Wednesday, September 6, 2017

These ads are everything that's wrong with America and the world

I've been looking for a new home for my family, so commercials for the various real estate websites and apps have been catching my eye. Some are touching, some surreal, some try to be funny. But there's one particular set of ads that I find disturbing in their message—and the message isn't about finding a house.

The ads in question are's Not You series of ads. They center on the idea that you had better use their website before someone else gets the home you want. It's the way those other people, the not yous, are depicted that's the problem.

Over the course of several ads, we learn that the not yous
  •  have no respect for your boundaries
  • are not as attractive as you
  • want what you have and will take it
  •  are odd or different
  • are off-putting or possibly disturbed
  • are unpredictable
  • are sometimes threatening
  • are possibly violent
  • are a possible threat
  • outnumber you
  • are less worthy than you
  • are not worth your empathy
  • are someone to ignore
  • are not as smart as you
  • are not as human as you

In truth, the not yous are just people who were also looking for a home and roof to put over their families' heads. But the ads dehumanize them.

Sadly , this is a message we hear constantly. It's this idea that there is you and them—and anyone who isn't exactly like you is the "other" and is therefore, a threat to you. If a person's skin color, gender identity, marriage, religion or even income level doesn't look just like yours, they are a threat. And in the ads, even the people who DO look almost just like you are "other" so really no one is safe.

This is the last idea we should be investing in today. There's a problem with this way of thinking and that is that we are ALL not yous to someone. So if this is how we insist on seeing the world, then we will always be divided, always outnumbered, and always threatened. . If we constantly fear new ideas, different viewpoints, and the rich diversity that is humanity, then we will be forever stuck—unable to truly reach our potential as human beings.

Frankly, that's the way some people want it, because it preserves their position. If we're constantly worried about people getting "what's ours"—when all they're really trying to get is basic human dignity—then we won't notice that people in power are taking away our right to speak freely, to worship as we choose, to control our own bodies, love those to whom we're called to love, educate ourselves and children, be safe in our jobs and in our schools and homes, and have a clean environment to live in, and even just clean drinking water.

Every one of those things is inconvenient to those who would prefer we be docile worker bees, just filling their coffers.

We were taking baby steps toward a better world—a better world for everyone. But then too many people bought in to the idea of the not yous. They gave power to those who would have us divided. Since then, families have been torn apart, clean water has been threatened, free speech is constantly under threat, people who have put their lives on the line to protect us have been made unwelcome in the military, and now other people who have done nothing wrong are facing the threat of expulsion from the only home they've ever known, and from a country that benefits every moment of every day from their presence.

You may not be worried about any of this, because it's not happening to you. But, as I said, we're all not yous to someone. Even you. And someday it will be you crying out for dignity and respect, because the people making the decisions see you as a not you, because even though you may look like them, you don't have the power or resources they do. So you are not the same as they are and therefore not worthy of respect, consideration, or dignity.

So what can we do?

We can stop and look for what's common between us.

We can see that the other people looking for a house share your need to find a home. We can see that the person in the grocery store who doesn't look like you just needs to feed his family. We can see that woman on the street whose clothes are more modest than yours, or more revealing, is just a person who wants to be comfortable in the world.

With just a little empathy we can show ourselves, our friends, our neighbors and our kids that there are no not yous. We're all just people trying to get by. We can show our leaders that we won't tolerate walls or division of any kind. Show them we want to help each other. Show them we insist on respect and basic human dignity for everyone.

We can make the world a better place if we stop this not you nonsense and just realize we're all in this together.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I Miss My America

The following is raw and unedited and will probably get revised an infinite number of times, hidden, reposted, and what not in the coming days. But I am feeling sad, scared, disappointed, angry, and betrayed and I just want to get it all out of my head.

I believed we were better than this. Or at least, we were trying to be.

For a very long time, I carried with me a image of America forged in my childhood.

I believed America was a place where you could be yourself, where the color of your skin or where your family came from were just interesting parts of you, but didn't change how you should be treated.

Growing up, I went to a magical school. My classmates were black, white, Asian, Indian, Jewish, gay (though I didn't know it at the time) and probably a few other things I can't remember. Down the hall, kids with special needs were going to school right alongside us. It all seemed perfectly normal. I never saw anyone treated differently or as less of a human being because of who they were. We were all growing up together.

And as far as boys vs. girls was concerned, I could do anything boys could do, so we were already equal in my eyes.

I thought it was like that everywhere. We lived in the land of the FREE. A country where some people went to church, some went to synagogue, some to temple and some didn't go at all, and it didn't change how we played together. It didn't mean we didn't have to be fair to one another.

I didn't realize back then what a luxury that was and what a blessing. As happens, when you grow up, the tint on my rose-colored glasses was scratched away bit by bit over the years. I became aware of the injustices and bigotry that existed outside my happy little bubble. But I still hoped.

I could see us inching our way, sometime clawing our way, towards making my childhood experiences a wider reality. Society as a whole was becoming more accepting--at least I thought so. Our laws were catching up with that too.

Then last year some "good" people voted for a bully. I'm told they felt left out. I'm told I should hear their concerns. But where I grew up, talking like their candidate would get you sent to the corner, not rewarded. Spewing hate was not accepted, nor was the idea that it was fine to get what you wanted for yourself by trampling on someone else.

Now I sit stunned and dumbfounded, watching as every bit of progress that has been made in my lifetime, everything that was designed to try to make America great for everyone is getting systematically unraveled. Laws promoting fairness are being threatened, our free speech is under attack from all sides, even the very air we breathe and water we drink is at risk.

The "good" people who voted for this wanted a better life, and I get that. But when you seek those things at someone else's expense, everyone suffers. When you put your faith in a bully, no one is safe. The bully and his friends don't serve you. They serve their own interests.

So here's your wake-up call. I hope you're happy.

When you want to be able to discriminate against others because of your beliefs, you open the door to being discriminated against for yours.

When you decide that it's too hard to care about the environment, because doing so costs you money, you better understand that your own air, water, food, and even your home are also at risk.

When you decide you don't want to pay for someone else's health care, you family is at risk from the next epidemic.

When you decide other people shouldn't have the right to control their own bodied because of YOUR religion, you better start worrying about the day someone else's religion is favored by those in power.

When you decide you don't care if everyone's kids get a good education, you better prepare for a world where the people around you aren't smart enough, or prepared enough to help you and yours in a time of need.

The people you put in office, the ones you are so glad WON, don't care about you. They don't care about your kids or your future. They don't care if there are no green spaces left or if every animal is slaughtered for trophies on their walls. They don't care that you just realized your own health care is at risk, they're all going to be fine. They don't care if you can't afford your medication or if the condition your wife, or mother, or child has been living with is now a "pre-existing" condition, so not covered by insurance.

They don't care that you don't have a job. Their corporate friends are the ones who chose automation over your skilled hands and who took their companies overseas so they could pay less for things they're going to turn around and sell to you for more. That was their choice, not some uncontrollable phenomena.

They don't care that your home will flood or be blown down by the next storm. See, they'd rather keep making money than have to change what they're doing to alleviate our role in climate change.

They don't WANT to help you, to lift you out of your troubles or trickle down wealth upon you.

They have what they want and they will keep you in your place now by taking education from your children, making it harder for you to earn a living wage, making clean water something you have to BUY from THEM, and making you so focused on what the other guy has or what some terrorist may do to you, that you can't see that in spreading their hate, they are proving the terrorists right and giving them all they need to recruit the same desperate human beings that we could have helped.

And so, yeah, you've made the whole world a more dangerous place for everyone.

I have to say that in these times I am struggling to hope. I am struggling to see a bright future in all this. I am struggling with my anger at the people who cheerfully made this happen and who sing as once flawed but beautiful ship, sinks beneath us.

I am struggling to find my ways to #resist. But I will. Even if doing so is just insisting on living the way I was taught growing up. Treating people fairly and with compassion and celebrating their differences instead of fearing and resenting them.