vs. a U.S. citizen?

So muslims wear a hijab, that doesn’t make them terrorists. Catholic priests wear a white collar and a black suit, we don’t see them as terrorists yet the Catholic church has a horribly violent past with wars fought over religious beliefs. It wasn’t that long ago that Protestants were viewed as devil worshippers, and publically hanged, merely because they rejected the Vatican and Catholicism. Christians are persecuted in countries primarily dominated by Islam in much the same way that Protestants were persecuted by Catholics (1300’s)and Jews were persecuted by the Germans (1900’s). It’s sad that we’re a violent species that terrorizes others based on perceptions of inferiority, to the extent that Americans do this to other Americans. The Civil War for example over the issue of slavery. Even after African-Americans being freed in 1865, flash forward 150 years and there are compelling arguments that African-Americans *still* aren’t free in the United States.

Call me an idiot for not fearing others that are different from me, I’ve heard it all in the last few years as my ideology has slowly shifted to what I’ve heard referred to as being a humanist. I see people for what they are, fellow humans, and attempt still with some difficulty to not judge based on appearance. It’s hard to break a habit that has been slammed into my brain for over three decades from mainstream media, educational systems and other powerful figures. We have a 10,000 year old instinctive response of fight or flight when presented with a situation we perceive as a threat to our lives that has been reinforced over the last thousand or so years to include everything from a charging bear to someone walking down the street wearing a hijab or a someone wearing a long trench coat in the middle of summer. I get it, we’re hardwired to act on our instincts, but I am arguing that we’re ignoring vital information that we sacrifice with our laser focus on only the perceived “bad” thing in front of our eyes.

I don’t believe that *every* Muslim in the U.S. is a terrorist much like I don’t believe that *every* African-American is a drug dealer or *every* Hispanic is someone’s maid or butler (which really are stupid stereotypes if you think about it). My grandparents had a dislike for everyone that wasn’t a white Catholic; a fact I found disturbing and an indicator of their learned, backwards thinking from their parents. I really could keep going, the common theme of all this is a common hatred of anyone that isn’t in *your* arbitrarily labeled group. We’re all flipping human beings, we’re *all* in the same group.

I consider myself lucky being an introvert in the age of the Internet. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to engage in deep conversations with others that wasn’t predicated on their appearance. I was able to interact with them on a human level, brain to brain, not caring about their religion, station, wealth or physical appearance. I’ve been like this for years, much longer than my awareness of the fact that we subliminally treat others different based on physical traits. My drive to take this into physical life, instead of virtually, is a rather large and difficult hurdle that I’m still struggling with on a daily basis. I ask stupid questions out of naivety, that I find is usually dismissed as I’m genuine about my curiosity. The answer is something that I absorb like a sponge, stored for later when I have the time to process through the interaction.

My outward interactions with the world, how others perceive me, has changed significantly in a dramatic and profound way. My view of the world has grown so much, in such a fantastic way, it’s hard for me to put into words even after thinking about this for several days. My interactions with others are getting easier because I’m no longer drawing on outdated prejudices or life lessons that feel as outdated as my grandparents’ views did years ago. This is something that I’ve had to work at, constantly remind myself to not judge based on appearance, force myself to look beyond the surface. Looking (and interacting) with what’s inside all of us takes time, effort and practice…. lots of practice. To put it another way, I’ve learned to love the taste of my foot 🙂

Enlightenment starts with the self, then becomes contagious to those around. This is one pandemic that I think would benefit the human race. Call me crazy to believe that we can do better than we have in the past, we certainly have a lot of history showing us what not to do going forward into the future. Why not start small, a little change that could have a large impact: resist the rhetoric and draw your own conclusions.

Have a new year….

I wrote this post a few days ago and scheduled it. I’ll most likely be at a party with friends I’d rather not see and do things I would prefer not to do. Any literary motivation would be sufficiently killed if I had sat down and published this on the day it actually was scheduled to post. That being said, I’ve reflected quite a bit on 2016 and the year that seemed to drag slower and slower the farther into it we got. There’s way too much to review in a post, and if I did review everything that impacted me, I would be writing this well into 2017 and probably never actually publish because it would have become too burdensome to proof it.

There were three things that really had an impact to the year that history will most likely judge harshly in the coming decades. Rather, three things that had an impact with me personally. Consider this a top three-year in review for w1nt3l. We all have our own top three, I’m sure, we might even share some, but I am so happy that this year is almost gone and really really hope that it doesn’t carry residuals into 2017. Well, here we go.

Windows 10 for Mobile, titanic shaft to loyal fans

My archives are littered with Windows 10 for Mobile (formerly Windows Phone) going back several years. I was a huge fan of Windows Phone (WP) and had three mobile devices that ran various versions of the mobile operating system. What I failed to realize with my last device is that HTC was going down the same path as Nokia and Blackberry getting complacent that they had their act together and no one could possibly take the top spot. Well, they were wrong, and HTC is in a bad situation right now losing ground to Samsung and Apple. A little known device that ran Windows Phone 8.1 failed to get upgraded by HTC to Windows 10 for Mobile. Multiple excuses were given as to why, there was even some finger-pointing between HTC and Microsoft, but in the end, it came down to the fact that hardly anyone actually purchased one making the user base statistically miniscule compared to the Android version of the same hardware. Windows 10 for Mobile was now a fail whale in my book and I decided to never own another device again. I switched to a cheap-o Android phone that I get frustrated with every time I pick it up; daily reboots, slow, locks up, apps crash, etc. Pure Android is awesome, it starts to suck hard as soon as a manufacturer thinks it can improve it, hence, the previous sentence rings true. 2016 was the death of Windows Mobile in my opinion.

Wasn’t the year of the third-party

I wrote off the Democrats months ago. I was never a Republican. This was the year I went independent and supported a third-party candidate for President. Despite Jill Stein having a really good platform and some ingenious ideas to help fix things, she never captured a lot of support from anywhere in the country. Gary Johnson had a real chance of at least getting to 5% of the popular vote to have a third-party receive national recognition, but one gaffe after another blew all the steam out of his sails. In an election where there was negative news on both Trump and Clinton, unfavorability for both Trump and Clinton and poor performances in debates from Trump and Clinton I would have thought that Americans would have sought an alternative. That was not the case, as Clinton-haters voted from Trump and Trump-haters voted for Clinton. I’m also convinced that a lot of people just didn’t vote because they didn’t like either of them. 2016 was not the year of the third-party candidate unfortunately.

War and terrorism

No one likes any of this. Show me a war or terrorist attack that actually had any positive impact. I made a comment on a post a few weeks back that listed the number of people who died in conflicts from the Civil War to the Vietnam War; ended up being hundreds of millions. Did we really need to let things get that far? Perhaps. Some conflict is just unavoidable when no one on either side is using so much energy for their mouth that they be come deaf and blind. I’m sorry, call me an apologist if you wish, but *I* think there is always a better way that doesn’t involve weapons, death or destruction. In recent weeks, I’ve discovered the true meaning behind “the pen is mightier than the sword” or a more modern version, “the keyboard is mightier than the AR15.” I’d ask when we lost the ability to listen and reason, but I don’t believe we ever had either of those mastered. I’ve chosen to try to make a difference, one person at a time, one reader at a time, until the knowledge pay-it-forward effect is perpetual. 2016 was not the year we chose something other than war.

Have a New Year

I didn’t mean for this to be a downer, but that is what it became. Blame 2016 for being such a year of suck that we’re all better off to have it in the rear-view mirror. The problem is that 2017 looks like a road under construction that is going to continue tearing at the under carriage of the United States and the rest of the world. Buckle your seatbelts, we’re in for some chop.

Is Islam really to blame?

I’ve grown increasingly troubled by the rhetoric focused on Muslims in America. For more than 15 years now, Muslims have been targeted by fearful Americans that do not understand Islam or the teachings of Islam and it’s promotion of peace and complete rejection of violence. What is interesting though is that there is blood on both sides of the fence and we need to hold up some mirrors to see the true enemy. What I don’t understand is why a double-standard exists when there is clearly verifiable violence perpetrated from Christians as there is from radial Islamists. Something about a pot and kettle…..

Islam is inherently violent, Christianity is inherently peaceful, and there is no such thing as a Christian terrorist or a white male terrorist. But the facts don’t bear that out. Far-right white male radicals and extreme Christianists are every bit as capable of acts of terrorism as radical Islamists, and to pretend that such terrorists don’t exist does the public a huge disservice.

SOURCE: 10 of the Worst Terror Attacks by Extreme Christians and Far-Right White Men

We don’t need to review our current events of the last few decades either, there is history of Christians being violent in our distant past as well. The Crusades were overruns of countries, spreading the word, with bloody and violent encounters with people who didn’t immediately yield to the Church.

…unite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom, which had been divided since their split in the East–West Schism of 1054, and establish himself (Pope Urban II) as head of the unified Church. Similarly, some of the hundreds of thousands of people who became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the church were peasants hoping for Apotheosis at Jerusalem, or forgiveness from God for all their sins. Others, historians argue, participated to satisfy feudal obligations, gain glory and honour, or find opportunities for economic and political gain. Regardless of the motivation, the response to Urban’s preaching by people of many different classes across Western Europe established the precedent for later crusades.

SOURCE: Crusades

From the beginning, our young country had established this precedent that Anglo-Saxon enlightenment was the only true way of life and anything that threatened that had to be removed or eliminated. Our expansion into the West displaced hundreds of thousands of civilized Indian tribes from lands that they had occupied for generations prior to any “white man” setting foot on North American soil. Our own arrogance as “Americans” justified our belief that we were saving Indians from having to adapt into our Eastern culture.

Expansion and Indian removal created some phenomenal problems for the new American nation in terms of its moral character. How can this unique experiment in the new world — this nation that prided itself upon its democratic institutions, force Native American people westward? How do you rationalize the taking of land and the usurpation of property?

The argument that was used was, “This had to be done to save these poor Indian people. They don’t fit in the East, so we have to move them out beyond the frontier where they can do their Indian thing unmolested. This is the only possible way to save them.”

The hypocrisy of this is obvious because many of the people, though not all of them, who were removed were very sophisticated and relatively “civilized” people. For example, the literacy rate of the Cherokee nation is higher than that of the white South up through the Civil War, yet the tribe was moved westward as an uncivilized people, so that their land could be open for American expansion.

SOURCE: Manifest Destiny: Native American Displacement Amid U.S. Expansion

I hope this gets out to a wider audience because after having written all of this in one place, it makes me physically ill that we’re STILL, in 2016, thinking like we did in the 11th century, 17th century, 19th century, and the 21st century. Time to get a new blueprint, because replacing the target of our hate is getting old and will eventually come back to bite us.

I’ve started listening to understand. What would happen if more did that?

Human first, American second

I’m not feeling Three Things Thursday this week. Having been absorbed into election coverage, reactions, and getting over my own brief shock yesterday morning, I have a renewed sense of purpose and see an opportunity for us as American people to stand together. This country is divided, decidedly so, but what’s done is done and the 45th President has been selected through one of the last vestiges of democracy we have left in this country. We have spoken, loud and clear, that we’ve rejected mainstream media’s attempted manipulation of this year’s election. Almost all news leading up to the election proclaimed an almost certainty that Clinton would win, ignoring the level of anger and rage people have had building up across the country.

I have chosen to accept our next President despite the fact that I didn’t vote for him. He is deserving of the same level of respect and open-mindedness that I grant to everyone. While I do know quite a bit about Trump already, becoming the President is just about the biggest life change any one person can have. I’m skeptically hopeful that he realizes this and uses this opportunity to become the President that this country desperately needs and uses his position to guide the government so that the American people come first, not the socialist elites. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he won’t treat this like another reality show and media circus that his primary and campaign ultimately turned into.

I have chosen to be optimistic of our future for the sake of my daughter, who turns 10 next month. She has been asking a lot of questions about the election and has heard some really crazy statements from her friends at school. Some of the parents that I see and talk to on a regular basis have not been so optimistic and their children are feeling the negativity and anger of their parents without the context to completely understand. I took the time to sit down with my daughter and teach her about democracy and freedom in a way that she can understand and opened the dialogue for her to ask questions without fear of repercussions. We have had a few of these conversations with her friends over as well, and I’ve been careful and aware of the words that I use and how I explain things so that it’s heard without bias (not always easy). We have four years until the next Presidential election, it’s going to go a lot faster if we’re working together.

I have chosen to not be as opinionated when talking with people who already have strong opinions. I now understand that strong opinions often cause a knee-jerk reaction to dig your heels in and not listen to what is being discussed. My approach has been more subtle and fact based with sources cited as often as possible. I’m trying to encourage people to do their own research and start to understand the system that’s in place right now. You really can’t begin to change anything if you don’t understand it completely first, which is something that I’m still struggling with daily. Although I know a lot more now than I did 6 months ago, the system we currently have has been four decades in the making and mostly hidden behind mainstream media spin and misdirection.

This piece, written by a Canadian, is more American in spirit than how most Americans are their entire lives. It’s a call to arms to reject the hateful and disrespectful practices of the past and finally fight collectively for human rights. Human rights regardless of who, what, why, how we are. I have had a difficult time understanding how someone can be angry at someone else for something that happened before both their lifetimes. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” and it’s as true today as when it was originally spoken. We moved past British oppressive rule and created our own country in 1776. We ended slavery in 1865 and the Civil War ended. We survived the 1960’s and appeared to have moved past racism and hate in this country; we elected an African-American President in 2008. I’ve always treated others as I’ve liked to be treated, but am offended when I’m judged by others that don’t know me except for my external appearances. I don’t trivialize or dismiss the pasts atrocities and do not pretend to know what its like to live anyone elses life. Without civilized communication and mutual respect, we’re doomed to continue repeating past injustices.

The air is thick with anger. It’s up to us to come together and work through our differences once and for all. It’s up to us to figure out how to accept our differences because it’s the differences that make us stronger as a species on this planet. Let’s do this!

Racism is easy, Understanding is hard

Inspired by: White Lives Matter group protests outside NAACP in Houston’s Third Ward

I support free speech as much as the next warm-blooded American. I’ve even taken positions that weren’t always popular due to the popular position being against what I stood for or supported. What we have lately is a tragedy of American freedom in that it seems we’re posturing more to antagonize others than to support a position. Protesting for White Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, whatever is your constitutional right. Using symbols of racism and hate to take a peaceful protest and turn it into something more akin to what we had in our past is crossing a moral line. At the moment that the American Civil War was over, the confederate flag became the symbol of racism and hate. At no point do I see that flag and think to myself “southern heritage” as the man in this article indicates is their reason to have them at the protest. My parents lived in the south for more than 15 years and during visits, I would encounter people who gave the impression the war was never won. Their views of the world were very narrow and I actually felt sorry for them for not having the opportunity to see the world any differently than their ancestors that fought in the war so many years ago.

Black Lives Matter has been warped into a battle cry against racism by whites onto blacks. I’ll let that sink in a little before I continue. The incident in Milwaukee partially proves my statement. The coverage of that was significantly less than coverage of the previous incidents in other cities. Milawaukee has a primarily black government, black police force, and black population. The majority of news coverage was not of the victim drawing a gun on the police officer and refusing to put it down. The majority of news coverage was not of the police officer using deadly force in self-defense against a gun being drawn on them. The majority of news coverage, actually, was the riot that broke out in protest of the police shooting where there was little to no Black Lives Matter protests. Why did everyone riot in the first place? I’ll admit there might be some naivety on my part here and welcome comments of differing points of view. I’m left being very confused at this fact because my understanding of that organization was the protection of all black lives against hate of all kinds.

Now, in Houston, there is a group of white people holding confederate flags protesting in front of an NAACP office with a banner that reads “#WhiteLivesMatter”. I’m disgusted by this display of hate to the point where I *had* to write about it while still at work. I get that the protest was against the NAACP and other black organizations in their failure to speak out about events that took the lives of white police officers. I don’t dispute the fact that every single person in this protest had a right to have said protest. What I am disgusted at and definitely dispute is the blatant display of items that were used in a purposeful manner to incite violence. Up until I read the line in the article where the group held assault rifles, I had an open mind. Assault rifles do not convey anything close to resembling a peaceful protest! I’m pro-gun, have been for a long time, but assault rifles in my opinion cross the protection vs. deadly force line. I see no reason short of fatal collapse of government where an assault rifle would be necessary. Owning one and keeping it in your home is one thing, but carrying it openly at a protest send the wrong message.

Why have we as Americans become so fractured as a society? Where did we go so wrong that guns and violence replaced conversation and mutual respect? Questions I think we all need to find an answer to before escalating posturing on both sides degrades into an all out war. I personally do not treat anyone differently until given a reason to do so, and then when given a reason, I offer my understanding and walk away. The thought of violence to solve problems really never enters into my mind and would absolutely never be an answer to anything I considered productive. One of the reasons I write is to convey my thoughts and feelings in a way that helps me to understand. It isn’t to make anyone upset, mad, or offended. I respect different points of view in that they’re ways I can broaden (not limit) my understanding of the world. Too many people are closed off to anything other than what they know, which in my experience, is often very little and matches what they learned from their parents and grandparents. My father chose to break that cycle and I am further breaking that cycle by being even more open-minded than my father was with us (he definitely has his moments). I’m instilling in my daughter an ability to see the world with an open eyes and an open mind, to see that there are peaceful answers to any problem and given the chance, people can be good.

I’ve had several deep conversations with acquaintances over the last several weeks that have been truly enlightening. They’ve provided a different point of view that in turn expanded my understanding in a way that allowed me to clean my “glasses” a little more. Prejudice, ignorance, racism, and other hate will keep your glasses dirty or foggy. Learning to understand others around you without any of that helps to clean them or provide a clearer picture. It’s easy to lean on anger and hate; it’s a lot harder to fight that reaction and instead lean on respect and understanding. Articles such as this one don’t help the growing problem, they only serve to exacerbate it.

Standing letter to alien visitors

I am a human being of the planet Earth. Please do not visit us. The human species of Earth is violent by nature, intolerant of differences, and will perceive a visit as a hostile action regardless of your intentions. We fight amongst each other and have for our entire existence. See references in our world texts regarding hate, war, and racism for example. We are not an enlightened species and most are motivated by fear triggered by the slightest change in their environment. For cripes sake, if you are an Arachnoid species, seriously, stop reading this and just keep going! No one down here likes spiders.

We are unable to get along with each other for any sustained length of time and multiple times have engaged in what can be described as world wars throughout our history. Our hate and intolerance of differences is what drives us to fight with each other. In regards to our wars and armed conflicts, the only option we are able to agree on is answering violence with more violence. There are exceptions though, as history shows Switzerland has not engaged in armed conflict for what seems to be their entire history as a country. If you had to visit, I would suggest dropping in on them as my opinion is that they are the best of the mediocre examples we have to offer.

As you can probably tell, our environment is less than appealing even to our own species. Our water is dirty, the air is polluted, we dump trash everywhere we can manage. A precious few live in extreme excess while the majority of others struggle to have enough food for their entire lives. We have stripped Mother Nature of her dignity and weakened her ability to sustain our species for the long-term. We are a society of chemicals and technological advancements that probably makes us look interesting but scratching the microscopic surface you will see us for what we truly are. There are individuals distributed throughout the world that are trying to help and may in fact be very enlightened, however how much can one individual do to fix our problems when the rest of the world is bent on destroying it for short-term gains?

Rather than deciding we have a chance to learn from your more advanced species, do consider that in our current state, we will never learn from you any more than we have learned from our own actions toward one another. Rather than deciding we can benefit from your technology to help fix our problems, do consider that while there will be brief gains, we will continue to take more until we end up eventually turning on you.  We are still inherently greedy and self-centered with a superiority complex that blinds us to a level of thinking that would be required to accept rather than reject your presence.

The only outcome of a visit at this point is a fundamental shift of our focus onto you, however that shift will most likely not be a positive one. See “Independence Day”, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, and “Knowing” for examples of how we handle visitors from other planets. All good examples of a few “good” people with a whole heaping lot of “bad” people. Once you realize we’re more similar to our primate ancestors than to enlightened humans, you’ll hopefully leave swiftly so that we can continue our focus on destroying each other. I offer you this letter as a friendly warning to just keep going, we’re not worth your time right now. At the rate things are going, we’ll end up destroying ourselves before you decide to return for a progress update.

Sincerely, Concerned Human

P.S. – Please feel free to probe our politicians, they’re not human by any definition.