Monday, October 2, 2017

Shots Fired... Again

Another shooting, this one being supposedly the most deadly to date. 58 dead, over 500 injured and the crazy thing - while I know this is a massive tragedy, I just feel numb.

Y'all, I'm gonna speak freely for a bit, so I apologise in advance if I cut too deep too soon.

We can't stay where we are.

Since 1999 politicians have been dithering and arguing, political action committees have been rallying, all in the name of banning all guns or the equal pushback that everybody should own guns and that no gun should ever be restricted. We're at a stalemate, also, when it comes to increasing the size, reach and armory of the police force: some want more police reach and force, some say the police already have too much reach, and we know that there are issues already with police using too much force.

I am fed up. I'm tired. While the political bigjobs flap their mouths, people are dying. I don't know how to make this more clear. And, frankly, all the proposals that are often bandied about, really, would have had very little realistic impact.

  • In this particular setting, everybody being armed would not have helped.
  • In this particular setting, a better-armed police force would still have taken time to arrive.
  • In this particular setting, better, armed security would probably have cost more and required someone well-trained and armed with a sniper rifle to take down the shooter from the concert arena or a nearby building
  • In this particular setting, if everyone was disarmed, the killer may still have had a weapon, albeit illegally procured, with no background checks or controls in place.

We don't know whether the shooter had a psychiatric condition, was on drugs, had a terminal disease, was in a terrible life situation, or just hated country music that much. All we know is he had access to a weapon with the ability to fire in rapid bursts and was able to hit the concert ground from a nearby hotel window. He may have been of sound mind when he purchased the gun, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have had an issue later in life, before the shooting.

For all the screening we have in place, for all the hypothetical what-ifs that may have prevented this tragedy, we have nothing. We have another person who, for all intents and purposes, slipped through the cracks in the system.

To me, this says one big statement: The system is not the solution.

We will never be able to orchestrate a flawless system in which there are no active shooters and everyone tat owns a gun, if at all, is a perfectly responsible, person with guaranteed stability and sanity for their whole life. To me, this says we need to look elsewhere.

If we cannot create an external set of boundaries to limit or prevent the damage of a rogue member of society, perhaps it is time to return to internal boundaries, morals, and values. The great social experiment of modernity, the liberation from social restrictions and religious mores has resulted in greater, wanton excess ranging from drug use to sexuality to violence, prompting the need for increased external, governmental restriction and the subsequent backlash.

We need an ethic of life. A culture that seeks the protection and perpetuation of life at all stages and in all forms. I know it sounds naive, but take a thought about it. What would a better ethic of life impact in a would-be shooter? What would it impact in the people around the shooter? How would it impact his access to care?

It's time we take another look at society and re-evaluate what is truly of greatest importance and what hills we deem worthy to die on, because anybody can rant. Anybody can sit behind a screen and philosophise or stand on a stage and orate. Anybody can march on DC in a mass or run into a crowd pulling a trigger, but it seems like not everyone is willing to stop, put themselves in the backseat, and listen. Not everyone is willing to come to an agreement and mutually compromise and, until we are, then we will always exist in this warring, polarised state, making no progress while the cost continues to climb.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Addressing the Alt-Riot

To provide a little background for those who may not have seen the news, last night there was a riot and counter-riot in Charlottesville, VA, a city ~ 1 hr away from me. It made the news in part because it was another Alt-Right riot and in part because, in combination with counter-riot protests, it got ugly.

This morning, as I opened my Facebook and saw the news, I grieved a little. I saw the rightful denouncement of this event by a local pastor. I saw the urging of a seminarian for White conservative Christians to speak out against the Alt-Right. I also saw the news articles themselves and something there stood out to me.

In amongst the list of slogans chanted was one phrase that stood out to me as the real heart of the movement:
"You will not replace us."
That's the real fear - impotence and irrelevance, the loss of relevance, weight, prestige, and power in society. Now, I say this not to pardon this movement or to beg clemency for them. No, I want to speak directly to the heart of the movement, to my fellow White brothers and sisters who may hold this fear in their hearts.

You are not being replaced.

Just because our society seeks to uplift members of our society who were previously denied any affirmation, exhortation, or agency does not mean that our society says we are now worthless. To put it another way, if my boss decides to praise my coworker for something he or she did, that does not mean that I am inferior.

To celebrate Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian history and culture does not mean our White history and culture is irrelevant. We need to instead change the view that we don't have any history and culture, that White American culture is null or nonexistent and that any celebration of a culture not our own erases any presence of our "non-culture" or "non-history."

To use an analogy, it's like trying to draw with a white crayon on white paper - of course it's not visible, unlike the black, brown, green, red, or other coloured crayons, which can lead to the perspective that the white paper is being covered over or drowned out by these other colours. At the same time, if we were to use a black piece of paper, the black crayon would be equally invisible. We need to stop looking at the white crayon on the white paper and see the white crayon in the box with the other crayons.

Practically, that means we need to actually look at our American culture and see where our Whiteness is distinct from it.

That means celebrating White heroes and historical figures who were a force for good.
That means remembering the acts and misdeeds of White men and women who wrought much evil.
That means celebrating our white quirks, many of them regional, like the fact that some of us are so white we need "moonscreen", or embracing the dad jokes and polos tucked into khaki shorts.

Until we can recognise and embrace both the positive and negative in our culture and history, until we can actually see our heritage and recognise it, we will be constantly running in circles, like a hamster on a wheel.

But let me also add something more important. If our entire identity is based on our Whiteness, our Blackness, our Conservative ideology, our Progressive ideology, our Hetero- or Homosexuality, then these issues will always devolve into identity debates - groups of people shouting "See me!"at one another.

On the other hand, if we base our identity on something that transcends race, politics, gender, nationality, something like our identity in God, then we are able to debate these issues, not as opposing enemies, but as fellow brothers and sisters, as one family under God, secure in our identity under God to be able to discuss and debate the smaller matters of race, politics, and gender.

In closing, to my brothers and sisters in the ranks of the Alt-Right: I love y'all. I'm praying for you and, as much as I may speak out against what you espouse and believe, I do not see you as subhuman and I would love to sit and have a chat with you, to learn where you come from and what fears you have.
To my brothers and sisters outside of the Alt-Right movement: I love y'all too and I encourage you to do the same, to open the conversation in love, to see the members of this movement not as racist bigots and monsters, but as flesh-and-blood humans like yourselves who have families and fears. Are there genuinely bad eggs in the lot? Sure, but the same can be said of y'all, too.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day Roll Count SF/F Style

So, I happened to spy a tweet that got me thinking: How many fathers do you see in Sci-Fi/Fantasy?

I mean, seriously. Sure, they abound in TV shows - usually as the lovable, but mildly clueless/inept parent - but in many books, particularly the SF/F genres, and even some movies, dads are more of a plot device than an actual character. I mean, take Mufasa, for example. His main role was to serve as the climactic childhood trauma and angst for young Simba.

To that end, I want to sound off for all the fleshed-out, admirable fathers* of SF/F (Please, add more in the comments):

  • Tam al'Thor - Past BA swordmaster and supportive, adoptive father to the Dragon Reborn
  • Samwise Gamgee - Former ringbearer, mayor of the Shire.
  • Bruenor Battlehammer - How many dwarves stop adventuring to raise an orphan human girl?
  • ... That's as many as I can think of right now, racking through 16 years of SF/F books
*Father figures/mentors of orphans and runaways not included unless they adopted and raised the child

It's kinda pitiful that the list is this short. Sure, there may be a couple I'm forgetting or that I don't know well enough to add to the list, but, I mean, c'mon authors. Would it hurt to have some more great fathers instead of the deceased or deadbeat plot device/backstory fathers?

The Clan Grows

So, I've got some exciting news for everyone...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Introducing: Cross & Stethoscope

Exciting news:

I've started a new blog that actually has a direct purpose. Whereas TCM was built more for my odd ramblings and musings as they come, this new blog, Cross and Stethoscope, is going to be a life chronicle of where God is taking me though service, medicine, and missions.

It'll be a weekly blog, being published every Monday, with the odd extra bit thrown in mid-week. Monday is the guarantee, though.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A New Chapter

Today is an auspicious day. Today, Donald Trump, as the result of an extremely polarising election, becomes the 45th President of the United States.

Now, I know he was not the choice of ~ 51% of you, myself included, but the election is done. It's over. Trump won and, whether we like it or not, he is the soon-to-be POTUS.

Yes, he's got baggage. Yes, he's about as unpolished as a piece of gravel, but today begins a new chapter, both for America and for Trump, and I implore you, just as I did for Obama a little over 5 years ago, and again, and again, to grant Trump the respect due to his newfound position as POTUS.

Instead of responding with anger and fear, let us respond with prayer, love, and respect. Let us not hold his past actions over his head as he begins his presidency, but let us grant him a blank slate. During his time as president, let us judge him solely by his actions as president.

Who knows, he may surprise us in a way that we may have thought to have been out of character but we will never know unless we grant him that courtesy of a blank slate and pray.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

First AID(S)

Dec 1 is a day set aside globally to recognise an ongoing fight in public health. This fight, unfortunately, is often overlooked in the US, despite a large number of sufferers - after all, there's a solution and it's well-managed, right?

Not quite.

True, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is available to combat HIV/AIDS, but it's no silver bullet. No these drugs, at best, keep the virus in stasis (provided the drugs are taken like clockwork) and bring a host of negative side effects to the patients.

Did I mention that these drugs meed to be taken for the rest of one's life and that they aren't always cheap? Right, fancy that.

To put that in more perspective, though, let me run you by some statistics:
  • In the US
    • > 1.2 million individuals are living with HIV
    • ~39 500 individuals were newly-diagnosed in 2015
      • 67% were gay & bisexual men
        • 82% of all male diagnoses
      • 24% attributed to heterosexual contact
      • 6% attributed to injection drug use
    • African-Americans are 13% of the population, but represented ~ 45% of new diagnoses
New HIV Diagnoses in the United States for the Most-Affected Subpopulations, 2015
    • ~ 13 000 passed away from AIDS-related complications
    • Approximately 37% are on ARTs
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Approximately 24.7 million people are living with HIV
    • In 2014, there were 1.5 million new infections
    • Roughly 1.1 million individuals died from HIV/AIDS complications in 2014
    • Only 39% of individuals are on ARTs
    • South Africa, where I grew up, has a 19.2% prevalence of HIV in the adult population
      • Only 48% of those are currently receiving ARTs
      • South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic of any country in the world
  • In Asia and the Pacific
    • Roughly 5.1 million are living with HIV
    • 300 000 were newly diagnosed in 2014
    • 180 000 passed away in 2014
    • 41% are on ARTs
  • In the Middle East and North Africa
    • 230 000 people are living with HIV
    • There were 21 000 new infections in 2014
    • There were 12 000 new deaths in 2014
    • Only 17% are on ARTs

  • In Latin America
    • 1.6 million are living with HIV
    • 94 000 are newly-infected as of 2014
    • 47 000 have passed away in 2014
    • 44% are on ARTs
  • In the Caribbean
    • 250 000 are living with HIV
    • 12 000 were newly-infected as of 2014
    • 11 000 had passed away
    • 42% are on ARTs
  • In Eastern Europe and Central Asia
    • 1.5 million were living with HIV in 2014
    • There were 190 000 new infections
    • 47 000 passed away from HIV/AIDS complications
    • 21% were on ARTs
  • In Western and Central Europe
    • Approximately 1.2 million are living with HIV
    • Approximately 50 000 were new infections
    • Approximately 9000 passed away
    • 59% are on ARTs

So, now that you're just a slight bit more aware of the global AIDS crisis, please, get involved. There are a myriad of organisations committed to HIV/AIDS research and awareness, including the NIH, amfAR, UNAIDS, (Red) campaign, One, and more.

Maybe supporting an AIDS orphanage is more up your alley. If so, Beautiful Gate is one I know of personally, but there are many similar organisations around the world.

The point is, please, speak up, get tested, fight the stigma, and, most importantly, campaign for a cure.