Politics Must Be Personal

The last year has been an abrasive, at times eye-opening, tour of how forgiving people are of racism/sexism that they don’t consider blatant. More so I have been rocked that so many people see obvious racism/sexism and forgive it for not being blatant.

I think that if a negative statement regarding a category of people needs defense it has already defined itself as bigotry. If we feel a need to defend that type of statement it is probably wrong in a moral and/or ethical sense. In our foreseeable future it may behoove us all to hold a line that if a person has enough knowledge of a damaging statement/act/law for a prepared defense, they already know it was wrong.

When you consider what you personally defend rephrase in your own words, when faced with other’s defense ask them to rephrase in their own words. If you, or anyone, has trouble rephrasing a statement in personal terms it is most likely weak, dogmatic fluff. In an era of propaganda a front line enemy is giving up your own voice and words. If you express your politics on personal terms you can deflate the power of propaganda.

So, I advocate that part of the defense against totalitarianism and authoritarianism is to be critical of what others, and we, defend. Pragmatically I think that means reclaiming blatant as observable. It is not the extreme of taboo, rather the observable manifestation of discrimination that must be countered, lest we fall prey to evil by banality.

Question the negative, share what you see, use your own words.

Loving Your Neighbor

We each have to ask whether we can handle the way we treat each other. Would you be okay being treated the way People of Color and other targeted groups are treated socially, politically, and legally? You are part of society, what you do and say matters.

Jane Elliott, the teacher in this video, has worked on education about Racism in America since the day after Martin Luther King was murdered. This is a small window into that work. A larger documentary, Eye of the Storm, is available, it was filmed the third year that she taught this for third-graders in Iowa. I chose this video as the introduction because it contains a very telling moment. About half-way through one of the blue-eyed participants rage quits. It is worth the time to hear Jane’s response and the response from the kids in the exercise. There are several documentaries that have been produced on her workshops. One of my favorites was produced for Brazilian TV, it happened during the 90’s and nails the rise and fall of Colin Powell a decade before it happened.

It has come to my attention that many of the people who are reading this are sensitive about being called racist. Please allow me to clarify, you live in and participate in a racist society. If you have a house, a job, or clothes on your back you have reaped benefits from a racist society. You are not, personally, racism. You do one of three things: fight back against the racism, accept racism, or you support racism. Your claim to goodness or rightness is tied to which you choose to do. Each of us old enough to read this have bigotry and prejudice, that is inescapable.

Deriving value from the world you were born into does not make you a bad person. But, complacence when witness to injustice does chip away at goodness. I do not want you to flagellate yourself for the times that you have chosen self-preservation in the face of injustice. As repentance I want you to own your decisions and work to rebalance the scale in someone else’s life on a person-to-person level. Repent by helping someone, repent by building up where you you have been silent, and repent by never allowing your feelings to be a factor in another person’s survival.

You cannot escape the racist systems that you were born into, you can only work to retool or rebuild a system that does not accept and rely on racism as a central pillar. The first step is to never allow your feelings of comfort to stand in the way of other people’s survival.

Love Isn’t Conditional

I turned 20 on the floor of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I was waiting for a woman I thought I loved.

It was the year following my dad’s death. I lost most of my drive toward anything. I was empty inside. So, I ran away from my life. The idea was I to spend three months in Costa Rica, but I spent most of my time in Panama, and eventually got a job in a bar in Granada, Nicaragua.

Central America was good for me. It was warm and sunny, alcohol was cheap, and the food was good. I saw things that I had never seen before, like sloths and tribes of monkeys stealing backpacks. I met people from all over the world.

During those days I saw sunlight through the fog of depression. The person in the mirror started to be recognizable. One day I totally skipped my depression medication. The next day I decided to see how long I could go without. I made traveling companions, and kept moving mostly by saying yes to each of the places those new friends said they wanted to see. That took me to butterfly farms, banana plantations, black sand beaches, and to a lake at the top of Vulcan Maderas in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

I realized I didn’t want to go back.

I was living and working in Granada during the election of Bush vs. Gore. I have never been yelled at as emphatically as I was by my fellow occupants at the hostel during the weeks where the election was contested. During my adventures every week I bought an international calling card and found a pay phone to call the only person I really missed from the US. She was in the army living thousands of miles from home. For me the long conversations were open and made me feel warm and loved in a way that I hadn’t felt before.

Still, especially after Bush was enthroned, I didn’t want to return. I wanted to stay where I was happy, where new people from all over the world came through the hostel I lived in and the bar I worked at. I was making enough money (mostly through tips) to cover my expenses, and as long as I crossed a border every 90-days I could have made it for most of a year with enough left over to buy a ticket back. That is what I wanted to do.

A stabbing sent me to the hospital.

About two-weeks before my original flight home was scheduled to leave something harrowing happened. At 4am after one of my shifts at the bar another hostel occupant franticly told me that they needed me outside. Another of the patrons (a British guy) was bleeding from a stab wound. A group of kids mugged him. I was the only person awake that spoke Spanish and English, so they wanted me to go with him in the ambulance.

Before I could get inside to grab clothes the medics arrived. So, I rode in the ambulance in my boxer shorts. I dutifully explained the situation to the medics and the doctors at the hospital. I helped the incredibly drunk British man stay up-to-date on what the doctors were doing to him. After four hours his friends finally found out and came to relieve me. I was exhausted. I called a taxi and rode home, still in my boxer shorts.

When I called my army friend she reminded me that her flight would arrive at Seattle-Tacoma about 10-hours after mine. She told me that she wanted to see me, and that I should come home. It sounded very nice; it was the first time that I felt any interest in coming back.

I quit the bar and bought a bus ticket back to Costa Rica to catch my flight from San Jose to Seattle. When I made it to San Jose I made friends with a Desert Storm vet and settled in for a last bit of fun before leaving. On December 15th 2000 I boarded a plane I spent weeks planning to miss.

It wasn’t my homecoming.

I traveled for most of a day, landing in Atlanta, being screened and re-screened, questioned about how and why I was in Central America, eventually I was allowed to continue. The plane landed in Seattle late that night. A hazy state of exhaustion and excitement floated  me to the baggage claim, then back up to a safe spot to sleep. I woke up on my birthday with enough time to get coffee before her father and I greeted her as she passed the security checkpoint.

We went back to their house, a place I frequented often during high school, I spent my birthday with her and the family. It was warm and comfortable, I felt deeply loved. When I was leaving I told her that I loved her, and that I was excited that we could see each other, instead of just talk over the phone. That was the last time that I saw her.

Now that I was 30-minutes away, and she was back home, she stopped returning my calls. After a while I gave-up. For the next 8-months I lived in a basement with four other people, I sobered-up, I worked as a janitor, busboy, and a construction worker. During visits to Reed College I decided it was time for me to return to college.

Closer to what I loved.

I packed what little I still had, clothes and computer, into my lumpy spray-painted Datsun 210 and I drove from Seattle to Portland. I was homeless, but I found my way to couches and friendly beds. At the end of my first week in Portland I got an e-mail from Army Girl.

“Hey Carlos,

I wanted to let you know that I am getting married…

 

Love,

[Redacted]”

 

My reply was short:

“Should I be happy for you?”

 

I think that is the last thing I ever said to her.

This was how I learned that some people are only loyal to what they need from you. When their needs change, so does their loyalty. What I wanted was to feel loved, I got that for a while, but it was my mistake. I mistook her longing for home and family as longing for me. When she returned to her hometown she didn’t need a friend or lover, so she didn’t need me. I hurt for a long time, but eventually I realized that love isn’t conditional.

The Radar Metaphor

One of the keys to communicating with a partner is letting them know what is on the horizon. Not just the things that you have done, but some of your vision of the future.

Rose and I have at times used a metaphor of a radar to describe communicating about what is going on in our lives, because a radar has sectors and rings. So, you can describe people and events by what part of and what importance they have. Sectors can be things like: friends, family, romance, work, hobbies, etc. categories that hold importance, but aren’t dependent on each other. The rings are the importance you place on a particular person or event: low, medium, high; consider, pursue, mandatory; maybe, most likely, definitely.

The point here is to add a language about how important something is to you. Because, text messaging and email don’t allow for proper tone miscommunication about intensity can happen. Even if your are talking face to face some people miss non-verbal cues. Communication works the best when the speaker acts to create as narrow a meaning as possible. Using the radar metaphor can help the participants have a way to ask questions about intensity without seeming like they are being judging.

What is Romantic Love?

I find it frustrating, sometimes, talking to people about love. The first roadblock I usually run into is getting people to define their personal meaning of love, the second mountain to climb is dealing with what romantic love means.

Whenever there is more than one person discussing this topic,  there is argument about what romanic love is. Does it require erotic/sexual feelings? Is romantic love a verb, or an adjective and a noun? Is Romantic just a name for the time when love is like a drug?

Romantic Love is a Triangle

As a concept many people that I have talked to see romantic love very similar to the triangular theory of love. This concept is fleshed out by Richard Sternberg. These people see romantic as being a sufficient level of intimacy on several scales.

  1. Intimacy – Which encompasses feelings of attachment, closeness, connection, and bonding.
  2. Passion – Which encompasses drives connected to both limerence and sexual attraction.
  3. Commitment – Which encompasses, in the short term, the decision to remain with another, and in the long term, plans made with that other.

So, if you have sufficient connection on these three points your love is romantic.

Romantic Love is a Chemical Cocktail

The next largest group I have spoken with feel that romantic love is only the chemical infatuation described by limerence. It is the fairytale that is the beginning of a relationship.

It is a potent cocktail of chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Adrenaline, Cortisol, Oxytocin and Vasopressin that impair judgement, create feeling of euphoria, suppress appetite and foster feelings of connection and attachment with another.

This group usually argues that after this fades romantic love transitions to something else: friends, family, etc. For this group romance is lie, or a chemical trick.

Romantic Love is an Action

The connection that the last group that shares in common is people that see Romantic Love as love that is enacted. Most of them describe it as being actions with an intent for emotional connection. Perhaps this is the most traditionalist view, because it revolves around cause and effect. You take an action to influence emotional connection. This is what is presented in romance novels.

Does Romance Require Sexual Intimacy?

I have not seen any agreement on whether sexual interest is required for romantic love. A significant group of the people I have discussed this with see romance as a precursor to sexual feelings, a smaller group sees romance and sex as totally separate, and many people have very long lists of caveats on when and how the two interact.

Personally, I am still unsure what people mean when they say they are looking for a romantic relationship. I don’t think I have every heard a definition that describes the behaviors that I see in people that describe themselves as romantic.

What do you think makes a love romantic? Do you think it is any different than other kinds of love?

The Matrix of Romance and Sexuality

What is the difference between romance and sexuality?

While talking with people about love there begins to be a separation between the physical side of attraction and the mental side of attraction. Even though we can use the same language to discuss them, they are (for the most part) separate drives.

The Sexual Romantic Matrix

The Matrix of Romance and Sexuality includes a variety of orientations that people exhibit in romantic and sexual attraction. The matrix includes aromantic and asexual for clarity, but those two have an implication about intensity that shouldn’t be applied to the other positions. I have listed the orientations on a scale of hetero/homo (different/same) instead of a femininity/masculinity scale so it can apply to more than just biological sex and social gender. For example: you may be sexually oriented toward people of a different race, or romantically attracted to people of the same religion. My hope is to make this chart versatile for you.

One of the very interesting zones of the matrix are the ones that are colored in peach. Those are variegated orientations where your sexual orientation and your romantic orientation have very little overlap. This happens with surprising frequency, people that form emotional romantic bonds with people that are different from their sexual interests.

Types of Attraction & Other Factors

There are some factors to consider other than just orientation. Orientation answers a question about who you are attracted to, but not really the how. So, lets set the groundwork for applying attraction types.

  • Primary Attraction – You experience attraction immediately, based mostly on exterior qualities. This is love at first sight or immediate sexual attraction. Primary sexual attraction comes into play when you are attracted to a celebrity or entirely unknown individual.
  • Secondary Attraction – You experience attraction after a dependency is met. For example some people only feel sexual attraction after they form a romantic bond.
  • Tertiary Attraction – You experience attraction reactively. As a result of someone else’s attraction to you attraction begins in you.

For most people all of these types of attraction can occur, but there are some people that do not experience primary attraction. In the arena of sexuality people who do not experience sexual attraction without first experiencing romantic connection often label themselves Demisexuals, and people that only experience sexual attraction to intelligence call themselves Sapiosexual. Both are examples of people that only experience secondary attraction. People that only experience tertiary attraction use the prefix litho- (lithoromantic, lithosexual, etc.). People that very rarely experience attraction often describe themselves as Gray-A.

Hopefully the matrix will help you understand yourself, or someone you love, a little better.

Matrix of Sexuality and Romance

We Fought A Silent War

Our war was about secrets, not lies. Secrets that we couldn’t share. We set to battling over territory neither of us wanted.

For my part the secret that I didn’t understand started to erode in 2006. I asked her how her counseling session went. She had anxiety from her last semester in college.
“The counselor says we are in an abusive relationship,” we both stared, and she continued,”she says it sounds like a drug addiction.”

pg-map

It was like I was looking at a proportional map of the world for the first time. The pieces were recognizable, but I wasn’t sure how to how to deal with the whole. I understood how to think about our behaviors, but I couldn’t see any consistency (consistency is what makes the difference between mean and abusive). Who was the abuser?

We had been together for a long time, when we ticked off our history we both seemed mean, at times. I just hadn’t ever dealt with the concept we were bad together, not individually.

With most of a decade behind me I realize that we were abusing ourselves. I was punishing myself because I didn’t understand what I was fighting against. She fit so perfectly into a place in my life that was broken that her most damaging moments weren’t intentional. And, my natural response fit perfectly into her greatest fears. We just did what came naturally. Our instincts were killing each other, and our fears brought us back together.

We learned to pay enough attention to balance speed and comfort, but we were headed somewhere neither of us would have been happy.

My problem was that I was in a silent war with my mother, but my battlefield never put me closer to winning my war.
In time the steady march to places I wasn’t suited to be tore me down, and my girlfriend down and we started a Cold War (seeing who could be the least attached), neither of us wanted to end what was clearly hurting us both.

Shortly after the girlfriend moved away I was talking to my mother. The last nail fell into place and I saw what my war was about. I heard this dismissive tone and language that put me right back into my last fight with the girlfriend. It was too late, but I finally had something that felt like truth. My love for that, now ex, girlfriend came clean. Most of my anger with that ex went away, but I still was the wrong person, on all fronts.

I was being honest, to my ability, and accepted two slow deaths. Always hoping that the girlfriend would one day believe that I was sorry for my part in our bad times. Inclusive of my failure to understand and let go.

My wars have become more obvious and I atone much more quickly for the Devils that rise from the graves of my past. I still fight my silent wars, and now I don’t see secrets as strength. Maybe the hardest lessons learned from that difficult relationship was to be honest about my failings, accept that there are things that I can’t fix myself, and that silence can’t fix anything.

A Tale of Two Pictures

One of my longtime passions has been visual interpretation (I did my undergrad thesis on it). I have advised many people that you can’t escape from how you look. So, when I discovered PhotoFeeler I immediately uploaded two pictures from my LinkedIn profile to see how their system works, and how cruel the notes would be.

Both pictures are taken by professional photographers using the same standards for portraiture: 3/4 stance, shoulders to camera, and clothes that I feel comfortable in. The results were very different from each other, and, frankly surprising. Each photo was rated by 20-people; the scores reflect my percentile rank compared to other images rated by the same number of people.

Image Score
What I lack in competence I make up for in likability. Yikes!

 

What a competent near sighted fellow.
What a competent near-sighted fellow.

I was surprised by the huge difference in Competent and Likable between the two pictures. I was not surprised by the user comments that I am dressed too casual. Out of 6 user comments 3 were removed by the site moderators. Seriously, 50% of the people that took the time to add a note said something so offensive that the website removed their comment. Why do you think that is? 

I suggest you tryout PhotoFeeler. To use it for free you have to score other people’s pictures, and I think that is where the value is. After scoring 10 pictures I started feeling a bit uncomfortable about my answers. I was rating people with the same clothes, background, and framing differently. Why would I do that? What I was going through was like a test, specifically an Implicit Association Test (IAT). It was putting me up against my biases.

In the end I scored 80 people so I could test my current LinkedIn profile picture in two categories, my old picture once, and my long time Facebook profile picture. The end result is that I am happy I am self-employed and already married.
uvGeClvwbDtJEyqJ_20_p_fc1b068d

Be A Dad Project Continues

Rose is back at work. This means that I am back to double duty as Dad/Marketer/Janitor/Zookeeper. Trying to accomplish 3 or 4 things at once every moment of every day. Which I love. I get to use my problem solving brain to filter down to what must.

At any given time I can be making progress on a number of things, but one has to be done. The deck gets shuffled to accommodate and the list of things I do in a day are often longer than the list of things I planned to do, but didn’t.

My biggest challenge right now comes from the motivations of my kids. One who is exerting his independence in a world where he only has three things he can reliably do “by self” as he puts it, none of which are things I want him to do unsupervised, and one who needs constant reassurance that she is still safe without mama in the house.

Wonder Weeks has been helpful. Mainly because it reminds me that Ruby is terrible because babies are terrible, not because she hates me in particular.

But, the boy is developing well and is a reliable helper when it comes to comforting the baby. Thankfully he likes his new responsibilities as a big brother. My short term goal is to get back into working out, because he also likes miming whatever I do and gets tired, or at the very least bored of bothering me, after a 30-minute workout.

No Two Kids Have The Same Parents

The first time I can remember hearing, “No two kids have the same parents,” was from Rose. It was maybe a year ago.

Those words instantly seemed true, but now, with Ruby in my life, it has been very real. I’m not that much older than when Rock was born, but we are in a different country, we own a house, we own a car, we have a second dog, and most importantly–there are two kids. When Rock popped out we hadn’t done this before; many things were terrifying. Every time he stopped making noise I thought he might be dead. But that isn’t Ruby’s life. Also she snores like a piglet with hay-fever.

The experience that we gained with Rockford has made us remarkably different in our comfort with children in general. Rose is nowhere near as burdened by what-ifs, because we survived an international move and living in a van with our first little monkey–that is hard to top as a challenge. I am more laid-back about the development of Ruby, more understanding that I am of little use to her for the first few months. Thankfully neither of our children seem to be gentle souls. The just scamper/squirm/flop to whatever beat is happening.

Ruby will not get the kind of direct scrutiny that her brother gets (he hits the milestones first), but she will also live with a different kind of scrutiny. She will live in more a panopticon with many eyes, ears, and cold wet noses milling about. Now that we “know” enough to get ourselves in trouble we have to remember that “the same as last time” isn’t the goal. With Rockford becoming more sophisticated and Ruby being an entirely different adorable little monkey my goal is to focus less on the act of parenting. From this point forward I am focusing on being a role model.

I can’t be the same dad to both of them, they are not the same kid (right?). So, I’ll look to enact what I want them to learn, and grow with them, to be a better man. If I tell them to do one thing, but do another myself, I will just raise kids that are the worst of me, and good liars. Personally, I would prefer them to be honest rather than civil (both, fingers crossed). In the end, I hope, they will overlook my parenting failures because they know I am one of the monkeys too–even though I run the monekyhouse.