Life

Rights and Privilege

I watched our world for the last couple of weeks and have tried to think about where logic and reason reside. The issues of society are present on every front. Masks, protests, riots, politics, violence. What do I offer my children as cliff notes and guidance for the heavy issues of the day? How do we explain how people commit such callous evil towards one another? How do we talk about equality and equal protection under the law?

I started with the privileges and biases. Privileges exist on several fronts but there are four that we deal with most often.

  1. Men are assumed to be stronger, smarter, or more capable than women. Ask any women wandering a car lot or perusing a power tool section in Lowes if they see any difference in the way men are approached by a sales associate. I’ve watched it. It is real. I prep my girls to confront this head-on and challenge the notion that they can’t do anything because they are “just a girl”. The default advantage is often given to men so this is male privilege. This is why we have women’s right discussions. I’m not a woman but I support equal rights.
  2. We also talk about sexual preference and gender identity. We discuss how these are personal things that only require your opinion if they involve you. If someone tells you their name is Eric then that is their name. We don’t get to tell people how to feel/love and sharing our opinion when we weren’t asked isn’t helpful either. The only people who are never really hassled or forced to talk through their choice in partner are people in a heterosexual relationship. I would imagine this equates to straight privilege. This is why we have pride month. I’m not gay but I support equal rights.
  3. In countless studies and cases about bias and racism the results have shown time and time again that a societal/systemic bias against people of color exists. This is one of the most dangerous topics to discuss within the white community because it causes defensive reactions and mental fatigue. Most people start quoting stats about crime or murder or how many friends they have who meet the criteria to prove that they are most definitely not racist. But that is missing the point. We grew up in a system with a prepackaged point of view. Racism as an institution. I heard a discussion the other day about which is better, a dog or a cat? The author suggested it must be dogs because the highest compliment for a cat is “it acts like a dog”. That is funny for animals but I have heard analogs of this idea for people and that is horrifying. Chris Rock comes to mind and his bit about how white people talked about General Colin Powell; he speaks so well. There is an unsubtle subtext to that idea; that an educated and well-traveled man and who is also a seasoned veteran and a fucking world leader was most accomplished for his integration to the English language. He’s such a good cat that he’s basically a dog. That is racism. It’s not the hate but the assumptions of a limited capacity or lower bar that is most sinister. The idea that skin tells you anything useful about someone. The most dangerous iteration of racism is the idea that a black man, all other things being equal, is more dangerous than any other man that you will encounter. This translates to more aggressive and violent treatment of black men by authority figures. I don’t generally worry about life threatening assumptions being made by an officer in a traffic stop on the basis of my white skin. That is white privilege. It doesn’t mean my life is easy, it just means the world’s default opinion of me doesn’t make it harder. This is why Black Lives Matter exists. I’m not black but I support equal rights.
  4. There is a fourth privilege that exists and that is the privilege of authority. Authority is given latitude and freedom that regular citizens do not enjoy. Authority it the essence of privilege. That is just true. Policemen and policewomen can disregard traffic laws and perform other functions necessary to their jobs that would be a blatant violation of law for anyone else. This is a necessary part of law enforcement. The problem comes in when authorities start to feel like this exemption applies all the time and to everything they do. Boundaries get pushed and co-workers let little things slide to avoid discomfort at work. Before long, there are gross violations that don’t seem out of the ordinary for the people in authority. Entire teams and departments run the risk of becoming complicit in an evil that few men would perpetrate on their own. It’s mob mentality when the mob is given an exemption or a blind eye. A relevant quote on authority, “Be careful at the laws you make because there are none so minor that authority won’t kill you to enforce it.” I think that is power privilege. I’m not oppressed by authority but I support equal rights.

We don’t have to be part of a group to support equal rights. We don’t even have to understand a different point of view. We can start with the basic knowledge that all humans should share the same basic rights. That is that what our America should stand for, equal opportunity in an equitable system.

It’s my favorite part of the pledge; Liberty and Justice for All.

If you are already exhausted by 2020 this post is for you. It’s only halfway over so buckle up. Be kind to each other. Remember that two things can be true at once and not every choice or opinion should be about supporting your chosen team. Think for yourself and when in doubt, choose with love not hate. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

ps. Happy Pride Month!

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The Emperors New Virus

So how long until we can ask if everyone has lost their fucking minds?

Another week?

Another month?

Let me set out my logic early so you can decide beforehand if you agree or disagree without having to read a lot of words and then going through the pain and stress of rationalizing your opinion.

 

  • Closing shop for a short time was a good move. We knew very little about the virus and there were some very serious implications around it that would have dire consequences.

 

  • We can’t stay closed forever. That part should be obvious. The reason that we enjoy civilized life is because of how specialized and connected we are. That is already at risk and staying in the cave longer just pushes it that much closer.

 

  • People demonstrated to be at-risk should be our utmost priority. They should be protected and not forced into any kind of return to licking doorknobs.

 

  • Our president didn’t suggest injecting disinfectants. Not directly. But he did look over to his advisers with a twinkle of hope in his eye and ask questions about if it was a viable solution and that should be scary enough. It was not sarcasm. Most of his statements could be made around a watercooler with a close friend as small talk and they would giggle and say “man that old Donny T is crazy”. Most of his statements are not exemplary testaments to strong and powerful leadership at the Presidential level.

 

  • We are obsessed with death models and that keeps us from asking the right questions. I click on the CDC link at least twice a day. It’s a train wreck rubberneck reaction. How bad will it get. Morbid curiosity. But it isn’t the only decision tool. And it is related to testing which has been shown repeatedly to underestimate actual infections. This has been likened to a war. Battle decisions aren’t made on death toll alone. They include strategic advantage.

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  • Our political parties are confused. We have the party of individual rights and freedom mandating private businesses to close. We have the party of socialism raising up individual safety as a reason for the herd to sacrifice. I’m not picking a side but you have to admit it is weird. I don’t blame them. I’m confused by this mess too.
  • The reason for flattening the curve was the objective of not overwhelming our healthcare. It was never intended to get back to normal life more quickly. If we wanted to get through this quickly we would put everyone in the same room and have a virus sharing party. Everyone share beverages and cough in each other’s faces. We would be done with it in 21 days. Disastrously, but true enough. This rollback was a move to avoid the situation in Italy where people were turned away and left to die. We’ve blunted the curve but we are at the other end of the spectrum, healthcare workers are being furloughed and fired because nothing is happening. We are now losing healthcare capacity from an action with the sole intent to protect healthcare capacity.

So those are the facts that fuel my thinking. If we are misaligned then don’t bother correcting me because I am just as hard headed as you and we will just waste energy in a comment section. If all that makes some little bit of sense and you can tolerate it as a base of discussion then let’s move to the next half.

 

  • We are not seeing the right numbers on actual infections, transmissivity, and mortality. The testing has not materialized and we are operating under the Italy assumption; the idea that mass death and chaos will ensue. All the while we are getting hints that infections are way more prevalent and that this has been here since maybe November of last year. For the purpose of the final question let’s assume these mortality and transmission numbers come out somewhere around a bad seasonal flu.

 

  • Some experts are suggesting that a vaccine for a corona virus is a pipe dream that has been tried for many years with no success in sight. It is the common cold. This is a deadly strain. Should we still pursue it? Absolutely. But I would like some reality conveyed to the masses about just how likely it will be to create one. For the purpose of the final question let’s assume this answer is something longer than two years to create one.

 

  • The media thrives on controversy and sensationalism and breaking news. Hopefully that is recognized as fact. Take all of the news with a grain of salt. When the lead headline of the day was fear about a second wave next fall I tried to find what they were basing it on. It was an interview in the Washington Post. The guy said that this virus will likely be seasonal and would likely coincide with flu season along with colds and a hundred other things. From that statement we got a day full of dire warnings about a second wave killing millions. Maybe it is true but we are struggling to assess the present situation. It seems irresponsible to start freaking out about the future. But for the sake of my final question let’s assume they are right and this is an annual event.

 

So… if everyone will catch this thing over some time period, we have no prospect of a vaccine, and this will happen annually in a seasonal pattern. Why are we crushing our economy, our healthcare capacity, and dismantling our way of life?

Its because we have a risk-averse culture who believes that no matter what something must be done. Safety first.

Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is nothing at all.

So here is my final question that I ask myself every morning…

What the fuck are we doing?

It looks like panic and it needs to stop. But it won’t. No one will put their neck on the line because you can’t prove what didn’t happen and safety is the safest thing. More infections will mean more death and no one wants that hanging over their head but in the end it may well be the lesser evil.

I’ll add a caveat that if a vaccine is on the horizon and/or if the true mortality rate is 1-3% or higher and if I’m wrong about the overall current stress on the healthcare system then we are doing the right thing but I don’t know that we-the-people are seeing the data to make that decision. And we should be involved in that decision. The two things that are rampant in government are tedium and micromanagement. The desire to control every single decision along a flow chart because the general public is considered too stupid to do the right thing.

This whole ride is a daily rollercoaster. I suspect that right and wrong decisions are an illusion because we are where we are and we’ve done what we’ve done. And what we do next won’t hinge on anything you or I think. I’ve never been so unsure and internally divided on an issue.

So, if you were trolling the internet for a random person’s internal dialogue and misguided opinions, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Share with caution. I could be a ten-year-old in Taiwan for all you know. It’s the internet. Anything is possible.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Bakers Dozen Jane

I often wish that I could take a new understanding that I get from watching my kids and bottle it up and then pour it into their head. To show them what I see.

This weekend we welcomed Jane into the realm of the teenager. I haven’t been ready for the past thirteen years and I’m still not. The things I have taught her over these years could fit in a small pamphlet but the things she has taught me have helped fill me out as a person, on the inside. Doughnuts have helped me fill out as a person on the outside. I’ve had to wrestle with myself on what I believe and how I want to be seen in the eyes of others. I’ve softened how I interact with the world. We have learned to support the underdogs and enjoy the weird things in life. I’m definitely a better person because of her.

Several years ago she wanted to draw something. If I remember correctly it was horses. We had discussions on art and her frustrations with not being able to draw the thing that she had in her mind. I told her the secret that I wish someone had told me, “No one is naturally good at anything but peeing and pooping and everything else is learned.”

Everything. Else. Is. Learned.

When you drop out of the womb you learn to breath air. You learn to nurse to get food. You learn to cry with the new air in your lungs and you learn to enjoy human contact. Babies aren’t born with the ability to talk or sing or dance or draw. Somewhere along the way we try these things and mostly suck at it. Babies are terrible at almost anything but undeterred by anything. That is the magic of babies. They will try to the point of injury to do the thing that cannot yet be done.

I told Jane to keep drawing. To take one thing and draw it really well. Learn why it looks like this or that. Practice shading. Practice shapes. Draw the same damn horse five million times. Use every sheet of paper and all of your markers to make a pile of terrible drawings. Then take the things you like and put them together in a new drawing. Throw the rest away. Keeping doing it. Practice with anything that you might ever want to draw. Then one day, you will look up from the scribbled bodies strewn around your floor and you will realize not only can you draw but you are an artist.

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She has been into drawing Anime characters in the latest drawing phase. She is an excellent artist. She has found several apps that help develop the drawing process and shading and even time-lapse her work.  She has even started teacher her sisters some art basics.

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I fancied myself an artist back in the day but I wasn’t nearly as talented.

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Jane has always made me proud. She has always known what she liked and been brave enough to be herself. From an unprompted Lord of the Rings fandom to making more money that I expected from competitive goat showing, Jane is always chasing a new passion.

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She always looks to me to smile or give a thumbs up of approval. She brings her drawings to me when she finishes and I always take a picture on my phone. I have a running record.

The truth in a bottle that I would love to pour into her head is that we are both seeking each other’s approval. I want to be sure that I am a good father and she wants to be sure that she meets my approval as a daughter. The funny part is that as long as we are both trying our best, the other will never be disappointed.

I hope that the next thirteen years are just as fun and interesting and amazing as the last round.

Happy Birthday Jane!

If you have kids growing up way too fast, this post is for you. You’re welcome. All of my kids are awesome but they weren’t all born on the same day so this one is for Jane.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Life Lessons

Check on your teacher friends. They are having a rough one today. School closures were extended through the end of the semester.

I don’t want to kick off with the wrong tone but I recall a specific feeling from my younger years. I lost a friend unexpectedly and it was surreal until the funeral. Until that moment there was an outside chance that the hanging dread would turn out to be pointless anxiety. There was a finality in the ceremony that made the truth feel real. It gave me permission to accept reality and to grieve.

At the risk of being hyperbolic, today had a similar dark and final feeling. Our state cancelled the rest of the semester and children will likely report to their next grade level in the Fall. In a moment, the kids and their teachers experienced a sudden loss of hope. Hope that things would return and maybe they would get a few weeks with this class before sending them off to their next adventure. A change to say goodbye.

We will probably all joke about getting extra long spring breaks or some other nonsense. I’ve already made a joke about saving money on laundry detergent and school uniforms. It is to cover the raw feeling that life is a little different and there is another thing that can’t be undone.

There are friendships and relationships that are gone. Social networks that exist only at work and at school. There are burdens being carried by parents that they are unprepared to carry. We are scrambling to schedule zoom and log in to the correct remote learning apps. Six of us in my house all doing something internet or phone call related.

Uncertainty is eating at all of us. Sometimes it bubbles out as bold exclamations that “we can’t keep this up forever!”. Sometimes it is denial and I hear things like, “This is an overreaction!”. Some call it supernatural. Some call it sinister. Who knows. We all cope in different ways. I try to take note.

For the teachers I’ve watched, the reactions are just as varied. I’ve seen some try to maintain sanity and community through light-hearted hang-outs. Making sure that middle school kids in the prime of social butterfly timeline have a chance to poke fun and crack jokes. I’ve seen some pour their hearts into personalized effort for each and every student. I’ve watched some take to Facebook Live and YouTube to create content that makes the students feel like they are close to the teachers they love. Sometimes as simple as reading a book. Others are working to keep up requirements and assignments and try to keep some structure for the students. To give them a point of focus and a goal for the day.  I’ve not seen a single teacher throw up their hands. They have continued on doing different things because of what they have in common. They love the children they teacher.

I know that the decision to stay home for the rest of the school year was not made lightly. There were tears shed in our house. Not just because Supermom just got a job as a teacher in four grade levels. We shared a minute of sadness. I just wanted to take that minute and capture it in time to acknowledge that we lost the most precious thing we have as people; time with one another. Shared experience.

Seniors are missing their milestones of graduation and prom. I imagine everyone posting graduation memories isn’t super helpful for their mood but it highlights the emotional energy that we put into our memories. There are weddings and reunions and hundreds of other social gatherings that fell victim to COVID-19. That’s just the way it is. We will get back to normal sometime but we will remember the ghost-of-before.

If you are feeling a little down again today, this post is for you. Me too. It happens. This probably wasn’t all that helpful but you’re welcome. Tomorrow is a new one and we will wake up and look ahead.

To the teachers… THANK YOU! And we feel you. I’m sure I will see you from the background of a zoom call but if not, I’ll see you around in the fall. Until then, don’t lick any doorknobs in public places.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Ah-Sen-Chuel

Our hometown has a stay-at-home order. Most hometowns have a stay-at-home order. Safer at home. Shelter in place. Quarantine. Humans telling other humans what to do to keep the virus from spreading. Then the second group of humans feels confined or chided by the first group so they buck the trends. They stretch the truth. They shelter in cars on the road around other second group humans. Doing important things. Critical things. Essential… things.

Essential activities start to expand at the edge of hypothetical where it meets hyperbole.


I need food to live.

True.

I don’t have food in my hand.

True.

Chicken sandwiches are food.

Still true.

Food is essential.

I like where this is going.

Chic-Fil-A is essential.

Boom. Masterful.

 


ACT ONE

 

Me: Give me a sweet tea, twelve piece nugget, large waffle fry, and one Polynesian and one Ranch.

Peppy 17-year-old Taking My Order Curbside: Large fry only or large size the whole order?

Me: Excellent catch. I see why they hired you. Large size the whole combo.

Peppy 17-year-old Smiling So Hard His Eyes Are Squeezed Shut: My pleasure.

Me: *Teleports to the end of the line and finds my order in the seat beside me and my shoulders feeling relaxed from a massage that I can’t recall ever happening.*

 


ACT TWO

I’ve been to Target.

Essential. Life or death shit.

Stop three on my first day of house arrest. I am walking back to my car that is black but somehow yellow from the solid layer of pollen. It should have bees having a bee orgy and snorting up that sweet yellow powder like Tony Montana did on his desk. Instead there is one lonely wasp directly on the driver’s door. Probably hogging all of the proboscis candy to himself.

My hands are full of essential Easter gear that we ordered online. I am wearing my daughter’s sunglasses that are two grey circles that make me look like a steam punk villain. My oversized blue t-shirt with a yeti in a sweater that says “Yeti to Party!” really outweighs the sunglasses. As I approached the car pondering what to do, the wasp had his own agenda. SCHINNGG. He whipped out his razor wings and slid his attack flight goggles in to place. I barely had time to react as he launched towards me with intent to kill. I swung my bags of candy and Easter baskets. I retreated and circled the car and bought just enough time to leap in the driver’s side. The wasp bounced against the window for a few minutes as I sat back and let my heart regain a normal rhythm. The panic fog cleared from my eyes and I reached for my hand sanitizer. As I rubbed it in on my already dry hands I notice a young couple across the aisle. They had a good laugh at my assault and I realize the absurdity of the whole thing. I went shopping in a funny tshirt that I had on for two days wearing children’s sunglasses and fought a wasp in the Target parking lot and my hands smell like Christmas Cupcake because I stole this sanitizer off my kids backpacks that they probably aren’t using again this year. My sweet bakery aroma probably attracted the damn wasp.

What am I doing with my life? Has it come to this?

Time to head home relax so I can be prepared to not do anything tomorrow.

Exhausting.

You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.