Sunday, January 13, 2019

Worst Date Ever

I've been told by many people that my dating standards are too high. I've also been told that I need to be more willing to put myself out there and give people a chance. I'm over it.

It started harmlessly enough. I don't "swipe right" on people very often, but figured that I might as well give this guy a chance. He seemed fit, had a job, and attended Yale (I would have preferred that he had a public education, but I wasn't going to split hairs over it). He was smiling in his profile pictures, showed a variety of activities, and they weren't all selfies. I asked multiple people, including my roommate who I trust intrinsically with these things, and they all said that there were no red flags when they looked at the profile. One coworker even said that she thought he was very cute and she was excited to hear how things went.

We decided to meet up on Friday after work. The guy first suggested that we meet up at 5:30. I explained that I don't generally get home until 5:30 because I bus to work (that's a lie: I usually don't leave work until 6 or 6:30, sometimes later because my job should really be done by 1.5 people, but I didn't want to come across as a workaholic). 


At this point I was a little annoyed. I had already told him that I bus to work. This whole message seemed off and, frankly, a little annoying. If I wanted to come straight from work, I would. Also, there wasn't anything in his profile that made me want to come running to his arms. In fact, if I had been asked to rate his profile, I'd say he was middle-of-the-pack.

But maybe this was just a case of me reading too much into a simple text message. He could have been trying to be helpful rather than annoying, right? Perhaps he was simply trying to clumsily express enthusiasm for our impending date. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Eventually I proposed meeting up at 7:30. 


I looked at this guys profile again. He's from India, so maybe this weird vibe I was getting was just a language barrier issue. It's difficult to get your meaning across if you're speaking a second or third language. Plus, people have told me to be less judge-y. I turned off the warning alarms in my head and told myself that I should give him a chance. After all, once I saw him face-to-face things could be completely different. Some people just suck at communicating via text/email. 

By some miracle, I arrived early. Like, SUPER early. This is not a thing that I generally do. Note the time stamp:


My thought process: He's probably on his way here. Maybe he's driving and didn't really read my text. Don't judge him too harshly. First dates are always a little bit awkward.

Eventually we connected and ordered drinks. We each paid for our own beverages, which is something that I don't really take issue with. I feel like it's common enough for people to need to go on a lot of first dates with people and I don't think that it should be assumed that one party or the other should automatically pay. However, after this guy started talking I had to admit that I really wish that he had paid for my drink. With the garbage coming out of his mouth, I should have been compensated in SOME way.

We both mentioned different athletic activities and how drinking would be less advisable for some activities than others. Rock climbing? Yeah, probably not a great idea to pre-game. Horseback riding? Depends on the type of riding I suppose. 
Date: I worked with horses before. There were a lot of people that would take a shot before getting on a horse.
Me: That seems like it could be a very Bad Idea, depending on what kind of riding you were doing.
Date: Well, most of the people where I worked were doing dressage.
Me: [blank stare] I have no idea what that is.
Date: Really? Oh, just you wait. I'll have to educate you on it at some point.
I really should have just run away at this point, but of course I didn't. I just kept telling myself not to judge him too harshly and to keep an open mind. After all, he was probably surrounded by richie riches at Yale who did ridiculously expensive activities like horseback riding on the weekends or whatever, right?

We sat. Things. Got. Worse.

I'll sum up some of the topics covered:

On taxes:
Date: Any logical, rational person would be against paying taxes. No one wants to pay taxes. Do you like paying taxes?
Me: Uh, yes. I don't like being surrounded by idiots, so I enjoy paying taxes to support public education. And I don't want my house to burn down, so I like paying firemen. And I want someone to respond when I call 9-1-1, so I want to pay for cops to help me if I'm assaulted somewhere.
Date: Well you're an exception. And your taxes go to a lot of other things. Like, I don't have kids. Why should I pay for someone else's kids to go to school? I worked really hard and put myself through Yale. Anyone can do that if they work hard enough.
Me: So you aren't surrounded by stupid people? So you have an educated workforce from which to hire people?
Date: Anyone can get an education if they are willing to work for it. I worked my ass off and got myself into Yale.
On systematic oppression:
Date: If you are truly driven to succeed, you will be able to do it. It doesn't matter what obstacles you face. If I have learned one thing it's that anyone can succeed if they work hard enough at it.
Me: Yeah, no. That kind of 'pull yourself up by your own bootstraps' argument isn't reality.
Date: I did it. My mom worked for 80 cents a day in India. I worked incredibly hard and got into Yale. I took out $175k in student loans and paid it back with 9% interest because I was driven to succeed. Anyone can do it.
Me: But you are one out of thousands of people that are trying to succeed. You can't believe that it's solely a matter of effort. There are thousands of people just like you that are doing everything that they can to be successful and they haven't had the same luck you have.
Date: Did you know there's only a 7% acceptance rate at Yale? Of course not everyone can get in, but if you work hard enough you will be successful. I did.
Me: You seem to be missing the point I'm trying to make. I don't doubt that you worked incredibly hard and against very long odds to get to where you are. However, you can't think that there aren't people out there willing to work just as hard as you do, but things just don't work out for them.
Date: No, if you work hard enough anything is possible. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
On the foster system:
Me: But what about the people who aren't set up to succeed early on? Take, for example, kids in the foster system. They didn't choose to be in a situation where their biological parents were unable to care for them. They are at such a distinct disadvantage and the state doesn't have the resources to take care of their needs in order to allow them to be successful.
Date: Look, why should it be my responsibility to take care of someone else's kids? There are people out there who are having five or six kids and then letting the state take care of them. Those people should be put in jail.
Me: In jail. You're joking.
Date: No, they should. Stupid people should not be allowed to have kids. Why should I have to pay to take care of their kids when they are too lazy to do it?
Me: They aren't too lazy. Also, you aren't paying to raise their kids. Do you realize just how under-funded the foster care system is? These often severely traumatized kids need so many resources just to bring them to a place where they are on par with their peers. Your solution to this is to sterilize the parents? What does that do? And how does that help the kids who are already in the system?
Date: I grew up eating rice and salt for two meals a day and I worked hard and put myself through Yale. The government takes care of kids in the foster system. I didn't have that. My mom made 80 cents a day. Now me and my brothers send money back to help take care of her. They [foster kids] can go to school and the state takes care of them. If they work hard enough, they can be successful.
Me: No, we really don't. Washington State doesn't have an income tax and you were just telling me how no reasonable person would want to pay taxes.
On drug addiction:
Date: Why should I pay more money for someone else's bad choices?
Me: You think that drug addiction is a choice?
Date: Yes.
Me: Wow. That is the most impressive display of complete ignorance that I've seen in a long time. You have absolutely zero understanding of any of the root causes or continuing issues surrounding the problem of addiction.
Date: Hey, I've had friends addicted to things. I've done a lot of reading on it.
Me: But clearly learned nothing from any of the reading you've allegedly done. Good job, analytics boy. [Note: he works in data analytics for a major telecom company]
On employment:
Date: You know, I was unemployed for a full year and the only thing that kept me going was my savings. I had $400,000 saved up and just used the interest from my savings to pay for what I needed.
Me: Well, you're very lucky that you had that option.
Date: I worked really hard for it.
Me: I'm sure you did, but you are also very lucky that you are in a position where that's possible. Most people I know just have to look for whatever job they can find to make ends meet, me included.
Date: Hey, all else equal, if you and I were to go for a job, you would get it.
Me: What? Why?
Date: You're a woman. I've seen it happen. If there are two people that are up for a position it goes to the minority every time.
Me: OMG. I honestly don't even know where to start on this.
At one point, my date asked me, "So what do you think? How are you feeling about how things are going?"

My response: "You're an asshole."

[slight pause] "I guess I can see why you might think that, from your perspective."

I've literally known white supremacists with more compassion and empathy than this guy showed during our date. It was a complete disaster. I lost count of how many times he mentioned that he attended Yale. Did you know that Yale only accepts 7% of applicants? I didn't catch that tidbit the first six times he mentioned it, but I got it on the seventh.

My one regret: I should have actually asked him "Are you a sociopath?" If he said "no," I would have said, "That's exactly what a sociopath would say." If he said "yes," I would have said, "Well at least you're honest. I can respect that."

To add further insult here, he literally told me that he thinks that I have "the right kind of mind" to be able to converse about these sophisticated topics, but that I need the right training. Basically, "You're almost there, but not quite." I don't think that I've ever met someone more arrogant, condescending, and laughably naive in my life.

No more dates for me. Ever. Never ever ever.

The cherry on top:


Kill me please.
Update (two days later): He's still texting me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Enough is Enough

I'm over it. No more listening politely when people try to twist history to fit their narrative. No more justifying my perspective without also requiring them to justify theirs. No more putting up with this "fake facts" bullshit. I'm done.

A conversation I had earlier today on Facebook:

Them: what is one right that stops the government from changing any right we have

Me: I don't know what you're talking about. Literally the entire structure of our government is designed to prevent that from happening in the first place

Them: "there is something that actually allows them to do it. but they can't because of a right we have."

Me: I cannot fathom what you think allows them to fundamentally change the structure of our government

Them: its with in the bill of rights i use to know it by heart.

Me: [does a recap of all ten amendments in the Bill of Rights] So where in that list does it allow the government to change our government system in order to explicitly deny the citizenry of their rights?

Them: i will look for it.

Me: That's literally the list of all of the amendments in the Bill of Rights

Them: its not in the constitution

Me: You told me that it's in the Bill of Rights. Where is it if it isn't there?

Them: like i said i will have to look for it.

Me: Pretty sure laws cannot supersede the BoR

Them: it was something that got past some where.

Me: Well, let me know when you find it

Them: i will [insert long pause here] but the one thing that the government fears when they do try to do it is the 2nd amendment. but if you restrict things to the point where you can only own a pistol there really isn't anything that stops them. except for whats already out there.

Me: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Them: it's an increasing possibility.

Me: I didn't realize that you drank so much of the kool-aid

Them: historically its happen. where people have rights similar to here along with the structure similar to the constitution. slowly those rights were being taken away or highly regulated. or completely stripped.

Me: Yeah, funny story: none of the gun owners stood up against it before. So why would it be any different now? Because I can tell you right now that when my family was forced into internment camps, there were no guys with guns there to protect them from the Big Bad Gub'ment

Them: it was conveyed as a threat to national security.

Me: Uh-huh. And NUMEROUS authorities said otherwise. There was NO EVIDENCE that there was any actual threat from the Japanese American community.

Them: "also sold as protection" the Germans where intern as well.

Me: Honey, don't try to pull that on me. Yes, Germans were put into camps, but they weren't systematically removed FROM THE ENTIRE WEST COAST

Them: because there wasn't a lot of them that were on the west coast.

Me: Germans?

Them: yep

Me: Honey, Germans are EVERYWHERE

Them: during that period of time. everyone we fought against during the war was in a camp at some point.

Me: So what you're saying is that because a few Germans were scooped up, some of whom WERE attempting espionage, the forcible relocation of over 100,000 persons of a specific ethnicity (none of whom were EVER tied to subversive activity) is justified?

Them: some people weren't even Germans or Italians it was racial profiling at it's finest. but people tried to stand up for not interning the races because a lot of them were born here. but they were thrown in there with them. alot of mixed race families and Philippians were thrown into camps as well.

Me: Also, over 80% of the Japanese Americans put into those internment camps were natural born US citizens and had never even been to Japan. I would like you to provide me with ANY evidence that there was protest outside of the Asian American community when persons of Japanese ancestry were interned.

Them: people still stood up for them. maybe not with guns but a voice. they probably didn't even make the paper.

Me: Prove it. If people gave even HALF a shit about their Japanese American neighbors being forced into government-sponsored internment camps in the middle of nowhere, USA, there would be some record of it.

So prove it.

I dare you.


At this point there was a solid 6-7 minutes with no response. I was still pretty heated about this, so I added:

How about this: you find that bit of legal documentation that you think allows the government to arbitrarily take away the rights of US citizens. Then you find proof that people were in any way vocal in protesting the Internment. After that, you can explain to me why you think that the historical precedent of guns NOT preventing the government from forcibly removing over a HUNDRED THOUSAND PEOPLE from their homes proves that guns will save us from government overreach.

No rush. I can wait for you to find all the necessary information. Oh, and if you could please cite your sources, that would be great.

(This is the point where I really should have inserted a smiley emoji.)


They later provided me with a link to an article about the Governor of Colorado and how he “stood up” for the Japanese. I’ll give you some of the highlights below:

"Colorado’s governor was the only major political figure to oppose the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor"

ONLY MAJOR POLITICAL FIGURE
There's literally ONE out of THOUSANDS
But thank GOD for Colorado's governor. Since, you know, Colorado has always played such an important role in national politics.

“He doesn’t stop what they call at the time concentration camps,” Hanson said. “He doesn’t take some moral stand where he says this is wrong and we will not allow this to happen. He says, ‘As a good American, if this is what the war effort requires, Colorado will do its duty.'”

Them: still looking for more examples but there were more people that opposed this. Also, orders are orders

Me: Uh-huh. That defense didn't exactly hold water at Nuremberg.

Them: battle or evac of the people?

Me: [provides link to US Holocaust Museum page on the Nuremberg Trials]

Them: random fact the jewish populations didn’t have rifles but they actually use to have them.

Me: Random fact: you have yet to find sources to back up any of your three major points. Have you found the legal document that allows the US government to arbitrarily revoke the rights of US citizens en masse?

Needless to say, I have yet to receive a response. 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am so. Very. Done. Stop cherry-picking “facts” and stop trying to change the topic when you realize that you are wrong. Just be wrong and acknowledge it. If you can’t do that, don’t talk to me. Seriously.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Doomed to Repeat it...

I can't believe I'm writing about this again. It's like people never learn.

Dear white people,

If you want to know why people of color are so angry about a lack of representation, let me ask you to consider a hypothetical : 

Your great-great-many-times-great grandparents came to the United States from Ireland. They were poor and struggled valiantly to find work and provide for their large family. When her husband died in a factory accident, your grandmother was forced to move herself and her six kids into a single bedroom apartment where she could barely make ends meet (and sometimes didn't). She ended up taking any work that came her way because she was told repeatedly that "Irish need not apply" for any of the jobs that she was otherwise qualified for. She worked hard to provide a good life for her kids, two of whom died as a result of malnutrition and disease, one of whom died as a result of gang violence in her Irish immigrant neighborhood where the police refused to patrol at night. 

Eventually, she finally found a job at a grocery store that was willing to hire an Irish immigrant. She made a little money and was able to take care of her children who all went on to have families of their own. Everyone lived happily ever after. 

Now picture casting Jackie Chan as your hypothetical great-great-many-times-great grandfather (complete with terrible Irish accent) and Halle Berry as your grandmother. Each of your grandparents offspring are played by young children from Ethiopia and the Congo except for the youngest one that dies very early on from a fever and only has three lines. That kid is white (maybe even of Irish descent, but probably not).

That mental shock that you had? That bit of "that would be so stupid" reaction in your head? Welcome to what people of color get to do every time a movie comes out where their stories are appropriated by white people. Think about that next time you go to the movie theatres. Maybe then you'll appreciate why none of us POC's are there with you. 

No love, 
Me

Friday, February 10, 2017

On being "Colorblind"

I hate it when people tell me that they wish that other people would be "colorblind". First of all, it's almost always a white person mentioning it. Secondly, it's almost always coming from someone that has not faced discrimination before due to their ethnic heritage or color of their skin.

I'm not going to claim that a white person can't understand what it's like to experience discrimination. I'm absolutely certain that they can. After all, a poor white person certainly doesn't have the same mobility and access as a wealthy white person in our society. However, what this concept of "colorblindness" fails to do is acknowledge the full range of experiences that formed someone into who they are today. 

For many people of color, whether they like it or not, their ethnic heritage is often central to their lived experience. It's constantly mentioned or pointed out to them. They are always aware of it. It's no different than someone that is used to always being told that they should be interested in sports because they are male or that girls should like pink. As a woman, I realize that it's "weird" to many people that I love sports. If I were a male, however, it would simply be expected. These assumptions are everywhere in society and we need to learn to acknowledge that they exist or we will never be able to move forward.

I have a friend who has often said that they can never forget to use their indicator light when driving because the police might pull them over (they have beautiful dark brown skin inherited from their Hispanic/Latino parents). We always laugh when he says that because there's enough sad truth in the statement that it's believable. There would never be a question of wrongdoing if he were white and didn't use a turn signal. After all, white skin is more likely to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Brown skin isn't.

I have never heard a white friend say, "I gotta make sure to use my blinker or else I might get pulled over." The only friends I have that say that are people of color.

So what? Why does this matter? People make silly jokes like this all the time, right? The more important question to ask is why do my friends that happen to be POC make these jokes to begin with and my white friends don't?

The truth is that society treats people of color differently. This is something that pretty much every POC is very well aware of from a very young age. I was made aware of it when people would make fun of me for my "slanty eyes". There's no more reason to make fun of someone for that than to make fun of someone for having blond hair, but people do it anyway. 

Growing up, people assumed a lot of things about me. I was told that I didn't need any extra help in math class because I'm Asian (by the way, I needed a lot of help because I really suck at math). It was assumed that I would be able to get into any college I wanted to because I'm a minority, not because of my own abilities, intelligence, or merit. The idea was always that something would be made "easier" for me somehow because I'm a minority. However, whenever I excelled at something that didn't fit the box that they had put me into, they would suddenly focus on a different aspect of my heritage or identity. If I did well in athletics, I'd hear people say, "Oh, you're good at sports because your dad is white" (I kid you not, this was literally said to me). When I did well on an exam, I was told that I was "so Asian." I did well at a track meet once (and I really do mean once, as in a single time. I was awful at pretty much every track event I tried) and was told that it was easier for me to do well because the equipment for girls was lighter than for the boys. Nothing I did was because of the hard work I put into doing a good job, it was all attributed to my genetic makeup.

So now we look at the adult I've become. If someone treats me as if I've never had someone tease me for the shape of my eyes or had my ethnic heritage called into question, it seems like they would be ignoring a pretty important aspect of who I am, right? I mean, we are all a product of our past. Ignoring something that has had such an impact on forming me into who I am seems like you'd be missing a pretty big aspect of, well, ME. 

We exercise a form of "non-colorblindness" every day. We realize that sometimes we shouldn't say things too sarcastically around certain friends because they are very sensitive. We avoid certain topics that we know bring up bad memories or associations for friends and family. We compromise on what movies we watch because we realize that not everyone is into horror/romcom/insert genre here movies. Sometimes we stop making short jokes around people because we know that they are particularly self conscious of their height. All of these things acknowledge that people are NOT all the same. People are NOT coming from identical backgrounds. People are NOT entities that we can view and act upon in a vacuum.

Acknowledging race should not be viewed negatively any more than acknowledging height, weight, hair color, gender, or any other part of someone.

So can we please stop aspiring to be "colorblind"? Instead can we aspire to be someone that sees everything? Let's try to be the opposite of colorblind. Let's be colorful. Let's rejoice and celebrate our differences and embrace how these differences have worked to create such a dynamic and thriving group of people. Let's get excited by our differences rather than trying to ignore them. Let's ask one another to talk about things that other people in the group have never experienced, seek out new information, and truly revel in the diversity around us.

Come on, people. Get colorful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Late to the Party

Maybe this is my privilege speaking (which is entirely possible), but I don't really understand why people are upset about the influx of suburban white women that have come forward in the past week to stand up against our cheeto-colored President and his cabinet of fruit loops.

Does it suck that these white women weren't there to support women of color when unarmed young black men were (and still are) shot and killed by law enforcement? Of course. Is it horrible that they weren't standing up for their Muslim brothers and sisters when the idea of a Muslim registry was brought up? Definitely. Is it incomprehensible that these women never seemed to speak up when a white man running for President called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers? Absolutely.

My question is this: how do we move forward?

I don't see anything wrong with pointing out that the middle class suburban white women of America are awfully late to the party, but shouldn't we embrace the fact that they showed up to the party at all? I mean, yes, minority women have been talking until we are blue in the face about the current system and its inequalities, but better late than never, right?

I understand, intellectually, that there is a lot of pain and a lot of bitterness among women of color because these privileged women had the luxury of coming late to the party and ended up getting more recognition for it than the years that minority women have put into this fight. It hurts when someone that you feel should support you stays silent. It hurts when they don't speak up in your defense or when they turn a blind eye to what's happening in front of them. It hurts to realize that someone who said they love and support you in private is unwilling to say those same words in public. It hurts and white women need to understand that they have hurt their minority sisters with their silence and inaction, but is getting mad at them once they realize that they made a mistake the way to build bridges and mend the relationship?

Frankly, the burden of speaking up for civil rights has always been something that has fallen most heavily on people of color and minorities. It's awful and it shouldn't be that way, but it is. Maybe that will change one day. Hopefully that will change one day. Unfortunately, that day isn't today.

We know that today isn't that day because that day should have been yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. Women of all backgrounds should have stood in solidarity from the very beginning of this mess, but they didn't.

Okay, so maybe I do understand why women of color have been so upset about the recent addition of support from white women. However, there's more to it than that.

I'm the oldest child in my family and I'll be the first to tell you that one of my least favorite phrases to hear emerge from my parents' mouths when I was little was, "Be the bigger person." I used to think, "Or maybe my little brother could just stop being a stupid person and then I wouldn't need to be the bigger person." After all, if he hadn't been annoying to begin with, I wouldn't have to make up for his immaturity, right? Well, yes, but that wasn't going to change things. The reality is that he had done something to annoy me and I either had to move forward or sit and be angry forever. The irony of the second option is that by holding onto my annoyance or anger, I would have been doing the same thing that my brother did: acting immature and petty.

Honestly, I still hate being told that I need to be the bigger person. I really, really do. Even as an adult my first thought is that I shouldn't have to be the bigger person, they should have to pay better attention and be more aware. Unfortunately, as true as that may be, it still doesn't change what has happened. I can either acknowledge it and use it as a tool for education or I can focus on the pain that it caused and try to get back at whoever caused it by lashing out so that they feel hurt the same way that I do. Only one of these options is constructive.

This doesn't mean that we have to ignore that white women didn't show up until well after kickoff (forgive me for using so many analogies and metaphors). In fact, I think that they absolutely need to be told by women of color that they are kinda crappy teammates. After all, it's pretty selfish, not to mention incredibly unfair, to let your team start with a man down and expect them to keep the game close until you get there. To take this even further, if you show up late and your teammates have been playing an uneven game, you shouldn't be surprised if they are upset at you. In fact, you should expect it. You should also expect that when you get there, they will already be tired from having to make up for your absence. You win or lose as a team and you've just put your team at a distinct disadvantage just by not being on time.

But in order to win, you need to play as a team. When the final whistle blows, it doesn't matter who showed up when. The only thing that matters is the final score. That's the objective, right? We need to make sure that we win. Period.

So be mad at the latecomers. Give them grief for slacking and not paying attention. Then get back to the business of winning because this is not something that we can afford to lose. This is the World Cup, the Championship, End Game. It's fine to be angry and upset, just don't lose sight of the goal. After all, this is a game that we cannot afford to lose because if we lose, everyone loses.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fear Itself


Hey, America. Why are we so scared?

No, really. Fear makes us stupid. When we are fearful, psychologists have shown that we are significantly more likely to cling to what we know rather than explore new options. Fear causes us to hunker down and bury our heads in the sand. We become paralyzed and, by extension, stop looking for ways to improve or resolve things and instead look for ways to survive things.

Medical experts say that the anxious feeling we get when we're afraid is a standardized biological reaction, but that doesn’t explain why we are afraid in the first place. Psychology has identified five major categories that most human fear seems to fall into:

Extinction - Because, let’s be real for a moment, what is more terrifying than ceasing to exist?
Mutilation - This refers to more than something as straightforward as dismemberment. This can manifest itself in a fear of getting bitten by a bug or animal, scraping your face and getting a scar, even the natural appearance of wrinkles as you age falls into the category of “fear of mutilation”.
Loss of Autonomy - This is a fear of losing power. This loss can be physical (think of kidnapping, assault, or imprisonment) or it can be less tangible (think more along the lines of being in a situation where everything is outside of your control or, for a more concrete example, being held responsible for something that you didn’t actually do).
Separation - Somewhat akin to extinction, this fear is rooted in not mattering. It’s one of the reasons why the silent treatment often works. It’s where the idea of FOMO comes from (the fear of missing out). This fear is founded on the idea that we might not actually matter, ever, to anyone.
Ego-Death - This one is both simple and complicated. On one hand, it’s pretty easy to understand that no one likes being humiliated or shamed. However, it’s deeper than that. Ego-death is the fear that your entire understanding of who you are will be destroyed. The idea that we might reach a point where we don’t even know who we are anymore is terrifying to most people.Think of this example: someone thinks that their heritage is from Scotland, Iceland, and Germany without any other influences. They run DNA tests, convinced that this will prove that they have a pure lineage only to discover that somewhere in their family tree they have both Native American and African ancestry. This completely changes the way they view the world and their place in it.

When you think of some of the more common phobias, these categories are pretty much going to cover them all: afraid of public speaking? That’s probably a combination of ego-death and possibly a long-term consequence of separation. Fear of clowns? Generally this fear is rooted in extinction (killer clowns), mutilation (violent clowns), or loss of autonomy (kidnapper clowns). What about fear of commitment? Generally that is related to a fear of losing one's autonomy because you worry about not being in control of your life any more.

So why is this important?

Polls show majorities of Americans across demographics are worried about being victims of terrorism and crime. These numbers have surged recently to highs we haven’t seen for more than a decade in the US. The results? Policies like this and this.

Thanks to our fear, we imprison over a hundred thousand people with no more justification than “they look like the Bad Guys.” We question the loyalty of our own citizens. We deny the facts. Even worse, we flat-out make things up.

The basic trick here is to make a clear connection between what you are proposing and a specific outcome. Often this looks like a solution to something dangerous, or, more commonly, highlighting the dangers of not doing something.

It’s time that we take a long, hard look at ourselves.

According to Chapman University’s annual Survey of American Fears, people in America are most afraid of corrupt government officials, terrorist attacks/terrorism, not having enough money for the future, and government restrictions on firearms and ammunition. However, we need to look at whether or not these fears are founded in truth or if it’s potentially a result of fake news and other lies.

The US Department of State has explicitly reported that, “The total number of terrorist attacks in 2015 decreased by 13% and total deaths due to terrorist attacks decreased by 14%, compared to 2014. This was largely due to fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria. This represents the first decline in total terrorist attacks and deaths worldwide since 2012.” Yet, Americans are more afraid than ever before about terrorist attacks?

Why are we afraid of immigration when data suggests that native-born Americans are more likely to commit crimes than immigrants? Why are we afraid that the government will take away our guns when the government hasn’t done anything to even revise the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act since 1986?

What are we afraid of?

The 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, is famous for having said, “The only thing we have to fear...is fear itself.” Well, maybe that’s our problem. We’re scared because we’re scared. We’re scared because it’s easier to be scared than to seek out the truth. We’re scared because it’s better than finding out that we were wrong. We’re scared because it gives us an excuse to do and say outrageous things without consequence. We’re scared because we don’t want to behave like responsible adults.

Come on. We’re better than this.

Monday, June 13, 2016

On Gun Rights and Regulation

I've been trying to wrap my head around the latest in a long, long, long line of mass shootings in the United States. It's unfathomable to me that someone would be so full of rage and hate that they would go out and kill 50 strangers. I don't know much about the shooter and I know even less about the victims other than the community that they are associated with. However, there is something I do know: public discourse in the United States needs to change.

We have to do something about gun regulation. We don't need to take away people's guns. We need to make sure that all gun owners are responsible. Frankly, I don't know why more gun owners aren't speaking out about how there needs to be stronger restrictions regarding who can own a firearm. After all, the more mass shootings that we have in this country without outcry from gun owners, the crazier said gun owners seem. By saying ridiculous things like, "Not all gun owners," we are allowing people to excuse the behavior of a fringe group of gun owners without doing anything to prevent more of them from getting their hands on weapons.

Seriously, if you are a responsible gun owner, why would you protest having a three-to-five day waiting period before you get to pick up a gun? After all, if you are a responsible gun owner, that won't affect you other than a short delay while you wait for verification. Why wouldn't you want more background checks and verifications? Why wouldn't you want the kinds of weapons available like the semi- and fully-automatic weapons that are so popular among mass shooters to require verification and certification and registration? How is requiring to register your weapons in any way infringing on your rights? How is registering your guns any different than registering a vehicle?

Like many of you, I have heard arguments from people that believe that it's a God-given right to own a firearm. However, in light of all of this tragedy, I can't help but wonder how these gun rights supporters can continue believing that the assumed rights of one person outweighs the importance of public safety.

"The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."


How can people keep saying this? How about we change it to, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to take away the gun"?

Columbine High School had an armed deputy sheriff and 13 people were still killed. Virginia Tech had an entire police force, including a SWAT team, when 32 people were killed in two separate attacks by the same person. At the Tucson shooting where US Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot and 6 others were killed, not only was there an armed civilian present who failed to stop the shooter, but he almost shot one of the unarmed people who tackled and disarmed the shooter. The Fort Hood massacre that left another 13 people dead occurred on a military base filled with soldiers. Heck, even the Secret Service couldn't protect President Reagan and his press secretary Jim Brady when both were shot in an assassination attempt.

This has gotten completely out of hand.

"An armed society is a polite society."

According to the FBI crime report from 2013, there are only five states where less than 50% of murders were committed with a firearm. In case you're curious, the states are Iowa, Alaska (most gun-related deaths in Alaska are suicides), New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota. That means that in the remaining 45 states, more than 50% of murders involved a firearm.

If we are to believe that the better armed we are as a society, the fewer deaths we are going to see, there seems to be clear evidence to the contrary. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, the three most peaceful states in the union are Maine, Vermont, and Utah. In Maine, 50% of murders involved a firearm. In Vermont, 56% of murders involved a firearm. In Utah, 63% of murders involved a firearm.

How could someone possibly believe that we don't have a gun problem in this country?

The United States owns more than half of the world's civilian guns. We have the highest firearms murder rate per capita in the world. In fact, we are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the United States than someone that lives in another developed country.

The way we talk about and regulate guns in this country is completely absurd. It's wrong. It's harmful. It's dangerous. It's more than time for us to stop the ridiculous arguments supporting gun ownership and start looking at the importance of public safety.

I remember back in 2011, people would say things like, "You can't stop doing X or else the terrorists win." Well, what if the terrorists are my fellow Americans? I went to a movie the other day and thought, "At least I don't have to worry about getting shot here since the theatre is pretty empty. There are other theatres here that have more people right now that a shooter would probably hit before this one." Do you realize that this means that somewhere in the back of my head I was thinking, "I'm going to the movies. I might get shot," and I had to use a flimsy mental reassurance that I probably wasn't going to get shot since I was seeing a less popular movie than other people?

That is so screwed up.

I'm very lucky to have season tickets to multiple sports in my city, but when I go to sporting events I automatically look for multiple exit routes from my seat as well as any places that I might be able to utilize for cover or concealment in case something happens. It's become part of my day. It's now routine. This has become something that sits in the back of my mind whenever I'm out in public because I don't know who around me is crazy and carrying.

Maybe it would be easier if I didn't feel like I have so much to live for. If anything were to happen to me, my family would be crushed. I have close friends that would have a gaping hole in their lives. I have a job that I am good at. I have dreams that I still want to achieve. All of that could be gone in an instant. Taken by a stranger that knows nothing about me, my friends, my family, or my life.

I've never been in a situation where I have had to fear for my life other than one time in college when there was a murder-suicide on campus. I was an RA in the dorm closest to the building where it happened and it was less than two weeks after the Virginia Tech shooting. Although the police quickly determined that there was no further danger to the campus community, it was still a terrifying experience.

Is this the new normal? Is this the way that we want to live? Is this the way that we want the rest of the world to view us? Are we really satisfied with our own citizens being afraid for their lives because we are unwilling to better regulate weapons?

This is unacceptable. This must change. We are better than this. It's time to prove it.