A farewell to norms

I do this thing sometimes where I try to pause and take in my surroundings. The basic idea is that I’m trying to appreciate the moment with the knowledge that I am living in my own past, and if I focus, then I can maybe upgrade a memory to high definition.

This whole thing might sound like borderline pretentious behavior, but I think there is some defense in the fact that I’ve been doing this off and on for nearly a decade, and have only spoken of it briefly during two intimate moments.

So, if you’re reading this, then you’re basically like my girlfriend now. You’re welcome, internet.

I’m writing about this because I’ve been doing this a lot more lately. Next month I’ll be moving to Massachusetts after living in south-east Alabama for the majority of my 27.5 years.

It’s a big, risky jump and uncharacteristic of me; nearly as uncharacteristic as me volunteering personal information about myself through my writing.

In the news recently, I saw a story about a 100-year-old time capsule.

For a split second I started to wonder what people 100 years from now would think of a time capsule planted today. Then it occurred to me how much we’ve saturated our modern life in self-documentation, and, as a result, opening a time capsule probably isn’t going to have the same allure in the future.

Then I read a story about my old high school being demolished. Not that I am particularly attached to the school, but I am a bit of a sentimentalist. I’ve always found it neat to revisit things from my past, and now that option for part of my past no longer exists.

Everything mentioned so far in this entry converged with the fact that my blog assignment this week is to make a video and I decided it might be neat to create a visual preservation of the university I am about to leave behind.

Initially I had planned to record a voice track for the video. Rather than annoy future me or any others that watch this, I opted to include an instrumental version of Modest Mouse’s “Float On,” a song that is both fitting and approaching ten years old.

If you decide to watch this today, then I don’t suspect it will bring you much, if any, enjoyment.

For best results, try saving this page in your bookmarks and checking back in 50 years.

The Myth of the Good Ol’ Days

With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, and its ability to push high-profile case after high-profile case to the front of our collective conscious, it is no wonder that one age-old fear feels more well-founded than ever: Being alive today is less safe than is used to be.

If one considers only the seemingly never-ending deluge of mass violence and sensationalized tragedies, then the case would seem open and shut. But is it really?

A look at the numbers reveals that no matter how many heart-sinking acts of violence swallow up news coverage, it isn’t enough to topple realistic, statistical trends. Only if we mistake prominence for prevalence does the claim that things are worse make sense.

Statistics released by the FBI show violent crime rates are at near-historic lows. Property crime has dropped by 30.6 percent since 1991. Violent crime, which includes murder, rape, robbery and assault, has fallen by 38 percent since 1992.

Homicide rates are currently at a 40-year low, and nearly as low as they have been in the last century, and less than half than what the rates were at the highest point.

murderratesImage Source

I can only think of two ways that being alive today is realistically worse than it was 50 or 100 years ago.

  1. Acts of mass murder are more common, according to University of Alabama criminologist Dr. Adam Lankford.

    “Counting only random mass murders with at least two casualties, Lankford found that 179 such crimes occurred between 1966 and 2010, an average rate of 3.97 per year. From 1966 to 1980, there were 20 mass killings for a rate of 0.75 per year, but in the 1980s the rate doubled to 1.8 per year, tripled in the 1990s to 5.4, and went up 160% in the 2000s to 8.7 per year. The rate could easily reach 10 per year during the present decade. If one counts attempted mass murders, the rate is about 26 per year.”
    – Matt Bewig (AllGov.com)

  2. One’s personal tragedy is drastically more open to a national audience of nosy onlookers’ rubbernecking.

Liberty = fascism

Liberty is the new fascism, or at least in can be insofar as serving as an impediment to reasonable discourse.

I came across a gem, on an online discussion board, which I feel  illustrates the roadblock to reason posed by the liberto-fascist faithful. “The main point is that life is inherently unsafe. Anything could happen at any time, so we shouldn’t actively impair our liberty just for the sake of seeing another day,” the fearless defender of liberty asserts!

Such a claim is unreasonable, to say the least. As romantic as it may sound and feel to demand a life with full liberty or no life at all, it’s still an uniquely unreasonable position to take.

The very existence of government is an encroachment on the concept of absolute liberty(as if it were something that is realistically obtainable, or even existent.)

Even Benjamin Franklin, one of the supposed fathers of this line of thinking, differentiated between “essential liberty” and the lesser liberties, which could be reasonably exchanged for security.

There are reasonable trade-offs we make with liberty for security. A stiff-lipped demand for more or maintained liberty is as equally unreasonable as this panicked clamor for accepting tyranny in pursuit of absolute security that so many defenders of liberty pretend to hear.

There is a damn fine reason why bomb attacks aren’t more common, and it has a lot to do with far more dangerous materials being either regulated or restricted.

Imagine for a moment that bombs of all varieties of potential devastation were freely available for purchase. Can anyone realistically say that these tragedies would not be more prone to occur?

Chances are good that anyone politically engaged knows someone apt to make romantic appeals to liberty when discussing policy. One would expect those who find regulation so insufferable to lead the charge in rolling back existing safety policies, regardless of success rates. One would expect this, and there are indeed those people, but they are much rarer finds.

The truth of the matter is that, despite their cries for liberty, these people yield to a realistic preference for security when it comes down to it.

Few truly want to live in a society so full of liberty that it is devoid of security, and vice versa. Appeals to liberty, such as the one being discussed, are every bit as emotional as appeals to fear for a security policy. This is because at its root an appeal to liberty it is an appeal to fear.

There are valuable contributions to be made by people who claim to find extra value in liberty. However, many must reconcile their differences with others as a matter of degree, rather than principle, if honest, constructive dialogue is what they desire.

Compassion and proximity

The Boston Marathon Bombing, or whatever name history will eventually give it, happened just a few hours ago.

I know and feel that it is a tragedy. I also know and feel, like a friend pointed out on social media, that people around the world routinely experience similar anguish in the name of the same security we felt was violated today.

He was, and I now am, speaking of our country’s policy of drone warfare. Yes, I understand that this policy’s intention is to increase our security.

But what difference does our rationale make to the innocents wounded and ended, or their families? Is that anguish anything less than what our fellow citizens today have experienced? A good case could be made that the fear experienced by those living in the regions where targeting often occurs is markedly worse.

I say this not because I believe the experience of the Boston bombing victims is not worthy of lament by comparison.

And I’m saying all this as a matter of self-introspection more than as a questioning of everyone else.

Today’s bombings made me emotional. And by that euphemism, I mean I got choked up and my eyes did this watery, on-the-verge-of-tears thing they sometimes do when I experience empathy.

I could pawn this supposedly emasculating behavior off on a heightened sense of concern because my girlfriend attends school in Boston, or the fact that I am poised to move to the area late next month, but the truth is I’m something of an empathetic Olympian.

Despite my bleeding, Herculean heart, I have not experienced this level empathy about drone victims, even though reason seems to dictate to me that I would have more justification in doing so.

As much as I do care about the innocent victims of drone strikes, there is some relatable quality possessed by the victims in Boston.

It brings to mind a quote by Mark Zuckerberg, though the quote isn’t 100 percent equivocal to the scenario: “A squirrel dying In your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

Is it proximity? I think so, but not necessarily all geographical. I’m thinking culturally. No matter how much I’d prefer to be above it, it makes sense that I would find more in common with fellow Americans than a group of people whom I may understand, but could never know.

This realization is disheartening in two ways. Firstly, it undermines my own self-perception of objective humanitarian interest.

Secondly, this new self-perception makes whatever level of humanitarian interest I have for these people seem like a cause even more lost when promoting it to those whom are already generally unconcerned with this results of our foreign policy.

Fox News contributor Erick Erickson enjoys MSNBC when he is not being an ideologue

Erick Erickson, FOX News commentator, radio host and editor and chief of redstate.com, professed his undying love for MSNBC at symposium held at Troy University on Friday.

Actually, that was a blatant overstatement, which I felt was appropriate given Erickson’s professional history.

For the last two weeks I had been familiarizing myself with Ericksons incite-full body of work, and had prepared myself for a deluge of nastiness.

I think I had a few reasons to believe that was a possibility. Allow me to give you the short list of his—his finer moments in nastiness.

But I also had reason to believe that reason was lurking amongst the dark, dark shadows of his thoughts.  This reason can be witnessed when he speaks about how the conservative anger is perceived by those outside the conservative bubble.

“I think conservative media is failing to advance ideas and stories…  The echo in the chamber has gotten so loud it is not well understood outside the echo chamber in the mainstream press and in the public. It translates only as anger and noise, neither of which are conducive to the art of persuasion.”

This might have been a good sign of a turning point in his career and a move towards fostering reasonable dialogue, but within the weeks following the statement he had already made the statement  from above about the pope, as well as alienated libertarians by calling them smug in regards to their views on same-sex marriage.

For a man that has proven himself cognizant of what techniques are persuasive, it appears he has no interest in practicing those techniques. I suppose it’s a case of “do as I say, and not as I do.”

Curious to dig deeper into his ability to discern what reasonable dialogue is, and what is not, I formulated a question to prod his brain.

It’s a very complex and well thought out question, so prepare yourself.

The question:

“Who do you believe are good representatives of reasonable dialogue?”

I was astounded as four of the people that he named are also people I’d consider reasonable: George Will, Joe Scarborough, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes.

I know the list was just off the top of his head, but I found it  interesting  that three of the five people he named were MSNBC hosts. He also named CNN’s Paul Begala.

I found myself impressed, but after I had more time to think about it, the more it upset me.

His picks indicate to me, quite clearly, that he understands what is reasonable. Therefore he should be capable of conduct himself reasonably and without these incendiary incidents.

I have thought of an analogy for the way this experience made me feel.

Imagine you have a misbehaving child. You can be frustrated with the child, but at the end of the day you can reconcile that the child is behaving as a child.

If one day you were to discover the child had the capacity of an adult all along, then the behavior becomes something wholly inexcusable.