Category Archives: Social Justice

Why the Facebook Problem Matters

facebook-cambridge-analyticaMost of us know the basics of the Facebook scandal involving the political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, which has close ties with Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer. Cambridge Analytica obtained massive amounts of Facebook user data through an outside researcher in violation of that person’s usage agreement with Facebook. This data included not only public information, but private data as well as detailed “metadata” about user behavior. Cambridge Analytica analyzed this “big data” to perform “psychographic profiling” in order to conduct “psychological warfare” and “influence operations” to benefit the campaign of Donald Trump.

When you speak with people about this Facebook controversy, many of them will respond by saying that they don’t feel like it’s a very big deal. After all, when users sign up for Facebook, what do they expect? Of course their information is public. This is really a generational problem because people are far too promiscuous in exposing all of their private and personal information. It’s just the world we live in today. And anyway, Cambridge Analytica may have talked big but really had very little impact in the scheme of things. Of course Facebook shares data with advertisers and that benefits us all!

The thing is though, what is actually going on isn’t necessarily benign and it isn’t at all what Facebook users did or should have expected. Analysts keep saying that Facebook “shared” the data. Facebook doesn’t “share” user data. They sell it. They either profit from it directly or leverage it as tangible value to attract their lucrative partner relationships. The profit motive does not in itself corrupt the relationship, but it does potentially shift it from wholesome sharing toward unsavory exploitation.

And they don’t just sell your public postings. They sell subtle usage metrics that go way beyond what you intended to make public and what any one individual could ever see just by looking at your Facebook page. They sell deep metadata that can give insight into how you think and respond and thereby how to manipulate you. They create data sets that contain not only details about your behavior but they can link that behavior in real time to a huge number of other user behaviors and to events going on at that exact moment in the world and in the web of public consciousness.

Given the amount of data they accumulate, sophisticated programs can deduce things about you that you did not intend to make public. You posted that you had zucchini for lunch and like pandas? You might have just divulged your sexual orientation to these sophisticated big data systems. The amount of detail recorded and our ability to analyze, predict, and even modify behaviors based on that data is difficult for most of us to comprehend. What can be done goes way beyond just picking who to target with Cialis or Trump campaign ads. It includes detailed information that provides insight into your deepest psychology, how you think, how you respond, and how you can be manipulated.

Further, this deep metadata isn’t merely sold to well-meaning researcher or advertisers, but it can make its way into the hands of unscrupulous and nefarious players like Cambridge Analytica. They can analyze all this data to determine things about you that you did not intend to make public. They can then use that information to influence how you think about critical matters like elections. If you are important enough, such organizations can even use private information extracted from your public activities to smear, discredit, or even blackmail you.

So the concern about the relationship between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is not just a matter of silly people being too indiscreet with their postings. Concerns about the kind of activities exposed by the nexus between big data analysis and political activity are far more disturbing and potentially consequential. The ability to acquire massive amounts of metadata not intended to be public and to analyze that big data along side other external events to produce individualized predictive algorithms,  moves innocent Facebook postings into the dark and scary region of mass undercover surveillance and psychological manipulation. Even if Cambridge Analtyica came nowhere near achieving their ambitious goals in the Trump campaign, make no mistake, the ability to assure elections is their business objective.

Facebook is not the only company profiting from massive information gathering. Google, Amazon and others are also sweeping up data that could be exploited by unscrupulous players like Cambridge Analytica. We need to take this seriously and take steps to ensure that big data works to empower and inform us, not to manipulate us. We need to push back now, and strongly, to ensure that this infant monster born of the information age is controlled before it grows into something powerful enough to ensure its own existence.

 

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We Can Transform Our Gun Culture

GunCultureI was inspired and encouraged by our local “March For Our Lives” event in Tacoma, and by those held concurrently around the world. A number of speakers conveyed their passionate optimism regarding our prospects for implementing “sensible gun laws.” Some cited our eventual acceptance of seat belt laws, despite tremendous initial resistance, as one example of how important change can and does happen.

And there is an even more compelling precedent for optimism. I grew up in the 1960’s. At that time smoking was epidemic. Every indoor space was visibly thick with noxious, stifling smoke. Every tabletop was marred by ashes and burns. Beaches, park lawns, and other public spaces were strewn with disgusting butts. Workplaces and restaurants were more like Marakesh hookah bars than the clean, safe, and wholesome places they are today. Smokers could not be persuaded to change their behavior regardless of the cost to themselves let alone to others. Their right to enjoy unrestricted smoking was fueled by a powerful tobacco industry and protected by a complicit government. The result was that no one, even non-smokers, could find safety from the horrific health toll that this unrestricted smoking claimed. And certainly, few people believed there was any realistic chance to challenge the seemingly unassailable right and all-powerful compulsion of so many to smoke anywhere and everywhere they pleased.

Their arguments and excuses were much the same as those used in our current gun debate. But all those who said that significant changes in our smoking culture were impossible… were wrong. And they are wrong today about the hopelessness of achieving significant gun control.

But the relatively smoke and butt free world we enjoy today, that younger people thankfully take for granted, did not come about naturally or by accident. It came about because people fought for it. It came about because some ignored all those who maintained that smoking was too ingrained in our culture, that smokers could never be persuaded to curtail their habit to any extent whatsoever, and that in any case big tobacco was far too powerful to fight.

Big tobacco, as invincible and all-powerful as they seemed, lost that war. Smokers, as uncaring to suffering as their addiction made them, did eventually accept dramatic restrictions of their previously unrestricted right to smoke. And once the culture shifted under them, dramatic and fundamental change did not take long.

So don’t let anyone tell you that the NRA is too powerful. Don’t let anyone tell you guns are not the problem. Don’t let anyone tell you that gun owners will only allow their guns to be pried from their “cold dead hands.” Don’t let anyone convince you that the world will not be a far safer place with fewer guns. And don’t accept that our goals must be limited to “sensible gun restrictions,” because by taking this very meek approach we implicitly concede that guns are good and reasonable things to own – except for say crazy people or known criminals.

Rather than enumerating who cannot own guns, we should enumerate who can own them. The right to own guns should require proof of exceptional need. Such exceptions allowing ownership can include authorized facilities who “loan out” guns for controlled sporting or hunting activities, for guns held in secure armories for the use by “well regulated” militia groups, and for people with exceptional security needs.

Lest you think that such ambitious goals are impossible, consider that New York City has largely accomplished them. A little over a year ago we moved from New York City to Washington State. Despite the far greater population density, we frankly felt safer there. This is partly due to their very restrictive gun control laws. You are not allowed to own guns in NYC unless you can demonstrate an exceptional circumstance. Their laws effectively make gun ownership the exception. This has arguably contributed greatly to reducing gun violence, unarguably made us feel safer, has been accepted by the population, and has survived Constitutionality challenges in the courts. If such significant restrictions can work there, then there is no reason to accept any less nationwide.

As with seat belts, and more dramatically as with smoking, change can happen. New York City shows us that such change can be more transformative than we may believe – even when it comes to guns. The rallies and marches today give me a new sense of optimism that meaningful and significant change, akin to our transformative changes in smoking behavior, may be on the way for our insane gun culture. We just have to keep working to make it happen.

For other blog posts on our gun epidemic, click on the Guns category on the right!

 

The Supreme Court Must Ultimately Save Us From Second Amendment Genocide

gunlawsWe are trapped in a nightmarish, escalating civil war in which gun nuts, bolstered by the otherwise sensible people who support them in this national insanity, battle against those who recognize that we can we never hope to acceptably reduce gun violence until gun ownership is dramatically reduced.

Yes legislative action can blunt the damage a bit. We could and should prohibit semi-automatic weapons, as well as deadly ammunition and large capacity magazines. We could and should improve our mental health testing and strengthen background checks. We should stop shielding gun manufacturers from liability. But honestly, even all of these would not do nearly enough. These sort of legislative actions are merely the band aids we apply since we know we have no chance to obtain the life-saving cure we desperately need. In the case of our gun epidemic, that panacea is a radical gun-ectomy to remove all cancerous firearms from private hands.

Some think that repeal of the Second Amendment is a cure. But the reality is that we are so collectively obsessed with guns that we will never repeal our Second Amendment, no matter what the cost in lives. We could parade piles of bullet-ridden corpses down every American street every day and we would still stubbornly insist that no cost is too high to ensure our god-given right to bear arms. And even if we did, removing this right would do nothing affirmative to limit guns. States would only be free to pass their own similar gun-protection amendments.

But I think there is one slim hope that we are not sufficiently considering. That hope is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, with the stroke of one landmark decision, could reinterpret the Second Amendment so as to not only open up legislative options but to force legislators to enact them. Keeping a sensibly interpreted Second Amendment in place would be far more valuable than simply repealing it.

To refresh your memory, the Second Amendment states that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is an extremely vague statement. Our forefathers made much of their writing intentionally vague so that future courts could reinterpret them in the context of their changing times.

Certainly times have changed with respect to guns. Since this amendment was ratified in 1791, guns have obviously grown in destructive power like the growth of a fire-cracker into a nuclear weapon. The population and our proximity to each other have also grown dramatically. The days of hunting as a necessity are long past. And the number of guns, as well as their destructive power, has grown millions of times over.

Yes, I know that just back in 2008 the Supreme Court ruling in Columbia v. Heller tremendously strengthened Second Amendment protections. Although that ruling was actually very narrow, it has been extended to justify the most generous interpretation. It can be argued that this ruling was as indirectly disastrous for sane gun reform as Citizen’s United was for campaign reform.

But the Supreme Court can, should, and does evolve on important, deeply held issues. It seemed that the Supreme Court had spoken clearly against civil rights in Dred Scott v. Standford and Plessy v. Ferguson. But they did eventually do the right thing in Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia.

If our system is to work at all, we must not give up on the Supreme Court. We must hope eternal that at least one conservative member, in light of our exponentially deteriorating situation with regard to guns, might be willing to agree to subtle but dramatically consequential changes in our interpretation of the Second Amendment.

For example, the Supreme Court could rule that the phrase “a well regulated militia” is key and that it requires a far more limited distribution of weaponry. They could rule that the definition of “arms” must be far more restricted than our current interpretation. They could rule that “infringement” does not mean anything close to the current carte blanche in place now. They could clarify that their ruling in Heller does not justify extreme gun protections nor does it speak against sensible gun control.

Is this likely? Of course not. Is it possible? It certainly is and the impact of such a ruling could be huge. What we must do is not give up on this avenue even as we simultaneously pursue others. We must find justifications to bring a never-ending stream of cases before the Supreme Court to give them opportunities to put forth a modern, ethical, and rational interpretation of the Second Amendment. We could ask them, for example, to rule whether our current lack of gun control might actually violate our Second Amendment right to a well-regulated militia. We could ask them to rule whether it is consistent with the Second Amendment to allow certain weapons to be available for sport purposes only when provided at an approved facility.

Who knows, there may be a Justice right now who might now be willing to bend on this issue, if only given one more opportunity to make such a ruling. In any case, the reality is that until they do our Second Amendment genocide will continue to worsen.

Reinterpreting, not repealing, the Second Amendment is our best way out of this gun crisis that we have brought upon ourselves. Neither voters nor the repeal of the Second Amendment will force lawmakers to control gun proliferation. Just as with slavery and segregation, only a Supreme Court ruling can both allow and force them to do so.

 

News Has Become a Geico Commercial

cavemanGreat advertising works because the advertisers uncannily understand the psychological dynamics of the moment even before it is commonly recognized. Take for example the “Great Answer” series of Geico commercials. In these commercials, a person is put in an impossibly tough spot to which they reply that Geico can save you 15% or more on insurance. This is comically accepted by everyone as a “great answer.”

In “Objection,” faced with insurmountable evidence against him in a courtroom, a thief defends himself with the line (see here).

And in “Undercover Agent” an inept undercover agent avoids certain death at the hands of the mob using a similar line (see here).

Then in “He-Man vs Skeletor” the villain escapes amid gleeful laughter after delivering the punch line (see here).

Finally in “Meteor Crash,” when faced with the imminent destruction of the Earth, the General in charge proclaims that Geico is the answer (see here).

Silly as these are, I sometimes I feel like I’m living in a Geico commercial. When we watch news interviews, we essentially see an unending stream of farcical Geico  commercials. The Geico advertising team gets this at some level. That’s why these commercials are not merely funny but they relate, they resonate, they ring true.

Except being subjected to an endless stream of Geico-esque answers to real, important questions that affect our lives and affect the planet is not funny.

When watching news interviews during the day, the nightly news shows, or shows like Meet the Press or Face the Nation over the weekend, the hosts try to ask meaningful and important questions. But the guests invariably reply with “Geico can save you 15% or more” type answers.

Host: Given all the incontrovertible evidence that your tax plan is designed only to benefit the rich, how can you justify it?

Paul Ryan: We are giving the middle class a huge tax cut.

Host: Every independent analysis concludes that your tax plan will explode the deficit which you claimed is the biggest threat to our nation. How do you respond?

Kevin McCarthy: We are giving the middle class a huge tax cut.

Host: You claim that by giving huge tax breaks to big business and ultra-rich individuals, your tax plan will create jobs and increase wages. Yet this promise has been made many times before and it has never proved true. Why should it work this time?

Sarah Sanders: We are giving the middle class a huge tax cut.

Some people would simply call this “good messaging.” But at some point, good messaging becomes formal or informal collusion in a campaign of misinformation. We are way past the point of innocent and healthy message discipline now. We are moving into carefully crafted propaganda territory.

Here’s the thing. If the person you are interviewing has no shame, no compunction about misrepresenting and “spinning” to absurd extremes, no trace of integrity with regard to facts or truth, then you really cannot and should not talk to them. It used to be that most politicians had some baseline of integrity and self-respect, some desire to be truthful, and some capacity to be embarrassed or ashamed. But no more. While this lack of intellectual and moral integrity has been growing for a long time, particularly on the Right, Donald Trump has normalized this to such an extreme that even the most disingenuous scripted politicians can rationalize they are being relatively forthright and reasoned.

Today we are confronted by immediate and immensely important threats like climate change, wealth inequality, automation, and guns. Yet just like the General in “The Meteor” commercial, even when faced by existential challenges, all that our politicians are willing to respond with is the equivalent of “Geico can save you 15% or more.”

My message to Chuck Todd, John Dickerson, and all the rest of you news interviewers is … just give up already. Your guests have just gotten too good at avoiding answering anything fully or honestly. You are wasting your time and our time. You won’t catch them in a candid moment or a self-contradiction any more. I appreciate that you cannot push harder than you do, so you should just focus on reporting facts and providing independent analysis. Yes, independent analysis may not rate as high as partisan vollyball matches in which canned messages get knocked back and forth. Nonpartisan analysts may not draw the audiences of big-name politicians and spokespersons who cackle like Skeletor as they deflect your questions. But at least you would be using that otherwise wasted airtime with real reporting with real value for the nation and the world.

Or you can just continue to serve as the straight-men and women for those “Geico will save you 15% or more” punch lines. Just know that we are not laughing.

Cosby, Weinstein, Trump and Other Sorry Excuses for Men

Let’s be totally clear right up front. Neanderthals who disrespect, harass, mistreat, or abuse women in any way are despicable. “Men” like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, and yes Donald Trump should be exposed, humiliated, and ruined. If I believed in hell, I’d sentence them to eternal demonic torture right alongside priests who molest children. The people and institutions who enable and protect these men should also suffer debilitating punitive repercussions.

pussyOn a political digression, Trump voters as well as politicians who do not denounce him are every bit as guilty of enabling, protecting, and promoting an unashamed pussy-grabber as those who rationalized that there was some greater good achieved by aiding and abetting Harvey Weinstein or Bill O’Reilly or that it would be improper of them to criticize their behaviors. No difference at all.

That said, I want to discuss the “90% stat.” What I mean by that is the constantly cited stats emphasizing that 80, 90, or even 98 percent of women report having experienced incidents of sexual misconduct at some time in their lives. Whatever the number presented, it is undoubtedly true that most women encounter some pathetic abuser at one point or another. Citing this number is obviously effective in building awareness, creating a sense of outrage, and stimulating action.

And yet it can also be terribly misleading and counterproductive.

When one points out that “90% of women have experienced abuse,” part of the reason this is powerful is because it creates the impression that 90% of men are running around abusing women 90% of the time. Sometimes this suggestion is explicit and intentional, but mostly it is just the unintended impression produced when one hears these statistics. This impression is reinforced when advocates follow up with general comments about how commonplace such conduct is among men and how all men need to receive awareness training and be re-socialized to show proper respect toward women.

But the truth is that most men do not act this way. Nor do they talk this way – no, not even in locker rooms. And since such language has been largely purged from acceptable society, most do not even think this way anymore. I have never acted, talked, or even thought this way. In my extremely wide-ranging life, none of the boys and men I have associated with have done so either. This misconduct is perpetuated by a subset of men and is not typical of men except within certain very dysfunctional microcultures.

Certainly 90% of men do not run around abusing women 90% of the time.

Think about the survey question “have you ever been the victim of road rage?” At least 90% of people would say yes. At some point some asshole on the road gave me the finger, or cut me off, or intentionally slammed on their brakes in front of me. Maybe someone even got out of their car in a traffic jam and came after me with a crow bar. Most motorcyclists – including me – will relate their horror story of that time a car intentionally tried running them off the road. Ask one. At least 90% of us have experienced road rage, ranging from annoying to scary to life-threatening.

But 90% of drivers aren’t running motorcycles off the road 90% of the time. 90% of drivers aren’t even flashing the bird out their window 90% of the time. These acts are mostly performed by a relatively small subset of drivers with anger and power issues who do this repeatedly. For the most part, most drivers are unfailingly courteous, patient, polite, cooperative, law-abiding, and even generous in their driving behavior. But yes, there are some angry, horrible drivers who should not be allowed on public roads in a civil society.

Likewise, reports of sex abuse are best understood as the acts of a relatively small subset of men who engage in this action serially and compulsively. Bill Cosby molested 60 or more women that we know of. Harvey Weinstein is catching up at over 40 so far. A few seriously depraved men can and do impact the lives of large numbers of women with unforgettable and even traumatic encounters. Therefore, a relatively small number of serial abusers can impact, at one point or another, a huge number of women.

But what’s wrong with well-meaning advocates creating the impression that most men engage in similar behavior? Well it isn’t just unfair, but more importantly it’s counterproductive and it lets those truly sick men off far too easily.

First, it just doesn’t ring true to the vast majority of men for whom this kind of behavior is unthinkable. It makes many conclude that the whole problem is overblown. It makes them less sympathetic and unfairly shamed with no call to personal action except to stop doing what they have never done. Exaggeration may in fact encourage some men to attempt some minor abuses that they see as nothing compared to the “rampant norm” they hear about.

Second, it dilutes blame. If Trump and his supporters can create the impression that his behavior is “normal and pervasive” amongst men, then seriously disturbed offenders like our President are shielded from personal criticism and from effective shaming. Trump and powerful perverts like him aren’t pathetic aberrations, they’re just normal guys who happened to get caught on tape. That impression only works to their advantage.

Advocates – Rather than normalizing and diluting bad behavior by focusing on this 90% statistic, focus rather on statistics that marginalize these perpetrators as exceptions – as outcasts, as neanderthals, as throwbacks, as perversions, and as the criminals that they are. Creating an impression that “all men” engage in such behavior may whip up a climate of fear and anger, but it is counterproductive to your cause. Don’t make these perpetrators typical, make them deviants. Continue to cite your 90% statistics, but follow up with commentary about how much damage a few sick individuals can do.

Women – Don’t let well-meaning advocates make you doubt and even fear your husbands, fathers, coworkers – or even construction workers on the street. Be wary and alert of course, but call upon men to help you if needed. Most will take a bullet if called upon for help by a woman. When commenting on an abusive man, rather than saying and thinking “you’re just as bad as all men,” say and think “you’re a sorry excuse for a man!” The latter attitude will not only be far more effective in dissuading bad behavior but it will also make you feel less besieged and endangered and angry in a world with lots of men.

Men – While it may be unfair and even unhelpful to suggest you personally engage in these behaviors, it is not unfair to be tarnished by and held responsible for the actions of the worst members of whatever groups we are part of.  Therefore, I call on you to denounce these sad, moronic losers whenever you encounter them. Defend victims of sexual abuse – or any form of bullying – actively and aggressively. Whether the perpetrator is your best friend, or your boss – or your President – don’t stand by. Don’t look the other way. Don’t excuse. Don’t walk away. Don’t be a cowardly weenie. Step up and step in. Be a man by showing sexual abusers that their behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in your presence.

 

Proud Member of the NRA (National Raptor Association)

BirdOfPreyI am a proud card-carrying member of the NRA. My father and my grandfather were members of the National Raptor Association as well. My great-granddad owned several hawks and a falcon that he used for hunting back in the day so it is a matter of tradition in our family. My collection currently includes a goshawk, a kestrel, two owls, and a buzzard as well as several dozen other magnificent predatory birds.

It makes me so frustrated to hear people who know nothing about birds of prey continually bash those of us who care so deeply about them. I truly love my birds and handle them responsibly. I should not be punished if some less responsible owners allow their birds to prey on cats, dogs, and other house pets. The answer to raptor attacks is not more regulation, but better enforcement the regulations we already have on the books. Raptor owners should voluntarily take classes on raptor husbandry, learn how to handle their raptors responsibly, and keep them well-secured in an approved aviary when not hunting. But families should take responsibility as well and protect their infants and young children with natural cover. Or else they should obtain their own protective birds of prey to repel hungry attacking birds.

VelociraptorI also own three velociraptors that descended directly from the line that were rescued from the destroyed Jurassic Park facility – the first one. These are the original birds of prey. Wingless, yes, but ancient raptors nevertheless. They are potentially dangerous but that is why it is so important that they be kept only by responsible owners like myself.

Our founding fathers owned raptors and they never specifically said that velociraptor ownership should not also be a cherished, protected right. They knew that all raptors are an essential part what makes our American culture so exceptional. Raptors are the only thing protecting our citizenry from housebreakers and totalitarian governments. If we allow the bleeding heart liberals to restrict our velociraptors today, they’ll come after our American Eagles tomorrow. The claim that my velociraptor is far more likely to rend the flesh from me and my family is as absurd as are false beliefs in global climate change or evolution.

Of course I feel tremendous sorrow for the thousands that were lost in the original Jurassic Park massacre. I also pray for all those devoured in Jurassic Park 2, 3, 4, 5, and the many people shredded every day by velociraptor attacks across the country. But this is a small price to pay to protect my god-given right to bear raptors. Such unfortunate events should not be politicized to push for onerous and unnecessary raptor-control legislation. Raptors aren’t the problem. Velociraptors don’t kill people, people kill people. If those intent to do harm didn’t use a velociraptor, they’d just gut hundreds in mere minutes with their own teeth and claws.

In fact, statistics show that murder by raptor is actually higher in states and countries with strict anti-raptor laws. This proves that the only answer to a crazy person releasing a hunting party of raptors into a concert venue is a true American hero with his own raptors – like Chris Pratt in Jurassic World.

Look, I’m not crazy or unreasonable. I do support some commonsense restrictions to keep raptors out of the hands of those who would use them to do harm – like the mentally disturbed, Blacks, and Muslims. But just don’t try to pry my beloved velociraptor’s jaws from my cold dead hand, or I’ll sig em on you!

Thank the lord that the NRA is here to safeguard our god-given rights as true patriots and god bless the United States of America!

 

Don’t Get Used to It

WeAreHereIn the early 1990’s, a group called Queer Nation came up with the “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” chant. It was wildly successful and contributed greatly to the phenomenal success of the Gay Rights movement. That movement was so successful that other movements still look to it as the gold standard for both inspiration and strategy. Many of them have adapted and adopted the “We’re here!” slogan-as-a-strategy in form, in spirt, and in attitude.

Arguably however, the slogan has jumped the shark. Even Lisa Simpson, longtime advocate for Gay Rights, eventually shouted in frustration “You do this every year, we ARE used to it!” (seen here). At this point, one could launch a counter-chant “You’re here! We’re used to it! Get used to it!

But the slogan is past its day in deeper ways. I’ll get to that shortly.

First let me point out that the slogan has become much more than a mere rallying chant. It reflects a worldview, an attitude, a tone, and an approach to relationships, both societal and personal that has influenced all of our culture. This message was so successful that it became deeply internalized and enculturated.  It permeated the very thinking of a generation of liberals and conservatives alike. It says, in the most uncompromising terms, that you get what you want by ultimatum. There is no room to negotiate. There is no shared responsibility nor shared blame. The burden is all on the other side. You had better change because I am what I am and I am not going to change or go back into any form of a closet. It is a problem when this no-compromise attitude is generalized beyond the bounds of movements like Gay Rights.

In addition, Liberals were particularly influenced in a much different way. The slogan enculturated the idea that we should not expect others to compromise. We must accept anything and everything no matter how distasteful we find it. We must never criticize other ideas or behaviors, let alone expect or demand anyone else to change. Good liberals chasten each other when they are insufficiently accepting of other viewpoints and differences. This is another unfortunate lasting impact of this movement which taught that it is wrong to judge or criticize.

If this seems confusing to you, I say good! It means you are paying attention! I am suggesting that the Gay Right’s movement in general and the “We’re here!” slogan in particular had two seemingly contradictory side-effects. One was to encourage a destructively uncompromising posture, and the other was to instill an attitude of principled acceptance. These actually reinforce each other.

In current culture this encourages us to assert an unwillingness to accommodate others in any way – even as we chide and criticize those who a do not accept the inflexibility of others. In practice, this is manifest by self-righteous “take me or leave me” declarations when the issue impacts us strongly, and at the same time preachy “you should accommodate others” admonitions when the issue does not impact us as personally.

While it was the right message at the right time for the Gay Rights movement, this confrontational get-over-it ultimatum it isn’t necessarily a good template for other movements. Moreover, it isn’t a particularly good attitude for society in general and it certainly is not a good approach to interpersonal relations. It is a strategy adopted even by the most vile and indefensible groups and individuals.

We’re here! We’re loud and obnoxious! Get used to it!

We’re here! We’re Confederates! Get used to it!

We’re here! We’re Gun-toters! Get used to it

Civilized societies have to cooperate, negotiate, moderate, and compromise if they are to survive. In most cases, an ultimatum strategy is doomed to result in unfortunate outcomes for both parties. When we can compromise and make changes, we can demand that both sides make some effort, some accommodation.

The same is true for interpersonal relationships. If one roommate declares “I’m a messy slob but I’m not going anywhere so you better just get used to it,” it leaves the other party no choice but to walk out. Love me or leave me doesn’t work. Unlike gender identity, most things are somewhat under our control and there are things we can and should do to improve our own behaviors.

In truth, this attitude is dated. Those still influenced by it are blind to the times we live in today. During this Era of Trump, uncompromising declarations and pious acceptance are not as appealing as they once were. People who are making a difference today are people who say “I am willing to change and I do not accept your assertion that you cannot change as well.”

WereHereWith radical crazies infesting the government and with Trump running a for-profit White House, we can no longer accept the “Accept the things I cannot change…” platitude. We cannot accept the fact that Donald was elected President. This picture posted like subversive graffiti on a telephone pole near my house. It reflects the new, more engaged attitude. It reads “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.

We cannot simply accept evolution and climate change deniers in the Congress and Senate. We cannot simply accept a narcissistic lunatic in the Oval Office. We have to criticize. We have to fight. We have to demand change. We have to give up this “liberal principle” of polite acceptance that has lobotomized our brains since the Gay Rights movement launched its famous slogan. We must stop falling for the jiu jitsu logic of Conservatives who tell us that – as we told them about Gay Rights – we now must “get used” to Trump and everything he fails to stand for.

The Gay Rights movement did not intend to teach us acquiescence. Quite the opposite – it was all about boldly fighting for your cause. But it also did not intend to teach that any assertion of an absolute position on any issue must be completely accepted. If both sides take absolute positions of ultimatum, we can only have division and dysfunction.

Apart from basic human rights issues, we do NOT have to accept every card we are dealt. No one should be allowed to build unassailable walls around their intransigence and we should not be pressured by our own peers into respecting and accepting those artificial constructs. “Get used to it!” should not be a principle that we apply in an uncompromising and self-destructive fashion.

Ultimatums are not a strategy, and neither is Zen-like acceptance. In most things, engagement with others and compromise on both sides is how we find win-win solutions.

In realms of faith, many of us conclude that my need for you to respect my crazy belief forces me to respect and support any crazy faith you may have. Truth and belief become inextricably blurred. It’s kind of the same thing here. If we want others to accept our ultimatums, we must then accept the ultimatums of others – no matter how crazy.

We have to exert more nuanced and fact-based judgement in both areas. It’s time to deprogram ourselves away from the old ultimatum-based “We’re here!” thinking of the Gay Rights era and adopt more sophisticated strategies to win hearts and minds and make real change. That starts with not accepting ultimatums or wisdom that tells us to accept what those who profit from the status quo tell us we cannot hope to change.