Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Personal Entry

I had a very pointed question asked of me yesterday on my birthday. The question was, simply, “What is missing?”

The context of this question is that my response to how I was and how I was doing were both, “OK.”

I woke up at 3am with this question on my mind and wasn’t able to get back to sleep so I thought I about it. The culmination of my thoughts is below.

I am not necessarily the most positive person. I know this. I don’t think I ever have been that type of person. I’ve always been one to smirk instead of smile. I also tend to focus on the negative side of things first before the positive. I don’t care so much that the glass is half empty vs. half full. I just care that there is half of the glass that doesn’t have beer in it. There were times in my life, where I was the happiest person I knew. I woke up every day excited at the prospect of the day. It didn’t matter if I had gotten 10 hours of sleep or 3; I had energy and was ready to attack the day. For me during this time, my life was great. Ever since that time, I have been trying to get that feeling back.

Fast forward to today, and I know what is missing. It, actually, is quite simple. I don’t have that sense of fullness or completeness as a person that I had when I was happy. Maybe those missing things are from my personal life, and maybe they are from my professional life. Either way, something is missing. There were two times in my life when I considered myself happiest. One was when I lived in Ft. Benning, GA from 2003 through June 2004 and the other in Colorado Springs from 2009-2011. My personal life in GA was very different than my personal life in CO. In GA, I was in a love with a woman and I knew she loved me back. We were, at the time, talking about “our” future and how “we” would do things together and spend that future. In Colorado, I wasn’t in a relationship but I had a great group of friends who I could count on, hang out with, and who reciprocated the friendly affection I had for them. Professionally, in GA I had a job that I loved because I felt like I made a difference and I went to work for people who I respected and, more importantly, from whom I learned positively on a daily basis (by positively I mean I learned what TO DO instead of what NOT TO DO). In Colorado, I had a job that was OK but again I felt like I made a difference and I had a boss from whom I learned a great deal.

As I look at my life here in Dallas, I don’t even know how to characterize my personal life. I have been out with a few girls down here, but there was not that “spark” with any of them. One woman was everything I SHOULD have wanted. She was a doctor. She was intelligent, fun, attractive, and all those other things that should point to a connection. The problem, thought, was that there was no connection. Looking back on my time spent with her I would have to say it was, at best, a way to pass the time. I went out with another woman who had many of the same qualities, but there was no interest from either person in being more than friends. Professionally, I go to work because it’s a job. I don’t dislike what I do. In fact, when looking at the big picture of my profession, I like being a consultant. Day-to-day, though, I don’t really enjoy it. I don’t know if it is the environment, the people, the specific account and client. I just know that it doesn’t jazz me up with excitement when I wake up in the morning.

Who knows…maybe I am burned out from the combination of long hours of work and school and am just a bit melancholy right now. Hopefully going to Brazil for the World Cup will give me a new and fresh perspective on things. I know my life doesn’t suck by any stretch of the imagination. I also know that I do not have the most difficult life. I just know that the pieces aren’t fitting together quite right at the moment and I need to do something so that they fit together better.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

SB Wacko

I have decided to weigh in and add my three cents to the discussion on the killings in Santa Barbara recently. I spent a great deal of time yesterday reading the thoughts that various authors had on the killings. All of them were, in my opinion, well intentioned. All of the authors recognized a problem existed but I think that many of the authors missed the boat because they fell into the trap of using the tragedy to advance a political agenda. I will avoid mentioning any specific authors by name, as this is my article and I want the focus, as well as any criticism or praise, on those thoughts; not someone else’s. With all of this said, my thoughts are below.

1. The first thing I noticed about the articles I read was that all of them blamed one thing or another for the tragedy. Some blamed misogyny (more on this later), others guns, others the poor state of the mental health treatment, and still others Hollywood movies. Here’s an idea…blame the crazy guy who killed six people. I say again…blame the crazy guy who killed six people. It is without doubt that this guy was mentally unhinged. He had been going to therapy for over a decade and he still wasn’t getting better. On the other hand, though, he was also able to convince the police that he was stable and not a risk to anyone when they came and interviewed him at his house. To me, these are the marks of a sociopath. What mechanisms exist to identify sociopaths?

2. I want to spend a little more time on misogyny. One particular author focused her entire article on an alleged undercurrent of misogyny that is accepted and sometimes even promoted in our culture. I will say this. I will be 34 years old in a few days, and all of my years of living I have never met a single male who hated women. In fact, I’ve never even heard someone I knew or met talk about someone they knew who hated women. Granted I know a fraction of a fraction of a percent of all the males in the United States, but if misogyny is such a problem, shouldn’t I have at least crossed paths with one misogynist (I know this is not a convincing argument, but I do this intentionally to make a point) in my life? A couple wackos posting message about hating women on forums on the internet does not constitute a nation-wide trend. Even a couple hundred wackos doing this does not constitute a trend. Why, then would this author argue this point so vehemently? Some of the responders to the post claimed she hated men, others that she hated white men, still others that she had “daddy issues” from her time growing up. I neither know the author nor presume to guess her motive. What I will do, however, is lump her in with the group below.

3. This is the group that is using this tragedy to advance a political agenda. The first words out of people’s mouths after this tragedy were how this was the fault of the NRA for not helping advance gun control laws. Well, California has the strictest gun control laws at the state level in the country. And has been pointed out in multiple places, the killer used LEGAL handguns with LEGAL magazines to do his killing. Oh yeah…he also used a knife on more than one of the victims. Doesn’t sound like gun control could stop that. In addition to anti-gun politics, the reactions to this incident were rife with blaming men for every ill in the world. I have read so many statements like, “Every woman worries about getting raped whenever she walks down the street.” or “Every woman worries about getting killed by a man while every man worries about just getting rejected by a woman.” that I can no longer tell you what articles they came from. As a man, I can in no way relate to either of these concepts from a woman’s point of view, especially if she really and truly felt either of the ways identified in these quotes. I do not walk down the street worried about getting raped, by a man or a woman. Nor do I worry about getting killed by a man or a woman on a daily basis. Even when I travel overseas I do not worry about these things. But I must ask, how many women actually feel this way? I cannot think of any woman I know who think these things. And if they are not common thoughts by women, then why does it take a murder of men and women for this to come out into the public eye?

4. My last thoughts are that aside from everything else in this tragedy, the coverage of this even just confirms the idea that the “target” of the attack is more important than the actual act carried out. If this guy had written a manifesto about how he hated straight, white men, then this would have receive nowhere near the attention that it did. Converseley, if the targets of his hatred had been blacks, Hispanics, Muslims (who aren’t an ethnic group they are followers of a religion, but now is not the time or here the place for this argument), or any other group determined to be in need of special behavior towards, the uproar would have been just as bad. Why can’t we focus on the crime and the victims the same in every crime, no matter what minority or majority they belong to?

After all, isn’t that the goal and intent of a color blind society?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bastions of Intolerance

When did colleges become bastions of intolerance? I sit back and marvel at all of the speakers during this year’s commencement season who have been protested, removed, or forced to cancel their speeches. The list is jaw dropping for the amount of wisdom and knowledge these people could share: Condoleeza Rice, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christine Lagarde, Robert Birgeneau, and others. What happened to universities being the places where ideas were exchanged, discussed, and debated? What happened to universities being the place where “radicalism” was accepted practice and “sticking it to the man” was better than anything that could go on one’s resume?

Now, colleges have become “the man” and their Far-Left dominated faculties and student bodies will not tolerate anyone that threatens that orthodoxy. Their argument is that they are merely participating in the debate by speaking up against those who they disagree with. This argument, however, is like a child saying that he or she has no homework when they left all of their books in their locker at school. The intent of debate is to let both parties speak, and then reason and persuade the other person to your side through logic and facts. Debate is not about shouting down your opponent before they have a chance to speak. It is also not about getting the judge to disqualify your opponent before the debate begins. This is akin to students going to a university president to cancel an invitation.

When I was a senior at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, my roommate and I would argue and debate incessantly about politics, international relations, and many other topics. Some of the debates got very heated and very passionate. For many of these arguments, we came at the issue from sides that were nearly at the extreme opposites of the spectrum. Never once, though, did either of us try to prevent the other from speaking. In some cases he persuaded me and in some cases I persuaded him. Many times, the debate was left unsettled because neither of us would budge or could be swayed to change our opinion. Why does this story matter?

This story matters because what was important was the debate itself. Neither one of us would have learned anything if we hadn’t had the debate in the first place. For me, one of the best things about the debates was that I could learn the facts and ideas those on the opposite side would use so that I could develop specific counters to them for future arguments.

Institutions like universities pride themselves on being places where ideas flow freely and rigorous debate is part of daily life in the pursuit of academic excellence. If this truly is the case, then every university president should take any written request to ban someone from speaking and burn it in front of the student body with the simple words that intolerance of debate has no place in this institution.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Knocking the Rust Off my Writing

Why do we, as consumers of news, bother paying so much attention to what is reported on the various news outlets? I ask this not in the partisan sense, but rather in the “why bother” sense. I spend at least a couple hours every day trying to stay up-to-date on the news across various fields of interest, but I find that, more often than not, I am reading other people’s opinions and analysis. One of my favorite websites for political news is RealClearPolitics. This site offers a fantastic collection of articles that spans the entire political spectrum. It has links almost daily from the Huffington Post as well as from National Review Online.

Over the course of the past several months I have found myself eschewing more and more the left-leaning political sites and favoring the right-leaning sites. (Full disclaimer: my political leanings are a mix of conservative and libertarian) There are some instances where I will just look at the source of an article or the author of an article and I will immediately dismiss it because I know what the article will say without having to read it. The rare times I catch myself reading an article on a left-leaning site is when a new author publishes on there, the title captures my attention, or I want a laugh. I am sure that many of my left-leaning friends do the same thing as me from the other side of the aisle.

I say the above because I finally stopped and asked myself why I was not reading the left-leaning sites anymore and focusing almost exclusively on the right-leaning sites. The answer hit me light a blinding flash of the obvious. It is because I am reading a collection of opinion pieces and not real news, and I don’t want to read the writings of people who bash what I believe in because it is their opinion. I ask myself why I would both reading Eugene Robinson’s analysis on a topic and come away feeling angry or upset when I could read Thomas Sowell’s analysis and come away agreeing and feeling “smarter.” This single thought helped me understand and draw my own conclusion about the current trend in news media. Too much of modern news is designed to provoke an emotion from people, and the side that provokes the emotion people want to feel is the side that does better.

Look at most any article published today that disagrees with one’s political leanings and that person will see about 15-20% of the article is fact-based or actual “news” reporting while the other 80-85% is personal opinion and analysis. If the article agrees with their political leanings, the person will see the opposite.

How did this happen? If people want to understand why politics is so polarized, maybe they should start at trying to understand this phenomenon. I understand the value of bringing people as much information as possible, but is there really enough news out there for a half-dozen 24 hour news channels to fill up every bit of their time with actual news?