still around

For those who might be interested, yes, I’m still around…still reading and writing and living. The cumulative effect of life quickly becomes overwhelming sometimes, so I back off of social media and websites and such, concentrating on making it through the days sane.

But as a brief update…

Reading
It’s been a wonderful reading year thus far. I set myself a goal of 60 books to read in 2018, and as of this morning I have made it through 18 books, or 30% of my goal. I haven’t reviewed many books so far, but that falls in line with staying largely offline lately (excluding work). Some of my favorite reads so far this year (a sampling): Freshwater, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, The Underground Railroad, Little Fires Everywhere, and All the Light We Cannot See.

Find me on Goodreads!

Writing
Writing, for the first few months of the year, took a backseat to everything else. This past weekend, however, I finally began what I’ll characterize as the first full edit of my first draft of my first completed novel. I know there’ll be more to write as I reach the end of the editing phase, but at nearly 100,000 words, I needed a full refresh of the novel before writing the ending pieces anyway. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised…I am hoping to work regularly enough to have something ready for submission by Summer 2018.

Living
I’ll try to hit only a few high points here…my wife and I bought a house a few weeks ago and are getting geared up for some work on it; we celebrate our wedding anniversary in about 2 weeks; and then our birthdays in May (30 and 40!); the kids are all good and everything else is going smoothly. Work is work. Evenings find us exhausted and not much use for anything after the kids get in bed. AND there’s so much road work that our morning commute has stretched from about 20 minutes to over an hour…

So that’s a brief update, touching base, if you will. And hopefully there’ll be something more coming soon…hopefully.

The “Pro-America” False Dichotomy: Do Not Fall Prey to Fallacy!

“Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for
right.” Martin Luther King, Jr., I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

Donald Trump has created, and is now perpetuating, a narrative around kneeling football players that is a false dichotomy. This logical fallacy is nothing new, and certainly makes frequent appearance in politics.

False dichotomy: When only two choices are presented yet more exist, or a spectrum of possible choices exists between two extremes. False dichotomies are usually characterized by “either this or that” language, but can also be characterized by omissions of choices*.

It’s not difficult to pull out the false dichotomy being perpetuated by the administration – first by Trump (in his speech in AL and especially on Twitter), and then continued Monday in the press briefing. The narrative being sold to the gullible is roughly this:

  • support America (flag, anthem, military, laws, etc.),
  • be unpatriotic and un-American.
  •  
    Two extremes have been presented to the American public, and unfortunately many people are falling for the logical fallacy. Many feel like they have to support anything “American” [as defined by the administration], or risk being called (or in fact, being) un-American traitors.

    Obviously, there are a myriad of positions one could take that fall between “agree everything I call American” and “hate America.” But none of those positions are currently being left open for our citizens under the pressure of POTUS. By shaming anyone who would dare side against him, a movement against free thought is mobilizing.

    So instead of dealing with crucial issues like Puerto Rican hurricane disaster recovery, North Korea, private emails again used for conducting government business, or running our crumbling country – over the weekend the White House set their sights on forcing American adults to pledge allegiance to a scrap of fabric and sing an anthem which in its later verses has an entirely revolting perspective on slavery. [It’s another great question…when can we look at getting an anthem that represents the people of the United States? But I digress…]

    The fallacy presented falls apart easily – a person can, in fact, disagree with a certain American governmental position or action and not place themselves as enemies of America. There is a long history in our country of disagreeing but not hating or disrespecting, and I won’t take to listing examples of various in-between positions since we all know of them and many of us have probably been in exactly that position! Love for America does not require acceptance of her failures.

    Beyond the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy we’ve been presented with, there are other concerns regarding Trump’s attack on football players and their peaceful protest. [I can’t believe I’m having to write this…a president bickering with sportsmen is beyond absurd…] A few of those concerns are:

  • Straw man logical fallacy [refuting an argument by attacking an unrelated argument]: the players have taken a knee during the national anthem in order to bring attention to unchecked police brutality, specifically against minorities and in minority neighborhoods. The strawman set up by the administration is that the players are disrespecting the flag/anthem/military/country. It’s simple then to attack and belittle that disrespect, except it has nothing to do with the situation at all. This straw man approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The First Amendment protects the rights of free speech, peaceable assembly, and petitioning for government redress of grievances. Peaceful protest by the people has been inferred from the First Amendment, and supported by the courts and our laws. The men attacked as “sons of bitches” by Trump are peacefully protesting, asking for the government to correct an egregious wrong, and exercising their right to freedom of speech. The unconstitutional approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The right to not stand for the anthem or salute the flag is well established by court precedent (West Virginia State Board of Education vs Barnette), which states, among other things, “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” You cannot force people to participate in the pledge, anthem, saluting the flag, or anything else of that nature. The forceful approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The President of the United States has much more important work to do than sticking his nose into a conversation where he doesn’t belong or have any standing to comment on. The President of the United States has no business calling his constituents “sons of bitches,” nor calling for them to be fired from their jobs for actions that are entirely legal. The overall approach taken in this conversation by the President of the United States is unethical and wrong.
  •  
    At the end of the day, any flag is just color and design on fabric. No one fights to defend a scrap of fabric, they fight to defend the ideals represented therein. In America, when the ideals of our country are being trampled by the government, people protest. We call attention to the fact that what the flag stands for is being destroyed, whether by politicians, police, or even the president. This is what #TakeAKnee is all about, and the people perpetuating the dangerous false dichotomy of “you’re either for us or against us” know that full well. This is a distraction technique, or even worse.

    My greatest fear in this discussion is the false dichotomy America narrative looks toward the endgame of using bad logic to turn us against each other – to quelch freedom of speech, expression, and press; to create a mob mentality of unquestioning “American support” among the populace; to then use their creation to further autocracy in the United States of America. If it is unsafe to speak up, then our right to fight for right is greatly diminished. By further dividing the public and creating division among voters, the people are more concerned with the actions of their neighbor than potential treachery committed by their elected officials.

    Instead of allowing ourselves to be pitted against one another, our focus needs to be on making sure that our government officials are doing their jobs with the best interests of all American citizens as their primary objective.

    Do not fall prey to the pro-America false dichotomy fallacy – our democratic republic may well depend on it.

    Examples of perpetuating the false narrative:
    Trump’s speech at Luther Strange rally in AL:
    “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired! You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’…They’ll be the most popular person in this country…But you know what’s hurting the game…When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem…”

  • Trump begins by misrepresenting what the players are doing, then sets the false dichotomy as “do American my way or you are un-American,” and then goes on to call for private business owners to fire their employees based on how he envisions being patriotic. He gets angry enough to curse about those who disagree with him. Dangerous and pathetic.
  •  
    Trump’s Tweets, a selection (@realDonaldTrump):
    ”If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!…Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!…If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!…Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!…Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag — we MUST honor and respect it! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!…” [and there are more, just visit his profile to see]

  • more of the same us vs them language, misrepresenting the issues and situation, calling for the 1st Amendment to be violated, and calling on retaliation for not “doing American” the way he wants people to.
  •  
    From Monday’s press conference (Sarah Huckabee Sanders):
    “promoting patriotism should bring us all together…always appropriate to promote flag, national anthem…this is not about the president being against something but about him being for them…everyone should be able to celebrate national pride, supporting those who fought and died for our country…”

  • this pushes the false dichotomy of “for us or against us…support what we say support or you’re un-American.” Now it’s not just POTUS, but his minions in the White House as well.
  •  
    *https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/94/False-Dilemma

    a few thoughts – ‘always happy hour’ by mary miller

    I picked up this book over the weekend just to have something to read, enjoy, and relax. I had no intention of saying anything about it, so I read it differently than I would a book I intended on reviewing – I made no notes, I just read. By the time I was through the first few stories I knew I’d at least like to recommend the book, so that’s what I’m doing today.

    Always Happy Hour is a great book of short stories!

    I loved her voice…I could easily hear my relatives or neighbors telling stories in the Southern tone captured so wonderfully by Miller throughout her collection. The authenticity of the stories, in this way and others, was refreshing and engaging. I really wanted to pick up the phone and invite both author and narrator(s) to hang out and have a beer! My only observation which might be mistaken for criticism is that the main character is every story is much the same, in a way that made the collection read more like a novel told out of order…but she provided an interesting cohesion to the collection that’s often lacking in a book of short stories.

    Buy it, read it, love it – I can’t wait to read more by Mary Miller!


    thinking of irma (2 poems)

    A few poems I wrote this week while thinking of Hurricane Irma.


    beautiful oblivion

    The water is beautiful –
    Serene, cerulean,
    Stretched wide as the eye can see.

    You’d never know that
    Bodies
    Lurked just beneath the surface –
    Breathing yesterday,
    Now submerged in eerie calm.

    Ripples from kayaks,
    The occasional man in hip waders,
    Swimming neighbor children.

    As fast as it came the
    Deadly water disappears –
    But life is never quite the same after
    Irma comes to town.


    bad people

    the dying embers of Irma
    reached my home today –

    cold
    wind
    rain

    we bitched about the drizzle while
    others, unknown faces,
    lost everything they
    knew.


    I received a bit of feedback from the editor of a literary magazine on beautiful oblivion, which I’ll paste below, followed by an edit that much improved the piece.

    beautiful oblivion, rewrite

    The water is beautiful –
    Serene, cerulean,
    Stretched wide as the eye can see.

    You’d never know that
    Bodies
    Beneath the surface –
    Breathing yesterday,
    Now submerged in eerie calm.

    Ripples from kayaks,
    The occasional man in hip waders,
    Swimming neighbor children.

    As fast as it came the
    Deadly water disappears.

    6.24.17

    We had plans for the afternoon, so I accompanied my lovely wife to work this morning. She handles marketing efforts (among other things) for a flag store. They sell flags, poles, and other flag-related accoutrements. The customers today were an eclectic mix, as I’m led to believe they always are. Few in number, but easy to draw stories from. Who gets out on Saturday morning to buy a flag?

    Anyway…

    He’s elderly, in with his wife of, I assume, many years. Looking at flag poles for their front yard. Considers and discusses the various available poles and finally chooses one. Then, of course, it’s on to flags. First, the 3’x5′ American flag. And then a second flag…

    A goddam confederate flag. And the wife was 100% into it, unfolding the two flags for size comparison and contemplating how they’ll look on the pole in the yard. I had to sit quietly behind a desk, pretending to be busy, while they purchased that ridiculous piece of shit.

    So there you go, America – Army veterans (you know, people once charged with the protection of the nation) proudly buying the adornments of traitors.

    I certainly understand freedom of speech and expression, there are just some things that no one should hold dear (like murder or discrimination…you get the point).