Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Selective Outrage

Big news was made this week. An owner of a large sports franchise was banned and fined for using racist remarks which were caught on tape. (I’m going to leave out names because I don’t want to get sued.)

In reading about this story, I, personally, was dismayed that the owner would tell his girlfriend not to take pictures with black people and post them on social media. He also told her not to bring black people to the games.

I applaud that people collectively stood up and said, “This isn’t right. How dare this man make a decision to do something (in this case make racist remarks) that is insensitive to people.”

As more and more people chimed in, it was clear that this owner had crossed a line which our society has determined is wrong. And we, as a society were not going to accept it.

Yet, as I read about this story, I am also dismayed at an aspect which seems to be accepted by the media at large and didn’t cause an outcry.

Keep in mind that the recording that got the owner in trouble was of a conversation between him and his girlfriend. (She’s referred to as his girlfriend in story after story.) And that’s the part of the story that hasn’t generated anywhere close to the amount of outrage as the racist remarks. But why should it?

Simple. The owner is married, and has been married to the same lady for a lot of years.

So, what’s the difference? As far as I know, making racist remarks isn’t illegal. In fact, it is protected under “freedom of speech.” However, the people who became outraged at the owner’s remarks did so because the comments were morally and ethically wrong. And I agree 100%. Racist remarks may be protected by the law, but it doesn’t make them okay.

Cheating on your wife? From what I could find on the subject, adultery is illegal in roughly 20 states in the USA. But more than that, when people get married they make vows to be faithful. I would say that breaking those vows is also morally and ethically wrong.

In the end, I find it interesting, and somewhat disturbing, 
how society is selective in its outrage.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

When to quit quitting

There are a lot of motivational sayings intended to inspire people to keep trying, even when things get hard. After all, it takes hard work to accomplish something worthwhile, right?

Here are some inspiring sayings I found about not quitting:

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.--Vince Lombardi”

“If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride - and never quit, you'll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.--Paul Bryant”

“Defeat doesn't finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he's defeated. He's finished when he quits.--Richard M. Nixon”

There are some other quotes on the subject that take a bit of a different spin on the subject.

“If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a fool about it.--W. C. Fields”

“I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.--Henny Youngman”

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.--Albert Einstein”

I’ve wondered time and again if refusing to quit and having the courage to walk away are opposites. My conclusion? It’s not that simple. Let me give you an example.

I studied hard to get my degree in communications. I wanted to be a TV director. While going to BYU, I had access to the control room of the TV station. Between classes while we were off the air, I would sit down at the video switcher and practice, and practice, and practice some more.

I worked my way up in the field to where I became the Operations Manager at a 24 hour news station in the New York City market. This may sound boastful, but I became a really good director, mainly due to all of the hard work I put in.

And then, I walked away from it.

Why? I realized that the working environment was changing me. I became more cynical, more jaded, and more frustrated. I didn’t like who I was becoming, so I quit and walked away. (Other reasons included not being able to keep commitments to my family or church because breaking news always came first and also because TV news continued to become more sensational.)

So, according to the quotes at the beginning, I quit, therefore I’m not a winner. Or am I?

I decided to do something else. I wrote books. I went back to school to get my Master’s degree. I took a job as a substitute teacher. I might end up teaching at the college level or maybe even high school one day. There are all sorts of possibilities.

Now, with five novels out, and the sixth on the way, I wonder if I’m making the right choice. After all, writing is a lot of hard work. It takes time, and there is no guarantee that all my hard work will pay off.

To be fair, I’ve done pretty well. My books have gotten overall positive reviews and I’ve sold more copies than I ever imagined—but I could always sell more.

Like most writers, I have those moments of “Is what I’m writing any good? Does anyone want to read this?” And that’s when I choose not to quit.

Choosing not to quit writing and quitting TV are different to me. One of these activities is helping me become the person I want to be, while the other was tearing me down.

And that’s the difference then, isn’t it. Quitting isn’t bad if you are quitting something bad.

Friday, April 18, 2014

When rational arguments are irrational

A student once told me, “I got a problem with you. You got me suspended.” (For the sake of playing it safe, I’m not going to share his name or what he did. But trust me, it was bad enough to get suspended.)

My response? “It wasn’t me that got you suspended, it was your actions.”

He stared at me like that was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. He came back with the reply of, “But had you not told nobody, I wouldn’t have got in trouble.”

As the conversation went on, he kept trying to convince me that the suspension was my fault. He used every bit of logic he could muster. One of his better lines was, “If no one else in the class has a problem with it, why do you?”

I answered, “Because as the teacher, my job is to enforce school policy.”

Why do I bring this up? I was sent a link to a video called “Anti-homosexual gibberish.” Basically, the creator of the video wanted to use logic to defend his point of view. (Note! I’m not trying to cause a fight over what is right or wrong with homosexuality—if you can’t get passed that idea, stop reading now.)

I was fascinated by how many people congratulated him for using reason to make his point. To me, the most accurate part of the title was “gibberish”—specifically with the logic he was using.

If you want, you can watch the video here:

As I thought about his “arguments,” I realized that the same logic could be applied to several other things. In fact, that is exactly what I decided to do.

Again, if you are easily offended or think all I’m trying to do is bash homosexuals, you haven’t been paying attention. I’m trying to show flaws in his logic, not his subject matter. My video can be watched here:

If you watched both videos, you’ll notice I omitted a part in mine. It’s the part where he tries to use logic that just because homosexuality is okay doesn’t mean every sort of sexual relationship is okay. I agree with that point. But to those trying to convince your cause is right, stop using “Equality For All” as a slogan—because “All” means everyone, even those you do not agree with.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Papa J

I want to publicly express my appreciation for a truly remarkable man. His name is Carl Chester Jamalkowski, or as I call him, “Papa J.” 

Technically, he’s my father-in-law, though he will always be a father figure to me.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Papa J is the importance of family. Here is a man who worked the graveyard shift at Attica Prison for almost 30 years. As I understand it, he took the overnight shift because it paid better, so he could provide for his family.

My wife tells stories of how he would be there for them in the mornings, often making breakfast for them after he got home from work. The way she tells the story with such fondness indicates to me it wasn’t really about the breakfast, it was about showing love to his family.

As I got to know him, it became clear to me that he was extremely smart. He taught me how to play different card games and rarely was I able to best him. “Hasenpfeffer” was a family favorite card game. My dyslexic mind often confused “spades” with “clubs,” so to keep them straight, I’d called them “shovels” and “clovers” which seemed to amuse Papa J to no end.

I’m not a short person. At 6’3” I’m often the tallest person in the room. Consider then that Papa J was taller than me and had more muscle in one of his arms than I had in my whole body. When he told me he loved his baby girl and made sure I knew the consequences if I mistreated her, I took him seriously.

I’ll admit that for the first few months I got to know him, I was scared to death. Yet over time, I realized he had a heart of gold. He loved to collect things, thinking of ways to give them to others to help them out.

It seemed to me that Papa J and Mama J had a wonderful symbiotic relationship. She loved to cook, and he loved to eat. I can’t count the times we’d be in the middle of a meal, and he’d say, “Rose, you know what would be good for dinner tomorrow?” And then he’d say what he was in the mood for. Mama J would playfully roll her eyes and say, “Carl, let’s finish eating this meal first!”

Because Papa J worked for so many years during the graveyard shift, even after he retired, he tended to stay up late. It seemed like no time was a bad time to make a pizza—something he made often and was quite delicious.

I had the chance to live with Mama and Papa J while doing my internship in Buffalo for six weeks. It was late spring so Papa J and I would watch a lot of the NBA playoffs together. Being on the east coast meant some of the games would run late, but it was never so late that he wasn’t willing to make a pizza as the games were on.

A skill that my wife inherited from Papa J was being able to spot a bargain. One of the things that could get Papa J up early was the prospect of going to garage sales, also known as “tag” sales. I had a chance to go with him a few times during my internship. It never ceased to amaze me how he was able to “negotiate” with someone until the price was right.

Later in his life, he and Mama J made the move from the Buffalo area to Utah. My wife’s older sister, Lora, and her husband, George, went above and beyond by taking them in and creating a place for them to live.

Papa J passed away on April 3, 2014 at home with loved ones by his side. While his spirit may have left this earth, his family legacy will remain.