Sunday, October 15, 2017

A White On Whites Challenge

Let’s not kid ourselves here: Anyone that is likely reading this is probably as white as a saltine cracker. This blog is written by a White dude (a border-line, old-White-dude), living in a very dominant White community in a very dominant White state and so if that’s the case, you’re probably White too. That said, this post isn’t for those White folk who reference Blacks (or other minorities) with derogatory/disparaging references, rather it’s for those who find themselves surrounded by such individuals or who have a neutral/say-nothing viewpoint. In essence, this post is especially for all of you Caucasians out there. Nevertheless, any Black folk that accidentally, luckily, or serendipitously stumble on to this, you’re certainly welcome to chime too.

So first this: Black lives matter. They really do. They matter as much as the lives of everyone else. And as long as we’re here, BLM does not mean that other lives don’t matter. Rather, in the light of so much injustice to those with darker skin, they matter as much.

That’s the essence of Black Lives Matter in case you missed it. No one ever claimed that it was about “Black lives only matter.” This phrase was coined due to the unjustified and unprosecuted deaths in the Black community carried out by a disproportionate amount of law enforcement officials. Specifically, Black Lives Matter is the response that erupted following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Alicia Garza is credited for the phrase in a Facebook post following the news of Zimmerman’s acquittal when she said, “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.” From that brief love letter to her own people, one of her friends created the hashtag, and the rest is history.

Further, Black Lives Matter is not only about Blacks, I would argue that it is also a rally cry of all marginalized minorities of color, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

Black lives matter is another way of saying White privilege needs to be reeled in. You don’t have to look too far back in history to find evidence of this—whether it’s armed White dudes taking over a wildlife refuge in Oregon or armed White Nazis and Nationalists marching through the streets of Charlottesville. Anyone who has lived in this country long enough knows that none of that would have unfolded with so few casualties had these groups been African-American or Latino.

As Anglos, it is dire that we not remain neutral or silent—considering ourselves as only spectators in this struggle of social justice. Perhaps we can look to the examples of White NFL players Chris Long (Philadelphia Eagles), Justin Britt (Seattle Seahawks) and Seth DeValve (Cleveland Browns) who have supported, stood next to and kneeled with their Black teammates. In short, we can now factor in these role models of our own as we consider where we stand in this ongoing dialogue—if that’s what it takes.

Consider the words of Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett who has chosen to take a knee during the National Anthem this season after experiencing his own taste of racial profiling at the hands of law enforcement in Las Vegas. “It would take a white player to really get things changed. Because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it. ... it would change the whole conversation. Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of  the conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.” —Michael Bennett / Seattle Seahawks

And so, here we are at a crossroad where I am asking you to take up my little challenge. You don’t have to take a knee during the National Anthem, march in the streets, or take over a government-run operation.

You see, I have a few of these Black Lives Matter wristbands that are yours to wear if you are up for the challenge. It sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But, you know what? I’ve been wearing mine here in Powell, Wyoming (perhaps the most conservative county in the most conservative state of the nation), and I’m still here. And yes, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve even caught myself considering removing the wristband when I’m about to put myself in a setting that might not be too kind to the message’s reception. Yet, I tell myself, those are the times I must keep it on.

Think of this challenge as you’re own little slice of everyday dissidence, or you’re own little silent protest. Yeah, I know, it’s a little uncomfortable at first, but as the quote says on the banner of this blog, If it’s not at least a bit uncomfortable, it’s probably not real dissidence. Some have stated that they’d rather not be political or controversial when it comes to something like Facebook, and if that’s the case, here’s a way of doing such outside of the Facebook universe. And if you just can’t bring yourself to this challenge, I’ll understand. I’m not going to think any less of you should you not respond, only more respect should you take up the cause.

Should you need inspiration beyond my words, here’s a couple good quotes that might push you over the edge to take up this challenge.

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” —Maggie Kuhn

“What we allow will continue. What continues will escalate.” —Katherine Fugate.

I would imagine to some extent, Black folk wearing BLM clothing and accessories is practically a necessity or at least, a given. But, it certainly isn’t expected or considered necessary when it comes to those of us with fair skin. However, as I sit here writing this, I’m starting to think that maybe such displays are necessary if we truly believe “all men are created equal.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Curing Mental Illness vs. Gun Laws with Teeth

“This American carnage stops RIGHT HERE, and stops RIGHT NOW.” —Fuckface von Clownstick.
(And the people clapped)

It’s been well over a week, so it would seem now is good time to start talking about gun laws—before another mass shooting shakes the country to its core again. (Never mind the everyday mass shootings that injure and kill only a handful of our fellow citizens.)

As authorities in law, psychology, and other professions sift through the evidence more than a week after the Las Vegas shooting, everyone remains dumbfounded in the case of Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter. Even those closest to him (family, the gambling and gun-selling communities) are clueless and never had a vibe regarding his character of darkness that he kept from everyone so well. He certainly was an anomaly, but that’s how distant we are to addressing mental illness as a solution to mass murders. Think about it: its been over a week after the Las Vegas massacre, and we still have zilch.

Its odd that those who advocate curing mental illness is the solution to preventing mass killings, have no particulars when it comes to how we get there. It’s just this vague, clouded idea—much like asking for directions to a location and your told, “Yeah, I know the place, but I’ve never seen it, but if you go up the road a distance, I’m sure you’ll find it.”

This seems like a good place/time to ask why gun violence is always linked to mental illness? I think our society has a tendency to make the two synonymous. As to say, gun violence is the result of mental illness and mental illness is the result of gun violence. One thing to keep in mind—based on research—the overwhelming majority of people with mental illnesses are no more violent than the overwhelming majority of people in general.

Simply stated, the mental health discussion to a safer community that carries firearms is nothing more than a smokescreen for the gun advocates of our society. It’s simply a diversion with an impossible solution that keeps as many people away from talking about real solutions. This is a quintessential example of “kicking the can” down the road.

Can you imagine what advances in mental health it will take to reach a point where outward-appearing everyday guys can be found-out before they reach their inward critical mass to do the unthinkable (which has materialized far too many times)? It will be nothing short of placing mind-readers in gun stores, the workplace, and the homes of everyone who is suspect. 

And how far do we go in lumping the various attributes that lead to violence with mental illness? Most agree that things like schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and major depression can fall under the mental illness umbrella, but what about those with a history of child abuse, binge drinking, or simply being male—because those things are also linked to violence. Then there are those who have experienced resentment, revenge, social isolation, a tendency to externalize blame, a fascination with violent video games, and a passion for weaponry.

The immediate answer to reducing the number of mass murders in America  isn’t in wrestling and sorting out the far-off mysteries and fuzzy-logic of mental illness, but rather in implementing concrete, extensive and tougher gun laws that mirror the requirements of other dangerous operations such as the various levels of licensing in the operation of a vehicle.

When it comes to mental illness warning signs, it seems fair that anyone who has over, x-number of guns (a number agreed upon by a rationale-minded group) and a bunch of ammunition is a candidate for some kind of mental illness screening. And, short of legitimate gun collectors, those who possess vast arsenals of guns and ammo, might this passion be an extension of their army-playing days in their youth. (If that isn’t a form of mental illness, I don’t know what is.)

Should we make drastic improvements in mental health that allow us to identify a mass-murderer before they act, then we can talk about the elimination of gun laws. For starters, if you want to stop mass murders, require every person who has x-number of guns and ammo, or owns an “assault-style, non-hunting” gun to get regular screening.

Getting a driver’s license, a car license, and insurance is a true inconvenience when it comes to driving. However, it doesn’t prevent us from securing our right to drive, it’s just a precautionary to ensure that we can carry out the task without being a great risk to society. And so, owning a gun should be the same kind of inconvenience for anyone wishing to possess a firearm and/or ammunition. Besides, if you're a “good-guy-with-a-gun,” you shouldn’t object to a little inconvenience, right?

Despite all of this, I’m reluctant to believe that if the day should come when we can identify people with mental illness quickly, the NRA-gun lobby will likely still resist anything that prevents people from getting their hands on guns.

For the time being, America has long since disqualified itself when it comes to “greatness” in its tolerance for continuous massacres of its innocent citizens. Any great country would have addressed and solved this problem by now. Australia... now there's a great country. New Zealand... another great country. Japan... yes. Etc.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What’s Your White Privilege Agenda?

This is not a time to be passive. This is not a time to worry about your job or how your employer might react. This is not a time to worry about losing friends or pissing off other family members.

By now, the events of Charlottesville that produced a visual display of hate directed at anyone not in the White Nationalist/Neo-Nazis camp is known to all. If you’re not appalled by what unfolded there, than you might as well go ahead and send in your annual dues to the Ku Klux Klan, The Daily Stormer, The National Vanguard, or any other hate group.

This isn’t a matter of free speech expressing ideas that are beyond the status quo. This is about the treatment of others who are lesser in numbers, lesser in power and influence, and especially those of non-white skin color and not claiming Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

As I search for ways of expressing my views on such matters, I am comforted by those who have made their expressions known already and do it in such a way that there is no need for me to “reinvent the wheel.”

Alex Stonewall, a journalist living in Seattle, Washington had this to say:
1) All the labels aside, what unites these White Nationalists is a belief in turning the U.S. into a White ethno-state. By definition, such a state would undermine the fundamental rights of Americans who aren’t white, and violate our most basic principals.

2) For that reason they’re entitled to the least generous interpretation of the first amendment. They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, an equal seat at the table, a venue at our schools and universities, or special protections by our police for their demonstrations, because they’re not coming to those conversations in good faith — they’re coming with an explicit end-goal of violating the rights of others.

3) Their employers, family members and neighbors have the right to know when they’re actively espousing such a harmful agenda -- what they do with that information (e.g. firing them, ) is up to them, within the confines of the law.

Lastly, the ageless words of Eli Wiesel, a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and—most importantly—Holocaust survivor.
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

In short, this is not a time to be spectator. Consider you neutrality, your passiveness, your willingness to be silent, your comfort, your privilege—your White privilege in particular.

As Philadelphia Eagles defensive end (and White athlete) Chris Long put it regarding his recent actions of support for fellow-teammates protesting during the National Anthem,  “I think it’s a good time for people who look like me to be here for people fighting for equality.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Start Background Search Here

It’s no secret that I’ve been looking for other work, in other places. It’s not that I’m unhappy in my current teaching job, but the climate of low enrollments along with the recent cutting of programs and personnel makes it more treacherous than past years. Although I’m am tenured, I’ve never considered tenure an absolute lock on any given job.

So, in the last two years, I’ve been looking a little harder than usual. Mostly looking for jobs beyond the classroom, but not necessarily outside of education. As I see it, I’m probably in the last ten-to-fifteen years of my working life and this is a chance to do possibly one more thing that is a departure from the last twenty-five years.

Admittedly, I don’t look forward to the physical act of relocating. There’s a part of my history where I’ve paid my dues when it comes to moving—not to mention the assistance I’ve provided for others to do the same in my adult years. As a result, if I never succeed in finding a new gig, I’ll still be happy where I am and in the same job. I could do much worse.

In searching and applying for new employment, a few colleagues and friends have warned me about my social media activity. “You better clean up that Facebook page before you put yourself out there,” is a common suggestion. And, I understand how that—as a general rule—is good advice. God knows I have a blog that has more than its share of political monologues, along with Twitter and Facebook posts that are critical of almost anything. So, it comes as surprising to no one that I have kicked my share of anthills.

Yet, as I consider this advice, it is counter productive to who I am. I’ve often asked myself, “Do I really want to work for someone or some entity that finds my critical (albeit blunt and direct) commentaries intimidating or distasteful? Do I want to work for someone who thinks I might ask tough questions on the job, step on someone’s toes, and/or be confrontational at times?”


Well, my answer isn’t just “no,” but “hell no!” If a potential employer is so timid, so thinned-skinned, so pollyanna-esque when it comes to my character and my willingness to call out someone or some policy to be defended or explained, I don’t need them—and they certainly don’t need me. What they need in another “yes person,” and that ain’t me, folks.

Photo by Marsha Stewart

Monday, March 27, 2017

Words About Wind

Polecat Bench Overlooking Badger Basin
27 March 2017

The wind is strong and steady, but there are no visual clues. No tree branches whipping in the air up here—no flags flying, no tall grasses swaying in the breeze.

Everything is stunted and low to the ground. The harshness of this environment has no appreciation for ornate or abundant extremities. The world up here is all about modesty—except for the wind.

You have to look close at short blades of Buffalo grass—specifically the cured out growth from last season. There you can see the wind’s power. 

But you’ll never see it driving at 65mph, or 45mph, or 25 mph—not even at 10 mph. You must be still, and only then you can hear it.

You’ll hear it whipping along the contours of your vehicle. Turn off the engine and you can even feel it rocking the truck. As strong as it is, the sensation inside the heavy machinery is gentle and soothing.

Step out into it and you hear even more. Feel it navigate around your body and head, creating audible turbulence as it works around the odd shapes of your non-aero-dynamic ears.

You sense a lull, perhaps it has finally tired. But no, it is only inhaling another breath of atmosphere into its Wyoming-sized lungs. This next blast is even greater. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Flagpole of Spurn/Squat

There’s this flagpole on our campus that seldom flies a flag—of any kind. On graduation day, an American flag is hoisted up the mass of straightened metal and flies for the day. I’m told that it flies again sometime in the summer when Girls State is in town for the week. So, in all, it might fly a flag for a total of 1 week out of the entire year.

This flagpole of spurn is located in front of our gym which is also the same building of the art offices and classrooms. This January, my office was moved to the art department and it was then that I became acutely aware of the flagstaff’s abandoned state.

I contemplated its under-appreciated existence several times as I pulled up to the building on my Sears single-speed bicycle in the mornings. And then slowly, I started considering the idea of what it would take to dress it up—short of requiring the attendance of a color guard everyday.

These thoughts were totally innocent and had nothing to do with making a statement when it comes to flag-flying. It was a proposal rooted in bringing color to an empty and under-appreciated space on our campus—nothing more. However, if someone had accused me of being “politically correct” in this proposal, I suppose I would have absorbed that charge as well.

Flag Laws
The first thing I did was look into the legality of flying a non-American flag on a college campus. I didn’t think there was anything illegal about it, but nevertheless I did a bit a googling.

There were a few things I didn’t know and many things I already knew. The new knowledge I gained about flag flying had to do with the flag-flying laws of each state—and almost all of it was in the context of the American flag. For example, did you know that…

• On Memorial Day, the flag is to fly at half-mast until noon.

In my search to find anything wrong with my proposal, I found only the following:

• The American flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.

• In North Dakota, public display of other than the U.S. flag, a State flag, or flag of a friendly foreign nation is prohibited.

• In California, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Idaho the display of the red flag or any other flag in a public place is prohibited. A plain red flag is associated with socialist or communist rallies—think International Workers’ Day. It is also an unofficial symbol for socialism, communism, and left-wing politics—going all the way back to the French Revolution.

However, when it comes to Wyoming, I could only find the following: “prohibits state military organizations from carrying other than U.S. flags.”

The Proposal
Following my semi-exhaustive research into any flag laws that might bite me in the arse, I sent my proposal out in an email to the campus community:

If there are no objections, the Art Department would like to be the caretakers of the flagpole in front of Cabre Gym. In case you’re wondering, it only flies a flag (the American and Wyoming flag) on graduation day. We would like to give it something else to do for the remainder of the academic year (perhaps even summers) as well.

As its caretakers, we would like to fly a number of different flags—a new one every week if we can muster it. National flags where some of our students come from, other states where our students come from, professional organization flags that are active on our campus, flags that represent humanitarian causes, and of course, flags that simply celebrate art—hopefully generated by our students. (Hey Del Nose, how about sending us a NIRA flag for this spring?) We’ve even considered having a contest to see who can identify a not-so-common flag now and then.

And fear not, we’ve established a checks and balance system: any flag that flies must be agreed upon by all members of the Art Department before it is hoisted up the pole.

Lastly, during the entire week of graduation, we agree to fly Old Glory and the Wyoming flag only while lowering them each day at sunset (unless we get lights for it).

So, if you have a flag that you believe is worthy of this cause and you’d like to see it fly in front of Cabre Gym, send it our way and we’ll fly it some upcoming week. Let’s put some colorful leaves on that tall, gray tree.

—Morgan Tyree
Asst. Prof. of Graphics

The Reception
As expected, the responses from this timid, little campus were few—probably about five percent of the entire campus faculty and staff (if that). The first responders were all very favorable. But one community member was against the idea unless there was another flagpole. Another chimed in saying that flying other flags “would be asking for some unwelcome response.” One staff member wondered if the flagpole and whatever flag was flying might “become a bully pulpit for any particular way of thinking.” He also asked, “Is the Art Department willing to offend both sides by giving equal time on the pole?”

But the biggest stink came from a middle-management administrator, who was vehemently opposed.

Despite her opposition and informing me that it was illegal, she proved to be no better than our President Trump when it came to citing facts. Here’s the back and forth via email that transpired.

She said:
I do have an issue with other country’s flags being flown on the American soil without the presence of the Old Glory….it is downright disrespectful and I take offense to it.

There is a code of conduct when it comes to displaying other nations’ flags on American soil….as was suggested in your email regarding international students’ country of origin flags being displayed without the American flag. 

There is a code of conduct when it comes to flying the American flag and as Americans we need to respect the symbol of our nation.  Keep in mind the people of this community provide financial support to our College and I am sure many will be offended if they don’t see the Old Glory respected properly.

You may want to refer to U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7 regarding the display of other nation’s flags on American soil.

My response:
I couldn’t disagree with you more. There’s no law that says you can’t fly another flag of nationality on a Wyoming college campus. Those laws have to do with flying other nation flags alongside the American flag. The flagpole in front of Cabre Gym is not an “American only” flagpole. This isn’t about being disrespectful to the American flag or marginalizing it in any way, and I’m sorry if you take it that way. It’s simply about flying other flags for the sake of brightening up a campus eyesore. But, if there’s enough noise about this, it’ll stay barren because I don’t have the energy for making this into a political/patriotic debate.

She said:
There are laws ESPECIALLY for public buildings such as our College and it would be beneficial for you to research it a bit.

My response:
Show me the language. Cut and paste it.

She said:
Research flag code for the state of Wyoming

My response:
This is all I’ve uncovered…

Wyoming “prohibits state military organizations from carrying other than U.S. flags.” See section on “forbidden flags” by state. http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/us-law.html

She said:
Research further on the code regarding the flag for public buildings.

My response:
Quit wasting my time. You show me. You say it’s there, cut and paste it for me.

She said:
As a scholar you know how to research so enjoy researching. : )

My response:
I’ve looked and found nothing that verifies your claim. Time to put up or shut up about it. Prove me wrong.

She said:
Morgan, I don’t appreciate your rudeness towards me. Your email started with “if there are no objections”…….I had objections and shared them with you in a civil manner and have tried to hold a discussion with you. I don’t appreciate being told to shut up.

My response:
My apologies, but you still haven’t supported your claim.

She said:
Morgan, whenever I want to start any project, I make sure to do my research before I present it.  I am not obligated to prove anything. However since this is your project, the burden is on you to do thorough research.

My response:
Ha! So, you really have nothing. I shared with you the little bit of related research I could find on this subject. The onus is on you now to prove otherwise since you have disagreed with my findings—skimpy as they may be. I’m sure if you really had something concrete and convincing, you would have schooled me properly on matters of research by now—which I would humbly accept. You would have done well to simply object on your own merits without referencing some obscure/mysterious/non-existent flag law that you are unable to verify.

She said:
Morgan,
you made me laugh out loud.....you are funny :)

My response:
You’re pretty hilarious too.

What a time-waster. In the end, having this “civil” discourse with one of my educational colleagues was an educational bust. Instead of just simply saying that she would find it offensive, she defended her blind patriotism with a made-up-in-her-mind flag law, all the while citing the importance of doing educational research. Yet, in the end, she couldn’t produce a shred of evidence that backed up her claims. Reminds me of a defenseless parent who resorts to saying something like, “Do what I say, not what I do!” 

A part of me has embraced this outcome because it’s pretty much what I expected from such a weak-kneed and unimaginative community (as a whole). All it took was a minuscule, but vocal few to drown out whatever numbers of quiet support there may have been.

No doubt I should have listened to a friend who texted me and told me to stay out of it with the following…

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer here, but if you’re serious about a career move you don't need to be distracted by shit like this. Focus grasshopper. If you’re getting out of NWC, it’s time to turn your back for good. Don’t post this flag stuff on your blog either. And yeah, I expected some sort of reaction like this when u told me about it. 

And, I don’t always make the right choices either. 

Folding it up
In the end, I suppose it’s truly symbolic (since we’re talking about flag-flying) of this community that an empty, barren and cheerless flagpole turns out to be preferred over flying a few harmless rags of color. Think about that symbolism.

Ironically, this brief discourse has come and gone with very little input from a significant membership of the community—it’s students. But, since the newspaper has been taken down, what other means do we have to engage the student population on such matters?

There’s much to read into about a community that is hesitant/unwilling to fly any flag other than the national flag. Perhaps they don’t want to be labeled unpatriotic, but if I were a betting man, it strikes me as textbook xenophobia. Nevertheless, I suppose it’s a fine line between the two.

Lastly, in contemplating political correctness, in the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidency, he and his followers in the national spotlight railed on the whole political correctness “thing,” claiming it was getting in the way of looking out for America’s best interests (albeit “White America”). I wouldn’t have thought the same message would resonate so far down the food chain to our minuscule, local level—but indeed, it has.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Death to the GOP

Donald Trump has delivered. We can not act surprised in this man of action and the promises he has made and carried out thus far. However, just because someone makes promises and delivers, doesn't make them noble, ethical or magnanimous. He is simply a man of action with a diabolical agenda—not a role model for any decent human.

Despite my unhealthy views for the orange-faced dictator, I have even more contempt for those who continue to support him and prop up his agenda in what is known as the Republican party.

I’ll confess here, that I've never gone out of my way to vote Republican, but I've never ruled them out completely. And yes, I have voted Republican a few times in my voting life. But, after today—after the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education—I never will again. No more. Nada. I’m finished voting for these political whores of the rich and powerful. I’ll vote an independent-write-in before I vote for another Republican. I’ll make up an opponent before I vote for a fucking Republican again. Anyone who chooses to run under the same flag that is propped up by scoundrels and frauds like Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence, John Barrasso, Mike Enzi, Paul Ryan—and yes, Donald Trump—are guilty by association in my book. The GOP has become a shameless party fueled by pure unapologetic deceit and unabashed hypocrisy—camouflaged in Christian values and the American flag.

The Republicans have become a desperate bunch who know the glory days of the “grand old White party” are waning, and they’ll do anything they can to hold on to power. Welcome to the early stages of America’s Apartheid. Hopefully it is short-lived.