Friday, October 24, 2014

Go ahead, sneeze on me

Downside to working in social media is that I can't take a FB hiatus. A large portion of my feed is Ebola panic. Panic, for the record, is defined as - sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking. That's not worry. That's not concern. Panic is unhealthy and, often, dangerous.

I am disappointed in reaction of the people I surround myself with. I'll preface the rest with this:

  • Ebola is a nasty bug
  • I am concerned about Ebola
  • I'm not minimizing people's fears
  • Misinformation is NEVER productive
  • Fear is not license to say things that are untrue
Moving along. I hear lots of things that are just wrong. People talk about the spread in ways that aren't opinion, they are just facts and they are incorrect ones. Your fear does not dictate the reality of how the disease is spread. Saying "well I think I can catch it if you sneeze on me" doesn't make it so. Would you say that to someone with HIV? No. That would be ignorant. It's just not airborne. It's just not. Not sure what else to say. Believe it or not. Your call I guess. The moon is also not made of cheese. 

2nd - There is a 21 day incubation period. If someone has it, they show no symptoms, don't know, can't transmit, can't test for it. So asking why they came back in? Before symptoms show up, you appear 100% healthy. You could be on day 5 of Ebola right now and not have a clue.

3rd - Nobody is coming to the US from Liberia or Mali. They come through Brussels, along with other people from the places in Europe. We don't have the right to order another country (that's not an infected country) to shut down flights. And what's to stop them from going from Mali to Brussels to England to the US? You want every international flight shut down? Our FAA controls US flights. We cannot dictate how every country in the world operates. Remember when we got involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, South America, Syria, Egypt, etc, etc, etc and you all screamed that we need to stop playing world police? Me too. Rearranging the flight patterns of the globe is more than a little like playing world police. 

There have been 9 cases of Ebola in the US and only 1 has died. You keep those people in Africa and you've relegated them to a fate of death. We can treat them here and help. Canada has given a test serum. You cannot leave people in a country knowing full well they will not get the proper care there and die. America is better than that. We do not lie down and crawl so we don't get hurt. We help others, especially our own. These care workers went to Africa to help people and Americans want to abandon them, out of fright. Let them die so you can sleep. Shame on you. You think being in Iraq and Afghanistan was a picnic? You think sweating my ass off in a country that wouldn't stop exploding while 7,000 miles away from my family was a vacation? But when someone in that country cheers at the sight of you and just wants to hug you for all you've done, you remember - it's got nothing to do with you.

Something needs to be done. Spreading misinformation and panic is not that something. Playing FAA to the globe is not that something. Treating people like they're meaningless and leaving them to die in Africa without proper care is not that something. Pre-screening, follow-ups, quarantines when necessary, destruction of affected items - those are all some things. Officials don't want you to panic because running around screaming with your hair on fire is just not productive. The sky is not falling. It's not good, but it's not the end either. Quit with the revelations talk.

Up to 49,000 people die from the flu each year. In 28 years no less than 3,000 have died in a year. In it's weakest year, the flu killed 333 times more people than have even caught Ebola. ONE person has died in the US from Ebola. Hundreds of thousands get the flu EVERY year. 9 people got Ebola in the US. Which are you more scared of? 

I'm not saying to ignore it. Just use the right facts and consider the consequences and logistics required to meet all of your demands. And think about the risks you take every day - not wearing a seatbelt, texting while driving, raise your hand if you've had unprotected sex with someone you didn't know well enough to be doing that with, maybe a couple beers too many before going home. All more likely to kill you than Ebola - all things Americans do every day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Adjust your focus

In May of 2014, there was one thing anyone could talk about. It was Michael Sam and the fact that he was the first openly gay NFL player. I was unfazed by the news from start to finish. Some people called me callous for not being proud that he had the courage to be openly gay in an organization like the NFL. I saw many statuses, tweets and overheard people say that people who don't think he's a hero must not support gay rights.

Here's why I didn't care: if our association is football, then what you do sexually has no bearing on my life. There is really only one person on this planet whose sexuality is important to me - Linda, because I'm marrying her. If she turned out to be gay, that would seriously get in the way of our married life. But from family to friends to acquaintances, I really don't care. We scream for equality and then draw lines in the sand.

We don't look at the first tall person to do something because being tall is a non-issue. And being tall could help or hinder your ability and any particular position. Who was the first guy that doesn't like broccoli to be in an elected position? 

Michael Sam is a defensive end on the football field, the only thing any fan should care about. What he does behind closed doors, whether it's love a man, play Xbox, collect stamps, day trade or cook a mean omelet, is of no consequence to anyone. Instead of viewing him as a gay football player, why not view him as a football player? See? No title means no discrimination. 

Here's the really fun part. This guy is 7 weeks into his first season in the NFL and he's been cut from 2 teams. Looks like the only thing that matters to the world - his talent as a DE - doesn't really exist. And what do all the headlines say? Of course "Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, signed with the Cowboys on..." So many other players get cut from practice squads and nobody bats an eye. But this guy is gay so we need to know. This is not headline making stuff here. This is just a guy who needs to be better at his job. His sexuality has no bearing on any of this. Is your plumber gay? Maybe your accountant is transgender. I'm pretty sure the garbage man is bisexual. See? None of it matters. They're PEOPLE.

So to all the people who champion his cause, I think it's time to adjust your focus. Stop talking about the most intimate part of his life that's outside the boundaries of how you know him. Don't make an issue so you can say there should be no issue. Just say nothing at all and save a step. I'm glad people of all sexualities are getting the rights to do whatever they see fit. That is specifically why I don't make a scene about it. It's how THEY see fit and it's got absolutely nothing to do with me.

It's the same reason why I think that Michael Vick is a shitty human being, but a good quarterback. It's not up to the NFL to punish him; it's up to the legal system. You don't get fired when you get a DUI. So, Vick was taken care of and is back to work. I didn't care what went on in the oval office with a cigar and a blue dress. Maybe that's why he balanced the budget.

So let's focus on people's ability to do whatever thing we've hired them to do and move on with our lives so they can move on with theirs. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day views

It's the time of year where we rewind the clocks 500 years and call for the head of Christopher Columbus because of how he treated people. We do so as Americans, in America from behind the keyboards of modern day computers and smartphones. We pretend that the actions of Christopher Columbus can be measured by the social behavior measuring stick of today.

The only iniquity is the inequity given here. I'm not running around looking for Native Americans to kill and I'm not trying to further destroy their culture. I don't exactly take to the streets to condone his behavior. I'm not one of the proud Italians who calls him a hero. However, like everything else in this country, our efforts are done with blind ignorance and hyperbolic reaction.

Here is what I mean. People leave comments like "On Columbus Day, walk into someone's home and take their TV." That's theft. Taking land 500 years ago may also have been by today's standards, but not as much then. Why? Well... we have laws and statutes today that create a divide between right and wrong. That didn't exist then. There was no legal and illegal. There was just right and wrong as determined my moral compass. That's subjective. Some people think abortion is wrong, some think marijuana is right. That list goes on for days. That is why laws are created (and changed) because people need guidance to level the playing field, and as we evolve we adjust the laws accordingly (think gay marriage and marijuana usage).

Go back 500 years to the time of Columbus. People thought the world was flat. That's the construct within which they thought. They were wrong and they learned. Just as we learned slavery was wrong many years later and then women's rights, civil rights, sexual rights and so on. So we evolve.

Go back further. How dare cavemen behave the way they did? There are many things in history that were wrong. The Crusades weren't exactly the pinnacle of diplomacy and treating each other with respect. The Jews were treated like shit by Egyptians. Non Muslims are at risk by a portion of Muslims today.

When you were 1 year old you used to shit yourself. Now you learned to wipe your own ass. If you're 30 and still shit yourself, you have severe problems. But we don't hold you accountable for what went on 28 years ago. Under that framework for that part of your personal evolution, that was normal. Then you learned and adapted, as have we.

Did the Native Americans (who are still called in Indians by so many lobbying for the removal of Columbus Day - figure that shit out) get the shaft? Sure they did. Can we re-write history? Nope. So what can we do? There are a few things.

  1. Give land to the Native Americans. We tried that and still do. However, every time new communities are build on reservations by American taxpayers, there are reports of rampant vandalism and destruction by the citizens out of spite. 
  2. Allow Native Americans to live amongst the rest of us have prosperous lives like anyone else. Oh, that's not even an issue because nobody is excluded. But many don't want to pay taxes to the system that shafted them so many years ago so they're given reservation land and in that case, see #1.
  3. Any American can give up their land/home/property/etc to a Native American because they feel that bad and that strongly against Columbus. I don't see many people leaving to return to their native countries. But if Columbus was such a prick and you think he shouldn't have done what he did, then return the land to the Native Americans and go back. Let's undo it if you want to undo it. Yeah, that's gonna happen.
You just can't scream from the rooftops about how horrible this all is while you live in America. You cannot assuage guilt with some intangible suggestion. "It shouldn't be a holiday. He was a genocidal maniac. Take if off the books." So your solution is opening the post office and sending people to work on a regular Monday? That is the fix action for genocide? Are you kidding me? Oh wait, that's the slacktivist version. Let me yell REALLY loud so people feel my fervor and then I don't have to actually do anything at all. Why not run a click campaign or change your profile photo while you're at it?

Look, I'm not in the business of ethnic cleansing. If someone did today what Columbus did 500 years ago, I'd take up the sword and defend the cause. The point here is that you cannot judge someone 500 years ago by today's standard. What if we reenacted prohibition? That doesn't make sense in 2014. Shit, it didn't make sense in the 1920s either.

You can't change mistakes, but you can learn from them. And let's face facts; there are parts of Columbus' actions that worked out really well for a lot of people also.

Oh and before you make him out to be 100% bad, remember that he didn't set out to do all this. Truthfully, he was looking for India. The guy was lost. Hitler killed people on purpose. He targeted people and murdered them en masse. Columbus tried a new route, got lost, stumbled on some land that seemed underdeveloped and tried to make something of it. And the closest he got on any of his 4 voyages was Cuba. 

So if you take away Columbus Day, what have you really done to fix the mistakes made in history? The concept of not honoring the man makes you feel better? Ok. If that's your stance then so be it. Just admit that's for you and your own sense of misguided guilt (since you did nothing wrong) and it's not for the people for which you're lobbying in the first place. 

We really need to start thinking critically and stop screaming about basically nothing. Action/Impact. Think about it.