7.26.2016

#AllTheTime

The almost-daily juxtaposition of falling deeper in love with my sweet Asher and of reading about yet another senseless shooting of a black man weighs heavily on me.  The sting of the tragedy is sharper, and heavier is the knowledge of the near-universal harassment experienced by African-American males.

I am embarrassed to admit that it took bringing an African-American baby into our family to feel these things at this level.  Because that means that despite the fact that prior to Asher I had black friends, black neighbors, and black co-workers, their struggles used to be things I could opt into or out of as I saw fit.  They were burdens I would carry at times but at other times I would set them aside.  If I am honest, pre-Asher I surely did give casual assent to the sentiment that #BlackLivesMatter, and yet in my own life they did not have to matter all the time, so fluidly was I able to free myself as needed from the pangs of tragic shootings or the injustice of constant surveillance.

Post-Asher, the violence hits home a lot more, as does the inescapability of his eventually being harassed, harmed, or worse.  I am newly aware of the constant peril faced by my African-American brothers (and, in different but no less hurtful ways, sisters).  I can now more easily appreciate just how much it hurts and how hard it is, a big part of which is that the pain is felt all the time.

To my friends and colleagues for whom this has been a lifelong struggle, I am sorry.  I know you will not begrudge me for caring for Asher more than I care for you.  But I regret that I did not previously care for you enough that I would wear some of your burden with you at all times.  I now do, but I once put it on or took it off as suited me, not appreciating the privilege I had to be free to do that while you couldn't, and not valuing you enough to be more fully with you at all times rather than just when it was expedient for me.

There is so much commentary that one often feels is necessary to add to the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.  Today I'll simply append ...#AllTheTime.  From pre-Asher to post-Asher, that to me makes all the difference.

7.25.2016

Lazy Linking, 177th in an Occasional Series

Stuff I liked lately on the Interneets:

177.1 Virginia Postrel on Pokemon Go bloom.bg/2a8hW5q @bv

177.2 WMATA is an absolute personnel/operational/financial mess right now bit.ly/29Xorxc @wtop

177.3 Like the rest of us, Lego is graying considerably bit.ly/2aq3smb @modeanalytics

177.4 Incredibly small/ornate/arresting graphite drawings bit.ly/2albTxN @thisiscolossal

177.5 We already have A.I.: it's called "human civilization" bit.ly/29nvNZC @edge


7.22.2016

Too Short for a Blog, Too Long for a Tweet XXXVI

Here's an excerpt from a book I am reading, "The Case for God," by Karen Armstrong:

The ridicule of the press proved to be counterproductive, since it made the fundamentalists even more militant in their views. Before Scopes, evolution had not been an important issue; even such ardent literalists as Charles Hodge knew that the world had existed for a lot longer than the six thousand years mentioned in the Bible. Only a very few subscribed to so-called creation science, which argued that Genesis was scientifically sound in every detail. Most fundamentalists were Calvinists, though Calvin himself had not shared their hostility to scientific knowledge. But after Dayton, an unswerving biblical literalism became central to the fundamentalist mind-set and creation science became the flagship of the movement. It would become impossible to discuss the issue rationally, because evolution was no longer merely a scientific hypothesis but a “symbol,” indelibly imbued with the misery of defeat and humiliation. The early history of the first fundamentalist movement in the modern era proved to be paradigmatic. When attacking religion that seems obscurantist, critics must be aware that this assault is likely to make it more extreme.

7.19.2016

Wanted: Healing

My wife can say this more eloquently than I because of her training in trauma, but our nation is need of the healing that comes from having room to express anger and frustration but not having it lead to violence and retaliation.

On the one hand, we must acknowledge that there is real injustice and real grievance and real consequence, which have created real pain and therefore a real need to express that pain, even with anger and frustration.  I appreciate those who speak words of caution and reason and level-headedness and diplomacy.  But respectfully I must say that sometimes such words come across as wanting to squelch our very human emotions rather than giving them healthy space to vent them.

On the other hand, we must condemn any response that desires to answer an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  I realize that sometimes where this vengeful spirit comes from is a deeply aggrieved place, in which one has seen years, decades, and even generations of harm inflicted and simply wants to lash out with one fiery act of retribution.  But, as I have explained to my kids, this is the very nature of prejudice, to blame all of one type for a single representative's transgression.  We cannot tolerate such thoughts or acts, as much as I understand the emotions behind them.

I realize that prayer is not everyone's answer but it is mine.  Oh God, have mercy on us all.

7.18.2016

Lazy Linking, 176th in an Occasional Series

Stuff I liked lately on the Internets:

176.1 Artsy metaphor of Chi-town boiling over bit.ly/29MOjJw @thisiscolossal

176.2 High vacancy in US is from suburbanization/mechanization/globalization; in Japan it's from aging lat.ms/29pT4d8 @latimes

176.3 Nordic countries considering compulsory public education for senior citizens bit.ly/29qDUzH @qz

176.4 10 scary things about the future; God have mercy on us all bit.ly/29El4Lk @gizmodo

176.5 US regs designed to make railcars safer has made them more dangerous/scarce bit.ly/29G4JQs @streetsblogusa


7.14.2016

Real Thoughts and Real Prayers

When unspeakable tragedy strikes, when racism rears its ugly head, when the injustice seems so wrong..."thoughts and prayers" can seem so shallow, so powerless, so disproportionate a response to so grand a situation.  And, more often than not, they are.  Even if we actually give a thought or say a prayer (I know I'm guilty of saying so and then not following through), how pitiful are our thoughts and how tepid our prayers.

The Bible we purport to believe in with all our hearts and live out all our days holds us to a far higher standard and invites us to activate a far more powerful response.  The story of the Good Samaritan tells us that at the core of being a believer is going the extra mile for those who society tells us we should shun.  Far from just thoughts, we are to take actions, costly and consistent and caring actions.  Indeed, there is no such thing as an isolated thought, for thought must necessarily take action if it is a legitimate thought at all. 

And, over and again the God of the Bible invites us to call on His Name.  For what resources or compassion or power do we have, except the ability to move the hand that moves the world?  When God's people truly pray, truly empty themselves before Him and ask Him to intervene, He can make rain in dry land, move mountains, heal broken hearts, and turn the hearts of rulers.

Real thoughts and real prayers are really impactful.  But I don't blame people for being upset at the "thoughts and prayers" we usually offer, because they are weak sauce.  The world is hurting, and the opportunity is there, and instead of real thoughts and real prayers we do so little and ask even less of our mighty God.  Shame on us. 

7.12.2016

What Matters to Us

There is nothing inherently noble about hardship.  Sometimes we make life unnecessarily complicated for ourselves and we don't even know it.  And sometimes gutting out difficult times can be a gateway to a pride that destroys us from within.  True, true, and true.

And yet it is also true that the really meaningful things in life are often quite arduous to go through.  Rising up against injustice.  Making tough and costly decisions.  Truly loving someone when it is painful and thankless to do so.

When we get to the end of our lives, what will we remember?  Will it be good times, unforgettable experiences, and meaningful relationships?  Will those memories reconcile with the opportunity we had to truly make a difference in someone's life, in our peer group, in society as a whole?  Will we regale our grand-kids with awesome stories and touching moments and have them scratch their heads that we didn't have anything to say about standing up to the day's evils? 

Our Facebook timelines may or may not be accurate reflections of our thoughts and actions, and they may not represent the things we will remember and pass on to our kids and grand-kids.  But they are a proxy of sorts for what matters to us.  There is nothing wrong with vacation shots, birthday parties, and cat pics.  But a life that is just that, that is silent when what the world needs is for us to speak out, that conveys comfort and ease when struggle and hardship is in order, I fear that life is incomplete, no matter how full it feels.