Checking In: Are We Doing Okay?

The last time I wrote, Barack Obama was President.

The last time I wrote, Hillary Clinton was going to be President.

The last time I wrote, things were normal.

Now things are anything but normal.

Last night, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey found out on a television broadcast playing in the background while he was delivering remarks to a group of FBI officials. The White House said it was because of his handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“Yeah, right,” was the collective response.

Last week, House Republicans passed a bill that would lead to an estimated 24 million Americans losing health insurance. People with preexisting conditions are no longer guaranteed coverage. The Republicans said it would be better in the long run.

“Are you sure?” we asked.

Last month, the President dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan. It was necessary and it worked, they told us.

“Okay…” we raised an brow.

Last year, Donald Trump won the US Presidential Election.

“What the fuck?” was the phrase heard round the world.

The world is a different place than the last time I wrote, so I thought I’d check in. How are we all doing? Are you, like me, “considering” more than usual? Are we taking care of ourselves? Are we doing the most good that we can where we are?

Since the election, there have been a lot of discussions, at least in my sphere, of the need for more civil dialogue. We need to be able to talk to each other again. We need to be able to agree on facts and disagree on ideas. We need to consider other points of view and allow for the possibility that maybe, someone else could be right.

Let me know how you’re doing. Let me know what you’d like to consider, and maybe we can start some civil dialogue here again. I think it’s needed now more than ever.

Advertisements

Considering Orlando

Ck3Ve0CVAAA8UZLA week ago today, I woke up, like the rest of the world, to the news of Orlando. I didn’t really feel surprised. I think we’ve stopped feeling surprise at these kinds of stories. They’re happening too often. What I did feel was sad and hopeless.

We’ve become resigned to the fact that nothing will actually change after this. This semi-regular horror is just the way of the world, it seems. Our new normal.

But why is it that 1 man can kill 49 people and injure more than 50 more others and we consider that normal? That it’s semi-regular? Why can’t we fix this? Why can’t we even talk about fixing it?

That is what Senator Chris Murphy spent 15 hours talking about on the floor of the Senate Wednesday night.

At the end of his filibuster, the Senate agreed to vote on some gun control bills, aimed to stop terrorists from purchasing guns.

President Obama explained why he thought a bill like this was necessary at a PBS Town Hall just few weeks ago:

“I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I got people who we know have been on ISIL Web sites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun. This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk in to a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much — as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.”

The bill in question is being referred to as “No Fly, No Buy,” meaning that if someone is on the No-Fly List they also shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. The NRA issued its own statement on this issue this week, stating:

“The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period. Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing. If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist. At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed.”

This bill was introduced a few months ago and the argument was about due process. Many Senators were concerned about how to protect the second amendment rights of citizens who may unfairly end up on the so-called “No Buy” list, but were not actually terrorists. That seems like a healthy conversation to have: how to protect the public good while safeguarding personal freedoms.

Except they didn’t have that argument, and the bill didn’t go anywhere.

This is why we haven’t made any progress curbing gun violence. We don’t reach solutions, we drop bills. We don’t have civil debates, we stop talking. We don’t discuss our options, we ignore problems.

Since 1996, the Center for Disease Control hasn’t even been able to research gun violence or anything that could lead to gun control. Technically, President Obama lifted the research ban in 2012, shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, but fear of funding cuts from Congress meant the CDC still hasn’t conducted any gun violence research. The American Medical Association announced last Tuesday that they are calling gun violence a public health crisis and will be lobbying Congress to lift the ban on gun control research.

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on four different bills concerning background checks on gun purchases. And while it feels like a victory that these bills are being debated, the overarching assumption is that they won’t pass, and will probably die in the Senate.

I don’t know when we’re going to decide that we’ve had enough. That people’s lives are important enough to at least try to curb gun violence, to pass a bill, to do something.

At least this time, we’re having a conversation. We’re having a debate. But it would be nice, for once, to have some action.

Considering Police Shootings

As I watch the news and read the stories of the protests happening around the country last night, I can’t help but feel desperate and sad. Our country is divided on many things, but right now, we are united in feeling concern about this one thing. When the labels of black and white, thug and cop, right and wrong are stripped away, it boils down to this:

A human killed another human.

It is complicated by race and class. It is complicated further by bureaucracy and power. It is complicated further by looting and riots.The protests, the media, and the arguing are all just trying to make sense of an unnatural act. The problem is it doesn’t make sense.

So while we argue about what may or may not have happened that day, and what should and should not have happened in the days after, don’t forget:

What happened was devastatingly sad. What followed was devastatingly sad. What happened last night was devastatingly sad. Someone died, and someone killed. It is against our nature to murder each other, and yet we do it every day. There is no right, only wrong. Our society failed both the victim and the shooter.

What does it say about our culture that such a thing can happen? What does it say about our nature that we are appalled by it? What does it say about our future?

The only wrong answer is nothing.

This should mean something. The national outcry should be heard and answered. This should say something about who we were, who we are now and who we are going to be.

I fear that in all the arguing, all the rioting, and all the media, only one thing will prevail: nothing. The noises will cancel each other out, we will go about our holidays, and one day, none of this will mean anything at all, and it will all just happen again. And then, too, it will only mean nothing.

Rioting and looting isn’t the answer, that is obvious. But how do we focus all this energy into something positive? How do we make it mean anything? How do we stop failing each other?

http://www.businessinsider.com/police-militarization-ferguson-2014-8

Picture source: businessinsider.com/police-militarization-ferguson-2014-8

Considering Girls and Captain America

Sorry about the hiatus everybody. Life just got crazy and I’ve been dealing with some stuff that didn’t really leave me a lot of time to write. BUT…. I’m back! And you may have noticed I’m trying out a new look. Other than that, everything’s the same. So let’s just jump right in.

This last weekend I went and saw Captain America:. I LOVED it, but not just because it is a great movie (even though it is). Before I tell you why I loved it, let me kind of explain my thought process a little bit.

My freshman year at Utah State I took a class called Media Smarts from Prof. Brenda Cooper. This class taught me to critically analyze media for cultural assumptions. This class was simultaneously the best and worst class I took in college. It was the best because I loved every second of it.  It was the worst because it turned me into THAT person. The person who can’t just enjoy a movie, but critically analyzes every part of it.

I’ve learned to not talk about any of this out loud or else people stop wanting to see movies with me.

What I learned in that class is that you could say movies like Captain America are JUST a movie, but millions of people see blockbusters, in the opening weekend alone. They have an impact on our culture and our behavior and our assumptions about the world. They may not be real, but it’s a glimpse into the collective consciousness of our society. We can see, in our movies, our assumptions about how the world works.

For example, have you ever noticed that men are always the Superheroes and women are the damsels in distress? Most of the female leads in Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Ironman etc. are the love interest who gets kidnapped and then rescued.

And then gives weird upside-down kisses.

This brings me to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I won’t give away spoilers, but if you don’t like knowing anything about a movie before you see it, you should probably just stop reading now.

While watching Winter Soldier, I realized that of the five main heroic characters in the movie two are women, two are black men, and only one is a white guy.

Just take a second to think other action movies you’ve seen recently, and you’ll realize that this is kind of a big deal. There was no damsel in distress. Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson) beat up plenty of guys. No woman was just there to be the thing the hero is trying to save.

I think it’s important to point this out about Captain America because it shows how we are changing our assumptions about movie heroes.

Since this is Considering the Middle and I have to give at least two sides, so let me just say this: Not every movie/television show/book has to have strong female leads. Some things are just about boys. I heard some pretty compelling arguments to this point concerning the HBO Series, True Detective. 

I would also love to see a stand-alone Black Widow movie, which doesn’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility, but hasn’t been announced yet.

But girls can save the world too. And I’m just really excited at the prospect that girls can fight alongside boys equally, without romantic undertones, and fully clothed.

marvel animated GIF

And when you spend as much time thinking about the cultural undertones of movies as I do, this made Winter Soldier a pretty awesome movie to watch.

Considering KSL News Coverage

Last night I was shocked – shocked! – to hear that Utah was “almost legalizing medical marijuana,” or something like that, in KSL’s teaser for the 10:00 news.

Except they’re not.

Utah passed HB0105 that would allow families whose child has epilepsy to buy cannabis oil, or hemp oil. Hemp oil significantly decreases the amount of seizures a child has in a day. You cannot get high off of it, and  it doesn’t seem to have negative side effects. And families don’t grow weed, regardless of what all the pictures of pot planters implied.

KSL talked about how great the bill was in front of this set:

KSL

Seriously? Seriously?! Come on now. That’s just silly, KSL.

All I can figure is that they were trying to show more than one opinion. Everyone seemed to think the bill was great and not controversial, and they couldn’t find anyone who had any problems with the bill to interview. So instead, they threw marijuana leaves on the wall, showed a lot of pot plants, and compared it to legalizing marijuana. Therefore, creating controversy where there was none.

Well played, KSL, well played.

Considering Utah SB 57

Utah’s SB 57 is an Autism Insurance mandate that would make insurance companies cover behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy for children with autism. I worked on the bill 2 years ago and I’ve worked with children with autism. I just want to spend some time sorting through it.

Let’s start by talking about all the arguments against the bill.

Argument 1:”I don’t believe in insurance mandates”

Fine if you are a political pundit, but I personally think that ideologies should be checked at the door if you are a legislator. When elected, you have a responsibility to consider each situation individually and do what is best for the city/state/country.

That being said, voters reward ideology and they punish independent thinking. Mitt Romney was framed as a “flip flopper” for changing his mind based on the current situation. People get elected by saying things like “I don’t believe in insurance mandates,” and they get reelected by sticking to that ideology.

Argument 2: “Insurance companies should cover it without a mandate”

Great, but they won’t. Just like they didn’t cover diabetes, heart disease, or cancer without a mandate. Insurance companies are in the money business and the less they cover the more they make. I would love to live in a world where they’d cover an epidemic of autism’s proportions on their own, but I don’t so…. mandate please!

Argument 3: “We can’t give a handout to every group that asks for one”

First of all, this is not a handout. Families pay insurance premiums, they just want their particular medical condition covered. They aren’t asking the government to pay them anything.

Second of all, I like the fact that you don’t give money to every group petitioning for funding. If an underwater basket weaving college wants public funding, please don’t just hand it over. However, autism affects 1 in 47 children in Utah. We have the highest rate of autism in the country. Read: epidemic. This is not a fringe group. That is one child in every grade in every school in every district in Utah. And they don’t need a handout. They need their medical needs covered by insurance.

Argument 4: “We don’t have the money

Yes you do. Because you’re paying plenty in social services for people with autism. And for every child that receives treatment, they can save up to 1 million dollars per child over their lifetime.  The bill is predicted to cost 3 million dollars. The pilot program showed the bill will not cost as much as expected, so it won’t even cost 3 million. Assuming, it does somehow cost that much, you could cover 30% of the children with autism for the same cost as not treating 3-4 children. That sounds fiscally conservative to me!

Argument 5: “Small business will be forced to close because of the mandate.”

Except they won’t. 34 states that have passed the law and a Utah pilot program prove that it will not shut down small businesses. The estimated increase is $0.33  per member per month. 33 cents. A business isn’t going to close based on 33 cents.

Now, let’s go through what has happened at the capitol.

HB 88

HB 88 was a bill that extended the aforementioned pilot program. It would cover 10% of children with autism (in addition to the approximate 30% SB 57 would cover), but is a social program. It’s basically a medicaid expansion for children up to the age of seven. This bill is not bad and will help a lot of people, but how come Utah’s Republican legislature is more ready to spend more money, covering less kids by extending social programs?

SB 57 1st Substitute 

This bill should ultimately pass later this week. It’s an amended version of the original bill and instead of covering kids up to 18, it will cover kids up to 9 for roughly 12 hours of therapy a week (the recommended amount is closer to 30 hours a week). The bill kicks in in January 2016. This is what we call a compromise. 

Buzz and Woody (Toy Story) Meme meme

Passing an insurance mandate in Utah is a HUGE accomplishment. Should it really be so hard though considering how much financial, social, and common sense it makes?

The Down Side

I am currently living with an almost seven-year-old boy with autism. Once he turns seven he ages out of HB 88 and in 2016 he will almost be nine and age out of SB 57. Nothing the legislature did is helping this little boy. 

Last week, when the amendments were announced, it was a day of mourning in this home. Sure, the bill is of great historical significance, but that doesn’t help him or any other child with autism right now over the age of five. It totally and completely blows. No one is at fault except out of touch legislators and insurance companies. It’s just something that really really sucks.

What I’ve learned 

Ideology doesn’t win.

Facts and logic don’t win.

Politics moves slowly.

The people who are fighting for something are not usually the people who benefit.

But sometimes, somehow, things get done anyway.

Congratulations to everyone who helped, and will help, SB 57 become law.

Considering What’s Making me Happy

Sometimes taking a look at both sides of things can get heavy and difficult. That combined with, well, life, I’ve been a little down lately.

Today I thought I’d try a less heavy topic  like Daylight Savings Time. I don’t know if I’m just exhausted or what, but after ten minutes of research I was SO BORED.

So instead I’m watching Pitch Perfect and waiting for True Detective to start. Because that is really my life.

And then I got an idea! Every week on Pop Culture Happy Hour  they end their show with “What’s Making Us Happy.” So here are some things that are making me happy (besides Pitch Perfect and True Detective)

  • Bike ride up Provo Canyon – no picture because… I didn’t take one.
  • Billy at the Nissan Car Dealership. This super nice guy is helping me find my car. Hopefully I don’t get so screwed over this time.

  • My job. I have a real life job, guys. And I get to write/edit/blog all day, which is great.

  • My room is clean and all my laundry is done.

So this is what’s making me happy. Enjoy your week and let me know what’s making you happy!

 

Considering the Blog

This is an apology for the lack of content recently and me trying to figure out the future of the blog.

It suddenly hit me today that this blog was supposed to be a month long project in February. It’s March 8, so technically I could be done. Except February didn’t really go the way I thought it would.

I began with the best intentions of blogging almost everyday about an array of topics and people would get involved and it would become a community and everything would be peachy.

But it didn’t work like that.

Mostly because halfway through February (almost exactly) I got a job. This job consists of sitting at a computer writing blog posts all day. When I come home I have a hard time staring at a computer and writing blog posts. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it, it’s just that I haven’t figured out how.

This blog has opened up my mind to new ideas and ways of thinking and I like that. And I have been talking to people and there has been a community of sorts surrounding this blog. I thank you, the reader, for coming on the blog and following my musings. Thank you.

I’ve heard it said that it is harder to speak in front of a close group of friends than a large group of strangers. I definitely feel that here. My readership is small and mostly my Facebook friends and family. There are some heavy topics concerning religion, feminism, etc. that I would love to dive into for my own personal  reflection, but I’m not sure it would be so good for me or you. I’ve had a “rape culture” topic in the works for weeks and I can’t really figure out where to go with it.

So I’m just trying to figure it out if I keep doing the blog and keep on in the world of current events and pop culture, which is really fun. Or, do I dive into deeper personal concerns I have?

So that’s all. Not that exciting. I’m sorry I haven’t written more and I appreciate you who have read what I have written. Hopefully I figure out a good place to continue.

Considering the Oscars

Saying the Oscars are self-promoting is stating the obvious. The Oscars are all about congratulating each other on how great they are in the movies. I would say this year’s Oscars were self-promoting in a different way. This year, it felt like it was about how great everyone in the theater is compared to everyone else in the world. I’ll try and consider the argument and counter argument about this point.

The Theme

First of all, the theme of the night was “Heroes in Movies.” Yes, movie stars often portray heroes, and bring stories to light that we, as the public, may not otherwise know. (See: 12 Years a Slave). Does that mean they deserve a whole montage dedicated to their heroism? Maybe not.

Counterargument: The people portrayed in the montage were heroes to the people sitting in the theater. Audience members used to think they wanted to grow up to be the people in the montage. So, yes I could see how they would be seen as heroes to those people.

Pizza and Selfies

Is it a little presumptuous that producers thought the most entertaining thing for viewers would be watching actors take a selfie and eat pizza? Unless you were sitting in the first three rows of the Dolby Theatre last night, there was no entertainment. Really, not one dance number, Ellen?

Counterargument: It was kind of funny – and we broke a Twitter record.

Women? Women?

My social media was annoyed with the lack of women in the “Heroes” montages. So many men and so few women!

Counterargument: Men have most of the hero roles in movies, even now. The fact that Cate Blanchett felt the need to point out in her speech that movies with strong female leads were not “niche” films, but movies people want to see speaks to the current state of the industry.

Also:

  • For the first year ever both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards were hosted by women.
  • We didn’t have to endure a “We Saw Your Boobs” song.
  • The Winner for Best Animated Feature, Best Original Song, Best Actress, every technical award Gravity won, and Best Documentary were all movies principally about a woman.

Progress. Slow and painful progress. But progress.

Best Picture Winner

YES YES YES YES YES!!!  This fact makes most of the past transgressions forgivable.

The last few years with The Artist and Argo, the Academy has chosen movies about movies and how great they are. It’s the epitome of self-promoting behavior. For that reason, I guessed  Gravity as Best Picture because I thought it did the best job at showcasing how wonderful movies are. I’m so glad I was wrong!

12 Years a Slave was a much more important movie, a much better script, and a really well made film. I’m so happy it won.

And so is Steve McQueen.

Considering Arizona LGBT Bill

All over my news feed is discussion about Arizona’s LGBT legislation. This legislation would let business owners use religious beliefs to refuse serving an LGBT individual.

Supporters of this bill claim that refusing service is religious freedom. Critics say it is legalizing discrimination. What’s in the middle of religious freedom and discrimination?

My first question was regarding signs I often see outside of businesses that say “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” What makes Arizona’s legislation necessary if business owners can refuse service? The Federal Civil Rights Act does. Legalzoom.com explains that it “guarantees all people the right to ‘full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.'”

Basically, a business owner can refuse service for arbitrary reasons, but refusing service based on a customer’s identity is illegal. A flower shop owner or baker cannot simply refuse an order for a wedding based on the sexual orientation of the couple. Arizona’s bill, that passed the legislature and is waiting Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature or veto, would allow a business to use religion as a reason to refuse service.

Outside of Arizona, there is vocal opposition against the law. The tech company Apple, which was planning to build a sapphire glass plant in the state, urged Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill claiming it could seriously damage the economy. American Airlines and Marriot hotels also came out in opposition of the bill. The Super Bowl, which is supposed to take place in Arizona next year, may be in jeopardy. Now, leaders of the national GOP are urging Gov. Brewer to veto.

I think my Senator, Orrin Hatch’s confused comment in a Politico argument about the GOP shows how confusing the issue is:

“This is one of the societal issues that has to be resolved. I do believe states should be able to decide things for themselves, I do believe that that’s the constitutional way of handling these matters. And the states that want to go a certain way have a right to do so.”

But, Hatch added: “I don’t think we should have discrimination anyway. On the other hand, I think there’s a legitimate question raised about whether businesses have to conform to certain moral standards they disagree with. I think it’s a real important pivotal issue, and I don’t know how to resolve it, honestly.”

The question is whether baking a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding is making the owner “conform to a certain moral standard they disagree with.” Standing up for beliefs is often an important part of a person’s religious experience. I can understand how participating in that ceremony may make a religious person feel as though they are forced to support something they find morally objectionable.

I found it interesting that Marriot opposed the bill since JW Marriot, Jr., Chairman of the Board, is Mormon. Marriot’s religion does not support gay marriage, but his hotels are still open to gay people, as well as plenty of other people who practice a whole myriad of objectionable acts in the eyes of the LDS church.

For example, does allowing unmarried couples reserve rooms mean Marriot supports pre-marital sex?

There’s never been a reason to think that businesses can control their customers’ identities and behaviors. If you want to open a business, you open it up for everyone in the area and hope they come and spend their money.

There needs to be an understanding that just because you own a business that sometimes serves people who don’t believe the same things you do, does not mean you support every action of a customer’s. I think once that is understood, the discomfort and objection will disappear.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Like Considering the Middle on Facebook and Twitter