Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's not taking the path I expected.

Two entries in the same week, I must be getting some inspiration to want to write more or I just might be completely frustrated and disgusted at some of the commentary after the Arizona tragedy this past weekend. My last entry was my initial feelings about the lack of civility in the political process and hoping that things would return to normal somewhat after a while. Instead, certain members of the conservative side feel they've been labeled unfairly, received death threats and even used unspeakable words to describe the inspiration of their dissent. I didn't think things could get any more insane, but then again, we've reached unimaginable depths here.

My biggest issue has never been with what was originally said by conservative pundits, even though I find most of the comments completely reprehensible. If you are going to have a system based upon free speech and allowing a general profession of free belief and faith, there's going to be plenty of things said and done that will upset even the most liberal or conservative of us. Our country thrives on the diversity and unique experiences we all bring to the table, even though that makes reaching some level of concensus difficult especially with the fringe elements of many groups becoming more vocal and visible. The system is what it is.

What my biggest concern has always been is that while people should be able to say what they want, they should also be smart enough to understand what has been said and any repercussions or results of those statements. If your group repeatedly uses the words target, reload, second amendment remedies, take matters into your own hands, and other buzzwords like this repeatedly to put out a message, could you imagine how those words are going to be interpreted? While I consider myself a fairly intelligent person and can follow most reasoned arguments, I know there are plenty of people that fall around me in the bell curve in terms of smarts, and you can't tell me that they will all understand the message the same way as intended.

When people get into the public eye, their comments take on a life of their own and get scrutinized, analyzed, digested, retweeted, emailed, and shot all over the world. In that process, the original intent of any message can suddenly take a wrong turn, even if that was never the intention. While I don't think any of the right is directly responsible for what happened in Arizona, I believe that you can link the rhetoric to the actions pretty easily. It's hard to avoid the press bandwagon when things get rolling along, and while I think it's easy to blame the media, they are also reporting the issues that draw the most attention and response. If a large segment of the population didn't care about certain news items, you'd never hear much about them because that is how news cycles work.

What I expect from the people that represent me in politics is really rather simple - be smart enough to understand the basis for how things run and represent the majority of constituents in their desires. While it might be an interesting idea to let an everyman be President, I expect the people running this country to be smarter than me because of the complexity of most issues facing them. They have to juggle multiple tasks, make tough decisions, and explain their votes to those that like the ideas and those that don't. It's not a job for the faint hearted for sure, and as such, I would expect them to also be able to look at their words and actions and realize that they operate under a higher standard for conduct whether they realize it or not.

You might believe in your heart a certain path, and hold to it against all opposition by using every trick and tool in the book to make your point. That's how the system works, but at the same point, you have to be willing to accept the results of your actions and realize how that might affect others. We live in a fast paced, 24-hour news nation where every bit of speech is picked apart to the minutest of details to try and acheive a 52 percent majority that we can call a mandate. Being a representative means more that clinging to a core set of beliefs and trotting them out there as your guide, because there might be a majority of folks that find the beliefts outdated, divisive, and not the best for the majority of us.

What certain members of the right have done after the tragedy is refused to be silenced, instead trying to find any reason why their speech isn't the cause of the problems. While they might be right that they weren't directly the cause, the environment created that allows them to flourish in has made the shooter's actions acceptable: yelling instead of intelligent discourse, putting option out as fact, bending information to fit a need, using questionable buzz words, and pushing blame to others for their actions. He thought he was doing the right thing to take care of a problem, and there's no amount of words they can say to get away from owning their part in this mess. And instead of trotting out more divisive and harrowing words to try and make a point, they should take a lesson and try to find a way to quell the quagmire because stoking this fire could just make things a whole lot worse.

Monday, January 10, 2011

life is full of interesting parallels

I always get freaked out when my writing inspiration takes off from the world of sports, and it's not like there isn't a lot to talk about lately. The Oregon Ducks take the field in a few hours to hopefully win their first ever BCS Football Championship in a sport where the computers and big money decide the title, not a playoff like so many other teams. The Portland Trail Blazers are playing competitive basketball despite two parts of their trio of stars are broken, and the two players, Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, face uncertain futures about their futures in sports. The Portland Timbers venture closer towards their first season in the MLS, picking future soccer starts this coming week in their first ever MLS Super Draft, which could put them closer toward the ultimate goal of winning an MLS Cup. My own soccer team starts their winter term in a few weeks, and I'm actually trying to get into playing shape before the season rather than play my way into shape. My wife has been working hard with her health, and I'm taking some inspiration from her efforts. I could spent a lot of time talking about these topics, but instead I'm going to talk about a crisis of family.
Those that know me know I haven't had the best of family lives, as my mom battled through three marriages and her own self demons, while I learned to shut myself off from the emotional issues that work through most intimate relationships. If I don't think about it, I don't have to deal with it works if you are one person making decisions for yourself, but when you have another person in the equation, that doesn't exactly work well. If you are also a bit stubborn like someone who shall remain nameless, changing this attitude is really hard. Real change, and I mean the things that alter your way of thinking, don't come along all that often, but at the same point, it's these situations that really prove a person's mettle and makeup. And the impetus of the change might come from rather surprising sources.
In 2001, I had been dealing with a rather destructive relationship that wasn't going anywhere but I hung on because I just didn't want to be alone. I preferred to be with someone I knew wasn't right for me instead of being alone because I thought that somehow was better than being freaking miserable. Then 9/11 hit and I watched the destruction first hand, seeing the stories and watching the human drama unfold. I didn't know anybody personally affected by the tragedy, but it was this drama that caused me to make some dramatic changes. I left the relationship, and while I didn't make all the changes I was hoping to, I made the best one by getting rid of a negative influence.
In 2005, I was awakened by a call from my stepfather to come home because my mother wasn't doing well. I had been speaking to her for weeks aware that she'd been home ill, but it was during that call that I learned the truth that her body had been ravaged by cancer and the doctors told him to call the family home to see her. I drove down with the stark realization this could be the last time I saw her, but instead I tried to think positively and believe this wasn't the end. During my last talk with her, I told her about a planned trip I wanted to take to England with friends, and she told me to go because I would never get a chance like this again. Three days later, I had to say goodbye to her spirit in what I can only describe as a gut wrenching experience. The most important female influence in my life was gone, but in the aftermath, I ended up meeting and marrying my best friend. The transition hasn't been smooth by any means, as I've tried to not let my mom's situation affect my relationship with my wife, but that hasn't always worked out. I know that being with my wife is what I want, because I'm destined to be with her. There are certain people I know that we are supposed to meet in our lives because the people make a difference in your person, and my wife fits that bill absolutely. I know that I'm a much better person for having her around, even if there are points where I allow the pain, anguish and baggage from my previous worlds affect me. I wish I could be as strong as I need to be at times, but I'm learning how to do that.
During the holiday season, I've been struggling with some issues with a family member that have boiled over to a steady mess. Love of another person doesn't exactly imply that you will treat the other person with respect and honesty, but we can always hope. This forum isn't the best place to go into the drivel about the issue, but to put it simply, there's a problem with communication. When issues like this occur, you can go through a steady list of the causes - blaming each other, throwing around emotional baggage, trying to hurt others - and my situation covers this and more. In talking with some of my friends, they've talked about relatives they've cut out of their lives simply to get rid of the negative influences. It's better to focus on good people and positive situations than deal with the crud and anguish of trying to make a futile situation work because neither side wants to yield. My resolve has been a bit all over the place, but suffice to say, I've chosen a course of action here with my dilemma. It's not completely set in stone, and as with any difficult decision, there's uncertainty and waffling because issues like this can be difficult. You don't want to pick a path without examining everything completely and thoroughly. And then the events of this past weekend happened in Arizona.
I don't really care what political persuasion or religious path you might follow, but I can't think of any rational reasons that can justify what happened. A person who made a conscious choice to represent people in her area decided to appear in a public place to gather ideas from her constituents, and another person made the decision to try and silence her with force. I understand that we live in rather fragmented times right now, because most issues that affect our country today seem to offer no clear answers to solve them. We know taxes are needed to pay for goods and services, but can't agree on which groups should pay their shares; we know corporate influences affect how government works but can't seem to agree on a way to lessen their impact. We know that people need health care to make sure they live long and happy lives, but can't seem to agree on the right way to pay for it all to ensure the care is available to those that need it. There are daily debates about the influences in government, the classrooms, society, and with most issues, there seems to be an uneasy consensus that is reached to try and appeal to the largest segment. With the passing of months, the groups that don't fall into the segments have become more vocal and present in voicing their displeasure. This is exactly how our system should work, allowing all groups the voice and ability to share their thoughts by working within the framework to guide things to the best conclusion for everybody. 
This might not please everybody, especially groups that feel we've gotten too far away from certain family ideals or we need to do more for those truly in need at all costs. The uneasy balance between many of these groups has gotten worse with various media groups that prey upon the differences and try to feed their rabid fan bases rhetoric to push their cause. We've moved from a nation that allowed somewhat civil discourse to occur to a nation that simply allows the biggest, loudest voices to push certain aspects of our society, and if the result isn't what was desired, they are inspired to use whatever tactics are necessary to gain the right end. If you aren't happy, use the court system or other legal entitlement to put up hurdles. If the right influence isn't working, use more powerful forces. Civility is for the weak, because if you really want something, it should be yours no matter the cost.
I'm not about to think that I have the answers to our world's problems through my simplistic rants that are confined to my space on the Internet, because I'm just one person and nothing this big can be solved as simply as I'm making it sound here. It would be nice if we could all put aside our trauma, bias and anger and try to talk constructively about the problems facing the world, but instead, many have learned if I bully things or push for what I want, I get the results. I'm a princess, and I deserve the best, even if that means that others can't get what they want because of it. It's tough to think of the greater good when the bills are piling up and people are frustrated about how things are going, because as they work more, does it appear they are getting ahead or not? Infomercials promise easy wealth with little to no money and effort, yet can we really say that anything in life that is worth it is obtained easily?
My hope is that what happened this past weekend will open people's eyes and ears to the power and influence of their words and actions, and it might make some think twice before picking extreme tracts and beliefs. In order to solve the world's problems, people need to work together and find a common ground that is based upon respect and belief that as a group, you can achieve anything. And even if we don't believe in the same things, we can all see the benefit of working together on a common goal that everyone can enjoy, regardless of religion, gender, sexual orientation or whatever. Now isn't the time to bunker down and isolate further into fragments, but instead work harder to bridge the gaps to bring people together.
I'd like to think that it would be that simple, but I know that it won't be, because as I mentioned, anything worth having takes great work and discipline. But for a few days, I'm holding out hope that we can rise up to the occasion. As happens every year around the Holidays, people are nicer and friendlier because they strive to be the people they want to be. Whether it's the spirit of the season, giving of themselves, it's the time when the world is a nicer place, so I know we are capable of it. We'll need a huge dose of it, because it will take a lot of hard work and tough choices to overcome the divide. But one thing is clear, it's helped inspire me in my situation and I'm comfortable in my choice of path. It's worth doing, regardless of the cost, and it's my small way of trying to make the world a better place. Guess we have to start somewhere, don't we?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Return to Baseball

As I look at the end of 2010 staring at me, I've already heard people mention resolutions for 2011. I've always tried to think of things that I would like to do differently in my life, but let's face it, change can be difficult at times. I know for many, the thought of another year provides impetus to modify behavior because it's a new beginning. When I was actually going to a gym regularly, I used to hate January with a passion. The gym became overrun with resolution workout people who decided to try and get fit, and they'd last about three weeks. By February, most of them had faded into the blissful pattern of routine and not think anything more about it.
I'm not talking superior here either, because change for me has been incredibly difficult. I've had things in my life fairly set for a long time, and then within 5 years, I meet my wife, move out to east Portland, adopt a pack of cats, change my name, and learn how to live closely with another person. There are days when I'm totally on top of things and my energy and resolve are top flight, while there's other days that I'm just distracted by whatever shiny object or situation is in my sight line. Real change is tough, because it involves being aware of what you are doing and seriously making effort to do something different. Experts say it takes up to 60 days to adopt new habits and not lose the routine, but I think it takes longer than that for some people. Patterns just get built in and sometimes we act without thinking about it.
But I'm doing what I can to break some of the cycles in that respect because it does matter. I don't want to sleepwalk through life and suddenly realize I'm in my later years and suddenly realize there's things I want to do but might not be able to. During this process, however, I've discovered that there are certain activities that I used to do that I miss and so I'm trying to rekindle them. One of those things I want to resurrect is my love for baseball.
The past few years, soccer has become a passion mostly from my activities of following the Timbers. I've maintained an interest in basketball, but when faced with a budget question, there was no contest in choosing Timbers season tickets over Trail Blazers tickets. Now that I have other responsibilities relating to the Timbers, the choice is even more direct. I have started to watch Denver Bronco games again after many years of skipping out on football, but I think that was more related to how frustrating the team has become recently. They've had bouts of success and I was happy about them winning two Super Bowls after years of futility, but it's become painful to watch their ineptitude lately. But I am a fan of theirs mostly because of my grandmother's influence and watching their games regularly during my youth. You always remember your first team that you adopted as yours, and the Broncos were that for me.
The TrailBlazers became a love of proximity of living here, but it was helped by them qualifying for the NBA Finals the first year I moved here. This town loves their NBA, and while I have some issues with the game atmosphere at the Rose Garden personally, it doesn't change how much love there is here. The NBA experience is all about a constant barrage of distractions to keep fans focused, and every element of the game is controlled within the arena. While it can be loud, it's also not very spontaneous or original. Granted, the NBA has a collection of great talent and the game itself can be fun to watch, but I've grown to prefer the TV angles recently. However, for what the experience is, the Trail Blazers do entertain fans well for what it is.
Baseball has been a love of mine for a long time, but I haven't exactly adopted a team to worship beyond others. I followed the Dodgers in my youth because they were on the one Saturday game most of the time, and there was a player from Idaho on the team (Mike Garman). As I got older, the Mariners got more attention from being local, and of any major league park, I've seen more games there that anywhere. The Kingdome was a massive sterile barn, but boy could it be loud, while Safeco has great seats all over the place even if the team currently is really awful. I've seen games at the Metrodome, AT&T Park and Coors Field, and each stadium has their assets - AT&T is as beautiful as you might expect from seeing it on TV, Coors Field has cheap beer and decent food, and the Metrodome has the odd quirk of the hefty bag. Ok, the Twins don't play there anymore, but watching the pinball game in the outfield there was often as entertaining as anything else.
But really my experience with baseball has been more minor league, as I followed the old Spokane Indians when I was there for college and then went to at least 10 games a year when the Portland Beavers were here. There was nothing like the experience of spending your afternoon watching good talent play without the pressure of a game clock. The atmosphere was decidedly slow and deliberate, and after spending time at Timbers matches with the frenetic pace and chants, it was a great chance of pace.  Unfortunately, the Beavers games became more about the cheap beer and the constant stream of changes made it rather difficult to follow the club. The old days of the Beavers in the early 90's was the standard of consistency, as you always knew Chip Hale would be somewhere in the infield.
As I became more integrated with soccer, baseball lost some luster for me. Whether it was more fascination of the soccer experience of two hour matches, the lack of player constants, or the fact that PGE Park really became less and less fun for baseball, I just drifted away. When you have a limited amount of time and money, there are choices to be made and I chose soccer. But now, I am missing baseball and now want to fill a void by adopting a club again. I've got the Trail Blazers, Timbers, Broncos, West Ham and Sunderland, but now I want to follow a club religiously. Which is why I'm asking for help and input in the decision.
I understand what it's like to be a fan, and honestly, I don't necessarily need a baseball team that resides close to here, but I want to pick one that I can adopt for the long haul and be a fan though the good and bad. I do have a few things that will weigh into my decision process, and while it would be nice to say the reasons are logical, the one thing I know about being a sports fan is that a love of a team often isn't logical. You believe in teams that often don't have the talent or ownership to compete year in and out, but none of that matters because the love knows no boundary. In your heart, you believe your team is better than anyone else even if the other side has bigger names, more money or healthier players.
It would be hard for me to adopt a polarizing club, so the Yankees would be a hard sell. I admire their confidence year in and out, but I believe they buy their wins and I take pleasure in seeing them lose, much like a certain purple and gold NBA club.  The bandwagon clubs would also be difficult to adopt, and while I have lots of friends that love the Red Sox, I don't think I could really adopt them with the history of their curse and then two World Series wins. They seem to have fans all over, yet many of them don't know the history or struggle to get to that point, and so joining the bandwagon now could be viewed as jumping on board late.
I have a huge dislike of two of the teams that play in the Emerald City, and so with the Mariners being close distance wise and me witness to many of their great moments, I don't think I could adopt them. Like I said, being a fan doesn't mean being rational. My wife loves the Giants, and while that might make it easy to have both of us follow them, I don't have an allegiance to them. It was great to see a cast of characters that didn't seem to be the best strike out and win a WS even though all the experts said it wouldn't happen. That's why they play the games, and there's something to respect there. But joining the fans now might also be bandwagon, and at least for her, she followed the Giants during the Candlestick days when Bonds wasn't a freak of nature.
I don't even care so much that the team have a chance to win every year, but it would be nice to have that opportunity. At least Cub and Brewer fans have some recent pennant runs to give their fans hope, but Royal fans need to look back to the 1980's to remember their last success. The Royals now seem to be happy being competitive most nights, but barely threaten the top clubs, and while that might be interesting to some, I'm more interested in the possibility of actually winning a pennant now or then. Television makes it easier to follow a team, but the team I pick I'd like to be able to go to a game every now and then.
My hope is that I can learn more about how people choose their clubs and why they follow who they do, and this might help me find the baseball club of my choice. Each of the clubs I follow now have a history or story that really makes loving them easy to understand (Broncos for my family, Timbers for friends and wife, TrailBlazers for players, West Ham for former players and Upton Park experience, and Sunderland for great fans), but I don't have that for baseball. This whole experience might end up not producing a result either, but at least it's got me thinking about my past and how big of history I have with baseball. And yes, there's a part of me that misses it, and I'd like to open the door again but I just need the team to follow. I know my friend Obi did something similar with his experience in EPL a few years ago, and fell in love with Hull City, so there's precedence here.
So I welcome any thoughts or ideas, and I'll announce the pick soon. I hope each of you has a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Joyous Crimbo, Excellent Kwanzaa, Special Hanukkah or just a special time of year no matter what you celebrate.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Support Today Being Over

It's not that I'm essentially tired of talking about issues that are affecting our local, state and country governments, but I'm really glad that today is the end of the campaign season. While some news outlets are calling this year's campaign relatively low key and reasonably cordial, I guess I've just reached the overload point and just want it to be done.
I supported vote by mail because it allows someone like me to actually do research and learn more about the candidates and issues on my own time, and for that, I love the flexibility offered by this. While I'm old enough to remember having to go to the polling locations to vote a few years back, I've adjusted to now having this opportunity to exercise the democratic process in my own way. I've even taken to reading the voter's guide that is published each election to get an idea of where people stand on the issues, because it's one of the few places you can actually hear from the candidate that doesn't seem to be influenced or edited.
I understand that politics is serious business now, and as such, they are run as efficient propaganda machines trying to maximize exposure and information as quickly and seamlessly as possible. It's a tough business in the information age to try and get people's attention to talk about stimulating topics like budget reform and job creation, so many outfits use the tactics of pointing out the flaws of the other side. It's far easier to point out why the other guy or girl can't do the job than highlight the things that me, mr. candidate, could actually put out there. And when you have 30 second sound bites to draw attention, nothing works quicker than taking a comment out of context and warping it to fit the right need. I'm so tired of hearing "My name is so and so, and I approve this ad" because everything just sounds the same now.
Outside of a few candidates that mean well, I haven't really heard anyone talking about real issues or real solutions, but rather how inept or clueless the other side is about things. And everyone is talking about saving Social Security from the bad guys or creating jobs, but there isn't much more specific than we need more jobs and investment bankers are bad. I consider myself a rather intelligent person by nature, and I can usually tune out the catcalls, but this year has been especially horrible in my opinion.
Then again, with the political machine working overdrive, even the most innocent or forthright comments can be easily skewed by skilled tacticians who can cast doubt on just about anything. I can understand some folks being hesitant on speaking out on things in fear of their words coming back to bite them, but then again, saying nothing doesn't help voters make any choices. I mean, really, are we voting on a turd sandwich or giant douche here?
I get that most folks running genuinely mean well and are just trying to make a difference in their own way, whether it's helping others, sharing their talents, or the sense of satisfaction at accomplishing something. But that simple fact doesn't change the fact that our process right now rewards bland sound bites and massive amounts of money targeted at things more than actually talking about the facts. I wish it wasn't that simple, but that's the reality of things.
But me not voting just means that the influences win, and I'd rather take the time to actually muddle through the mess in my own way and try to make the best decision that sit idly by and not cast a vote. I may find the distaste of advertisements ingratiating, but sitting on the sidelines to me is more of a problem. I don't necessarily care which side of the issues you all are on, but it's important to cast a vote to make sure your voice is heard. And tomorrow, we can go back to the somewhat more normalcy of our lives.
And congrats to the Giants for winning the World Series last night. Incredibly epic series, and if the pundits had their way, they would have given the Rangers the trophy before things got started. That's why you play the games, and the Giants had everything go their way all series. Well, and their ball park is pretty impressive as well. Hey, at least the Yankees didn't win, and with that, I approve this message on the grounds that they suck.