Sunday, June 28, 2020

Free Speech, Just Not For Me... The Anthem of the Muted Majority

"And I feel like a number
Feel like a number
Feel like a stranger
A stranger in this land
I feel like a number
I'm not a number
I'm not a number
Dammit I'm a man" ~Bob Seeger

Right off the bat, I know that I have already offended some of you reading the lyrics I chose for my introduction.

This may be your first foray into my blog, or a repeat visit, and that last line may have triggered you.


Not because of the fear of numbers and math that many people profess.

Because of my use of a single word: MAN

Those of you who know me IRL, know that I am not a man, and those of you who don't, well, now you know too.

But your overwhelming compulsion to jump on "discriminatory" language has already led you to slot me into whatever negative stereotypes you favor at the moment.

However, forty plus years later, and the lyrics still fit, regardless of the "gender specific" word used.

This is sad, because if you peruse my other blog entries you will realize that I have great respect for numbers and wish that everyone would feel comfortable enough to use them in their everyday life.

For me, personally, to feel like a number in a negative sense is not a good thing.

Ironically, for all the almost universal dread of mathematics and numbers, our society has become obsessed with quantifying people - usually in a way to avoid human contact.

The result? I feel as though I no longer have a voice. My conversations about how I really feel on any topic are confined to the people in my life who I trust.

Otherwise, anyone who disagrees with my point of view declares open season and lumps me in with their preordained dismissive labels.

Don't believe me? This morning I received a video from a friend of mine, a woman I have known for more years than the Seeger song has been in existence. 

Click here to see/hear the hate speech from both sides. Warning: NSFW, and even I cringed to hear the language out of these seniors.

It is my understanding that we are guaranteed "freedom of speech" in the First Amendment to our Constitution. 

Nowhere in that amendment is there language limiting that freedom to "only speech agreed to by the listener", yet that has become the norm.

People who disagree with your point of view are free to hurl hateful invectives at you, become physically agressive towards you, and even attempt to interfere with your job, your residence, your way of life.

I no longer feel as though I have the right to express my views, even when confronted aggressively by another person expounding their opinion.

How has it come to the point where a multitude of individuals like myself feel muted?

Because we have become quantified by our age, our gender, our height, weight, eye color, hair color, shoe size, marital status, race, highest level of education, household income, place of residence, ad infinitum.

We have been slotted into categories that are used by any and all wishing to dehumanize their "opposition" in order to advance their own agenda.

Don't believe me? Rewatch that video above. The hateful phrases being slung freely by both sets of seniors are characteristic of our society in general.

Then watch this one, because it is how many of us silenced individuals perceive ourselves: 

How is this relevant? You can throw out all the polls and predictions presented by either side of an issue.

The numbers collected are invalid because of the sheer numbers of people who remain silent, fearful of expressing their opinions by the retaliatory activities of those who disagree with them.

Enough is enough. We are developing a society of Stepford Wives in which diversity is not only devalued, it is penalized.

We complain about the lack of innovation and invention from our country, which used to be in the forefront of the world in those areas.

How can we possibly expect to excel when our entire society is focused on homogeneity - and differences are punished?

Wake Up America! 

It is okay to be different!

It is okay to disagree!


Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth...

We are ALL human!

Part of being human is having free will to make our own decisions.

Repeat that phrase until it starts to sink in...

We are ALL human!

We are ALL human!

Yet something that has been lost in our perceptions of, behaviors towards, and treatment of other humans is that there are no absolutes.

Good and bad are artificial constructs, and humans are living organisms.

Part of reality is acknowledging that there are no absolutes, yet our society has become focused on polarization and characterization.

The "ugly truth" is that our society's ability to interact on a personal level has died an unnoticed death.

Instead we use snap judgments, appearances, and labels to place people in boxes so that we no longer have to discover who they really are and how they fit into the world.

Don't believe me? Let's play a game of Family Feud!

Take out a sheet of paper and list the first ten words that come to mind for each of the following phrases:

Homeless Person                      Recovering Addict                    Convicted Felon

If you were truly honest with yourself, the ten words you listed were ugly and limiting.

Nothing you listed would possibly allow any person in any of those groups to be productive and successful.

Each of those three phrases is used by our society to put a member of that group down at the bottom of a well (figuratively).

Then our subsequent actions become the water source that fills the well and drowns them.

This is what I refer to when I use the word "absolute".

It is easy to quantify a person by a label, and that has become the norm in our society.

Fast food, next day delivery, snap judgments, instant gratification - these are the hallmarks of who we have become.

More to the point, it is far easier to dismiss a person by quickly tossing them into a category that you have already tried and convicted in the court of your mind.

We are ALL human!

Which means that making snap judgments (based on physical appearance, behaviors, or anything else a person does) is no longer acceptable.

We are ALL human!

But in order to become more human ourselves, we need to take the time to learn who a person really is rather than characterizing them in a way that denies their individuality.

We are ALL human!

Don't be an ambassador for "the ugly truth" - revise how you characterize and treat others.


Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword - Part 2 - "What's In A Name?"

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By Any Other Name would smell as sweet"
~ Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

And how true this is about roses, but unfortunately roses and humans are far different.

Although living, a rose does not have free will and is incapable of making choices and changing its nature when it becomes necessary for survival.

Humans can, and will, adjust any aspects of themselves that they are able, when they realize that happiness and success depend upon that change.

A human will further their training and education. A human will seek professional help for a problem. A human will stop their substance abuse. A human will reform themself.

Unfortunately, there are aspects of being human that a person cannot change. Skin color, age, visible disabilities, these are all aspects that are difficult to alter.

Yet not only are these visible aspects of humanity used to make snap judgements, people use other information to also discriminate against their fellow human beings.

This human behavior is systemic and institutionalized, and even ingrained into our society at every level, and has been going on for decades.

Don't believe me? When is the last time that you filled out any type of "official" paperwork when you weren't asked to indicate your gender and racial background?

Just as the human race encompasses a broad spectrum of descriptors (race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social background), so does the discrimination.

Making laws and rules to "correct" the issue is not only unsuccessful, it causes the development of additional problems. (University of California v Bakke is just one of many examples.)

For the record, I don't believe that there is "reverse discrimination". I do believe that discrimination occurs when any member of a group treats an individual differently based on not belonging to that group.

When you attempt to advance one group for opportunities and reduce the availability for others as a result, you are contributing to the problem.

Yet government agencies, educational institutions, and employers chest thump and give each other "attaboys" for on-boarding easily identifiable "minorities", as long as those minorities aren't a potential problem.

Ever wonder why we have a serious problem with homelessness, addiction, and criminal recidivism in this country?

Those populations constitute individuals that transcend any visible or societal quantifiers, and they are discriminated against at a far higher rate than any other "group" you could name.

The homeless are unable to get housing because they don't have "references" or a current address. They are often unable to gain/maintain employment because of their lack of a stable living situation.

Addiction is considered a disabling condition, and just as a diabetic has that condition for life, so does an addict. Addicts (as opposed to casual drug users) are covered under the ADA, and are therefore not subject to discrimination in hiring practices when reasonable accommodations allow their employment.

Most employers won't hire someone they know is an recovering addict, even when that individual will agree to random testing and lengthened probationary periods. I know of one company CEO/President that did just that despite positive interviews, references and recommendations from multiple individuals within the company. (Ironically enough, in that instance the company has a number of government contracts.)

Individuals with a criminal record? Not only can't they find employment and housing, they are unable to escape their poor decisions from the past. Despite our society claiming that they are willing to "let bygones be bygones", anyone with a criminal record, even just a misdemeanor, is often denied on a rental application and a job application. (Unless you are rich or a social media cause celebre - then you find offers falling into your lap.)

Small wonder that many individuals in these three populations "relapse". They are unable to secure simple things (home, work, stability) that most of us take for granted.

Even in their daily social interactions, the instant an individual is suspected or identified as being homeless, an addict, or having a criminal record, they are ostracized or treated differently (and not in a positive uplifting way).

It is impossible to finger point any one group in our society as discriminatory offenders, just as it is impossible to define any one group as the victims.

Anyone can change their social media profile for an hour or a day. Anyone can brag about the "efforts" they make that last an hour, a day, a week, or (rarely) a month. This is not new behavior. Most of these individuals will be on to the next cause within a short period of time.

Instead, point the finger at yourself. Ask yourself what you can do to change your practices and beliefs. Ask yourself what you can do to help the least of these. Ask yourself how you can lead others to make a change.

Life Matters! Truth Matters! Behavior Matters!

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Rule of Three - Liar's Poker

Gather round kiddos, because today's math lesson is about exponents.

Why exponents? Because it directly applies to lying behavior.

Studies have shown that for every lie you tell, you need to tell three to keep it going or cover it up.

So you tell one lie.

Next you tell three lies to cover that first one up.

For each one of those, you tell an additional three lies.

The actual equation is 1 + 3^n where the exponent/power is determined by how far out you are from the original lie (which is represented by the 1). The base of three is the number of lies you tell to cover each one lie.

Example? You tell a lie, then you tell the three lies to cover it up. Now you need an additional three lies to cover each of those. And for each of those, another three lies.

1 + 3 x 3 x 3 = 28 lies

Now consider that the average person these days has difficulty remembering a phone number, which is only ten digits.

(About the only number most people remember is 867-5309, and Jenny Jenny isn't going to help you now.)

By the time most people get to that second round of dissembling, where the total is only ten lies, they are having difficulty keeping track of what they have already said.

That's when things should start to unravel, and often do in most cases.

Unfortunately, in this day and age of everything being documented and available on social media, the skillful liar will review the original lie and any supporting falsehoods in order to build a coherent, uniform story.

This is especially easy for those in the public eye, as their every breath and gesture is endlessly recorded and analyzed and available on social media platforms.

So although it is easy to see the lie unraveling for an individual you know personally, it isn't always easy to identify the same problem in a public figure.

Hallmark behaviors that can indicate "rehearsal" in order to cover up/explain a story would be lengthy periods of time before beginning an explanation or rationalization of misstatements, as well as multiple successive "press releases" with additional details and/or clarification.

In terms of personal behavior - if you don't tell lies, you are able to continue to provide a consistent story.

Let your word be your bond, lest you become one of the 10-15%.

Not that long ago, humankind used to be able to trust a person who took an oath that they were telling the truth.

Be that person who is known for their veracity, and it will make your life so much easier.

Truth Matters!

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword - Part 1 - Binary Value THE CURRENT MATH PROBLEM

Based on some of the news headlines this morning, I felt that a second math problem would give a meaningful example of the binary nature of human life.

The statement "10-15% of all people" is an easy illustration to use.

A quick review of the math you need to use - it is called the "percent equation" and works like this:

n = % x t

n is the number of people that fit the description
% is changed to a decimal (move the decimal point two places to the left)
t is the starting total population

Using this information, lets look at a room full of ten people (since ten had been set as a gathering limit under COVID-19 restrictions).

n = .15 x 10

Under this equation, that means 1.5 people in that room. Imagine being with a group of people you know very well, and discovering that 1.5 of them fit the description given.

But under the binary nature of life, that actually means two of those people who you know. Think about those people - do you really believe it?

Know your math! 

Know that life matters!

Know that you can bring change!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword - Part 1 - Binary Value

The biggest myth of all time?

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

This is false!

Language has a power that transcends time and context and is evidenced by quotes, literature, and even movie lines that are repeated, retweeted, and treasured.

So when you begin chanting words that you feel are relevant, take the time to examine them for the unspoken context.

The minute you add any descriptive adjectives, the opposite meaning also arises, and that is part of the power of words.

A prime example is an airline slogan: "Fly the friendly skies of United!"

This was a marketing piece of genius. Not only does it convey the impression that United is a pleasant and friendly experience, it also insinuates that any other airline is not friendly.

Apply this thought process to current events.

To truly advance the conversations that need to occur, the slogan that people should be chanting right now is the following:


No qualifiers, no adjectives, no restrictions; no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Here's a simple math problem similar to ones that I did with my middle school math students early in the school year:

How many people are born each second if there are 360,000 people born a day?

The purpose of this math problem wasn't necessarily to assess their division skills, as they were allowed to think/pair/square (try it themselves, work with a partner, work some more with a group of four, then report back) to solve the problem. They were also allowed to use calculators during the exercise.

The real learning experience was for them to start thinking about their answers to problems. 

In this example, 360,000 ÷ 24 hours in a day ÷ 60 minutes in an hour ÷ 60 seconds in a minute = 4.16666667 (it is really 6 repeating but the calculator rounds the number).

After the "square" time, I polled groups for their answer. I then asked them to think about it for another minute and then report back again. Some of the groups decided to use a mixed number instead at this point.

This is the point where the real discussion began. I asked students if there were such a thing as 4.17 (or 4-1/6) of a human, and if so, what did that mean?

Some of the descriptions revolved around being an amputee, but it was as though nobody had ever discussed the fact that life was a binary concept. 

A person is either 1 (alive) or 0 (not alive/dead). We continued with a discussion on whether there were any possible conditions that would give a life a fractional/decimal value instead of 1.

I think the saddest part of the discussion that we had in my classroom is that up until this point, most of these developing adults had never been told that a human life had a meaning, a value, which wasn't any less or any more than any other human life, regardless of any qualifiers, adjectives, restrictions; ifs, ands, or buts about it.

When was the last time you thought about it from this perspective?

When was the last time that you had this discussion with anyone around you, especially the younger generation?


All conversations must begin with this as a starting point.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Rule of Three - Choose Wisely

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the best illustration of this principle.

At the climax of the movie (the point when all the threads play out, not the end) Elsa and Indy are in the chalice room.

They are tasked with choosing the correct grail that will grant healing and eternal life.

Elsa goes first and chooses an ornate grail to give to Walter Donovan.

Choice 1: Do the wrong thing.

Donovan is not the archaeologist, so he thinks that the size, the gold, and the gems, mark its importance, drinks from it, and dies.

Elsa knew that it was a deadly choice, but deliberately chose wrong, and killed a man.

Choice 2: Do nothing.

The look that Elsa and Indy exchange when this occurs illustrates the second option.

That is the choice that Indy made when Elsa made her choice. He knew that it was the wrong grail, but did not speak up or stop her.

Choice 3: Do the right thing.

And Indy did just that, in choosing the real grail to heal his father, even though it could have been grabbed at any point by any of the others there.

Our country is at a precipice, and it is precisely because people have either never been taught the rule of three, or they take choices 1 and 2.

There were four officers at the scene with George Floyd, one did the wrong thing, and three did NOTHING.

But they weren't the only ones at the scene, and those other people also did NOTHING. In fact, based on the number of videos and/or photos that surfaced immediately afterwards, they chose to do the WRONG THING.

There were people saying "Stop" and "You're hurting him" and even at least one of the other officers also spoke.

But none of them ACTED, which is usually necessary in doing either the right thing or the wrong thing.

None of the spectators put down their cell phone camera long enough to call 911, step forward to attempt to stop the murder, or any other action that could have led to different circumstances.

Groups of protesters out on the streets are being converted into violent mobs looting by small actions.

Had someone actually done something at the scene it might have been the tipping point that would have mobilized at least one of the officers to do the right thing.

But the time is past for that type of speculation, because everyone at that scene made their choice and propelled history forward to the point we are today.

Unfortunately we have come to a point in our society also, where Choice 3 has become far more painful than Choices 1 and 2.

If you choose the wrong thing, there may possibly be negative consequences, however many times those choices become glorified and memorialized and create a social media hero.

So many people are opting for Choice 2, and do nothing. When things go wrong, these individuals quietly slip away or hang at the fringes, remaining quiet rather than attract attention.

Choice 3 has become painful - during the riots we have seen multiple images of people being assaulted to the point of death when they try to stop assault, theft, and looting. They become at a minimum the target of screaming and profanity.

In the "normal world" laws have been developed to protect "whistleblowers" because a person making the right choice can be targeted for job persecution and harassment.

Moving forward, keep in mind that every time you make a choice, you are making one of three. Let it be the right one!