ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

A "sunk cost" (or obligation alone) is a horrible reason to stay in a relationship

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Note: Though I'm primarily talking about romantic relationships here, this applies to all interpersonal relationships.

The "Fuck Yes or No" article, though almost four years old at this point and spawning a number of responses ("Mexican Dinner Consent" by Ferrett and "It damn well better be a yes" by me are relevant examples) has such an impact because it highlights something very important.

You have a limited number of minutes in your life. The relationships in your life, should not be ones where you simply feel obligated to remain in them.

Yes, there are obligations in relationships.  Yes, relationships are not always fun and games.

But if you're in a relationship out of a sense of obligation, if you're there primarily out of a sense of duty instead of wanting to be there, then you are doing no one any favors.

You are not doing yourself a favor by staying in that relationship. You are not doing your partner(s) a favor or kindness by remaining.

At best, you are setting everyone else in the relationship for greater drama, heartbreak, and anguish when they realize that you're simply there because you feel you have to be there.

This is especially true when you may have started out wanting the relationship, only to have you, your partner(s), your goals, or situation change.  Hiding that change doesn't make things magically revert back to the way they were, and the longer you hide that realization, the more likely your partner(s) are to question the entirety of the relationship.

Be honest with yourself and with those you're in relationships with.

Be honest why you're there, and why you remain there.

Be sensitive and forgiving to yourself and your partner(s) if things have changed over time.

But above all, be honest.

And make your priorities align with your life.

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When actions and stated priorities don't seem to mesh - they just might.

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It might seem like trying to discover what someone else's priorities are from their actions is always easy. This is not the case

There can be multiple different things acting upon a person's priorities to make their actions seem contradictory. Sometimes the person might not even be aware of the things that they are doing with the contradictory priorities.

For example, I don't particularly like talking about drama in relationships.

That statement probably comes as a bit of a shock to anyone I've dated in the last several years.

The explanation, though, is fairly straightforward. I tend to process and think about things out loud, especially while talking to other people and getting other viewpoints. And when there's drama, or a system is having problems, or an issue in a relationship, I want to fix it.  And I want to fix it rapidly!

As a result, I will often end up bumping up the priority of resolving any problems or outstanding issues, so that I can get them off my mind...and then not talk about them any more.

While straightforward, it took a bit of sitting with myself and questioning my own motivations to realize what was going on. 

Now, while I still do the same behavior, I know what's driving it, and I'm able to work on being able to postpone those conversations and efforts when I have to. (That's a work in progress, though.)

If I hadn't stopped to consider what was going on, not only would my behavior seem opposite to what I said I wanted, but I wouldn't be able to even try to control it. 




BUT.

Regardless of the motivation, if another can't control or alter their behavior while violating your boundaries or denying you your needs, you have to be prepared to ignore the other person's stated motivations and pay attention to the priorities their actions say are important instead. 

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Are you spending your life the way you want to?

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There's a fairly easy way for you to tell if your life and relationships are the way you want them to be. 

Check if your priorities in your life are how you're spending your time.

Seriously.  Do it.   

Right now.

Think about the things and goals that are most important in your life.  Think about the people who are most important in your life.

Are you spending the most time doing the things and goals that are most important to you?  Are you spending your time with the people who are most important to you?  Are you doing both in roughly the order they're important to you?

If your priorities - whether the priority is a person, thing, goal, or anything else -  do not match what you actually do, then there's a problem.



Perhaps that problem is in the structures of your life. Perhaps that problem is because the relationship that you are in is toxic or codependent. Perhaps it's simply because you're not paying attention to what's going on in your life, or not advocating for what you want or need.

Maybe you're even lying to yourself about what your priorities are, mistaking the priorities of society or your parents or your friends or your lover(s) for the priorities that you want to have yourself.

But you can figure that out by listening to yourself. By looking at the areas where there's discontent in your life. By listening to those you care about and where they're sensing a disconnect.


Deep down, you know what your priorities are.  If it's not conscious knowledge, part of you already knows who and what is most important to you.

And if that's not how your life is arranged right now, that's okay.  Now you have the knowledge you need to start making it right.

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Book Review: Codependency - “Loves Me, Loves Me Not”: Learn How To Cultivate Healthy Relationships (etc)

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I listened to the audiobook version of Codependency - “Loves Me, Loves Me Not”: Learn How To Cultivate Healthy Relationships, Overcome Relationship Jealousy, Stop Controlling Others and Be Codependent No More by Simeon Lindstrom over the course of about an hour and a half during a long drive.

I pulled over about halfway through and called my amour.

"I just wanted to tell you," I said, "that this book is amazing and may have helped me realize what's causing my crappy behavior."

There was more than that, of course. I rambled on about what, exactly, I'd suddenly have snap into place, but that's beside the point.

But this book isn't just for people who are (or suspect they are) codependent. I'm recommending this book to everyone. 

If you're unclear on what codependency is, or aren't sure if you are codependent or not, the first two chapters of this relatively short book are worthwhile. But it's when you hit chapter three - "The Characteristics of Mindful Relationships" - that the book has concrete, concise, and valuable lessons for everyone in any kind of relationship.

Even if you've done a lot of work on yourself and your relationships (as I have), this book is extremely valuable for its brevity and practical applications.  As I've gone on about this book to my amour, I recognized that few of the things it snapped into place for me were new.  What was beautiful about it - and why I'm recommending it for you - is how it put those things into practical language.

For example, too often people (like me) get academic and flowery when talking about the problems with jealousy.  This book - despite its unfortunately long title - boils it down to two beautiful paragraphs:
For some bizarre reason, jealousy in relationships is seen as something of a compliment, even a little bit cute in the right context. If someone is jealous of your relationship, and you feel a little glad about it, what it really means is that you are pleased that someone else is, in some way, dependent on you. Rather than proof of their love, it’s proof of your ego being stroked.

In a mindful relationship, the partners are together because they want to be. The single thing that determines the quality of that relationship is the two of them - their compatibility, theirs plans. If they are secure in that connection, everything else is irrelevant. Nobody can “steal” anybody away, nobody need worry about wandering attentions.
This book quickly and succinctly highlights what's good - and bad - about our concepts of romantic relationships, and points you in the direction of how to make them better.

Even if you're a seasoned relationship guru, this small book is great to be able to read and re-read when you (inevitably) forget things and have to be reminded of them.

I highly recommend Codependency - “Loves Me, Loves Me Not”: Learn How To Cultivate Healthy Relationships, Overcome Relationship Jealousy, Stop Controlling Others and Be Codependent No More, and right now you can buy it for Kindle for only $3, or get the Audible version for $6.

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I will gladly address you as an attack helicopter

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The issue of gender - and how many there are - has been gaining notice over the last several years.  Take this Time article or the less respectful "I identify as an attack helicopter" copypasta.

The issue...confuses me.

Not because of the gender thing.  I mean, I know the difference between sex (biology) and gender (identification). And I also know that even the biology bit is really a lot more complicated than we like to pretend that it is.

What confuses me are the problems that people tend to have.

I mean, I had problems when people would say "that squicks me out" about homosexual relationships. My response was typically along the lines of "I don't want to think about most hetero people having sex, so it's all the same to me".

Likewise when we talk about what gender identification someone wants to have. To me, it's so simple that people's issues with it are puzzling.

I approach this the same way I do nicknames or preferred versions of names.

If you care about someone, you'll ask if they prefer (say) Steve or Steven, and then stick with that.  Such a request (and one that's very individual) is seen as no big deal, and if you insist on using the wrong name (or version of a name), you are rightly seen as an inconsiderate ass.

But somehow, the same people who gladly ask which version of "Steven" I prefer will say it's a huge imposition if a person requests to be referred to by a specific pronoun.

Put that way, it's clear that the problem is not about confusion or difficulty.  The "problem" is with the person making the objection, not the person making the request.

Putting it in that context illustrates how deliberate the choice is.  

Related: After watching it again, I continue to highly recommend Southern Comfort (Wikipedia, YouTube) to everyone.  This 2001 documentary is... just freaking amazing.

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Finding the Hidden Sexism In Fluidbonding - a personal adventure

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Warning for the prudish: Some mild but blunt discussion about doing adult things follows.  (Hi to all the perverts who just paid attention!)

I wasn't introduced to the idea of "fluid bonding" until I started running into polyamorous people.

Fluid bonding is one of those things that seems like it should be fairly straightforward: It's when you engage in unprotected sex; that is, your fluids mingle.  Some folks (including myself) also put a bit of significance upon this as a "milestone" in the relationship, in that it implies a level of commitment that is beyond the casual.

As is too frequent, polyfolk think and talk about this concept a lot more than monogamous folks.  The Solopoly blog has a pretty good explainer that's worth reading.

But it also highlights a failing of my own that I had; a hidden pocket of sexism and patriarchy I wasn't consciously aware existed. 

I only really considered it fluid-bonding if there was penetrative sex.

When a girlfriend of mine was also dating a woman, I didn't even stop to think about dental dams or other oral barriers.  It literally did not occur to me.

But when that girlfriend started dating another man, I suddenly stopped and asked if there was protection used during oral sex.  Again, that's something I hadn't ever even thought about asking while she dated a woman.

I could - if I was being a dishonest asshat - hide behind statistics about transmission rates.  But that would be ... well, dishonest.

It was about there being a dick involved.

And that's kind of the point here.  Not that I was jealous about there being another guy, but that even for someone who had spent SO much time examining their own societal sexism a rather large (and potentially risky) pocket of sexism managed to escape notice for so long.

(As an aside, things got sorted out rather quickly with that girlfriend, especially since I realized the bullshit double standard I'd unconsciously imposed.)

I'm not here to judge whatever protective measures you and your partner(s) have agreed upon.  Do what you and your partner(s) are comfortable agreeing to.

But I am here to say that those measures should be consistent across genders and sexual preference.

And that even if you've spent years examining your own biases and prejudices, you're never finished exhuming that crap from your psyche.  Combating the prejudices and biases that society programs you with is not a two-week crash course.

Be aware, and don't be afraid to challenge yourself.

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The simple two-word fix to "You're Mine" in relationships

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An ex of mine would whisper "You're mine." in my ear, and I 'd get pleasurable goosebumps, and whisper it right back.

It was what I wanted, after all. For us to mutually have that same feeling.

It didn't last.

Many posts and articles have pointed out that saying "you're mine" or "you belong to me" is really, really squicky in general. But more than that, it's also a crappy way of loving someone.

When you're saying another belongs to you, it's possessive. Not just in the "owning people" way (which is bad enough) but in a way that undermines all of love's ideals.

Because when you love someone, really, really love someone, it's not about just trying to get a need met. It's not about amassing the best significant other. It's not about you.

It's about the person you love.

As these similar quotations from Robert Heinlein and H. Jackson Brown put it:
"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."
"Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own."

As a result, I don't say "mine" anymore.

It's a small change, but the more I think about it, the bigger the ramifications, the more important it seems.

It's just a few words, the other side of a verbal coin.

I no longer whisper "You're mine".

I say "I'm yours."

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The day after the trauma is the day before hope

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Holy Saturday is the bleakest day in the Christian calendar, and it is important... even if you're not Christian.

Because it's a powerful story about everyday life.

Friday might be the dramatic day, the day everyone remembers how  one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.  It's the day that everyone focuses on now, but it's not the worst day.

That's when you get the shock and trauma. That's when you hear that someone's died, when your love tells you they don't feel the same way anymore, when you find out something that meant a lot to you was just another day to the other person.

Choose your trauma. There's no ranking system for pain.

That's the day of the shock.

That's Good Friday.

But it isn't the worst day.

The worst day, the bleakest day, is Saturday.

Imagine them for a moment - imagine them as part of a story or historical people, it doesn't matter.  Really imagine them, put yourself in their situation.

You're part of a peaceful resistance movement. Your leader is charismatic and great, and then one day he gets rounded up by the police and publicly executed.  Not only that, but you've suddenly found out that all the people around you, the people that you thought would be on your side, preferred to kill your leader instead of a murderer.

You're in disarray.  Your leadership is denying they were ever part of the movement. And your leader - the person you thought would at least make some change in the situation, or maybe even more - is dead and buried.

And the shock starts to wear off.

What you thought you had - your leader, your movement, your lover, your security, your family, whatever it was that your trauma cleaved from you - is gone and it's going to stay gone forever.

It goes from shock to becoming real.

And you have no idea how the world can keep spinning, how other people can laugh and smile and go about their daily lives, because don't they know?  Don't they REALIZE?

They don't.

But the thing the Gospels teach us, the reason that this story has persisted so long despite its dubious documentation, is not because of some Imaginary Sky Friend.

It is the same message that draws people to the Doctor, that draws people to Luke, that draws people over and over again.

It is that yes, there is a dark night. There is a time when everything is bleak and horrible and awful.

And then... whether in an opened tomb, a glowing regenerating corpse, a shimmering blue apparition, or just in the everyday perseverance of everyday people, there is the hope of something new, something different.

Because without Destruction, there is never anything new.  Never anything better. Without destruction and despair, there is no hope.

Friends, regardless of your faith or fandom or loves, know that Destruction is terrible and awful and horrendous.  That the day after is the day of Despair.

But the day after... the day after is the day of hope and Delight.

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Board Game Review: Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem

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Last weekend I got the chance to play the Sons of Anarchy game again with some friends, and realized that I'd not actually told y'all about how much I like it.
Other people's faces blurred, because ANARCHY.
Okay, so maybe this is what you think of when you think "Sons of Anarchy board game"...
...but you'd be wrong.

http://amzn.to/2nXVTVP
First, you don't need to know anything about the show to enjoy this game. I'm sure that fans of the show will get a kick out of place names and the like, but it's the game itself that I'm a fan of, not the show.

Second, the game is only $15 on Amazon, which for a game of this kind is pretty amazing.  There's two expansions (they usually sell for about $10 each) that are nice, but not necessary if you just want to try the game out (they expand the game from 3-4 to up to 6 players).  There's also an "unleaded" and "high octane" mode; the former has all the gangs being exactly equal, while the latter makes them different, but balanced.
This was my gang
As you go through gameplay, random locations appear that you'll want to use... and you have a lot more potential locations than you'll use in any one game, so replay value is really high.

Not to mention it's kinda cool to move your little biker guys around...
I took over the military surplus!
...and sometimes things can get hotly contested.
Everyone wanted to own the porn studio...
The first time you play - especially if you have more than four players - will probably be around two hours.  After that, the sixty minute play time is pretty accurate (though possibly a tish longer for six players).

While this is a "work replacement" game (where you get to beat up the workers!), it's pretty intuitive to pick up; usually folks have the hang of it before the first full turn is over. 
 
For only four bucks more than Battleship (yes, really) you can get Sons of Anarchy, a game that's a lot more fun and has a hell of a lot more replay value.

Oh - and I highly recommend playing DOROTHY or Sleep Machine as a suitable soundtrack.  

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What Can We Do To Change the Passitivity Problem?

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Monday I talked about how women are told to always agree with men. Yesterday I told you about a time I screwed up when communicating with a woman and how I made it right.  And let me tell you right now, despite dating guides that literally tell women to lie and pretend to be someone else, that is horribly toxic to a relationship.

This question is still mostly unanswered, though: What the hell are we going to do about it?

It's easy to say "Women should be expected to speak up."  I think it's important for women to speak up as much as they can (and go past their comfort zone in doing so), but that's passing the buck. This is a patriarchy, and so if we want it to change (and if you don't, are you sure this is the blog for you?), those with power - men - are the ones who have to act in ways to recognize that power differential and negate it.

I mentioned one thing that I did yesterday:
I praised all the things she said she was shamed for (and honestly so), and took responsibility for all the craptastic jerks she's encountered in the past. I lauded her forthrightness and honesty, even if it made me uncomfortable.
This is extremely powerful, though it takes time, honesty, and commitment. A woman I dated for a while flinched when I asked her why she was taking one route instead of another. I wasn't the person who created that conditioning, but I sure as hell was the person who was there then. So I made a point of encouraging her to speak up. When we broke up, she told me pretty honestly how she felt - and a bit more later. While I wasn't glad that we broke up, I was glad that she'd felt comfortable enough to make her needs and wants known - and when I was unable to meet them, to stand by what she truly needed and wanted.

Likewise, with my amour, I do my best to recognize the times that she challenges my opinions or ideas... even if it means that I'm uncomfortable (or hurt) in the process.  Yes, it has happened.  Yes, it sucked.  But at the same time, I was thrilled that she felt able to tell me her truth.

While this is especially effective with those you have a strong emotional relationship with, it's possible to do with those you work with. Encourage women to speak up, and then listen to what they're saying, and act on it.

Further, recognize that women in our society are trained to be passive. Double check when a woman you interact with suggests something in a passive way.  For an example, if she says "Would you like pizza for dinner?", make sure she doesn't actually mean "I would like pizza for dinner, and I hope you're not going to object?"

But here's the problem: my perspective is limited. While I'm working to dismantle this power differential, I'm still on one side of it.  Women: Wherever you see this post, please comment with the suggestions that would best help YOU be able to say what you actually want and need - or that men can do to show that we are serious about wanting to hear it.

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An example of gender, power, and privilege that happened to me, and how I tried to make it right

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This conversation really happened to me on a dating site, to me.  I've changed some details, of course.

I'm sharing it partially because my amour says it shows exactly who I am, but also because it really demonstrates what I was talking about yesterday, and how the damage that our society does in communicating between people of different genders.  And it also - though my amour didn't comment on it - illustrates where I screwed up and let my privilege show.

While browsing, I saw a dating profile that looked compatible, and where we had enough things in common that they seemed like a cool person that I'd want to talk to.  (I've started more than a few friendships on dating sites.)  Unfortunately, the last line of their profile was "nobody over forty".  So I sent this message:

Damn, that's a pity - missed that age cutoff by a year or two. Though I've noticed my own age range has been SIGNIFICANTLY broadened since I started doing this a few years ago, I totally get what you're saying. I wouldn't be UPSET if you made an exception, but I'm mostly sending this as a virtual handwave to a fellow [person with the same interest].

Note the last line there.  Sure, I would've been glad if she'd said "Ooh, I'll make an exception for you," but my last line was utterly serious.  I was trying to be friendly... but I didn't come across that way.  More than likely, that was because my privilege was showing, and I messaged her even though she'd said "nobody over forty".

Her response was... well, here it is (again, lightly edited):

Funny, online dating has made me pull my age standards closer to my own because so many dudes in your age range are entitled **** heads who don't respect me due to my age, my proclivity for many partners, my feminism, the way I talk, whatever bullshit they decide makes me less than their morally and intellectually superior selves.
I guess she expected me to be angry or upset in response. I don't know.  But after a moment of bruised ego-ness, I realized she was... well, right.  And if you're like me, and want to change the culture, you take responsibility for that change.  So here was my reply (again, lightly edited):
Totally understandable, and sadly, a reflection of the role the patriarchy in our lives. For what it's worth, I apologize for the entitled **** heads (e.g like, all men) and hope that you are actualizing the HELL out of however many partners you want to have, your feminism, the way you talk, and all that stuff that makes you a special and unique person instead of some cookie cutter idiot idea of what a person of your gender is supposed to be. You go, girl, and there's not a hint of sarcasm in any of this! You have just made my day. :) I am pleased to have made your acquaintance.

And because I realized that I'd screwed up, I haven't contacted her since.

I'm not posting this here for kudos, or to shame the woman who has had to endure so many awful experiences that led to her reaction.  Remember, I was in the wrong for contacting her in the first place, no matter how friendly I was.
 Because I knew I was wrong - and because so many others had clearly wronged her in the past - I praised all the things she said she was shamed for (and honestly so), and took responsibility for all the craptastic jerks she's encountered in the past. I lauded her forthrightness and honesty, even if it made me uncomfortable.

Women do not exist to make men comfortable.  It is not the responsibility of a woman to make a random man feel okay.

But to battle the existing gendered power differential, it is the responsibility of men to encourage and support women who speak freely, honestly, and openly.

Especially when it makes men - any man - uncomfortable.

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Highlighting the issues that happen in all relationships

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Everyone can learn a lot from polyamorous folks.

It's not that polyamorous relationships are more "evolved" or "better"; it's that relationships are relationships, and that good skills that are great in any relationship like compersion or deliberateness go from being "a good idea" to things that are absolutely required.

It also means that problems that sometimes get glossed over in monogamous relationships can become unignorable.  For example, this cartoon from the excellent Kimchi Cuddles:

While the comic - and the situation it presents - is particular to polyamoury, the underlying principle is really common when it comes to needs and boundaries.  It's something that gets glossed over a lot in relationships. This is apparent with a small change:

Too often, when people - women. it's women - express their needs and boundaries they're told they're selfish.  Women are taught both implicitly and explicitly to give in.

As a man, it's horrifying to think of the times (and entire relationships) where we've done this kind of minimizing.  It doesn't matter if we meant to or not - though fuck you if you meant to - we did do it.

The question is:  Are you going to do something to change it now?

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A song to share.

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Sometimes you stumble across a song and get bowled over.  A song that is beautiful and heartbreaking and still somehow courageous. It doesn't happen very often in a world where we just try to be distracted so much of the time.

So I thought I'd share this one that I just ran across now.  Because hope is the thing with feathers.

It's Saturday Smile, by Gin Wigmore (Lyrics at Google Play).

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COLUMBUS AREA: Irish Traditional Music, Free, 1pm on 8 April 2017!

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Trellis - a Columbus, Ohio based Irish traditional music band whose lead singer just happens to be a friend of mine - is having their first concert THIS SATURDAY at 1:30 pm.  While I can't be there due to a prior engagement, I sure wish I could be.  I caught them last year at the Celtic Festival; my video of that follows their announcement (please note that the potato quality and vertical filming are my sins, not theirs).
 
From the event page:

Trellis needs to get videos of us playing a concert as a three-piece band, so we are hosting this FREE, open-to-the-public one-hour concert in the Friends Theater, which is in the basement of the main branch of the Upper Arlington Public Library on Tremont Rd.

Trellis plays traditional Irish songs and tunes, accompanied by fiddle, bouzouki and tenor banjo. Come join us after lunch on Saturday, April 8.

You can hear samples of our music on the Trellis Facebook page.

We hope to see you there! Bring friends, and hands to clap, and maybe even voices with which to sing.

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The Armed Forces Are Not A Football Team - A Guest Post

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The following is written by my friend Jennifer B, whom I served beside during my time in the Army, reposted with her permission.  All words following this sentence are hers.

The United States Armed Forces are not a football team. "We" are not going "to go to Syria and kick some ass." "We" are going to be watching it on the news while we stuff food in our faces in our nice, insulated homes whilst sitting on nice, fluffy couches. "We" will shake our heads, cheer at victories, and maybe even shed a tear or two...but only if the war doesn't drag on too long, because then we will lose interest...and it will probably never touch most of us in any significant way (exceptions being for actual military personnel, deployed military contractors, and their family members).

In the meantime, our servicemembers will be fighting, bleeding, being blown apart and dying (not to mention all the soldiers from the other side and plenty of civilians too). People you don't know and never will know. People who are willing to put their asses on the line and do things you'd never dream of doing. And quite honestly, they deserve better than to be viewed like a football team, and offered empty platitudes when they return home.

War is no joke, and it should always be a last resort. Our military is currently engaged in two fronts, and doesn't need to be in a third. There are plenty of other nations/coalitions of nations who have the capability to intervene in Syria.

We cannot be everybody's saviors.

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An Easter Film Recommendation: The Miracle Maker

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It's hard to get across the basic tenets of a religion quickly, especially when you're talking to children. But it's also an important thing to do.  It's fairly easy if you're a part of that faith community, but much more difficult when you're not part of that faith community.

And even then it can still be tricky - for example, as a kid I thought Christian Scientists used the scientific method (yeah, no, that's not what it means at all).

But if there's a better crash course in the New Testament than The Miracle Maker, I'm not aware of it.

This claymation (yes, claymation!) film with an all-star cast (Ralph Fiennes and William Hurt!) does a number of things quite remarkably well.  First, the visuals are striking and arresting. It uses animation for flashbacks (and Mary's hallucinations), and the claymation is well done and impressive.  It also depicts Jesus and the others as Middle Eastern people, something that is (sadly) rare.

It also does another thing that many Easter-themed films omit - it actually continues through Pentecost, covering most of Acts.

Which also brings up the other thing it does remarkably well - present a coherent (and child-accessible) narrative that weaves together pretty much all four books of the Gospel.  It does this with one of the few narrative liberties it takes from the source material, by elevating the role of Jairus' daughter (itself a synthesis created by linking three accounts in the Gospels) to a named point-of-view role. This is a well-designed conceit, as it not only takes advantage of the ways the Gospels almost mirror each other, but provides a character that is accessible to children, sympathetic to adults, and does not require altering the narrative of the Gospel any further.

Unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, there's no critique explicit or implied of Christianity. And that's okay; that's a conversation to have with your kids (again, whether you're Christian or not).  And The Miracle Maker does a wonderful job of providing the material succinctly and quickly to have that conversation.  As a prior Sunday School teacher (yes, I really was) I highly recommend this film, and as a current agnostic, I also highly recommend this film for conveying the core story of Christianity so that your kids know what the heck they're talking about and are better equipped to address it critically.


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An Easter Film Recommendation: Jesus Christ Superstar

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It's the time of year when various types of Christianity celebrate Easter, and it's time for a film recommendation.

It might seem superfluous, but I always recommend the 1973 film production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I'm surprised how many people haven't seen this film (or a stage production of the work). I'm further surprised by how many people think it's a simple saccharine "Yay Jesus!" production. That isn't the case at all. Not only are the performances top-notch, but the work itself has a few things that are important for examining modern-day Christianity.

The first (though implied) is the concept of Judas as being necessary for the whole thing to work, Without Judas' betrayal, the whole thing kind of falls apart.  This is a relatively modern point of view, and is still revolutionary for many people.

Second - and explicit - is how insane the whole thing is.  As Judas points out, "Now why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?"  This is a central mystery (in the religious sense) and no clear answer is ever given. By making this explicit, it highlights the necessity for faith and the ineffableness of God's plan.

Third - also explicit, but most important for me - is that Jesus is portrayed as a person.  For the sacrifice of Jesus to be meaningful, the incarnation of Jesus (argue among yourselves whether fully human, fully divine, or both) had to be ignorant of the whole Divine plan. In fact, Jesus had to - just as much as anyone today - be running on faith and not Divine knowledge.  Otherwise the sacrifice of Jesus is a charade.  If you watch nothing else of the film, watch Ted Neeley's performance of Gethsemane.  It is so strikingly human and full of doubt, defiance, questioning, and obedience that it gives me chills every single time.


Ted Neeley - Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say) (Jesus Christ Superstar Soundtrack) from Cineritüel on Vimeo.

We are not given the visceral relief of Easter itself; within the film, everything ends on Good Friday, driving home the limitations of human understanding and the terror and doubt that come when faith is tested.

While this isn't the most kid-friendly movie - the catchy early songs belie the pain of the later ones - its occasionally surreal rendering, great music, wonderful performances, and haunting performance during the end credits make it a powerful testament to the universality of doubt and the power of faith.

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Congress Killed Your Privacy, What Next? - Bonus Step: Selective VPN routing from your router

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When you're setting up your VPN connection, the most comprehensive way is to do it through your router. 

The problem is that if you want to reach anything inside your LAN from the internet - say, SSH, a webserver at your personal domain name, a file server, MPD streaming radio, whatever.

You could use iptables.  Here's a nice example page that covers most scenarios that you need, though it's written for Tomato routers. 

Instead, I'm going to use policy based routing with DD-WRT (How to supercharge your router with DD-WRT).  The same should apply to any other router that can handle both OpenVPN and policy based routing.

This is definitely in "advanced user" territory, though I'm going to do my best to make this as simple as possible. 

As I previously mentioned, I use Private Internet Access. If you use another VPN, they should have a setup guide for your router.  Here's PIA's guide for DD-WRT.  The key part is assigning static IP addresses for your servers (something you've probably already done if you have a home server!) and telling the router to route EVERYTHING ELSE across the VPN.

What you'll want to find is the section in your router's OpenVPN setup labeled "Policy Based Routing".


As you can see, there's a range of IP addresses in there.  In my case, 192.168.1.104 (not really) is where my server lives.  So I went to http://www.ipaddressguide.com/cidr and put in the IP ranges of everything else that my router assigns as IP addresses in there.  From that point, it was a simple cut-and-paste, reboot of the router, and then only the server was available directly from the internet without going across the VPN tunnel.

This is useful, because my server is already pretty hardened against attack.  And because I have Apache2 running on that server (something you can do with the inexpensive CHIP or Raspberry Pi) that gives you a lot of flexibility.

That's via Apache2's proxy capabilities.  When you enable mod_proxy in Apache, you can use it to forward ports and all sorts of stuff.  For example, this guy used Apache to proxy his SSH requests.

Let's say you have Icecast running on 192.168.1.123, with port 8000, but your home server is a different machine (192.168.1.101, for example) at http://example.com .   You set up the policy based routing above to route everything except 192.168.1.101 over the VPN.  Then, in proxy.conf on 192.168.1.101, you put these lines:

#MyIceCastProxy
ProxyPass /icecast http://192.168.1.123:8000/mpd.mp3
ProxyPassReverse /icecast http://192.168.1.123:8000/mpd.mp3

This actually makes it easier for you, because now you can reach your IceCast stream at http://example.com/icecast with no port number.  Additionally, it means that you're providing an extra layer of protection for your LAN from the wider internet.

If you have to deal with iptables - for example, if your router's firmware doesn't support it, or if you just want to, give it a try.  Here's a few guides I referred to but couldn't get to work:

https://www.dd-wrt.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=1000964&sid=7159499f6f7dd2c03ad86c81ab6caed9

https://charleswilkinson.co.uk/2016/05/14/selective-routing-using-ddwrt-and-openvpn/

https://superuser.com/questions/753736/accessing-a-webserver-hosted-behind-vpn-with-closed-ports-remotely

Finally, speed.  You will experience slowdown with speed when using a VPN. It's partially the encryption, though OpenVPN is usually the best protocol.  You may need to tweak your MTU, which server you connect through, or even what ports to optimize your speed.

Additionally, your router might be struggling with the computational requirements of the encryption for a VPN.  In such a case, you might be better off having the individual machines run the VPN separately.  That turned out to be the case for me (after all the researching and work I'd done).  Luckily, PIA allows 5 devices simultaneously, so there's no need for me to buy a new router yet.

Here's some comparison speeds to keep in mind (and switching to TCP instead of UDP made no difference):

Type: Ping | Download / Upload
Regular: 32 | 23.83 / 2.36
VPN on PC: 47 | 22.43 / 2.21
VPN on Router: 35 | 5.82 / 2.28

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Congress Killed Your Privacy, What Next? - Step Three: Encrypt Everything

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So Congress decided it's okay for ISPs to sell your personal, private information without asking you first.  And you've already taken the first, important steps of getting a VPN and then changing your DNS servers.

You should also encrypt everything.

Encrypting stuff with your browser is actually pretty easy.  First, install HTTPS Everywhere (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Firefox for Android).  This means that all your web traffic is encrypted back and forth.

You'll also want to look at Privacy Badger and Ghostery (though the latter is owned by a private company) to eliminate silent trackers (and there's more than you think!).

Then you'll want to look at encrypting your e-mail.  This is a little more daunting task, but there's plenty of help out there.   GPG (or PGP, or OpenPGP, it's all essentially the same thing) is what you want.

There's LOTS of very complicated explainers out there.  Here's the simple idea:

I have a public key and a private key.  I can hand out my public key to everyone.  My private key I keep secret.

If you encrypt something with my public key, only my private key can decrypt it.  If I encrypt something with YOUR public key, only YOUR private key can decrypt it.

There's a lot more to it than that, but that's the basics.

Lifehacker has a really good step-by-step for setting up encryption for your email at http://bit.ly/gpgEmailGuide.

There's also services like ProtonMail that try to make it seamless for you, or Keybase that verifies that you're you on social media and the like.  (I'm at https://keybase.io/stevensaus; please feel free to friend me there or ask for an invite.)

Finally, as a reminder, if you've got Bash, you can run the Saurian Spider in the background to pollute your web history with random links.

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Congress Killed Your Privacy, What Next? - Step Two: Change your DNS servers

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So your browsing history and more can now (unless Trump does something unexpected) be sold by your ISP without them needing your consent.

The first thing you should do is find (and use!) a VPN.  Sometimes that isn't feasible, or is beyond your technical prowess.  Fair enough.  Changing your DNS servers, though, is a fairly simple matter.  (If you know what you're doing and want the DNS server addresses, skip to the bottom.)

If you don't know, DNS is pretty much the "address book" of the internet.  Most ISPs modems and routers default to giving you their DNS servers.  To strain the analogy a little bit, that's like your computer or phone calling their operator every time you look up anything online.  Giving them that data literally gives them a record of everywhere you've decided to point your web browser.  Also, it makes it really easy to censor the internet when you control the "address book".

Finally, changing your DNS server might speed up your internet a bit, so yay!

If you're using a VPN, you're probably already using their DNS servers, so you're covered.

If you're mostly worried about speed, you can check out the Namebench tool at https://code.google.com/p/namebench/.

Often, people just talk about Google's public DNS or the OpenDNS system (now owned by Cisco).  There's other offerings that don't log or censor your DNS request.  DNS.watch seems to be a good offering as well as Free.DNS's open free, and public offerings.  You might also want to check out the OpenNIC project, which I just learned about while researching this post.

There's guides from Google, the How-To Geek, Lifewire, OpenDNS, or Greycoder to set up your system appropriately; the nice thing is that when you know the numbers to put in, whatever guide makes more sense for you will work.

IMPORTANT:  I have not included IPv6 servers below.  If you're using IPv6 please check to make sure your DNS requests aren't leaking.

IMPORTANT:  If your router or computer has more than two entries for DNS and the provider you choose only has two entries, you have these options:
  1. 0.0.0.0 to fall back to your ISP DNS (DO NOT WANT!)
  2. 10.0.0.0 (a non-usable IP) if you don't want to use any other servers
  3. Another DNS server of your choice (Do not duplicate one of the first two DNS's or it will default to 0.0.0.0)
Google DNS servers:
8.8.8.8
8.8.4.4

OpenDNS servers:
208.67.222.222
208.67.220.220
208.67.222.220
208.67.220.222

DNS Watch Servers
84.200.69.80
84.200.70.40

Free DNS servers
37.235.1.174
37.235.1.177

OpenNIC servers
138.197.25.214
45.32.230.225
50.116.23.211
96.90.175.167

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Congress Killed Your Privacy, What Next? Step 1 - Get and Use a VPN

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So Congress just killed your internet privacy.

What next?

The first - and perhaps most important - step is to learn about and use a VPN.  What's a VPN?  As Lifehacker put it:

The most important thing you need to know about a VPN: It secures your computer’s internet connection to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes.

Not only is this something you should be doing with your home computers, but it is definitely something you should be doing with your smartphone and laptop.  Aside from ISPs snooping on (and selling) your private information, there's plenty of tools to snag information from others who are connected to the same public wifi point.  This has been the case for a while - I wrote about it in 2012 - but it's even more urgent now.  Even if you don't care about your privacy (though I do), you want to make sure that you stay safe on public wifi points.

I personally use Private Internet Access.  I've found the service to be excellent, and like that they not only offer OpenVPN access (and apps for Android and iOS), but also support IPSec/L2TP, PPTP, and SOCKS5.  And the price is right - as low as $3.33 a month.

Yes, those are all affiliate links - but that's because I use the service.  If you don't want to use their app, the support guides are clear and well written for all the operating systems I've used.  They also have sites to test your VPN - regardless of what service you use.  You can see if your DNS is leaking your IP address, if your IPv6 settings are telling everyone where you went, or even if your e-mail tells others where you're connecting from.

Again, getting a VPN service you can trust - and using it - is one of the single most important things you can do to protect your privacy.

Check out the comparisons at PCMag and the roundup of privacy guarantees at Torrentfreak to see what services work best for you.



If you need to know why this is a big deal, check out this post: http://www.ideatrash.net/2017/03/stop-talking-to-your-wiretap-in-2017.html

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Scandals, Ethics, and Congresscritters: Why aren't we just impeaching everyone already?

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I happened to catch CNN today just as David Nunes was refusing to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

Three things occurred to me.

1. The business ethics "training" I've had at my day job isn't all that great. But hot damn, it makes pretty clear what a conflict of interest is, and also makes it absolutely clear that a perceived conflict of interest can be as bad or worse than an actual one.  One would hope that a Congressperson leading a committee looking into wrongdoing would have better training in business ethics than me.

2. In eight years, Obama had relatively few scandals - and the ones there were (such as the "Fast & Furious" and "IRS targeting" scandals) were not ethics ones involving the actual administration. 1  While Brietbart claims that there were 18 scandals, they're including stimulus spending as a scandal as a "waste of taxpayer money". At this point, I'm hard pressed to think of a member of Trump's cabinet or inner circle that doesn't have some kind of scandal - or sheer incompetence - attached to them.  And if you're going by Brietbart's standard of "waste of taxpayer money" being a scandal, Trump's weekly golfing trips to his own resort are each and every one a scandal.

3. How long are we going to wait before calling for impeachment? How much evidence do we really need of Trump's collusion with Putin?  How many times are we really going to sit there and be outright lied to when there's literally video evidence of the lies?

Look, I know how it feels when the person you supported doesn't live up to your expectations. As much as I approved of Obama as a president, there were a good number of times that he did things I highly disapproved of.  (Drone strikes, anyone?) The temptation to circle the wagons is high. 
Maybe it's because I grew up at the end of the Cold War, but I'm really having a hard time with understanding how conservatives are okay with these ties to a foreign government - and especially when it's Russia.

It's only been a few months, and every time you turn around there's another person associated with Trump who has connections (and has lied about them - Sen. Sessions, I'm looking at you) with Russia.

Impeach the motherfucker already.


1If you're going to say "Benghazi" at me, there was no evidence of Clinton being culpable or did anything wrong. Others did, but not people in the Cabinet.

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Right-wingers want to share their views - but not be associated with those who have the same views

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The right-wing attempts to suppress views they don't like isn't just being done by shutting down talk show hosts

It's also being done on college campuses in a stunningly hypocritical fashion.

You've probably heard rumblings about this, but it's hard to actually see examples of how the right-wing wants to control speech.  But this exchange happened online, showing exactly how hypocritical the arguments are, and how they're clumsily trying to use the same tools we've used to protect minorities.

Here's what happened first:  A college student said she's afraid of being stereotyped because she's a Republican in college.

...which already should have you scratching your head. "I'm afraid of being labeled as or associated with other people who have the same views I do when I speak about my views" is a tortured bit of logic.

My pal Patrick Tomlinson pointed out that our LGBT friends are genuinely afraid of being murdered.

And another student (at least, she is according to the "Daily Caller") says that fearing being murdered is a "personal problem".

My Patrick Tomlinson ripped into them at that point

It's arguable that Patrick was rude to these two self-labeled conservatives.

But we're seeing a huge metric ass-ton of hypocrisy here, and in an attempt to make it so these conservatives don't feel judged for... well, doing things like calling fearing murder a "personal problem".

Oh, and to just answer their later claim that one shouldn't feel "threatened by an opposing viewpoint", it's not the viewpoint that's threatening, it's the real-world violence that's on the rise.

Here's a quick factchecking note: Hate crimes are up by a 20% - 50% in the United States.  Source, source, source, source.  You can find more - this was just what was on the front page when I did a web search.

Oh, and then there's also this kind of relevant article:

L.G.B.T. People Are More Likely to Be Targets of Hate Crimes Than Any Other Minority Group 


This would have disappeared into the wilds of Twitter except that the Daily Caller decided to make a stink about it. (If you're not familiar with this "news" site, Ann Coulter is a columnist for them, which probably tells you all you need to know.)

This whole exchange is important, because it shows the kind of argument that conservatives are using to silence others by misusing the protections designed for minority groups.  Luckily, the "logic" here falls apart pretty quickly if you restate it clearly.

So let's summarize this again.

When told that people are genuinely (and legitimately) afraid of being murdered because of certain views, these two self-described conservatives say it's a "personal problem".

And then the students, the Daily Caller, and a bunch of commenters proceed to be super upset that a guy on Twitter called them names.

The hypocrisy is not just that they're ignoring the hate crimes and real world violence to LGBT people (and all sorts of minorities).

They're also ignoring the Bill of Rights.  It guarantees you the right to free speech. You do not have a guarantee that nobody will be upset by what you say.

Perhaps those students - along with the Daily Caller - should go back to their high school civics class.

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Should I Tell A Woman To Smile? #WhyIsThisStillBeingDone

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I'm surprised this still needs to be explained, but judging from certain events and some of the comments on the Facebook post, it does.

Are you thinking of telling a woman to smile, or that she's prettier when she smiles? I've saved this Google search for your reference.

I mean, literally the entire first page of results for that question is "DON'T DO THAT."

Telling a woman to smile - especially if you tell her to smile because it makes her prettier - is a good way to tell everyone around you that you're a sexist asshat.

You're not a sexist asshat?  

THEN DON'T TELL WOMEN TO JUST SMILE.

The thing here is where you're dictating to someone else how they're supposed to present for your pleasure. 

If you're actually concerned about their well being, you'd ask if anything was wrong and if they wanted to talk about it.

If you like the women around you being happy, then do some shit that makes them happy and treat them like real people instead of objects.

Yes, I realize that people with good intentions have done this without realizing how much they seemed like a sexist jackass.  Here's what those people should do:

STOP TELLING WOMEN TO SMILE AND TREAT THEM LIKE PEOPLE FROM NOW ON.  CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR INSTEAD OF GETTING DEFENSIVE.

 

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And the winner for actually being special snowflakes goes to....

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By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0,
http://bit.ly/2newqK8
Psychological projection is a psychological theory where people defend against their own impulses or qualities by denying that they have them while saying - usually quite loudly - that other people have those impulses or qualities. 

For decades now, the political right has tried to sell us the idea that being polite (you know, "political correctness") is the same as intolerance. They've tried to peddle the craptastic idea that you have to agree with someone in order to be respectful to them. They've claimed that if you don't spout the SJW line, you'll be pilloried.  (Though that didn't happen to me...)

And now we've had some pretty clear evidence that those claims are little more than psychological projection and what the far-right wing has wanted to do all along.

Take Tomi Lahren.  If you're not a right-wing watcher, you might still remember her from being on the Daily Show back in November

She's back in the news.  Tomi Lahren, when on the View, said:
I'm someone that is for limited government, so I can't sit here and be a hypocrite and say I'm for limited government, but I think that the government should decide what women do with their bodies.  Stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.
This is important, because Ms. Lahren's point is completely internally consistent.  She's a small-government conservative (and one I disagree with on a lot of issues), who is following her libertarian ideals.  You'd think this would play well with the "small government" crowd that runs the Blaze network and currently holds political power.

But that's not the case.  Because consistently saying that government shouldn't interfere in aspects of a citizen's life means that other people might choose an abortion. And therefore, even though she didn't actually say "I think abortions are swell", she's being treated as though she has.

Look, the lack of consistency is disappointing, though predictable. I could have told her that "small government" didn't mean "reproductive freedom", just like "small government" has never meant "small military" or "small police" or "small anything that the GOP wants". 

The myth of "small government" is a lie the far right wing has been selling.


More important, though, is the message here for other conservatives and libertarians.  Not just from Beck (so much for finding commonalities, huh?), but from other "conservative" powerhouses.

Because for the longest time, we've been told that the GOP and the right-wing is a "big tent" and welcomes those who want liberty (and specifically, libertarians).  The right has tried to tell you that everyone else can't handle freedom and differences in views and opinions.

But their actions tell us a new message.

The message is this:

There is no more big tent.  There is no more commonality.  The only - only - thing that is acceptable any more is toeing the party line.  On every single point.  Parrot the party line or be silenced.

You tell me - does that sound like America?

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Brain Weasels: Jargon That Does Double Duty

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There's a lot of jargon out there in relationship-land, but my absolute favorite has to be brain weasels.

The term itself is needed. It describes a specific group of feelings or reactions that aren't always grouped together. By grouping them together in this particular way, it's easier to identify the root causes of the reaction or feeling and address it directly.

Second:  It serves as a kind of safeword.

A safeword is "a word serving as a prearranged and unambiguous signal to end an activity".  The activity here are the negative feelings and reactions.  And by being a prearranged label, it can cut through whatever drama is going on in the moment and invoke that calmer time. It's a way of bringing someone out of their emotional fugue and back to clarity for a moment.

And it does all that without (linguistically) laying blame.  

Brain weasels, linguistically, are their own entities.  By naming them as something other than your sweetie, you've managed to address the problematic behavior without actually blaming the person. This allows the person doing the behavior to address the behavior themselves without having to worry about defending their ego.

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Sometimes You Can Overcorrect: Objectification Ain't The Answer To Institutional Racism

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So first, let me share this video with you. It's called "Sexual Racism", and was sparked by a question on a Q/A panel:

Someone from the audience asked if having partner preferences for a certain racialized group is a form of discrimination... As if "I will only date Mexicans, is that racist?"

Their answer - in one word - was "Yes".  And I'm conflicted about that.

More after the video.



And that short answer - though it's followed up by explanation - makes me a bit uncomfortable, and not in a "challenge my assumptions" kind of way.

Because I would "Yes, and..." as an answer to that question.

Yes, I agree that racism has influenced who we are and are not attracted to.

I've noticed this in my own life: As a teenager (and overwhelmingly exposed to only white people), this was definitely true. Once I hit the wider world (and especially in the military) and was around people of many different ethnicities, that stopped being the case.

Acknowledging the unspoken social forces that shape our preferences is absolutely required. The institutional racism talked about here is definitely true and persists BECAUSE it is unexamined, or because people with good intent assume that being "deliberately racist" and "being racist" are the same thing.

So I'm in total agreement with those points.

AND... at the same time I've got two things about this video that make me uncomfortable.

First, there's a blurring between individual prejudice (and individual racism) and institutional racism that leaves some really big unanswered questions.

For example, they're largely talking about those who EXCLUDE a racial type. What about those who have a preference for a specific ethnicity? What if that preference is for a racial type that (according to the data cited, which I'm not disputing at all) is typically found "less attractive"? Wouldn't that be a good thing?

Ugh. Just writing that there's some racial types that are found "less attractive" makes me feel unclean.

Anyway, that blurring between the individual and societal also removes all the other elements in attraction, which seems to be a quick route toward further objectification.

Don't get me wrong. This video makes a compelling argument for broadening your horizons, and I completely 100% agree with that. In my own experience, I can look back at who I found "attractive" and see how that's grown, broadened, and shifted.

But that's why I've got a big "and..." attached to my agreement with this video. That shift did not occur due to objectification, but from getting to know different types of people as ... well, people.

My tastes in what qualities or features I found attractive (and - importantly - in what I did or did not find un attractive) followed the shift in who I was exposed to. It was getting to know people of different types, ethnicities, religions, sizes, and [insert quality/descriptor here] first that caused the broadening in whom I found attractive.

And that's why I'm left uncomfortable with some of the video's end exhortations. Sure, don't set racial restrictions on your dating profile. That's cool. But (for example) to "swipe right on Tinder profiles if the person's from a racialized group you'd usually pass up"? That makes me distinctly uncomfortable.

Maybe because it reminds me a little too much of a few guys I've met over the years who were - and yes, this is AMAZINGLY offensive - keeping score of what races of people they'd slept with.



While I appreciate the intent of having people broaden their horizons and not excluding people of color, I am having a hard time seeing someone going out on a date with a person they're not attracted to as anything other than an offensive trainwreck 99% of the time.

I think that's because it brings me back to the point of objectification.

Again, I agree completely with examining and challenging your assumptions. In short, if you think you're not racist and you live in this culture, you're wrong.

That goes double if you say "I'm blind to race".

I've seen the effects of it in my own life, and I agree completely that you've got to expand your circles of what types of people you're exposed to. (I need to work on this again myself.)

I also recognize that any romantic and sexual relationship requires a certain amount of objectification. To quote Dan Savage1:

The historical problem with the objectification of women wasn't that women were treated like objects, ladies, but that women weren't treated like, or allowed to be, anything else... The urge to objectify is universal, and so long as it's fairly and respectfully indulged, it's not offensive, not a problem, and not news.

But if you're going on a date with - or even signaling potential attraction to - someone simply because they're of a different ethnicity? Or worse, forcing yourself to?

I'm not so sure that's a great idea either.


1 Slightly edited because the quote deals with a specific situation, though he's said the same thing elsewhere since.

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