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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fathom the Depths of Imagination

A moving article by Jeffrey Davis, Fathoming Black Lives, is so worth spending a few minutes reading. And hours, days, years contemplating.  I think his idea of imagination--the ability to consider the plight, the feelings, emotions, history of "other"---or the inability, for many, is a dividing line that needs more exploring.

Imagination: the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

Empathy requires imagination. Reading, writing, and being pulled into fictional worlds requires imagination. A 2013 study by Castano and Kidd showed that reading literary fiction increases one's empathy. They conclude that, because literary fiction requires more mental processing than genre fiction or nonfiction, "readers of literary fiction are tasked with interpretation, or critical thinking. Literary fiction, they posit, has the power to “disrupt our stereotypes”; what’s more, it is full of “complicated individuals whose inner lives are rarely easily discerned but warrant exploration.”"

Another study conducted by Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar found that reading activates neural "that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness."

In another study by the same researchers in 2006, 94 subjects were asked to guess the emotional state of a person from a photograph of their eyes. “The more fiction people [had] read, the better they were at perceiving emotion in the eyes, and…correctly interpreting social cues.”

In 2009, wondering if “devouring novels might be a result, not a cause, of having a strong theory of mind,” they expanded the scope of their research, testing 252 adults on the “Big Five ” personality traits — extraversion, emotional stability, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness — and correlated those results with how much time the subjects generally spent reading fiction. Once again, they discovered “a significant relation between the amount of fiction people read and their empathic and theory-of-mind abilities” allowing them to conclude that it was reading fiction that improved the subjects’ social skills, not that those with already high interpersonal skills tended to read more.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is critical to really comprehending the world around us. No, I can never be a black man. I can never fully know what it's like to be an undocumented immigrant, but I can imagine and feel the stress and the terror that is a part of their lives every day. I can also empathize with those who cause that stress and terror--not sympathize, but I can attempt to get into their head and imagine what they're feeling and why. And no. That doesn't make me sympathetic to them. It makes me angry.

It makes me wish they'd read more fiction as a child.

Friday, November 11, 2016

It'll be interesting

No. I haven't come around. No. I'm not ready to think you're anything less than a cretin if you voted for that blowhard. He said what he said, he did what he did. People who voted for him, to defend themselves, are saying they didn't take it literally. They didn't really believe he meant it.

I'm not ready to accept it was all hyperbole. His words were his words, with no disclaimers from him, no matter how hard his campaign workers tried to backpedal. So, yes, I do still think you're deplorable if you voted for him. He's scum. If it was all an act, well....we'll see. Time will tell. But, even if it was, that's no excuse for any moral and sane human to vote for him after all he said and did. You're still deplorable.

So, no. This isn't an easing of my position. But a surprising, eye opening moment of consideration. I actually think Glenn Beck is being somewhat sensible about something. Read what he said HERE.

No. Don't want to talk to you right now. Can't talk to you right now. Still have to process the fact of his words and actions--the evidence of who he is and what he represents--with your vote, showing your support for those words and action; and try to figure out how your acceptance and support of those words and actions makes you anything other than deplorable. I'm not there yet. 

But, some of Beck's words make sense. Possibly because I've always suspected that Beck isn't nearly as scary-nuts as he acts. That's the key. It IS an act for him. He's just fucking with all the conservatives who listen to him. I'd even planned a book around that idea. A sane person saying, "look how stupid and ugly these conservatives are. I'll bet I could really expose them for who they truly are." He gets on talk radio and shoots to superstardom. It's a funny joke for him, his girlfriend, and other friends who are in on the joke. But the joke backfires when he gets caught up in his own hype; addicted to the attention; to his power to really pull out the true nastiness in humans. In the process, he loses everyone he loves. Only when he's balancing on that razor's edge, a hairs breadth away from stepping over the line does he realize what  he's become. But by then, it's too late. He has alienated all of his truly good and decent friends, including his girlfriend. There is no happy ending, no matter how hard he tries to redeem himself. I think the real Beck is in that position now.

Beck tried to redeem himself by not supporting Trump. It was too little too late. Today, he put himself in the hot seat, exposed something of a soft underbelly. He tried to explain to those of us hurting over this election that, if we keep the lines of communication open, well, we might be surprised. Not much of an olive branch, but it's a start.

As I said, I'm not there yet, and can't be sure that I ever will be. If you voted for Trump, you are a deplorable human being. But, if there's hope for this country, hope that some of our institutions can survive, hope that some of the deplorables will snap out of it in time and act, in the way Beck said he will ("If our Mr. Trump, or any future president, should decide to round up Muslims (or any group) as America did with Japanese during World War II under Franklin D. Roosevelt, I will declare, “I am a Muslim.” My values, honor, integrity and the Bill of Rights demand I stand for those most unlike me — that is when it counts,") well, then maybe there is hope for this country, and maybe I am wrong about you all being misogynistic, racist, homophobic bigots.
I think I'd like to find out I'm wrong. I'm still pretty sure I'm not, because as nice a thought as it is, Glenn Beck didn't vote for Hitler/Trump, but you did.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What You Have Lost

I respect every citizen's right to choose who they will in an election. The purpose of a secret ballot is to ensure we can all choose who we want, without undue pressure from spouses, poll workers, the government or special interests.

I respect your right to choose. I do not respect your choice. And because you made that choice, Americans-who-voted-for-Trump, I can not respect you either. You have lost not only my respect, but a whole lot of other thin veils you've been using to hide the true-you.

You have lost the right to claim you're a "Christian." You opted for a man who has broken almost every one of the commandments. He has coveted (thus the 3 marriages, each with a mistress he took while married to the previous wife). He has disrespected women time and time again, loudly, proudly, and unrepentantly. I'm pretty sure his mother is a woman, and his wives, daughters, employees, colleagues. He shows no regard for women, including his mother, through his words and actions. He worships gold and wealth, the most false of idols. He has willingly and knowingly signed contracts then reneged on payment--cheating, stealing, and lying in one tidy package. Keep the sabbath? The man doesn't even attend church. Idolatry, blasphemy, theft? Check, check, check.

Until you can find the passages in the New Testament where Jesus said to throw out foreigners (oh, wait, he preached exactly the opposite!), to accumulate wealth, especially at the expense of others (uh-oh, again, your choice did the exact opposite), to belittle and berate the poor, the disabled, and anyone who is different...until you show me those passages, until you actually read and comprehend the words in the New Testament, you have lost the right to hide behind your cloak of "Christianity." You voted for a person who is the antithesis of everything you claim to "believe in."

Actions speak louder than words. What his actions show is clear. What your actions show is that your choice had nothing to do with faith, belief, morality, or Christian-values. It shows you've been duped into believing that "Republican" means "Christian." So you vote mindlessly for a candidate who represents all you claim to oppose. You chose hatred over love, greed over charity, racism over inclusion, and words over deeds. You have lost the right. Don't you DARE claim your Christianity to me. That only adds liar to your already clear actions showing what you are.

You've also lost the right to claim anything related to fiscal responsibility. You lost the right to claim any decision based on helping the economy when you selected a man whose wealth has come from running businesses into the ground, declaring bankruptcy and walking away from his financial obligations, scot-free, leaving his mess to the taxpayer and small businesses to suffer the damages. How will that make the country great again? By driving us into bankruptcy borrowing from his allies, Russia and China? Leaving us indebted to them and walking away after four years, so someone else can once again clean up his fiscal mess? So that we're obligated to countries we've claimed to oppose because of human rights violations, their form of government, their anti-Christian policies? Yes, sure. That's going to help the economy (that has slowly been recovering after 8 years of Bush putting two wars on a credit card that we've been paying off over the past 8 years under Obama--the fiscally responsible one who ignorant people blame for the mess the previous administration put us in.) 

If that's the reason you gave for your vote, as a way to justify that choice, I'm sorry, but you've lost the right to claim that you're a "fiscal conservative," or that you care about the economy at all. What your vote shows is that you don't care how or where the money comes from, just get it. Compromise our values, throw away integrity, borrow from China and Russia, use bankruptcy as your fiscal recovery plan for the country. If you think your vote was about the economy and you don't see the idiocy of electing a businessman whose repeated strategy for "success" is bankruptcy, then you're just not very bright. If you do see that, then it's clear your vote wasn't about fiscal responsibility or the economy, it was about your own hate and fear.

Those who claim they voted because of Benghazi? Please. Unless you also voted against both Bushes, W after the 13 embassy attacks killed 60 people under his watch and against Bush SR after the attacks during the Reagan administration when 5 embassy attacks killed 48 US citizens, you're a liar and a hypocrite. If you don't see the hypocrisy, you're just stupid. What your vote clearly tells the world, is that you latched onto any excuse you could to cling to your party, to find a way to justify an unjustifiable decision. Whether you needed that justification to rationalize your misogyny or your sheepish obedience to party, or to justify your racist opposition to anything associated with the Obama administration, who knows? Who cares. Unless you were equally mortified, belligerent, and actively opposed to those in power in the previous, more egregious instances of attacks and deaths at embassies, we can all see you're just grasping at straws. You didn't vote against Hillary because of Benghazi. You voted against her because you embraced the GOP's brand of hatred. You voted for exclusion and for war.

If you claim your vote was in the interest of national security because of Hillary's emails, as above, unless you voted against the George W Bush administration for using private email servers, unless you were outraged by that, and by Rumsfeld and Chaney's blatant lies to Congress and the American people, just stop. You're again grasping at straws to justify your misogyny, hypocrisy, and hate. You're blindly following your party dogma, against common sense, critical thinking, and mountains of evidence.

If you claim to be "pro-life," there's just no sane or reasonable way to support the GOP platform that condemns children to hunger, disease, poverty, and a poor education to lock them into a continuing cycle of poverty. Face it: you're pro-pregnancy, and after that, you're pro-punishment and suffering for children and women. Unless you support expanding and improving affordable health care, easy and inexpensive access to contraception, more school-lunch programs, welfare, public education, then you aren't pro-life. You're pro-pregnancy, pro-punishment, anti-woman and anti-child. If you are truly pro-life, you won't  have an abortion yourself. You'll teach your sons to respect women and not have unprotected sex. You'll teach your daughters about how their bodies actually work--using biological facts (no, we can't just "shut that down.") For the many, many "friends" and family members who I know had or paid for their girlfriends' abortions and are now vehemently "pro-life," you're despicable human beings. You got yours. You were able to move on and have a better life, marry the person you're with now, have the children you have now BECAUSE you had the right and opportunity to take control of your body and your future. And now that you've used that right, you don't want anyone to have it. (And no, I won't tell anyone your secret, but just know, people know what a hypocrite you are. Just don't preach your pro-life nonsense to me.) 

Please, for the love of God and country, those of you who voted for Trump, stop making weak excuses and rationalizing what you did. I know it hurts to come face-to-face with the truth, but all the evidence is there. The rest of the world sees it. Your fellow Americans see it. Your vote tells us all we need to know about you. You no longer have the right to claim morality, Christianity, responsibility, or common sense. You have embraced hate, ignorance, and fear. I am embarrassed for you and ashamed of what you've made of our country. I am sorry for you. And I will never again respect you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In Mourning

I am in a state of shock this morning. Later, I'll mourn. For now, I still can't fathom the depths to which a once great nation has sank.

But should I really be surprised? Isn't this just the culmination of 30+ years of eroding the fabric of society? Of demonizing education, making greed the focal point of religion and morality, of shunning evidence-based analysis and critical thinking in favor of magical thinking and easy answers?

Whatever these election results are, whatever mandate they speak of should terrify everyone. For those of us who chose a flawed, but sane and intelligent candidate, hoping for reason to prevail and lost, the reasons are too many and too obvious. We don't accept hate, xenophobia, lies, cheating, stealing, misogyny, and anger as the default position for this nation, or for our lives.

For those who supported those under the battle cry of "Christianity," you should be terrified. You've driven the final stake through the heart of all that term means. Until you can show me where the New Testament where Jesus urged hatred and bigotry, where he said greed is good and foreigners should be not only shunned, but mistreated, where he approved bullying, reneging on contracts (aka lying and stealing)--until you find where he promoted hate and anger over love, you don't get to play the "Christian" card anymore. You have chosen the antithesis of everything in the New Testament, embraced it, and proclaimed it yours. If that doesn't terrify you, you're nothing short of stupid, and at worst, you're evil.

For those of you who supported under the battle cry of "Make America Great Again," you should be terrified. Read the words on the Statue of Liberty: Give me your tired, your hungry, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to be free." That's what made America great. What made America great was going to stand up for those who were different, to free them from the concentration camps in Europe. You've elected someone who has promised to erect walls and remove those who are different. The very thing this country stood against when we were great. You should be terrified of your choice. If you aren't, you're nothing short of ignorant, and at worst you're hateful.

For those of you who thought someone whose wealth came from cheating and not paying on contracts--lying and stealing from honest, hard-working people who helped to create his wealth--who declared bankruptcy SIX TIMES as a way to avoid paying his debts--stealing from creditors, employees, workers, and taxpayers. Markets all around the world have been in free-fall since the outcome of this election became increasingly clear overnight. You've chosen that same path of bankruptcy and cheating for our country. You should be terrified of your choice. If you aren't, you're gullible at best, but mostly, you're an idiot.

My heart is breaking for my country. If I could look on a bright side, if I could find some moral, logical, sensible reason for anyone to vote for this man, I might be able to have hope. There is none--no reason, and no hope. I am embarrassed for my country, embarrassed by the people who could so willingly become so ignorant and gullible, who could be so hypocritical as to vote against everything this country stands for, all while waving their flags and proudly embracing all that it doesn't stand for.

Everyone at one time or another, has wondered how Hitler came into power. How the German people could have so willingly walked down that path. Well...now we know. We not only know, we're following in their footsteps. If you aren't terrified for yourself, you should be terrified for the next generation, and the ones after that. On the positive side, after Germany was blown to pieces, after they lost all respect on the world stage, and after they did some deep soul-searching to come to terms with the collective guilt they rightly carry, they were able to rebuilt a great nation. I can only hope that future generations will forgive us for this election, and rebuild something decent from the ruins.