bookmark_borderThanksgiving thoughts

It has been a dark and demoralizing couple of years. The things that I value most – individual rights, liberty, history, tolerance, and diversity – have been under attack in various ways across the country and world. But there are a few signs of hope, indicating that possibly, just maybe, the tide might have begun to turn. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things that I am thankful for:

The Christopher Columbus statue in Fairfield, NJ

The vicious campaign against Christopher Columbus over the past year and a half has been nothing short of sickening. At the hands of intolerant mobs of protesters and equally intolerant politicians, statues of the brave explorer have been torn down and in some cases violently destroyed, his name has been erased from schools and other places, and his holiday has been obliterated. However, defying this horrible trend, the town of Fairfield, New Jersey unveiled a brand new statue of Columbus on October 9, 2021. The statue, located outside the Hollywood Avenue Recreation Center, was commissioned by the Fairfield chapter of UNICO and was unveiled at a ceremony featuring pro-Columbus speeches by the mayor and other Italian-American leaders. Recent events have been so demoralizing that I believed another Columbus statue would never again be created, and that the only possible outcome was for the number of statues to inevitably decrease bit by bit until it reached zero. The brave decision to create a new statue of Columbus gives me hope. 

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bookmark_borderA riot is the language of the unheard

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Watching and reading news coverage and social media posts about the pro-Trump protests at the Capitol has been enormously stressful, infuriating, heartbreaking, upsetting, and exhausting. It is not the actions of the protesters that make me feel these emotions; it is the attitudes and opinions expressed by journalists, commentators, authors, politicians, and society as a whole. The protesters did nothing wrong, and their actions are understandable and justified. Their treatment by the media and society is utterly appalling in its harshness, cruelty, hypocrisy, and inconsistency. 

People who believe in freedom, liberty, and individual rights are angry. And we have a right to be angry. We have been trampled on for a long time. Our income has been stolen by excessive and unjust taxation, our right to make our own medical decisions is under constant assault, privacy rights are essentially non-existent, we are not allowed to board an airplane without passing through a full-body scanner, and even our freedom to leave our houses and move about in the world has been taken away with the advent of a novel virus. And then the Black Lives Matter movement decided to start burning down our businesses, banning our flags, destroying irreplaceable, beautiful statues of the historical figures we love, and, adding insult to injury, claiming that they truly are the ones being trampled on and that we are the oppressors.

When someone is trampled on, he or she becomes angry, and justifiably so. We have protested peacefully again and again. We have explained our views civilly. But no one listened. Our concerns were dismissed as the whining of entitled, privileged crybabies, and the fact that we had the audacity to complain at all was used as evidence that we were selfish jerks. We have been called white supremacists, misogynists, xenophobes, and “deplorables” and been accused of “bitterly clinging” to the things that we value. When we have objected to these characterizations, our objections have been taken as evidence of our “white fragility,” and when we point out that this is racist, this is taken as further evidence of how fragile we are. When one is ridiculed, mocked, and dismissed again and again, one becomes increasingly angry, frustrated, and exhausted. The more angry and exhausted one becomes, the less able one becomes to express one’s views in a measured and articulate manner. And as we become less and less articulate in expressing our views, society takes our lack of articulateness as further evidence that we are are boorish, irrational jerks and ridicules and mocks us even more harshly. The cycle continues, with supporters of individual liberty becoming more and more angry and the rest of society insulting us with increasing nastiness and brutality. The injustice of this situation is overwhelming. It becomes nearly impossible to express oneself eloquently or constructively. When people are treated this way, what happened at the Capitol is the logical result. 

And now, the actions of the Trump supporters at the Capitol have been swiftly, completely, universally, and brutally condemned, used as yet further evidence to impugn the character of all conservatives and libertarians. Anchors and reporters on national news networks call us disgraceful, deplorable, disgusting, sickening, buffoons, idiots, thugs, traitors, domestic terrorists. The terms “riot,” “Trump mob,” “insurrection,” and “coup attempt” are used as if they are non-controversial, neutral descriptors. All over social media, people complain about the devastation, sadness, and even nausea and tears that they experienced while watching the protest. The condemnation infiltrates even areas of life that should have nothing to do with politics: commentators during basketball and football games have called the protesters “terrorists” and decried the “violent riot;” teams have put forth statements alleging that the protesters were treated too leniently by law enforcement; articles on psychology websites speculate about what type of mental disorder could explain the protesters’ behavior; and a speaker during a history lecture that I attended pontificated about how everyone is “saddened and shaken” by the “assault on our democracy.” No attempt whatsoever is made to understand where the protesters are coming from, why they felt so angry and unheard, or why they decided that such drastic action was their best option. 

Making this societal reaction even more inappropriate is the complete lack of proportionality when compared with society’s reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests. The widespread looting, destruction, arson, vandalism, and violence committed by members of the BLM movement had almost no impact on society’s perception of the movement as a whole. The media described those protests not only as mostly peaceful, but also as brave, noble, heroic, and necessary. Countless brands, celebrities, athletes, and all four major sports leagues issued statements in support of the movement. The cruel and barbaric destruction of historical statues and the damage done to business owners were dismissed as unimportant. Almost no one was punished for these despicable acts, and in many cases local governments actually rewarded the perpetrators by removing the victimized statues. Essentially, the way that it seems to work is that when someone on our side does something illegal or violent, everyone on our side is punished. And when someone on the other side does something illegal or violent, everyone on our side is punished. Those who support individual liberty are characterized by the insulting (and sexist and racist) stereotype of the entitled, irrationally aggrieved white male, while the grievances of members of the BLM movement are portrayed as justified and understandable. Never were any leaders of the BLM movement asked to disavow the violent or destructive actions committed by members of their movement, but that is exactly what was immediately demanded of Republican political leaders and conservative organizations with regards to the Capitol protest. Also in the wake of the protest, social media companies, online stores, and other websites banned large swaths of conservative users, and when these users moved to a conservative-leaning alternative, that app was banned from the major operating systems’ app stores. Nothing even remotely similar to this occurred in response to any BLM protest, no matter how violent or destructive. 

And then, taking things to a new level of preposterousness, society and the media complain that the protesters at the Capitol were treated unfairly leniently compared to BLM protesters, when the exact opposite is the case. Imagine what would happen if black people or Muslims stormed the capital, the media asks, implying that it’s obvious they would be treated more harshly. I’ll tell you what would happen: none of them would be arrested, and they would be lauded as heroes by the media instead of being universally ridiculed and condemned. 

So-called journalists and the general public alike have gone on and on about their horror at the attack on their beloved Capitol, which in their eyes symbolizes the democratic process. But neither the Capitol building nor democracy is a defining feature of America. The defining feature of America, the principle upon which it was founded, is individual liberty. And when our political leaders, institutions, and society as a whole trample on individual liberty, then our political leaders, institutions, and society as a whole have forfeited any right to be obeyed and respected. Those who protested at the Capitol were brave freedom fighters who risked their personal safety to stand up for their beliefs. Their actions were justified, and they deserve none of the arrests, charges, or criticism that have been leveled against them. 

In summary, we have been bullied and beaten down, and it is the bullies who are complaining that they are shaken, nauseous, and in tears because some of us actually had the audacity to stand up for ourselves. This reaction is as ridiculous as if a hockey team defeated its rival 8 to 1 and its fans were nauseous and in tears after the game because they were so upset that the other team scored one goal. It also demonstrates a complete lack of empathy; how do they think we have felt all these years as we have been relentlessly insulted and our rights violated? The bullies who have been oppressing and trampling on us receive no scrutiny whatsoever and are portrayed by the media as innocent victims while we, the true victims, are vilified, mocked, and condemned. As a result of this pervasive unjust treatment, we are angry, we are frustrated, we are overwhelmed, and we are exhausted. We are tired of being trampled on, tired of our rights being violated, tired of being insulted and ridiculed, tired of our complaints and grievances being dismissed, tired of being told that we are privileged and that we are the problem. When a society treats people this way, it has no right to criticize them for fighting back.

“When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.” – Thomas Jefferson

bookmark_border2020 thoughts

It would be a cliche to say that 2020 was a horrible year. Almost everyone has been affected negatively by the Covid-19 pandemic in one way or another. For me, the most demoralizing, dispiriting, and discouraging events during 2020 were governments’ authoritarian policies imposed in response to the pandemic, Biden’s victory, and the widespread destruction of historical statues and monuments by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. In this blog post I will discuss how these events affected me personally and how I hope to move forward in 2021. 

I’ve written at length about authoritarian coronavirus restrictions. The fact that they have been implemented almost universally by governments around the world and embraced without question by the vast majority of people is beyond dismaying. Because I’ve already written about this topic dozens of times, I won’t go into it in any more detail in this post. 

The election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States was another demoralizing event. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that the reaction of Biden’s supporters was more demoralizing and upsetting than the election result itself. In every election, one side ends up happy, and the other heartbroken. But the meanness, nastiness, viciousness, and brutality that Biden’s supporters demonstrated was surprisingly irrational and inappropriate.

Social media was flooded with post after post after post expressing joy, relief, gratitude, the feeling of a weight being, lifted et cetera et cetera. Even when posting pictures of sunsets, cityscapes, pets, and babies, far too many people were unable to resist alluding to Biden’s victory as the reason for their happiness. One (now former) Facebook friend shared a meme urging people to start working on “dismantling white supremacy” now that Biden has won the presidency. Another shared a tweet ridiculing Trump supporters and calling them “weirdos” for wearing hats and flying flags with his name on them. Another opined that a vote for Trump was the same as a vote for racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny. Preposterously, people described Biden’s election as a “new birth of freedom” and posted videos of and lyrics to the song “Battle Cry of Freedom” (how, pray tell, does it constitute a new birth of freedom to elect a president who believes in giving people less freedom in their day-to-day lives than his predecessor?). Worst of all, numerous people have expressed the idea that one should not “go easy on” Trump supporters but should, in the words of one (former) friend, “focus on the harm caused.” This is based on a false premise, namely that Trump supporters have somehow done something wrong for which we deserve to be punished. Refraining from personally attacking and insulting people who have done nothing wrong is not “going easy.” It is a basic requirement of being a morally decent person. Trump supporters did not cause any harm; the only harm is that caused by the intolerant bullies who have been contaminating the internet with their vile personal attacks on anyone whose views differ from theirs.

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bookmark_borderMy letter to Stone Mountain Memorial Association

I recently wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association asking them to preserve Stone Mountain’s Confederate Memorial Carving. This likeness of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson is the largest Confederate monument in the world, and sadly but unsurprisingly has come under fire from the politically-correct bullies. I got this idea from the awesome organization Monuments Across Dixie, which works to protect existing Confederate statues and build new ones. I urge you to write a letter as well, following the instructions in Monuments Across Dixie’s Facebook post, if you also support preserving this amazing piece of art and history. 

bookmark_borderAutographs are for people of all ages

In a recent column, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy listed various ways in which having games without fans in attendance will actually be a good thing. One of them really bugged me:

“No adults asking players for autographs, or knocking kids to the ground to retrieve foul balls that should be for kids only.”

This is a sentiment that I have heard from numerous people over the years. Once I heard a talk radio personality express the opinion that adults should not go to Patriots training camp unless they are accompanying children. As an adult sports fan who watches practices and sometimes asks players for autographs, I’m offended by this. Why should getting autographs from one’s favorite players be restricted to one age group?

I became a sports fan around age 14. The first team I liked was the Red Sox. Later, I became interested in the Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots as well. It wasn’t until my 20s that I became a big enough fan to start going to Bruins practices. I’m not sure why it is that I became a sports fan relatively late in life. Perhaps it is because, as a kid, I was obsessed with animals, dinosaurs, and Beanie Babies, and didn’t have time for other interests. Perhaps it is because my parents almost never put sports on the TV, so it didn’t occur to me that watching games was even an option. As I got older and had more control over what I watched on TV, I realized that watching a Sox or Bruins game, even if just in the background while I was doing other things, made my day better. Sports also provided a refreshing sense of balance as I became increasingly interested in more serious topics such as law, history, and philosophy. Sports are generally not matters of life and death, or moral right and wrong, but it is mentally stimulating to follow the statistics, strategies, and personalities and to listen to the colorful banter of the commentators.

Anyway, if one argues that there is something wrong with adults asking for autographs, one believes that someone like myself should be content to live my entire life without ever receiving a player’s autograph. I didn’t have the chance to ask a player for an autograph as a kid, because I wasn’t a sports fan then. (Well, technically I had the chance to, I just didn’t choose to go to any practices or games because I had no interest in sports.) Plus, when it comes to lifelong sports fans, why should they be limited to obtaining the autographs of only the players who were active when those fans happened to be kids? Collecting autographs is one of my hobbies, as is the case for many people of all ages. If one collects autographs, it makes sense that one would attempt to get autographs from as many players as possible across the years. People should not be frowned upon for pursuing their hobbies, merely because of their age.

Additionally, politely asking a player for an autograph, while being respectful of the other fans around you, should not be lumped into the same category as knocking kids to the ground. When I go to a Bruins practice, if I decide to try to get an autograph, I calmly make my way in the direction of the tunnel through which the players leave the ice. I wait behind anyone who is already there, and I politely ask the player to sign my notebook if he appears to be relatively non-hurried and in a good mood. I do not shove anyone out of the way. I do not squeeze in front of anyone who is already there. Generally, if someone younger than me is approximately equally close to the tunnel as me, I let him or her talk to the player first. What exactly is wrong with this?

And why should foul balls be for kids only, for that matter? The same principle applies to them as applies to autographs. I think we can all agree that it would be wrong for an adult to knock a kid over… but for an adult to knock over another adult would be wrong, too. So would a kid knocking over another kid, or a kid knocking over an adult.

Finally, I also think that viewing autographs and foul balls as kids-only defeats the purpose of having these things at all. Personally, I know that the kid version of myself would not enjoy an activity as much if I knew that I would only be allowed to do it for a limited time, and that when I became an adult I would not be allowed to do it any longer. People should be allowed to have something to look forward to as they grow older. Becoming an adult should not mean giving up your hobbies and interests and having all joy and fun gradually sucked out of your life.

I realize that I have probably way overanalyzed a somewhat silly topic, as I am wont to do. To sum up: no one should knock other people to the ground, but everyone should be free to pursue their hobbies, regardless of age.

bookmark_borderDear lady on the Orange Line…

Dear lady on the Orange Line on Wednesday morning who called me a “terrible person,” “self-centered,” and “oblivious” for sitting instead of offering my seat to someone else:

Your behavior was so rude that I am still upset, appalled, and shaken two days later.

Many, perhaps most, people will think that you are in the right, and our unpleasant interaction my fault. To recap the facts of the situation, I boarded the train when there were many vacant seats. At a subsequent stop, when there were no more vacant seats, what appeared to be a family with two adults and two children between the ages of three and ten boarded the train. I did not offer them a seat, and neither did anyone else. A few stops later, you boarded the train and began to loudly castigate me to everyone within earshot.

You were so busy insulting me that you probably did not stop to wonder about what my thought process might have been. I will try to explain:

  1. First of all, I dislike standing. It is difficult to get reading done and it is physically draining.
  2. Second, I also strongly dislike when people offer me their seat. It makes me feel embarrassed, self-conscious, and uncomfortable. I believe in the golden rule and therefore am reluctant to do things to other people that I would dislike if done to me.
  3. Third, I am very shy. It is difficult for me to initiate interactions with strangers, even for something as simple as offering my seat.
  4. Fourth, no one else in my row of seats was making any move to offer up their seats, and I did not think one seat would be particularly useful to a group of four. Three of the people would still have to stand, and most likely none of the four would feel comfortable being the one to take the seat.
  5. Fifth, I believe that as a general rule, whoever gets to a seat first is entitled to the seat. This rule is fair, simple, easy, and does not cause anyone to feel patronized, insulted, guilty, resentful, or embarrassed. Because I got on the train when there were many vacant seats, I think it was reasonable for me to believe that I had a right to sit.
  6. Sixth, no one asked to sit, so I assumed that no one wanted to. If someone had politely asked for my seat, I would happily have obliged.
  7. And seventh, on another occasion a while back, there was a dad holding his daughter on a crowded train, struggling to keep his balance, and no one offered their seat (I was standing so did not have the option of offering a seat). This gave me the impression that little kids are not considered a situation that requires offering one’s seat.

I am on the autism spectrum and struggle with social situations. What comes naturally to most people, I need to use reasoning and logic to figure out. Because no one is perfect, I occasionally judge social situations incorrectly. I found this particular situation very awkward and was not sure of the best thing to do, but I decided to err on the side of doing nothing as opposed to taking an action that had the potential to make the situation even more uncomfortable. Each and every day, I try my very best to navigate interpersonal interactions in a polite and socially acceptable way. To be so harshly attacked for what was at worst a minor social mistake is disturbing and demoralizing.

You are a bully. Anyone on the train could have offered their seat to a member of the family but you inexplicably singled me out for verbal abuse.

You accused me of sitting in a “handicapped seat,” but I was not. As I pointed out to you, there was no blue sign on my seat indicating “priority seating” for people with disabilities.

You yelled that I “need to reflect.” I have been reflecting on this upsetting experience, as you so nastily ordered, and the more that I do so, the more convinced I am that you were in the wrong. Perhaps, ideally, I should have offered my seat. But you are the one who went out of your way to viciously insult a stranger. Your reaction would have been appropriate if you had seen someone being raped or assaulted, or someone attempting to carry out a terrorist attack. To react in such a way to a person sitting and quietly reading the newspaper is preposterous.

I cannot comprehend the self-righteous attitude that would cause someone to interfere so aggressively in a situation that is none of his or her business. It is impossible to tell by looking at someone what is going on in his or her life, how badly he or she needs a seat, or whether he or she has a disability. It probably didn’t occur to you that I might be on the autism spectrum when you called me “self-centered” and a “terrible person.” For all you could tell, I might have had a physical disability that requires sitting, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. My mom has severe back problems that cause almost constant pain and make it impossible for her to sit or stand for any significant amount of time, but she appears perfectly healthy.

When I got off of the train (before the stop I was attempting to get to) I was so upset that I felt on the verge of either fainting or throwing up. I was so mortified and humiliated that I had trouble concentrating on my work. You went out of your way to cause this. If that doesn’t constitute being a terrible person, I’m not sure what does.

It is you who needs to reflect on what would cause someone to berate and insult an innocent person who is minding her own business.