Thursday, August 1, 2019

Not One More "Just One More"

Once upon a time I would joke that “all things in moderation, and that includes moderation.” Every joke contains a nugget of truth, and my nugget of truth was that Tuesday was Pizza Night where me and my wife split two large pizzas. Two large pizzas eaten by two people. A few years later I got hooked on Power 90, P90X, and then Insanity which cured everything. Forever. Except it didn’t. All things in moderation, including a fitness lifestyle. Some time on, some time off. Steps forward, then steps back.

This time I’m saying the hell with moderation. Fall 2018 through Spring 2019 was bad for me. Coming into the end of this past school year saw me pushing toward 250 pounds. On my way to a nice event I stopped at Target to buy a new shirt so it would fit and suspenders to wear under a sport jacket that couldn’t close.

Through June I dedicated to a strict diet reset regimen. Over three weeks I cut out all breads and pastas, most sugars, caffeine, and meats. It was just what I needed to get back on track, and I’m staying with it. No moderation this time on these fronts. Bread, pasta, sugar, and caffeine are four things that I can’t handle “just one.” Experiencing these major back slides has taught me that, for me, “just one” turns into “just one more.” I told myself that I was doing okay because I wasn’t back to picking up a roll of Oreos every other time I went past a convenience store, which didn’t stop me from storing up an extra thirty pounds.

Mostly veggies, my shakes, and no bread or pasta. This is how my body works best and it is my nutritional commitment for me. This morning I completed the third workout of a 100 workout set, which is my fitness commitment too. I can do this.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rise of an American Reich

For a full three years I have been warning that Donald J Trump has sounded just like Adolph Hitler. My main research paper in high school had been about the charisma which enabled the rise of the Nazi party. Sources for that research included three different translations of Mein Kampf from the library. [I had to have found my way to a few government lists early]

In the 2016 campaign announcement speech (June 16, 2015), Donald Trump explicitly categorized Mexican immigrants as drug trafficking rapists while allowing that there may be some that are good people. He categorically defined an entire country's immigrants and naturalized American citizens as criminals. He then continued to explain that the problems faced by the United States are coming from Mexico, "all over South and Latin America", and "from the Middle East". This set of racist coded language translates to Hispanics and Muslims, a pair of groups that would be regular targets for his demagoguery over the next three years. That xenophobic demagoguery discourages assuming citizenship and benign intent to people that visually appear Latinx, Arab, or Persian which directly impacts how such American citizens are then excluded from full equality and respect.

In that speech, that very first speech as a candidate for POTUS, I heard echos of Mein Kampf. This should not be suprising to the people of the United States because we were warned back in 1990 that his bedside reading was a book of Hitler's speeches. Since then, since warning that Donald Trump presented eerily similar to the 1925 writings of Adolf Hitler, I have been told repeatedly that the comparison lacks merit. I was told "this comparison is a gross exaggeration when you consider all the facts of the atrocities committed by Hitler" by a very trusted, very educated family member. This rebuke was followed by...

 "Let each person's record speak for itself." 

So let's view the records

(1) Hitler (1925) and Trump (2015) were at the same point: scapegoating and vilifying minority groups: Jews and Immigrants vs Muslims and Hispanics.

(3) Hitler (1935) and Trump (2017) were at the same point: Enacting policies to marginalize and target their scapegoats. Nuremberg Laws vs Muslim Ban/planning family separation

(4) Hitler (1925) and Trump (2018) were at the same point: Priming their audiences for extermination by equating their scapegoats with vermin. Untermensch, vermin, rats vs Animals, infest.


(8) Hitler (1938) and Trump (2018) were at the same point: rounding up and imprisoning their scapegoats. Night of Broken Glass vs Zero Tolerance and ICE workplace raids

UPDATE:
Hitler (June 22, 1941) and Trump (June 24, 2018) were at the same point: unleashing their goons to target their scapegoats free from the burdens of proof, courts, or judges.
"with no Judges or Court Cases"

(9) Hitler (1941) enacted a policy of exterminating his scapegoats.

Creator unknown. Based on Gregory H Stanton's 10 stages of genocide. genocidewatch.net
The record shows a tyrannical despot, familiar with the works and methods of another tyrannical despot, echoing the processes of that historical example. There are two major differences in the tales of the two rulers: speed and war. It took 1925 to 1938 for Hitler to go from public scapegoating to mass incarceration, Donald Trump required less than three years to go from "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists." to the so-called "Zero-Tolerance Policy for Criminal Illegal Entry". What took Hilter 13 years to achieve, Donald Trump accomplished in less than 3. Hitler also had promises of Lebensraum, or Living Space, to provide for the German people. To accomplish this Hitler required war and territory invasion, but the United States of America already has plenty of open space. There is no need for a parallel of the 1939 invasion of Poland.

Without foreign invasions, there are no grounds for any foreign military to invade the United States. There is no cavalry of Allied powers that would land on the beaches of California or Virginia. While the United States carries out ethnic cleansing to achieve a white ethno-state, nobody is going to come to our aid.

Genocide will begin, not end with Hispanic immigrants. Quite arguably Stage 9 has already begun with the willful neglect and fully predictable deaths in Puerto Rico over the past year. Death was an obvious consequence of the conditions post-Maria, but they were allowed to occur anyway.

Obvious next targets include communities which have already been targeted by the malice of the Trump Administration: Muslims, LGBTQIA, black communities, handicapped, seniors, and the impoverished. Efforts have already begun to damage these communities: Muslim Travel Ban, transgender protection repeal, so-called "Religious Freedom" actions, cessation of police department consent decrees, budgetary attacks on Medicare/Social Security/Medicaid.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Context and Appropriation

The other night I found out that a friend of mine had used a solid green background on his Twitter profile picture. A few weeks ago I bought a video editing suite. This seemed like a good chance to learn about video editing and have some light hearted shenanigans. I needed a video that I had on hand which contained a scene that I could insert the profile pic.

A recent video that I downloaded contained a short scene with a choir singing. It was straight forward enough to clip out just ten seconds of the video and then apply the editing magic. A short while later my friend was an extra in the choir and dancing along in the back row for ten seconds.

Sounds fun and harmless. That is what I was thinking during my light hearted shenanigans. I showed my friend and he laughed. A few others saw it and laughed. So I posted the fun to share.

Not everybody enjoyed the edit. I didn’t tell the whole story above. I stripped my actions, the video clip, and everything from context. This is a very white American thing to do. Context is too often just minor flavoring or entirely optional. But that is not true. Actions, symbols, art, history, and people never exist wholly separate from their context.

The video I had downloaded was Childish Gambino’s This is America. I had extracted out from 1m 42s to 1m 54s. At 1m 56s a gun is tossed into the frame. By 1m 57s the choir has all been shot dead. I stopped the clip before that happened, but doing so did not make it a wholly unrelated thing.
Trying to understand the depth that I mocked

This is America is deep. If you search just that on Google then you will find four articles trying to dissect all the symbolism, allegory, and imagery. On the first page of search results. I’m not going to rehash any of those articles here. The important thing is that the clip cannot be removed from the video and the video cannot be removed from the allegory. I could ignore it while I focused on the exercise, I could ignore it while sharing the video, but I could not remove the association.

Did I intend to cause harm? No. Did I intend to make light of the abuses perpetrated on black bodies in America. No. Did I intend to ignore those abuses to instead focus on something I found fun. No.

By making and sharing the video that I did, I did all three of those things. Intent doesn’t matter. I caused hurt to my friends, I made light of and ignored the abuses carried out regularly across America. For this I am sorry.

I will end with a quote from the Insider article though: “black cultural production is often commodified and appropriated by white audiences”.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Human Rights on the American Border

Background


Back in 2014 the Obama administration was dealing with an immigration crisis: unaccompanied minors flooding toward the United States from Central America. (Cowan, 2014) Thousands of children and teenagers were fleeing violence and seeking a chance to grow up and become adults in the rebounding economy of the United States. By May there was an emergency shelter set up at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. (Cowan, 2014) As May turned to June, a warehouse building was made into a shelter in Nogales, Arizona which was quickly followed by Fort Sill, OK also being prepared as emergency housing. (Schwartz, 2014) Again, these were the lengths that the Administration was forced to resort to due to the surge in unaccompanied minors: children without family or guardians. Photos came out showing the facilities used for housing children awaiting processing: sleeping mats and space blankets on hard floors inside of chain link cages. (Franklin, 2014)
Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell on June 18, 2014. They are among hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children being processed and held at the U.S. CBP Nogales Placement Center.

Women's Refugee Commission wrote about the various ways that family units could end up separated by the various federal entities involved in border security and immigration. (Podkul & Obser, 2016) Among the causes of separation, which include different family members being processed differently, ending up in different legal proceedings, and an unverified biological relationship, they also identify punitive or deliberate separation. Under the Obama administration there were recommendations from the Women's Refugee Commission about ways to reduce and mitigate family separations and that the relevant Inspectors General “should investigate complaints involving family separation and track complaints across DHS components.” (Podkul & Obser, 2016, pg 3)

Separation from family members can cause undue trauma to children and may violate the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990.2 In addition, family separation can impede the ability of families to access asylum and other protection mechanisms because of a variety of issues associated with the reality of the situation, see Podkul & Obser for details. Separation of adult family members during the deportation process has also shown to expose deported individuals to serious harm, rendering them more vulnerable to abuse, assaults, kidnapping, and trafficking. (Podkul & Obser, 2016, pg 1)


International Law and Treaties


Early in the 20th century the migration of people fleeing violence and persecution began to reach numbers that caused international problems requiring international solutions. There were multiple agreements set up in the 20’s and additional agreements in the 30’s. (Robinson, 1953) Following World War II the Secretary General of the United Nations was requested to study the protection of stateless persons and then provide recommendations back to the United Nations. (Robinson, 1953) Coming out of the studies for the United Nations, there have been three major defining landmarks in the handling of refugees: 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and Resolution 2198 (XXI) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. (UNHCR, 2010)
Through the various international treaties, the United States as agreed to certain rights to be afforded to refugees which includes:

  • A refugee shall have free access to the courts of law (UNHCR, 2010, pg 21)
  • shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence … provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence (UNHCR, 2010, pg 29)
  • shall allow such refugees a reasonable period and all the necessary facilities to obtain admission into another country (UNHCR, 2010, pg 29)
  • shall not expel a refugee lawfully in their territory save on grounds of national security or public order (UNHCR, 2010, pg 29)
  • expulsion of such a refugee shall be only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with due process of law (UNHCR, 2010, pg 29)


As such, any asylum seekers, family or single, that cross the border into the United States and present themselves to the authorities without delay are not coming into the country ‘illegally’, they are doing so under the terms established pursuant to the UN Charter treaty. “There is nothing illegal about seeking asylum – on the contrary, it is a universal human right. Conflating ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ can undermine public support for refugees and the institution of asylum at a time when more refugees need such protection than ever before.” (UNHCR, 2016, pg 2)

Malicious Intent


In April 2018 it was reported that a caravan of asylum seekers was traveling through Mexico from Central America. (Schrank, 2018) President Trump, through his official line of communication @realDonaldTrump at twitter.com, put out three statements regarding this caravan. (realDonaldTrump, Apr 3,5,30)
Conflating ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’
He intentionally conflated these refugees with migrants for the exact purposes referenced above in the 'Refugees' and 'Migrants' - Frequently Asked Questions. The same caravan was referenced by Attorney General Sessions in his Zero Tolerance remarks given in San Diego. (Sessions, 2018) Sessions further explained the zero tolerance for “illegal entry” (2018) as “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you.” (2018) The Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees uses those exact words in Article 31: “unlawfully in the country of refugee” and “illegal entry” (UNHCR, 2010, pg 29) So long as the border apprehension involved the refugee having presented themselves without delay to the authorities then the asylum claim needs to be adjudicated. It has been clarified for me through an immigration lawyer that asylum seekers have a year to file under current US law.

This “‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border” (Sessions, 2018) represents a divergence from the United States’ obligations under international treaties. Criminal prosecution for asylum seekers also results in children being separated from their parents and consequently placed in ORR custody, as previously identified as an issue by the Women's Refugee Commission. (Podkul & Obser, 2016) Thus the illegal criminal prosecution is generating additional stress on the systems that already were strained by unaccompanied minors.

Unlike the family unit separation being reported on in 2016 by the Women's Refugee Commission, the separation resulting from the Attorney General’s decision is strictly punitive and directed by policy from the top. “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you.  It’s that simple.” (Sessions, 2018) Except it is not that simple, because refugees have a right to “show good cause for their illegal entry” (UNHCR, 2010, pg 29)

This change was not a rash decision. Reuters has been reporting that the Trump administration has been looking into breaking up family units to discourage asylum claims for over a year. (Ainsley, 2017) In March 2017 the Department of Homeland Security was “actively considering separating women from their children but has not made a decision.” (Ainsley, 2017) The consideration was part of an exploration into “options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey.” (Ainsley, 2017) The following week then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kelly confirmed that “I am considering - in order to deter … exactly that” (Staff, 2017) It would have been accomplished through a “policy change would allow the government to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings” (Staff, 2017) which is exactly what zero tolerance criminal prosecution achieves.

Harm From Federal Actors

International norms and obligations are not the only reason that unnecessary custodial detainment and prosecution is unwise. As was discussed at the beginning, there are serious logistical concerns to large numbers of people detained for extended periods of time. Human Rights Watch found that asylum seekers around the southwest border “are generally placed in holding cells for several hours to several days, and sometimes a week or more” (Bochenek, 2018, sec 3) Bathing, dental hygiene, toilet paper, and feminine hygiene products are often unavailable no matter the length of holding. A 2015 court found that the holding cells had “widespread and deplorable conditions in the holding cells.” (Flores v Johnson, 2015) Similarly the court found that “Defendants have said nothing to contradict Plaintiffs' accounts of inadequate nutrition” (Flores v Johnson, 2015) Again, like the 2016 report and the 2014 unaccompanied minors influx, these conditions were present under the Obama administration. This was the situation before the decision was made to ignore international treaty obligations for refugees and increase the number of minors taken into custody separate from their families.

Department of Homeland Security has been found to make unfounded claims without evidence and
lie to federal courts to achieve desired outcomes. (Medina v US DHS, 2018) Gang affiliation has been used to justify dehumanizing speech, equating criminal immigrants with creatures to be exterminated. This pattern of speech, the language of genocide, has been widely used as a precursor to more vicious activity. Dehumanization was even used in the Abu Ghraib prison when prisoner were abused and treated like animals. (Kearney, 2007) Since the Department of Homeland Security is proven to lie about gang affiliation, the dehumanizing speech is targeting all immigrants.

Additionally, immigration judges previously had a method to remove low-priority cases from their backlog known as administrative closure. (Rosenberg, 2018) This method was “routinely used for people without criminal backgrounds who had lived for many years in the United States” (Rosenberg, 2018) Attorney General Sessions declared judges “do not have the general authority to suspend indefinitely immigration proceedings by administrative closure” although the change “would likely overwhelm the immigration courts.” (Rosenberg, 2018) This case, known as Castro Tum, relates to immigration cases rather than asylum seekers.

An extreme change reported just today seeks to reduce the number of successful asylum claims brought by refugees. Setting precedent for immigration judges, who are Department of Justice employees and not actually members of the federal judiciary, Attorney General Sessions overruled an immigration decision granting asylum to a victim of rape and domestic abuse. (Staff, June 2018) An immigration lawyer has told me that this could erase 85% of all asylum claims.

Conclusion


The Trump administration, through Attorney General Sessions, has enacted changes which undermine international law and throw more bodies into an already overwhelmed and abusive custody situation. As explicitly described in 2017 by Department of Homeland Security, these changes are punitive against current asylum seekers to discourage future refugees from attempting to reach the United States. Watchdog organizations including Human Rights Watch, the Women's Refugee Commision, and US Federal District Courts have all found abusive treatment not even consistent with rapidly weakening DHS policies. Federal Courts have also found that ICE has lied to them about the alleged gang affiliation of those taken into custody.

References


Ainsley, J. (2017, March 3) Exclusive: Trump administration considering separating women, children at Mexico border. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-USA-immigration-children-idUSKBN16A2ES 
Aquino, M. & Taj, M. (2017,March 9) Peruvian president criticizes U.S. proposal to separate immigrant families. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-peru-usa/peruvian-president-criticizes-u-s-proposal-to-separate-immigrant-families-idUSKBN16H09L
Bochenek, M. (2018, February 28)  In the Freezer: Abusive Conditions for Women and Children in US Immigration Holding Cells. Human Rights Watch. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/02/28/freezer/abusive-conditions-women-and-children-us-immigration-holding-cells
Cowan, R. (2014, May 28). Waves of immigrant minors present crisis for Obama, Congress. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children/waves-of-immigrant-minors-present-crisis-for-obama-congress-idUSKBN0E814T20140528
Flores v. Johnson, No. CV 85-4544 (C.D. Cal. July 24, 2015) https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/jenny_l_flores_v_jefferson_b_sessions_motion_to_enforce.pdf
Franklin, R. (2014). First glimpse of immigrant children at holding facility. AZ Central. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.azcentral.com/picture-gallery/news/politics/immigration/2014/06/18/first-glimpse-of-immigrant-children-at-holding-facility/10808687/
Goodwin, L. (2018, June 10) ‘Children are being used as a tool’ in Trump’s effort to stop border crossings. Boston Globe. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2018/06/09/borderseparations/Z95z4eFZjyfqCLG9pyHjAO/story.html
Kearney, C. (2007, March 26) U.S. documentary shows everyday abuse of Abu Ghraib. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/film-iraq-doc-dc-idUSN2326524820070326
McEntee, J. & Rosenberg, M. (2018, May 7) U.S. says it will separate families crossing border illegally. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children/u-s-cements-plans-to-separate-families-crossing-border-illegally-idUSKBN1I82AB
Medina v US DHS (2018, May 15) Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Case No. C17-0218RSM. United States District Court Western District of Washington. https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4463428/Ramirez-Medina-v-DHS-Order-051518.pdf
Podkul, J. & Obser, K. (2016, September 09) Separation of Immigrant Families in U.S. Immigration Custody. Women’s Refugee Commission. Accessed June, 11 2018 https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/rights/gbv/resources/1384-family-separation-in-us-custody
realDonaldTrump (2018, April 3) The big Caravan of People from Honduras… Twitter.com
realDonaldTrump (2018, April 5) The Caravan is largely broken up thanks… Twitter.com
realDonaldTrump (2018, April 30) The migrant ‘caravan’ that is… Twitter.com
realDonaldTrump (2018, May 18) Fake News Media had me… Twitter.com
Robinson, N. (1953). Convention relating to the status of refugees. Its history, contents and interpretation. New York: Institute of Jewish Affairs. https://www.bjpa.org/content/upload/bjpa/conv/CONVENTION%20RELATING%20TO%20THE%20STATUS%20OF%20REFUGEES,%20NEHEMIAH%20ROBINSON.pdf
Rosenberg, M. (2018, May 17) U.S. ends practice that gave some immigrants reprieves from deportation. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration/u-s-ends-practice-that-gave-some-immigrants-reprieves-from-deportation-idUSKCN1IJ00N
Schrank, D. (2018, April 9) Some 200 migrants in Mexico caravan to seek U.S. asylum: organizers. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-caravan/some-200-migrants-in-mexico-caravan-to-seek-u-s-asylum-organizers-idUSKBN1HH052
Schwartz, D. (2014, June 9) Hundreds more migrant children shipped to Arizona from Texas. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-arizona-immigration-idUSKBN0EK23N20140609
Sessions, J. (2018, May 7) Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks Discussing the Immigration Enforcement Actions of the Trump Administration. Department of Justice. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-sessions-delivers-remarks-discussing-immigration-enforcement-actions
Staff (2017, March 6) Kelly says considering separating women, children at Mexico border. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-idUSKBN16D2OX
Staff (2018, June 11) Attorney General Sessions limits asylum for domestic violence victims. Reuters. Accessed June 11, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-sessions-asylum/attorney-general-sessions-limits-asylum-for-domestic-violence-victims-idUSKBN1J72HP
UNHCR (2010, December) Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. UNHCR Communications and Public Information Service http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/3b66c2aa10.pdf
UNHCR (2016, March 15) 'Refugees' and 'Migrants' - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Accessed June 11, 2018 http://www.refworld.org/docid/56e81c0d4.html
UNHCR (2017, October 8) Asylum-Seekers. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. https://web.archive.org/web/20171008160944/http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/asylum-seekers.html

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

App Development: Privacy Policy

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Living life in the median

Inspired by the Damore/Google lawsuit I want to talk a bit about my experience living life in the medians. Empathy is hard, and conformity is easy. When you never seem to stand out it makes it hard to empathize with those that do. Not taking steps to stand out becomes easy and comfortable. Your experiences are so incredibly “normal” by all of your measures that it becomes typical to just assume that everyone around you experiences the same. That assumption ends up being very wrong, and the resulting cognitive dissonance is jarring.


When life just seems like a mirror


Without a brief bio I cannot back my claim of being average. My family history traces back to European lines, but the genealogists have traced back to the American Revolution and beyond. Any specific Old World culture artifacts have been sufficiently diluted away. A white family that grew up around where my patriarch grandfather farmed his land after fighting in World War II. Through my time in high school there was one student that presented as black, though I later learned that one of my classmates’ father was black too. We are not a racist family, that was always driven in. Sure, the grandfather was an Archie Bunker type that never managed to see he was laughing at himself during All in the Family. His example was taught as what not to be. Generally, treat non-white people with utmost respect, just don’t question why they were not in the school, church, local business owners, or social clubs. We were just Normal people. My immediate family was a working father, stay at home mother (first and only marriage for both), three boys, and a dog: the textbook nuclear family at a time when “nuclear family” was being preached as The Family Unit.

Sunday was Mass, occasionally Saturday night, while Wednesday was for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (only ever called CCD). Sure, this did make us stand out a little… Sunday Mass was just something us Catholics attended. Many of our neighbors and classmates were different… other Christian denominations. They also typically attended service on Sunday and religious education on Wednesday. Even the families that didn’t regularly attend still knew that those times were blocked off. It was so expected that adults, my parents included, would be vocally upset if coaches, teachers, or others dared to schedule Wednesday nights. Wednesday was Off Limits because it was expected, it was Normal, that the children would be attending Christian religious ed.
Well, there was one Wednesday without CCD classes - Source
I was hetro in a school and area where “gay” was a throwaway slur. It was tossed around, but didn’t mean anything against anyone because hetro wasn’t just Normal it was All There Was. Something experienced on TV shows like Will and Grace, but TV was also where Steve turns into Stefan and Sabrina had a talking cat. I missed out on asking my future wife to sophomore Homecoming because I wrongly thought my best friends were interested in her too. Turns out that one was ace and the other gay, but I didn’t know that at the time and when you are living in the median everyone is a reflection of you.

I participated in high school sports, but was never a high performer. It was expected and Normal. From Tiger Cub to Eagle Scout, I was also in Boy Scouts which did make me different from most of my peers, but this time it was media that reassured me I was again Normal… pretty much every show had boy characters experience scouts and camping in some way or another. It was just what boys did… even though my own experience showed otherwise. Thus even when my observations pointed out that my life was different, media reminded me that my life was typical. Just living in the median.
Boys will be Boy Scouts - TV taught me that. Source


Notice the cognitive dissonance already? Media that reinforced the median helped establish Normal and media that introduced the outside remained entertainment.

Leaving home for college was a chance to be exposed to a wider variety of life, which put me into new sets of people. I was an honors student at my university, living in the dorm building restricted to students associated with the honors college. Our building was co-ed, but segregated by floor. Thus, I was a male honors student living on a floor of all male honors students. Again, I fit right in, all too well. Diablo II, Starcraft, and Unreal Tournament 2K4 LAN games helped build up the social network of the floor when my entertainment medium of choice was video games. During the day I attended classes in my majors: Computer Science and Mathematics. Especially the CS classes were overwhelmingly white and male. I never questioned either case, since that fit my experience: when in doubt, expected life to reflect me. That is life in the median is. When in doubt, life reflects you. 

After college I was hired on as a programmer for a cell phone refurbisher. Besides myself, my team consisted of three white male programmers, a white male tech generalist, and a white male manager. Including me, four were married to women and the others were straight and single. There was diversity through in the company, but among those around me… I could see me. My media at the time was primarily World of Warcraft and Big Bang Theory: nerds doing nerdy things and primarily white and male. My extended family would talk about watching BBT and argue about whether I was more of a Leonard or a Sheldon… 
The newer seasons are less overwhelmingly male - Source

All around me I would see that I fit the description of my group at the time, never seeming to deviate much from the appropriate stereotype as I saw it. Straight cisgender white Christian male from a middle class nuclear American family. Television shows and movies presented me as the baseline against which everything else deviated. I was living in the median and all of the traffic flowed around that. 


The dark consequences of meeting expectation


When it seems that you are reflected as the baseline of your groups then you can discount differences as outliers. For tech issues, I had to begin to consciously note developers that deviated from the classes I identify with. Only after I made an effort to see such traits did it start to shape my default idea of what a developer was. Only then could I really see that my path to get here is unique, it was not the path traveled by every developer and software analyst that I have not yet met. Since I related so well to the stereotype of my associations, I could easily project myself onto others.

By feeling so close to the stereotypes I can always feel comfortable as the audience being spoken to. When beer commercials play they are talking to an audience that imbibes alcohol. I am not being excluded based on my age, medical history, or religion. My tech magazines include career ads for federal jobs. I am not being excluded based on my citizenship status, country of ancestry, or family criminal history. The only time I have ever noticed a character I relate to being included as a plot point is for tech interest. Since the median is always the audience it is also never explicitly the audience.

Living in the median means not being reached out to directly, by name. You see others being addressed explicitly. You see others gaining advantages that you have never had to even notice were already available, often even already utilizing. You notice when you are not represented even though you hadn’t noticed when only you were.

The margins feel far from the median, so far that they can be not seen if one chooses not to look. If you are just walking down the median then it can be jarring when confronted with the real existence of others just as if a car has suddenly swerved out of a traffic lane. Because the median is an illusion and you were really in just another lane. Merge alert! Wake up because the other drivers have just as much right of way too.


Evolving expectations is not oppression


When I became an adult I could see myself reflected in the citizenship(natural born American), education(attended college), race(white), and sex(man) of every US President in over one hundred years. As of January 20, 2009 that no longer holds true; down by one.

In office buildings I would historically be welcome in every class of rooms in the building. With the advent of breastfeeding spaces there are rooms that are created with the expectation that I won’t be in them. These spaces dedicated to breastfeeding are unwelcome to cisgender men because they address a need that we just don’t have. Designing for inclusion doesn’t mean that each space meets the needs of everyone, but that the needs of everyone have a space that meets them.

Environments, schedules and processes tend to follow historical precedents which addressed the needs and norms of past times. Viewed from the median, such things were reasonable because they were developed to accommodate needs or comfort of the majority. In the lawsuit against Google it is alleged that oppressive discrimination was carried out against men and Caucasians by “putting applicants into a more welcoming environment based on their race or gender”. There are lots of innocent ways that an environment could be off putting to previously marginalized classes. Displaying the senior executive’s portraits seems perfectly reasonable until you consider that an all white over 60 executive board suggests to non-white and ambitious young applicants that their contributions may be discounted. In 2015 Schick Xtreme 3 ran a commercial on this exact thing. One applicant shaved his head to match the executive portraits, because every portrait was bald, to have a competitive advantage over all of the other haired applicants. An entire commercial based on the underlying assumption that looking like the hiring manager’s expectation is an advantage.
Google noticed that their process was failing to reach out to everyone? The horror! - Source



Challenges of conformity


To this day I feel significant anxiety on any decision that endangers my ability to just blend into the crowd. Being raised Roman Catholic in a village where the religious diversity was Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, or Methodist meant that I was just one of everybody. After reflecting on all the cognitive dissonance that I suffered from by trying to square Christian dogma with observed data, I have stopped attending Mass or trying to explain away reality with faith. In conversation though I tend to remain silent when related discussions come up and just quietly understand the references that draw on the culture of my Christian upbringing. This is my first time spelling out that I see no value in considering the divine to anyone other than my wife or one brother. The assumption where I grew up is that one is aware of and believes in the resurrection of Jesus and the general assumption in American society is that one at least believes in the Creator, the god of Abraham. Even when engaged in a discussion where it is relevant like discussing medical treatments I will tend to silently conform when a participant brings up the divine rather than address the statement.

I have the option remaining silent when someone disparages based on race, religion, disability, economic status, family situation, sexuality, gender, citizenship status, or country of origin. That option is available to me because I have always ridden along in the illusionary safety of the median. I am ashamed to admit I have taken that option. It is available because I am safe. That is my privilege and my curse. My curse because I cannot be trusted fully by those who are targets. Will I stand up when showing up means I am putting myself or my family at risk? To distrust those of us watching from the median is understandable and to be expected. We have earned it through our comfort with being represented, with our blindness to our comfort. Living life in the median means we must become aware of it and then actively work to relinquish and share our comforts.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!

Twas the Night before Christmas, when @realpresssecbot posted an image,
I was still browsing while Twitter glowed on my visage.
Merry Christmas it read, following dog whistles,
An itching it caused, as if sitting in thistles.

One of the very first responses that I saw to the original statement included a video mashup of former President and First Lady Obama saying "Merry Christmas." (Message me if it was you and I'll update this post to embed your tweet) Just in case the Republicans in my life and in my state sincerely believed the Statement by the President, I thought I should share this mashup video. I downloaded the file and shared it on Facebook from both my profile and my Page. The good thing about sharing from a Page is that you can boost the post.


I used my power to Boost the video into the Christmas Day news feeds of 35+ year old men in Maryland that like Donald Trump. This net will have caught some people that have told Facebook they are interested because they want to keep aware of what happens from the President, but it will mostly be older male Republicans. (AL exit polling showed that men still support DJT's messaging more than women and older more than younger)


Sadly, in a turn of events that will surprise no one, I did not have anyone thank me for removing their misconceptions. My personal profile post elicited one comment from a father of a high school acquaintance. He has been making a habit of posting sexist and racist comments on my posts so I was not surprised when a simple "Merry Christmas to all!" post was met with a "has been". Disappointed, but not surprised. I appreciate that he left off any racial slurs this time.


After nearly a day of running my post acquired 1,165 views with 452 of those making it at least 10 seconds in. (At 10 seconds the video has had "Merry Christmas" spoken 4 times.) The average view time was just 8 seconds, so the average viewer heard three "Merry Christmas"s. Two people shown the post chose to Hide All future posts from me which makes sense since Facebook generally works as an echo chamber and my targeted audience for this was Republicans. My Page is from when I ran for Congress as a Democrat.


The comments on the boosted post were what really got me though. Remember that this video was posted because the President of the United States has been regularly claiming that "Merry Christmas" was not welcome to be said before he was in office. If saying "Merry Christmas" is such a big deal to Republicans then a video of Barak Obama saying "Merry Christmas" on Christmas Day should be at worst ignored, right? That would be wrong. Over the course of today the post received two positive comments... "Merry Christmas", of course. The rest were pure vitriol and form quite a timeline through Christmas Day:

8:13 am

Greg Keeney: Fuck You

10:03 am

Chris Lunderman: You piece of shit

11:36 am

William Hidey: meme

William Hidey: meme

12:51 pm

Scott Carpenter: 1st and his pos

1:00 pm

Leon Issacs: Oh shut the hell up

3:13 pm

Charles Skinski: Fuck you no nothin politician

6:52 pm

Sean Lee Hughes: Fuck the prick and his family

7:10 pm

Chuck Snider: Fuck off

My reproduction here censored cases of incorrectly grouping either me or Obama into marginalized groups that we don't belong to. While the intended hate is clear it is neither a problem nor an insult to belong to the referenced groups. I have redacted the usage to keep from hurting readers by implying they are less if the labels apply to them.

I spent just under $10 to help establish common ground with my Republican neighbors over yesterday's holiday and considering that over 1,800 saw my post. Hopefully we can all agree that the phrase "Merry Christmas" was fully supported by the previous occupant of the White House. Some common ground has to be found for any meeting to be had, and a simple point like the President actively lies about easily disproved facts should be it.

To my Republican neighbors and family: do you want to continue to stand with Greg Keeney, Chris Lunderman, William Hidey, Scott Carpenter, Leon Issacs, Charles Skinski, Sean Lee Hughes, and Chuck Snider?