Remembering

It was January 1991. The first year I witnessed the death of someone I personally knew from AIDS. It scared the holy sh*t out of me. I remember hearing an older couple I was friends with commenting on this article from the NYT. The report of 100,000 deaths from AIDS was buried deep in the paper. There was no national outrage, there weren’t any names posted on the front page. We were on our own.

Fast forward to this week’s front page article with a thousand names of the 100,000 dead from the pandemic.

The LGBTI community remembers. We know what it’s like when the government ignores a disease. We remember what it was like to see so many our people die from AIDS, many of which died alone.

Don’t be cavalier or indifferent to this crisis. Don’t be a name on the front page or one buried on page 18.

Total Authority

I deliberately waited a few days to see if anyone on the right-leaning side of politics would freak out over Trumps declaration this week. In a tantrum over states doing more than he is to protect their citizens, he declared, “I have total authority over when the states will reopen their economies….” I’m paraphrasing a bit but the gist is the same. As the famous commercial poking fun at Facebook goes, “that’s not how this works, that’s now how any of this works….

At every turn, the right-leaning folks were tearing down President Obama over his executive orders.1 They acted like he attempted to be a King instead of a duly elected president. It was a routine talking point throughout his entire 8-year presidency. The outrage and talking points were never ending. The propaganda engine ran 24/7 selling the narrative President Obama was trying to be a king. He was “abusing his authority” and “after your guns“.2 Naturally, the republican base ate it up.

Fast forward to now and no one has said anything about Trump’s alarming statement. Of course, state media Faux news is congratulating him and touting is actions as ‘strong leader’. Forgetting for a moment Trump has repeatedly demonstrated a consistent lack of understanding of even basic civics, he all but declared himself King. The right is falling all over themselves to support him. Actually, I take that back. Let us NOT forget Trump’s lack of understanding of basic civics. Rather than accepting he doesn’t understand everything, he fires anyone who dares to stand for honesty or integrity over his narrative. He lies so often he contradicts himself almost daily now. You only have to pay attention to see it. Worse, he has crippled our democracy by allowing functional depts that handle our safety and infrastructure to go unmanned. He is creating a bottle neck where anything that doesn’t go thru him doesn’t get done. He is making himself a de facto king and no one on the right cares. In fact, they are celebrating it.

I don’t need to say a big chunk of my extended family is conservative. Not a peep out of any of them. Granted, the pandemic is a bit of a distraction right now so it could be argued they are distracted. However, I’ve yet to see a single one mention how terrible Trump has been on handling this crisis. We’ve now lost a family member who was exposed in a hospital for an unrelated illness and still not a peep. Granted, a big chunk of them also don’t vote so I guess there is a silver lining there.

I’m just so ashamed of my fellow man and the apathy demonstrated by so many in regards to our declining way of life. The system is crumbling and when it crashes it will be too late to ask questions.

Hope springs eternal…

  1. Even though he issued far fewer than his previous republican predecessors []
  2. And yet, we ended up with less regulation on guns as a law banning assault rifles, passed by a republican president and a republican controlled congress with the full support of the NRA, was not renewed. []

Bias

If you know me, you know I talk about personal bias a lot. Everyone has biases. It is a natural process as humans grow. As our morals (or lack thereof) are shaped thru our environment and our brains learn to label things, bias is inevitable. But, we also have something called logical reasoning. This allows us to recognize and potentially overcome our biases when they are wrong or misguided. That is, if we chose to examine our feelings or try to separate our bias from facts.

In society today, bias rules supreme on social media. IMO it is one of the single largest failings of “social media”. It has allowed people to isolate themselves from opposing opinions or anyone who disagrees with xyz topic. It also allows folks to reach out and find others who think in similar terms, which only serves to reinforce one’s bias.

Sadly, this has lead us to the ‘fake news’ era and a flat out unwillingness of people to believe facts. Don’t even get me started on the never ending fake sites that pop up alleging malicious acts or crimes against persons they are against. The rise in anti-intellectualism stems from an unwillingness to let go or overcome one’s own bias.

And this brings me to my rant today. You can’t call yourself a moral, christian, or even a good person when you ignore facts in favor of bias. When you simply decide “I do not believe that” in favor of bias, then you are not in fact a moral, christian, or even a good person. Faith in an idea, person, or even religion should be dependent on denying truth. As a moral or ethical person, you should care about truth above biases, even your own. More importantly, you should be willing to challenge your own bias to see if it is grounded in fact or fiction.

Snap

There are days where I see what humans are doing to this planet and I think to myself, “ya know, maybe Thanos had the right idea?” Then I realize we’d still be stuck with half the stupid people and I just shake my head.

If you told me 20 years ago we’d still be disparaging people over the color of their skin or calling vaccines sorcery I wouldn’t have believed you. Sadly, that is where we are today in 2019.

Our selfishness will be our undoing.

What Do You Say?

I was having a discussion with a coworker the other day and we got to talking politics. We were specifically discussing some of the underlying dynamics that often lead people to believe into crazy conspiracy theories. Mostly, we talked about how people often reason based on emotion not logic.

I used an example of my little brother. Not because my brother is a crazy extremist, just the opposite. The story perfectly illustrates how even well-meaning people end up on the wrong side of things at times. So the real question is how, in an age of sensationalized media, truly fake news, and bias, do we encourage every day folks to move beyond their base feelings and examine a solution with logic? How do we get people to realize what they “know” is often based on very limited exposure to the world at large?1

Let me get to my example. My little brother grew up not really “seeing” racism. To him, it is something he knows exists but in more pronounced examples. For lack of a better description, he sees it as a very black and white issue. I tried to explain white privilege to him and found it a frustrating struggle. As a white man he has never had to experience the frustrations a person of color endures daily. Because he grew up poor and busted his tail working hard to get to a point where he feels stable, he doesn’t understand how a black person doing the same thing faces many more obstacles. I explained many of the very real world examples to him and while he sort of ‘got it’, because he lives in a rural environment where these ideas are usually avoided, it doesn’t become ‘truth’ to him.

It is hard for people who spend everyday just worried about trying to put food on their table to rise above the squabble and focus on bigger issues like politics. And when they live in an environment where biases are constantly reinforced, it’s easy to see why so many fall prey to the machinations of political hacks who want them to stay poor and ignorant. People who are poorly educated as a whole are easily manipulated by their emotions. Quite simply, their emotions are used against them.

And this is one variable of many leading society towards a calamity. So how do we overcome that? What do you say to someone to get them to truly open their mind and listen? If we could figure that out I think the world would be a better place.

  1. How many “experts” do you encounter on Facebook or Twitter these days  LOL []

Supremes

I wish I was referring to the TV show. Sadly, I am not. I try not to delve into politics too much in my blog as that was never the purpose. However, things evolve and change and the issues today cut to my very survival.

With Justice Kennedy stepping down from the SCOTUS at the end of July, I truly worry for our freedoms. It’s been a sh*t show since he got in there but we had some insulation with the SCOTUS being pretty evenly divided. I knew there would be drama but I kept telling myself, ‘we’ll get thru it intact‘.  I am not so sure anymore. All Trump has to do is successfully appoint a rabidly anti-gay judge and all our hard-earned victories in the last few years are in jeopardy. The right to equality, the right to marry, and the right to exist are all up for grabs folks.

It is time to speak up. Complacency is a vote for those who want us dead. Everyone needs to reach out to their State representatives and demand they support a pro-LGBTI candidate. Elections are coming soon. Make sure they know we are watching and will be voting those who stand idly by out of office! We must exercise our voices. You can bet the fundamentalists are already rallying to get the most conservative, anti-gay choices they can on the list of possibles.

This will affect us for decades to come. We cannot let the SCOTUS turn into a bigoted hate-mongering extension of the extremists. We must demand the Senate fight and kill any anti-LGBT nominees. If you don’t know who your State senators or representatives are, feel free to click the links below.

Find your state’s Senator here

Find your state’s Representative’s here.

If we do not speak up, we not have the right to speak up soon. That is not an exaggeration. Every day we the extremists trying to cut off the voice of the people. They want them demoralized and distracted by hot-button social issues so they can continue robbing the poor and feeding the rich. If we don’t break out of our personal bubbles and get involved, we have no one to blame when they come for us again.

Bias

One of the main reasons I’ve grown to loathe Facebook most days is the growing bias. Selective bias is slowly replacing our idea of logical reasoning. Just pick practically any topic and scroll thru your own friends list. You might be surprised it is closer to home than you think.

When social media came along, I just knew it was going to be a unifying force in the world. I was so excited and hopeful. Sadly, all it has done is allow folks to selectively reinforce their own biases. More and more every day you see people who favor bias over truth, honesty, or any sense of integrity. Talk about an unexpected outcome. hehehe In the past, the rules (and manners) of social interactions helped curb outrageous ideas, conspiracies, and all round nutjobs. they were confined to the fringe where they belong. Now can reach out to others that with like ideas with just the click of a button. This has emboldened them and we see many ideas and concepts considered absolutely insane break into the national consciousness.1

I don’t blame social media so much as our own failings. Our technology has outpaced our ethical ability to keep up with it. Our social media outlets have changed the world, just not necessarily for the better IMO. Oh don’t get me wrong, they do some good. You see fundraisers, goFundMe pages, outreach, etc. Local tragedies can grab national even global attention at times. But I find myself pondering whether the good it does outshines the harm? Sadly, I am beginning to think it doesn’t. The level of vitriol and toxicity is so very disheartening. After all my attempts to ditch FB in the past, this is the one that is slowly pushing me further and further away.

I wish I could say it was mainstream stuff and not local communities. Sadly, no. Be it NextDoor, FB, Twitter, etc. It is all becoming one toxic hole of spite, triggers, and/or attempts to shame each other. It gives new meaning to the idea of mob-mentality. People are tried and convicted based on click-bait articles, regardless of the lack of details. We are seeing the fallout even within our own LGBTI umbrella. We find allies fighting each other over the tiniest slights or misunderstandings. Conversations are polarizing discussions of who is right or ‘more wrong’.

There are times where I just kick myself for even bothering to try to point out distinctions. Our biases and indifference to others are forcing us into a sort of devolution of sorts. For myself, I can only control my actions. I continue to strive to bring things into my life that enrich it and avoid those that stain it. Social media is falling into the latter category more and more lately.

  1. Flat-Earthers, Anti-vaxxers, Holocust deniers, etc []

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

I am completely shocked that Moore did not win in Alabama! I fully expected he would win. The bias we see in news and social media these days is sadly getting worse and worse.

While Moore’s loss renewed my hope in the decency of people, when you delve into the numbers, we clearly have a lot of work to do. People of color turned out in much higher numbers and they saved us all from this incredibly hypocritical religious nut. A profound thank you to all who exercised their right to vote. Voting matters and it matters more and more every day now. Moore lost by the tiniest margin.

Reports came in that Alabama saw much larger than usual voter turn out. Historically, this is always of benefit to the Democrats. However, I don’t care what part you vote, just perform your civil duty and vote. It was good to see many “republicans” calling out the party line approach and either not voting or voting against Moore. If more of them had spoken up I think the party in general would not have embraced Moore as they did. Party should never come before what is right or moral.

The increase of “you agree with me or else” approach is increasing the divide between us IMO. I’m a little guilty of this myself. So many things in the public eye right now affect our very way of life. Of course, we take it personal! However, when you delve past the crazies, you find that most people often vote their conscience not out of malice but out of self-preservation. We all need to be better at recognizing that and be more willing to extend an olive branch to others.

Tangent/ Some of you know our mayor here in SF passed away yesterday. Mr. Lee wasn’t a friend to me or my department. He recently back-tracked on his statements to help us. I personally felt very let down by his actions. However, even in my frustration with the man, I am saddened by his death. People who knew him well all agree he wasn’t malicious and tried to be ‘real.’  It doesn’t matter whether I agree with him politically or not. I can give my personal bias and issues a rest for a few days out of respect to allow his friends and family to mourn his death. And yet, immediately online you see people trashing him or using his death to trash SF politics in general. Even the Chronicle posted a piece on the day of his death discussing how it “complicated” politics in SF!  The day of his death!  /tangent

The fallout got me to thinking about how the divide between us is growing. Even within our own umbrella there is so much more in-fighting and vitriol toward each other. This is not how we solve problems. This is not how we overcome our mutual enemies either. Isolating ourselves in our individual groups or identities will not allow us to overcome the inequalities we all face.

So for myself, I plan to work on how I view those I disagree with. I will continue to avoid those who rely solely on deceit and lies. For the rest, I hope I can offer, thru example, the type of respect we all deserve.

Pride & Prejudice

So as usual, there is in-fighting amongst all the letters in our glorious alphabet of communities. This year seems to have taken a new twist as people are losing their sh*t over changes to the rainbow flag in PA. Apparently, some folks have decided to add extra stripes to denote the inclusion of race.

For my part, I don’t really care either way. If you want to add some stripes to represent the inclusion of race on the flag be my guest. The rainbow flag is just a symbol. It doesn’t define me or my life so modifying it doesn’t really affect me one way or the other. Symbols are meant to represent us, not define us.

On the one side, racism is just as prevalent in the gay community as it is in the straight world. What harm is there in adding reflections of race to show inclusion? Even though the flag wasn’t meant to reflect race, so what if some people want to include a variation that includes it. I’ve seen so many personal variations of the rainbow flag for years. Where is the outrage on all those variations? No one owns a symbol anymore than they own an idea. Let us all stop acting like changing a recognized symbol will end all our hard earned rights.  

On the other side, I also don’t really think it helps anything. Many of our racial tensions are tied to various socioeconomic issues. Until we work thru these, changing a symbol does absolutely nothing IMO. Actions are stronger than words. How about we stop using disrespectful terms to refer to other races? How about we stop acting like every unflattering joke or mention of race/gender is an attack? Even better, how about we stop marginalizing everyone because of the actions of a few? Instead, let us accept that others suffer differently than you. Be willing to look outside your sphere of existence to see thru another’s eyes.These actions and attitudes are much more effective at stopping hate, mistrust, and fear.

This whole pissing match is a reflection of the deeper issues within our umbrella. These ever growing trends of attacking and/or shaming anyone who disagrees, even in the slightest, are doing the work of our enemies for them. We are destroying our communities from within. Our umbrella of people rarely agree on any given topic. Why must we make enemies of each other over different view points like this? The level of vitriol and disgusting behavior I’ve seen on both sides has been deeply disturbing. This is not how we should be treating each other.We can disagree with our allies w/o labeling them as enemies. We can be patient and show understanding as we try to educate those around us who thru privilege or ignorance don’t understand a given viewpoint. Shock value and strong-arm tactics might sometimes work against our enemies but when we use them on our allies we only further the divide between us.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers, but I still support equality and freedom for all. That makes me an ally even though I’m a person who won’t be shouted down just because I don’t always see eye to eye with everyone else. When we silence the voices of our allies over internal squabbles, what is their motivation to speak for us when we need them? And don’t even get me started on the growing tide of small groups who decide they can’t compromise even a little. They demand to have their way or else. If you refuse, they do everything possible to obstruct or shut down the process. How is that productive? You don’t win hearts and minds that way.

While the LGBTI movement has taken some significant large steps recently, it took decades to get this far. We gained many of our rights slowly one at time. We still have more to accomplish. Many of these new found rights are under renewed attack. We need to be unified now more than ever.

Stupefy

Today is brought to you by the letter S.

stu·pe·fy

ˈst(y)o͞opəˌfī/

verb

verb: stupefy; 3rd person present: stupefies; past tense: stupefied; past participle: stupefied; gerund or present participle: stupefying

  1. make (someone) unable to think or feel properly.

And how do we avoid stupefying those around us on social media when presented with a story or “news” item we want to believe but aren’t really sure is true? Let me offer you these short rules. 

  • Read the article. Does it match the title? If not, ignore it. Otherwise,  move on to the next step. 
  • Do you trust the source? Is the source well known or legitimate?1 If not, don’t share. Otherwise, move on to the next step. 
  • Has the source been caught fabricating stories or publishing false and/or misleading edits of stories? If so, don’t share. If not, move on to the next step. 
  • Seriously, go read the article. We all know you didn’t read it. If it really passed the previous steps move on to the next step. 
  • Does the action / event / article cite sources or provide proof to back up claims, accusations, and/or accomplishments? Sourcing yet another article with no proof is not a valid source. If not, don’t share. Otherwise, move on to the next step. 
  • If you’re too busy to read it, can’t go thru all the steps, or you feel the article is too long, don’t share it. Otherwise, move on to the next step. 
  • Does the article attempt to guilt or scare you into sharing it? If so, don’t share. No, you arent helping others “just in case“. Otherwise, move to the next step.
  • Does the article attempt to incite hatred or violence against others based on bias? If so, don’t share it.

If it passes all these steps then and ONLY then should you consider sharing it. Even then, you should still ask yourself if sharing will contribute in any way to the discussion? 

Now you know. Next time you are about to share a news story on social media you know what to ask yourself to avoid stupefying others. 

😜

  1. stating how many people removed from you can contest to its authenticity is not trustworthy ie “my coworker’s cousin’s wife can attest to this and she is  [insert contrived position of authority here]” []