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Wednesday, we were able to add another school shooting to the ever growing list of school shootings.  Wednesday, we were able to add another mass shooting to the ever growing list of mass shootings.

Wednesday’s child is full of woe.

However, increasingly, in America every day is becoming a Wednesday.  The number of mass shootings is increasing. The number of school shootings is increasing.  The number of dead children is quickly increasing.  The number of Americans dead, wounded, or mourning is quickly increasing.

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And so far, all we have gotten is thoughts and prayers.  There is a time and purpose for thoughts and prayers.  But, they are not enough to stem this bloody tide.  There needs to be policy and actions and laws too. But those seem in short supply, for many reasons.  Something that is not the purpose of this blog to explore.

In this blog I do not intend to present specific policies and actions.  I do not intend to wade into numbers and research.  I do not intend to provide a specific way forward.  While I do have some specific ideas in regards to policies and actions, and have some specific ideas on ways forward (none of them quick nor easy), I do not intend to present them here.

Instead, what I want  briefly present are a few  very broad ideas of what a true solution to our gun violence problem would have to include.

But, before doing that, I want to define what a solution to the gun problem is and is not.

First, it is not armed guards and metal detectors and training on what to do when the seemingly inevitable happens.  It is not passing out guns to all the teachers, all the students, all Americans to use for protection.  It is not good guys with guns. One of my nieces stated it very well when she wrote:

The issue is not the good guys with guns not being around, it’s the bad guys with guns posing a threat in the first place and our country’s failure to protect their subsequent victims by arming them.

A true solution is not reactive, as were all of the “solutions” I mentioned already. Instead, it is proactive. It strives to prevent the act from happening in the first place.

I guess I should now mention goals.  What is our goal here?  To have everyone living in fear and tension but protected somehow by guns and machinery and such?

Or is it to have every child be able to go to school without a nagging fear in their and their parents mind about whether they will come home again, alive and unscathed; to have families, couples, individuals, groups be able to go to restaurants, movies, and malls without a tinge of fear contaminating their enjoyment.

My goal is for the latter.

So, a solution to this problem needs to be proactive and to promote a sense of being able to live your life safely.

Now, for a reality caveat.  There is and will be no perfect solution. Perfection does not exist in human affairs. No matter how good or how thorough, there will still be some gun violence. However, if we reduce such violence by 80%, 90%, or more…well, that would be good indeed.  When our government first started studying car safety in the 1960s, they did not eliminate all car fatalities.  But, they greatly reduced it and made driving much safer now than it was 50 years ago. As a result many tens of  thousands of individuals are still enjoying their lives, and many more thousands of family and friends are visiting these living people instead of the cold earth of their graves.

Second reality check. There is no one solution.  Gun violence stems from a variety of causes and happens for a variety of reasons.  Instead of a single solution, there will need to be many changes, many “solutions”.  And that is the main purpose of this blog, to highlight, in broad stokes,  what areas need to be changed.

 

UNLEASH THE RESEARCH

Currently the CDC is hamstrung and effectively prohibited by Congress from conducting any research into gun violence, its causes and solutions.  For over 20 years Congress has kept any money from going to research into the causes of gun violence and possible solutions to such violence.

That must change.  If we want to quit spinning our wheels on this issue and to find new and real solutions, we need information.  Ignorance, in this case, literally kills.

 

UNLEASH OUR STARVED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES 

Mental health is one of those things we love to give lip service to, but not money. It is usually one of those areas with the least amount of money allocated to it, but which, despite this, is still one of the first to feel cuts when the budget must be trimmed.

A caveat here though.  Most of the mass shooters were not mentally ill.  In fact, the great majority were not – for example, the Las Vegas shooter.  Also, the vast majority of mentally ill do not commit such acts of violence.  In fact, the great majority of persons who exhibit the exact same symptoms as the shooters  do not commit such acts.

However, this is still worth doing.  Further research and work may help us more accurately identify those at risk of engaging in mass shootings.  An even better goal though would be to create a system of mental health services where those who might have become so do not.

Consider vaccinations as an analogy. Even without a vaccination, not everyone would get sick.  Many would though. Yet with vaccinations most of those who would have become sick no longer will.

To make this a reality though is going to involve a great deal more money being spent in this area than there is now.  Money for the research necessary to understand better, both the conditions and its causes and its prevention.  Money to set up the structures and resources that can effectively deliver that knowledge in a timely manner.

In addition, the benefits resulting from the money spent on this research and for the resources to effectively use the findings of that research, would extend far beyond the effect it would have on reducing mass shootings and gun violence. It would improve the lives of millions and thereby help the nation.

 

UNLEASH OUT SOCIAL SERVICES 

We have too many cracks and gaping holes in our social services.  People do not get the resources and knowledge they need to deal effectively with what life has thrown at them.  Often this would work in tandem with the unleash mental health part of the solution.

The most recent school shooting in Florida is a good illustration of that.  Here is my one and only link in this blog, an article about how the shooter “escaped years of warning”.   It shows how the police and school and other services really had no way to effective deal with this young man.

This is something that happens all too frequently.  We should be looking at what can be developed and created to better serve our fellow citizens.  Again, like mental health, this would benefit not only individuals, but also our country as a whole.  But, it would cost money.

However, I strongly suspect that the costs of providing both better mental health services and better social services would, in the long term, not only pay for themselves but provide a net gain in terms of increased productivity, less crime, fewer people in jails and mental institutions, and so forth.  In other words, just as an industry will go into debt to purchase machinery  that it believes will result in better profits in the long term, so too should we consider the money spent for these two areas an investment in our human potential.  An investment that, truth to tell, even if it only benefited the individuals using those services and society, but not the economy, would still be well worth it.  However, as I said, I suspect that if done properly, this is not an either choice but an and choice.

A thought here too – new ideas will have to be found, created, and tried.  Some will work. Some will fail.  We must realize that failures are a part of the process and one of the ways in which we learn.  In other word, do not let the failure of one idea stop the exploration of others.  Or cause us to go back to the way we used to do things.   We already know how poorly those are working.

 

GUN CONTROL

Any solution to gun violence will have to include gun control.  In fact, I would imagine that this will be a large part of any such solution.  Let me now say though that gun control does not mean banning all or even most guns.

But it does mean creating better databases for background checks, and finding ways to make them more effective.

It does mean that it applies to all guns and all gun purchases.

It does mean that some guns may be banned (some already are), or that certain sizes of ammo clips, or types of ammo may be banned.

It does mean that other gun related items may have to have background checks, for example, ammunition.

It does mean all of these and more need a thorough look at and probably trial to see how well they work.

It does mean we do not give up when one law or approach does not work.  Instead, analyze why and see if only a modification is needed or is the whole idea bad.  As someone who has had to suffer through the installation and start up of new production equipment, and through the use of new computer programs, I know that initially there are always problems and issues.  Some of them major, all of them a major pain in the ass. However, to have stopped would have been a grave mistake in most cases, and after the issues had been worked out they proved themselves greatly beneficial.  We should not be making any grave mistakes of a similar nature here.

And let me quickly address the claims of many of those against all or most gun control laws that we already have hundreds or even thousands of laws on the books,  just enforce them.  The problem is that they are all local and inconsistent.  A city or state may have strong gun control laws, yet if their neighbors do not then they are not going to be effective.  Just drive across the city limits or state lines, buy your gun, and come back home again.   Instead of working together, these laws often work at cross purposes.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS COMPLETE WITH A WARNING

I do not know if this covers everything that would need to happen for an effective solution to our gun violence crisis.  I do know though that these are the minimum.  And I do know that for most of those items listed above, the benefits to the people of the United States and to the economic and social health of this nation would extend beyond just controlling gun violence more effectively.

However, we do need to be sensitive to individual rights and work to ensure that we do not violate them in the name of safety.

I know that many will interpret this solely in terms of the second amendment.   I freely acknowledge that the second amendment does include the right of individuals to own guns.  This, by the way, is a change in my previous position due to numerous debates and discussions and readings and research.  However, that same research that changed my opinion on whether the second amendment applies to the individual also convinced me that gun controls, including the banning of some, and gun registration, does not violate that second amendment.

Which is my long winded way of saying the rights that I am most concerned about are not the second amendment rights.  My concerns are for the personal rights of the individual.

The right of the individual to be different, unique, eccentric without being labelled and treated as mentally ill.  The right of those who are mentally ill to be fully informed and to give informed consent to all treatments, to not be abused, and to live their lives freely.  The right of the individual to appeal any and all decisions made in regards to them.

Newtown Commemorates One Month Anniversary Of Elementary School MassacreIMG_7319_1507149137045_67979013_ver1.0_900_675

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Town Of Parkland In Mourning, After Shooting At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Kills 17

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Finally, it seems to me that the best memorial to the many lives lost and families shattered by gun violence are not flowers and candles, not poems and pictures, not services and statues, but seeing people live who might have died had we not changed how things are done.

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In the beginning, humanity hunted, humanity gathered, and they did so in family groups.  These groups were the earliest and most basic human social structure.

As time advanced, these groups grew larger through natural processes at work even today.  This natural increase was furthered and quickened by humanity’s growing knowledge and technology which allowed them to die less often and live longer.  And to support more people.

lepenskivirart2Larger groups had several advantages. With more people, some could be spared to become craftsmen or tradesmen – pottery, weaving, knapping, trade, etc.  This benefited the now enlarged family group.  Another important benefit is that having more people meant that it was harder for other, often competing, family groups to force you to move from favorable locations.  Or take away your resources and access to needed and important minerals and water.  Or, to just wipe you out.

And, being bigger meant that if felt it necessary, you could do that to them!

However, as primarily a hunting and gathering society, there were limits to how large your group could grow.  But, then along came agriculture.  Suddenly, those limits were gone.

But, as with most advances, there were problems too. Now a society could grow larger, but family groups could only grow so far and so fast. However, several family groups working together could grow quite quickly and with fewer limits.

But, you knew there was going to be another but, there was another problem.  How to hold these different family groups together when one family group became upset and mad at another. After all, their primary loyalty had been and was to their family.  Family feuds back then were often deadly.

The answer – Religion.  Well, really, the answer was to create a new identity that E0702 KLENZE 9463transcended  family loyalties so  that even when family groups got pissed at each other the society stayed whole and the conflict was largely worked out within the new, larger society instead of tearing it apart.  But, an essential part of that identity was religion.

This was a religion grown from the beliefs of these family groups but organized and made bigger.  And then used to create a new identity and to not only resolve potentially societal suicidal disputes, but to provide a means and motive to redistribute resources (even though abused, a necessity too – for example, irrigation).

For the most part I do not think this was consciously done, although at times I am sure that aspects of it were. But, rather, this was a natural growth.  Also, I would imagine that the attempt to create this new unity with religion failed often and the nascent society fell apart. But, some succeeded and when they did, well they were bigger with all the benefits mentioned above.  Further, they were more organized and able to have people do things not related to just providing food – arts, trades, trading, soldiers, etc

Religion was a success.  And nothing else worked as well.   It is why you never find an early civilization in which religion was not an essential part of its structure.  It had to be for such structures to exist.

Nothing human is static.  We change and grow and react in response to the non-static world around us. This holds true for religion too.  Religion started to move beyond largely societal commands and strictures and assume a more and more moral aspect to it. Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad and others are aspects of this changing nature.

One other aspect of this use of religion as national identity: those who were not of the same religion were then not a part of us, and thus dangerous and suspicious.  Reading the history of England as it switched from Church of England to Catholic and back again is an interesting read and an illustration of this truth.  It is why I say it is not so much religion that is the cause of so much violence, but its wedding to the state.

Which brings us to the gradual divorce of that married couple, once joined as one.  As Religious-Affiliationhumanity was more able to easily travel to other countries with other beliefs, and as humanity became better able to communicate about those other peoples – the printing press being the biggest boost to that – people within countries started to question their beliefs.  Which was a threat to the state – as mentioned earlier.

This warfare and violence though was abhorred by many good men, including some very religious believers.  And the idea started and grew and was developed that religion and state should be divorced, and then kept separated in order to control and lessen the violence and hatred.  Interestingly enough, the earliest proponent of a complete separation of religion and state was a Puritan theologian and founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams (he also founded the state of Rhode Island with that principle in mind).

A couple of hundred of years later a country was born in which the state and church were explicitly separate and forbidden to join together.   Note, by state I mean government.  And that is not the same as a society and culture.

Now, this was such a good idea that over the next two hundred years (a bit over actually) this idea spread and became the norm, or at least given lip service.  Secular non-religious institutions also grew that provided the same functions that only religion used to provide – education, healthcare, providing for the poor, etc. Abulcasis-blistering

However, a bit over two hundred years is a very short period of time. I imagine the transition from family groups to cities with religions took considerably longer.  Which is why we still see the remnants of the older attitude of identifying the state with a specific religion rise up.  It is why Buddhists in Myanmar are persecuting and committing genocide upon Muslims there.   Or why Muslims in many Islamic countries do not allow conversions.  Or why religious people in communist and officially atheistic countries were persecuted (what is the issue here is the identification of one religious view with the state, no matter what that view might be).

And why we still see it rear its head here in the United States.

Immediately after 9/11, the city of Fort Worth decided to hold a grand meeting of city employees to allow a sense of grief to be shared and supported by our shared unity. However, this meeting or ceremony was decidedly Christian, complete with the police Chaplain giving a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ amen.

My wife, who is an atheist, and a Buddhist friend of hers  were left with a sense of betrayal, of being left out. Were they not Americans too?  Did they not feel shock and grieve?   Instead of unifying all Americans, it divided.

It was just after this that God Bless America became a traditional 7th inning stretch song at baseball games.   A way to provide unity and show you were a true blue American. My wife and I, as atheist, refused to sing it, and even refused to stand for it because it came to symbolize the United States as a Christian nation.

Last Thursday was the National Day of Prayer, itself a relic of the old religion as national identity. Many presidents in the past have worked to offset that by trying to include other faiths in these prayers.  But, it still is a relic of the old identifying of the state with one religious view. 170x170bb

More recently our government has been more and more influenced and pandering to one specific religious group. Towards that end, they are working to make it easier to use religion as a justification for discrimination and injustice

I mentioned culture and society earlier and how they are different than governments.  But, while they are different, they do influence it.  This is especially true in a democracy and cannot be any other way.  It creates a bit of tension at times a lot of tensions at others, and it provides a challenge in regards to politicians and government workers at times.  For the most part though, the government has managed to stay secular and maintain that wall of separation. However, I believe that we are now undergoing one of those times when that wall will be attacked, and will be cracked.  Not destroyed, but cracked.

What this shows though is that the replacement of religion as a glue holding people together, as a way of providing a national identity and unity still exists and is still a powerful force.  However the difference between today and the past is that the population is diverse whereas in the past is was largely homogeneous.  That means instead providing a national identity and unifying us, it provides an identity for some and serves to divide us.

I do not think that religion will ever disappear (after all, the family has not disappeared, that primal beginning of all human societies) – nor should that be our goal (very far from it). But, I do think that our secular government with its secular institutions needs to be protected.  It is a necessity for the continued growth of a more peaceful and just world.

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There are two things I note about most of the most fervid Trump Supporters – their short sighted impatience, and their fantasies.  It is something that I see again and again, and something I have to remind some of these fervid supporters of when I engage them (and which they promptly then ignore or forget – which means I could also add in the short memory of such supporters).  So, now to take each topic in order.

ON THE SHORT SIGHTED IMPATIENCE OF SOME TRUMP SUPPORTERS

By short sighted impatience, I mean that whenever we point out that something is not good, if the sky doesn’t immediately fall down and the fires of hell roar up to meet the falling skies, they laugh and mock.

“Hey, I thought you said the stock market was going to crash”President Trump Holds 'Make America Great Again' Rally In Iowa

“I thought you said our economy would be in ruins.”

“I thought you said that America would collapse.”

And so forth.

Now,  I am going to speak for myself (obviously), but I think most liberals and rational people would agree with what I say.  I never once said disastrous results would happen immediately.  In fact, I explicitly said in one to two years.   And so far I will stand by this – although truth to tell, I thought Trump would have yanked us out of NAFTA by now and be well on his way to a protectionist policies and actions.  He has made some significant movements that way, but not as far as I had thought he would.

But, it has only been one year.  And, as I said, I have seen movements and actions trending that way.

And here’s the thing.  The vast majority of human disasters do not happen immediately.  Events lead up to them and create the conditions for such to occur.  For example, our recent Great Recession was caused by many factors – international trade imbalances, lax lending standards and lack of adequate regulations on entities such as banks and other financial institutions, as well as US government housing policies.  I would add that President W. Bush’s tax cuts and Iraq war also contributed to the recession and caused us to increase our debt more than we would have otherwise to get out of it.

So, many things contributed to this disaster.  And each thing came about at different times, and none of them immediately caused the disaster.

So, no, I did not think that once Trump was sworn in that everything would suddenly fall apart.  For one thing, we were in a very good place economically and in the world.  Good foundations take time to wreck.

The same with the tax plan.  Yeah, I know most people are going to see some money back.  That is not the problem.  The tax plan is not going to help our economy much, if at all, and will be a long term problem.  Not to mention the basic issue of its lack of fairness. But, in the immediate future, for at least the next one or two years, probably a few more, not much is going to happen due to it.

So, short sighted impatience.  If it doesn’t flop immediately then we are chicken littles and rabble rousers and gloom and doomers.

No, not really. But, we can see the signs and events happening that will lead to a disaster.

Trump and company are harming our alliances.  And our reputation in the world.    That is a set up for something bad to happen.

And all the workplace safety regulations have improved safety and reduced accidents and deaths, and all the environmental regulations being cut so that now we are in more danger from toxic wastes, and other environmental hazards.  Keep in mind, not saying that they will happen immediately.  But, they will accumulate and have a cumulative impact.

Trump and company are busy eliminating any and all regulations that protect us – regular people – from big business.  And protect the United States from major economic problems, such as what happened during the Great Recession.  Has it happened yet?  No, of course not.  Never said it would.  But, the pieces are being put into place for such things to happen.

So, for any fervid Trump supporter who may be reading this – drop the” all is good now”.  That is not evidence against us since we are not talking about an immediate right now effect.  What we see are the building blocks of disaster being put in place.  And so often, disasters are just a numbers game.  You can do something unsafe and get away with it – for awhile.  But do it too often, and it will catch up to you.

Trump and company are increasing the odds that bad things will happen, both politically, in foreign affairs, socially, and economically.  The signs are there for those who look – and they are not that hard to see.  But, soon, in a year or two, they will become very much clearer.  Although I fear that during this time the fervid Trump supporters will come up with a conspiracy theory to blame it on.

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FANTASIES OF MANY FERVID TRUMP SUPPORTERS

It seems that many of the fervid Trump supporters just cannot understand why so many are so strongly against him.  So, rather than deal with the reality that Trump really is the worst president that the United States has had in modern times, and possibly in all of our history, they create fantasies about why we don’t just adore him, or at least give him a “fair chance’.

The first fantasy is that we were just upset that Hillary didn’t win.  In other words, we were sore, pouty losers.  I haven’t seen that  one as much now as in the  past.  So, good.

This one though is the one I see most often, because it is the one most often tossed my way.  They seem to believe we are offended by his fucking language.  Or that he is not eloquent.  Or that he is not polished.  In other words, they have created a fantasy of us as being weak willed nitwits who are just offended at Trump.

Now, I will admit that I am offended at Trump. But, not for the reasons they say.

I really don’t care if he used shithole or shithouse in that meeting.  I am not offended by those words.  I know of at least two very good Presidents who cursed quite often.  I am however offended at the lack of  knowledge and the prejudice his question conveyed.

While it would be nice to have an eloquent person as president, there have been many very good presidents who were not eloquent.  So, I am not offended at Trump’s lack of eloquence.

Election Protests WisconsinI am offended though at his ignorance and that he seems to believe he is not ignorant.  His lack of knowledge of government and policies and of the world are appalling and dangerous for a President.  His lack of awareness of his lack of knowledge means that he is not even going to try to learn.  That, I find offensive in the extreme.

I am not offended at his rough manner. There have been good presidents in the past who were rough.

However, I am offended at his lack of feeling for others – his mockery of those with disabilities, his attacks upon military members who disagree with him, his racism, his treatment of women.

And I am offended at his lack of morals.  I do not expect presidents to be pristine and pure.  But I also expect them to not profit off the government in the manner that Trump has been doing.  I do expect them to avoid conflicts of interest, which Trump does not.

Finally, politicians will lie.  It comes with the territory and to be honest, some of it is necessary for being a successful politician.  A totally honest politician is one whose career is going to be very short and very ineffective.

However, I do expect them to be honest most of the time.  And to correct obvious misstatements.  Trump is not and does not.  He has taken lying to new heights and never ever apologizes.

In short, I  know that there have been presidents who are rough, not eloquent, commonly used rough language.  While I might prefer differently, that is not why I am so utterly opposed to Trump and appalled that he was elected president.

No, I am opposed and appalled because Trump is the most incompetent president we have had in my lifetime, and quite probably in the history of the United States.  I am opposed and appalled because Trump is an immoral idiot who thinks he is God.  And because this God has such a delicate ego he is in constant warfare with a significant part of the American people.

So, if you disagree with me – fine.  Do so based on the reality of me, based upon what I actually say, and not your fantasy of me.

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First, not all claims of sexual harassment are going to be true.

The great majority will be. But, there will be a few that will not be true. This could be due Mooreto maliciousness, revenge or political/economic gain, or for a moment in the spotlight or just miscommunication.

Second, not all instances of sexual harassment are equally egregious.

Pressure to have sex for promotions or hiring, sexual harassment of minors, and squeezing the butt, while all wrong and deserving of condemnation, are not equally as wrong.

Third, people screw up, occasionally very badly; even good people.Loretta Lynch Addresses Congressional Black Caucus Conference In DC

One or even two instances of sexual harassment, dependent upon the type of sexual harassment, does not make one a bad person or even a serial sexual harasser (not sure of a good word for this).

Fourth, related to the third: the times and standards have changed and are changing.

While the standards often sound the same,  how they are being understood and applied in recent years is different from how they were understood and applied 30, 40 or 50 years ago:  the pervasive idea  that men were allowed and expected to discipline wayward women by spanking them, that forcing a kiss was what women wanted even when  they said no, women liked sexual advances and were flattered by them even when saying no that men were meant to rule the home and women, ultimately, submit – all show in countless movies, books, stories.

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What this means is that you have some applying the same applications as before, applications that they learned and absorbed from birth,  and who honestly do not see themselves as sexually harassers.  And refuse to change.

Then you have some who do acknowledge and are aware of and agree with those changes but whose initial behaviors and habits were formed back during the day, and this can give rise to problems – such as my third point – people screw up. It takes time and work to change ingrained habits and views.

For an example of the above, consider women who were brought up in an extreme Christian purity culture – home schooled, only acceptable role is as wife and mother, emphasis on being a virgin when married, formal education not important, submissive, etc. Even though at some point they make a conscious decision to break away, it takes years to change habits and points of views. There are and will be mistakes and issues created in the changing of this view.

Fifth, a variation of the fourth, the times are changing and have changed. How far back do we want to hold people accountable to the new understanding?

For example, a man acting on the standards of the 60s or 70s, but who is trying to change and has been doing so, do we still hold his actions in the 60s and 70s and 80s against him?  Much of this is going to depend on how far back, which in turn depends on when you consider the times seriously started changing as well as the nature of the offense – see my Second point above.

Sixth, the truth of my first point, not all claims are going to be true, and to an extent, my second one, not all instances of sexual harassment equally bad, have been horribly abused in the past to defend men’s indefensible actions.

In fact, this abuse has been so pervasive that I think that we are reluctant now to admit that such can be occasionally true. Especially in light of how those opposed take those few and try to inflate it and deflect attention away from the larger issue.

Add to this the fact that our culture too often still blames women for rape and sexual harassment; even underage girls. A few years back here in Texas a young girl of 11 was gang raped several times over a period of a few months. Many people, including many women, blamed the girl, calling her slut and such, even though it appeared that the initial gang rape was totally obviously non-consensual complete with the girl saying no.  And afterwards… the girl was 11, need more be said?
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Because of these concerns we have become very sensitive to anything that smacks of victim blaming and slut shaming. We have cause to be. But, I think we are in danger of being so sensitive on this that we do not consider that occasionally the man, or woman, is not guilty.

The reason I think we need to be clear on this is that making such a mistake not only makes us wrong, but also, in practical terms provides ammunition to those who are resisting the reality that sexual harassment is a real and large problem. They are already doing this with hate crime by using the few hate crime hoaxes to question and/or discredit all other clams.

Now, in addition to the points above, I think we need to start making some distinctions.  To me there are three broad categories – inappropriate behavior, harassment, and assault.

Inappropriate behavior might be such things as sexual comments, stealing a kiss, grabbing the butt, and so on.

Harassments is something that has to happen more than once to the same person.

Sexual assault is sex that occurs despite the person saying no, or otherwise indicating that it is not welcome.

Currently in the reporting and discussions I have seen, all three are lumped together.  While this is useful for broad discussions, when you want to talk about specifics, about what to do in individual cases, and about what social changes should be promoted, we need to be aware of the distinctions and not handle each of them the same.

My last thought is that this is going to be messy.  All needed social change is. It will involve a lot of dialogue and will involve a lot of conflict, the conflict not always between those of opposite sides. We will disagree among ourselves about what to do. That is normal.  And this process will not be perfect. Nothing human ever is.

And those who are opposed to this change will take that messiness, and use those few times when an innocent person is harmed , to try to discredit the movement.  To counter this we need to:

  • Admit when we are wrong and an innocent person has been harmed, and not do so in a defensive manner, but openly and with genuine regret.
  • Be ready with facts and reason. Facts and reason honed, hopefully, by debate and discussions among ourselves.
  • Be ready to provide the benefits of creating a more equal society, not just in terms of justice and morality, but in terms of creating better opportunities that will create better job growth and economic growth.
  • Not be afraid to admit we don’t know or aren’t sure when we really do not know and really are unsure. We need to develop a reputation of honesty.
  • Be aware that we will make mistakes, both as a movement and as individuals. Be strong enough to learn and push on anyway.

 

GeorgeTakei

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I was going to use George Takei and Al Franken to illustrate how I think the thoughts above would play out in real life. But, this is getting too long as it is, and so, instead, I will just tell you the end result of my thinking based on the above points.  And then let you try to figure out why, and decide if I was correct or totally off base.

George Takai.  I do not believe he committed any acts of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior.

Al Franken.  He engaged in inappropriate behavior with several women over a period of time. However, I do not believe he should have been pressured to resign. An ethics investigation and some other penance would have done (provide the ethics investigation did not find anything more than what has already come out).  Or, conversely, he should have said that he would resign if Trump would submit to an ethics investigation in regards to his acts of sexual harassment.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Normally I do just one blog during a week. But this week there will be two, my normal Wednesday blog, and this one.

 

 

It seems that we have reached a critical mass, a critical mass that has been set ablaze by the Me Too movement. It seems that women, and some men, everywhere are speaking up about harassment from the rich and powerful.  Harvey Weinstein, of course.  Then also, after Harvey, Ed Westwick, Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, former President George H. W. Bush, Louis C. K. and many others.  And the list is growing – and I hope continues to grow.

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Doubtless some of those or those of others to come, will turn out to be honest mistakes in communication or memory. Others will turn out to be lies or half truths done out of maliciousness or even to score political points. However, I am not going to make the mistake of so many on the right who question whether hate crimes and hate speech are increasing at all and who point to a few hoaxes as reason to question the experiences and reality of thousands of people.  Most, in fact, the great majority, of these women’s claims will turn out to be true. Just as is true for those who have experienced hate crimes and speech.

 

I should note that although I mentioned the rich and powerful, as well as listed the names of such, this is by no means confined only to the rich and powerful.  Would that it were. But this issue crosses all areas of society, the rich and the poor.  The rich and powerful though can often get away with such behavior on a scale that those poor can only dream about, whether that dream be bliss or nightmare. And, that the rich and powerful are much more visible than the average person.

 

Also, before going further, let me state this is not a political issue. It is not a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican issue. Most of those coming out now are from the entertainment industry and heavily liberal.  However, a brief look at recent history shows that this is not only liberals and Democrats.  Need I remind people of Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Herman Cain, Dennis Hastert, Donald Trump and many others.

 

As I said, this is not a political issue, although it does have political ramifications.

 

Instead, this is a human and American societal issue and concerns all of us. Look at the names I mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. They range from one end of the political spectrum to the other. However, I am realistic enough to know that for many, and possibly most, they will see this as a problem mostly for liberals or mostly for conservatives. Of course, this could wind up working if the conservatives would take aim and take down the liberal sexual harassers and the liberals do the same for the conservative ones. But, again, my ability to see reality knows that this will not happen. It is too easy and too facile and the issue spread too widely and deeply for this ironic simplistic vignette to happen.

 

Let me start by briefly going over what I think are some of the causes of our societal addiction to sexual harassment. I think this is important because without understanding the root causes of a problem, not understanding how it came about and what supports it, all attempts to deal with it will work only by chance, with many being ineffective efforts and others actually creating greater harm. This is going to happen anyway, but knowledge and understanding will reduce the mistakes and increase the effectiveness of our actions moving forwards.

 

I do not intend to go into this in any sort of depth. For one, I am already going to bust my self imposed limit of keeping these to 1000 words or so. But, also, to do any sort of proper analysis would take much more knowledge and much more time than I have, and would take many thousands of words. I am, instead, just presenting some ideas of my own for consideration.

 

The first of these is that one of the main roots of sexual harassment lies in the idea of power coupled with the ideas of the proper roles of men and women in society.

 

Libby Ann, in her excellent blog “Child Brides, Teenage Sluts, and Roy Moore”, hits at some of this in discussing the views and attitudes of some conservative evangelical Christians.  Simplistically put (read her blog for a fuller discussion on this) the roots lie in this groups’ ideas of the proper role for men and women.

 

Men are meant to support and protect women. Women are meant to be submissive and obey men. To be supportive and able to protect their family, men need to be older and well established financially.  Women though need to know how to cook and clean house, bear and raise children, and be submissive; something a woman can do as a girl of 13.

 

What is interesting here is that this idea of the proper roles of men and women was at one time the dominant one in our society.  It has only been in recent times that a new ideal has taken hold and become the dominant view of most of society – that of a woman being the equal of a man, due the same rights, respect, and opportunities as a man.  Something that, even when disagreeing on particular situations, is usually given at least lip service by all sides.

 

However, it is important to note that first, this change of ideals is not uniform, and the understanding of how this new ideal works in specific situations varies considerably.

 

Second, although ideals may have changed, attitudes have lagged.  As is usual.

 

And third, that all progress also generates a push to not only stop but to go back to the way things were before, or at least as they were perceived as being.  Currently we have started living through such a dark period.

 

Which makes the light being shone by these women willing to speak up during our time of moral eclipse even more amazing.  During this time when, for whatever reason – ignorance, fear, denial, greed – we as a society are no longer concerned and working towards creating a more just society these women are speaking up, often at personal risk.

 

I only hope that even though mistakes will occur, tensions created, people hurt, and society roiled, that these and more women continue to speak up, because there are many more women as the Me Too movement showed.  Continue to shine not only to just limit the darkness but to reverse it.

 

This is a time for women when, like so many other issues such as racial discrimination, many point to laws passed and progress made and say no more needs to be done. And too many then go on to say too much has been done, and start darkening people’s lives.  In doing so they ignore that in actuality not enough has been done.  In fact, only the easy parts have been taken care of, and those imperfectly.

 

Shine on through the storm.

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Let’s face it, humans are usually shallow in their thinking and in their arguments.  It is something inherent in being human. This is especially evident when trying to defend a strongly held belief, position, or person.  And it is even more evident when that belief, position or person is wrong.

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One example of this shallowness is how often we only look at the form and not the content. We see some points of similarity and ignore the even more points of dissimilarity, the differences that make a difference.

One example of this is how often I have been told by Trump supporters to get over it.  That I sound just like they did when Obama was President and that now I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t like in the White House.

Now, on the surface, they are right.  I am complaining loudly and long about Trump and his actions.  Just as they did about President Obama.  We both complain and shout that Obama or Trump is going to ruin the country, do in our rights, and harm our standing. The form is the same.  However, the content is different.  In other words, the specifics of what was said matter and not just that they both are proclaiming doom and gloom.

President Obama did not confiscate all guns.

President Obama did not invade Texas under the guise of a war game.

President Obama did bring the country out of a recession and left it in much much better condition than we he started.

Trump has caused the US to lose the respect and trust of most of the world.

Trump has caused global tensions to rise.

Trump has rolled back civil rights protections for the gay and transgendered community.

Trump has cut back on environmental regulations that protect us and keep us from becoming what China is now trying to get away from.

Trump has worked to improve the wealth of the already rich.

Trump has shown himself to be just as much a liar as president as he was as candidate.

Now, I freely admit that some of the things I have said have not happened yet.  Emphasis on the  word yet.  I have said for most of these it would take one to two years before it would be obvious enough for all to agree.  Trump is not even one year in, so give it time.

Oh, and the investigation that I said was justified and which was blown off as so much nothing – well, it seems as if it was not nothing but very much something. And that too is only in its beginnings.

Now, I should mention that this form matching doesn’t have to be a point by point match as in my above example. Sometimes it can have just one point in common and it will be loudly proclaimed to be the same. Of course, this not only ignores the content, but also the many differences in form too.  And the space left from ignoring all of this – the content and the other aspects of the form – is then filled with baseless speculation and, often, lies – the stuff of conspiracy.

 

Saying that since Hillary had contact with the Russians for the dossier then that is the same as Trump’s staff contact with the Russians.  Never mind that the Russians came calling direct to the Trump campaign, Hillary’s was through the research of a firm paid to do research.  Which means that in Trump’s case the Russians controlled the information. In Clinton’s case, not so much.  And that is just one difference in the form and content.

emptyOr trying to equate Trump’s administration problems with the Russians to Hillary’s uranium scandal.  The only point in common is Russia.  However, Trump’s administration has been shown to be active with the Russians. In the Uranium one, not so much. They ignore the fact that this decision was made by a committee of which she was just one member. And the fact that most of the time, if not all, she had a representative attend and vote. And that Canada had to buy off on it too.

 

Don’t remember seeing all of those items in regards to Trump’s staff dealing with the Russians.  Which is why now you are getting those blanks in the form that I mentioned earlier filled in with a grand conspiracy theory.

So, the form may be very similar, but content matters more.

Something to remember the next time you have two people shouting outside your window at 2 am.  Before calling the police on both, listen to what each is shouting first. For the one shouting that the Ice Cream King will leaving his home on the moon and landing on your house – yeah, go ahead and call the cops. And check to make sure you windows and doors are locked.

For the one yelling, Fire, Fire, you may want to pause and consider their words. Especially if you smell smoke. Look beyond the simple, the superficial, the shallow.

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So often I hear people say to stand firm on your principles.  As I have gotten older and thought about this, and had my thinking influenced by several conversations with several people and by watching current events and reading of past events, I have come to the belief that principles are not for standing upon.  They are for pointing a direction.

Too often when a person takes a firm stand on principle they wind up building a wall instead. And the problem with walls is that they actually can keep you from going anywhere, especially forward. They fence you in.

 

In fact, I think most of the times, the great majority of the times, that standing firmly on your principles can be the worst thing that can be done; that there are instead many times when a compromise, even an evil one, can be the right thing to do.

 

For a grand example of this, let me use something from the history of the United States, the creation of our Constitution.  The compromise was called the three – fifths compromise. This compromise  not only allowed slavery to continue to exist, but gave the southern slave states more power in the House and in Presidential elections.

 

The three –fifths compromise came about due to a heated disagreement on who to count for the census. This was important because the population of a state determined how many representatives it would have, and also how many electors a state has for presidential elections.   The Southern States wanted to count their slaves as part of the census.  Those opposed to slavery, and the northern states, did not want to count the slaves as they felt that would make the slave states too powerful (and I note the irony here that those against slavery wanted to have slaves not even count as being a person).  The compromise that was agreed to was that slaves would count as three-fifths of a free citizen.  Which still gave the southern slave states a great deal of power within the federal government.  Because of this the southern slave states were dominant for most of the pre-Civil War United State.   Something that can be seen in the fact that ten of the first 16 Presidents (all the Presidents before Lincoln) were from Southern States.

 

Now consider the principle of “All men are created equal”. No one at our Constitutional Convention stood up firmly for that principle. In fact, they gave way and made what I would characterize as an evil compromise (I will note that those opposed to slavery argued for slaves not being counted for the census in order to reduce the power of the Southern states).  They agreed to continue the belief and practice of treating some people as nothing more than property and, even worse, gave those with the greatest interest in promoting this belief and practice the means to continue it.

 

 

Why did those who opposed slavery agree to this compromise?  They did so because they hoped that a United States would one day be able to resolve the issue of slavery, and end it.  In other words, they hoped that more good would result from a United States than from there not being one. Because without this compromise the United States would not have existed.

 

 

And I would say that history proved them right in making this compromise, in not standing firmly on principle.  Why?  Because if they had not, if they had not made this evil compromise, I do not think slavery would have been abolished in North America until the 20th century at best. And once abolished those states that did abolish it in the 20th century instead of the middle 19th would still be going through their version of Jim Crow or worse.

 

Before going further let me acknowledge the complexities and difficulties in predicting what might have been. Let me also say that I am giving a very simplified version of what could have happened in order to try to keep this blog as close to 1000 words as possible.  Just to give some of those complexities, the United States could have broken down into three, four or more separate countries each going their own way and pursuing their own interests, with all the resulting conflicts, alliances, rivalries and wars attached to doing so. Some may have even become part of the British Empire again.  That’s not even considering the effect of several individual countries trying to expand westward.

 

But, in order to keep this short, I am not going to try to cover all of those aspects. Instead, I want to focus on just one simple part of this that illustrates what I am saying  about principle and compromise.

 

Consider this: if the United States had not formed there would have been at least two separate countries formed – the Northern States that would have abolished slavery and the Southern States that had already made slavery an integral part of their society and economy.

 

Consider also that the Northern States and President Lincoln did not go to war with the Southern States to abolish slavery, but to preserve the Union.  If there were no union to preserve, there would have been no war.  There would have been no war that resulted in abolishing slavery in North America in the 1860s.

 

 

There are two reasons to make evil compromises.  One is because all the other options are even more evil.  The other is that that compromise has the potential to lead to a good, a potential that the other options do not have.   In this example, I think most of the founders who were strongly against slavery – such as Alexander Hamilton – made this compromise not only because they believed that a United States with slavery was better than numerous countries in conflict, many of which would also have slavery as an institution, but because they believed that a United States would be better poised to eventually eliminate slavery – although they did not know how.

 

So, they made their evil compromise instead of firmly standing on principles. And then they hoped, they prayed, and they worked to make that hope come true.  Something that would not have been as possible, or as quickly possible, had they stood firmly on principle.

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