Archive for April, 2004

Give Early and Give Often

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004

Spirit of America is literally saving lives (theirs and ours) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s a program of goodwill entirely funded by donations, which allows the Marines to give Iraqi children toys and school supplies, and Iraqi trademen tools they need to rebuild. They are also building television stations to offset the misinformation being spread by Al Jazeera (an Arab media network). Here is one example from the site of the good they are doing:

“Through baseball, school supplies and a genuine desire to help the people of Orgun-e [(a remote village in eastern Afghanistan)], the American troops built close and positive relations with the villagers. Later, one night the soldiers suffered a rocket attack from Al Qaeda that had snuck into the village from Pakistan. In response, the people of Orgun-e formed a ‘community watch’. Every night they patrolled the village area to protect the American soldiers. The rocket attacks stopped. Sergeant Smith says, ‘Once they saw we had a true blue interest in them, they joined with us. The things we did to help people in Orgun-e literally saved lives. Theirs and ours.'”

(emphasis mine)

Give $5. Give $100 if you have it. However much it is, go make a donation.


Holy Cow! I should have said “Give 1.5 million!” From the Wall Street Journal:

The column describing Spirit of America’s effort to raise $100,000 for the TV stations appeared in this space 14 days ago. Since then, the following has happened:

Jim Hake, Spirit of America’s entrepreneur founder, says they have received $1.52 million. Some 7,000 donations have come from every state, and one from . . . France.

Keep it rolling in, folks! It’s doing a lot of good.

Wait… This is Real?

Sunday, April 18th, 2004

I thought this <link> was one of the more funny spoofs I’d seen in quite a while, until I realized it’s real. Somebody call the NAACP… or ASPCA… or whoever. This is very insensitive to fat cops everywhere.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Friday, April 9th, 2004

We all remember the story of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf. The shepherd boy who as a joke keeps running to his fellow shepherds yelling, “Help! There’s a wolf after my sheep!” and then laughing as they come running and find that there is no wolf. He has tricked them. He does this again and again, until one day the wolves come for real. He runs for his fellows and yells, “Help! There are wolves after my sheep!”, but instead of rushing to his aid, they all shrug and say “Oh hell, it’s him again.” The boy’s sheep are slaughtered by the wolves; and the boy has lost everything because nobody was willing to help him when he really needed it.

Robert Jamieson, Jr., writing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, wrote an article that discusses a (white) high school teacher who has been put on administrative leave for having used “racially inappropriate” language in a (mostly or all black) class. Apparently the teacher made a sarcastic remark, and the kids took offense.

Jamieson states: “What you say is not always what people hear. That statement is a key element of diversity training.” Further along, “The freedom to say what one believes — even if the words are sarcastic or smarmy — comes with the risk of being misinterpreted.”

I believe that these two arguments clearly illustrate everything that is wrong with modern “sensitivity” issues; whereby if a person misinterprets someone else’s statement, it is the speaker who is assumed to be at fault. If you say something that offends someone else, even unintentionally, you have in the eyes of the self-appointed Guardians of Delicate Egos, commited a crime.

No matter what people do, someone somewhere is going to be offended by the words of another. This is doubly true when they seek out offense. Jesse Jackson and his ilk (not the only offenders in this) will always be able to find offense in something, because they actively look for things to be offended by. If nobody insults them directly, then they will be offended on behalf of someone else.

There are really only two ways to approach the issue in daily life. Either:

  • People need to consider, every time that they speak, every possible way that anybody might interpret anything that they say. OR
  • People need to consider, every time that they are offended by someone else’s words, the possibilities that a) the offense was unintentional, or b) that they have simply misheard or misinterpreted what it was they found offensive.

The first option has an enormous stifling effect on the free exchange of ideas, which this country is already experiencing. People who might have added to the social discourse say nothing, to avoid possible accusations — whether baseless or not. Accusations of this type have destroyed careers. (Jamieson points out a few examples of this in his article). When the onus is entirely on the speaker, it is literally impossible to avoid offending anyone, short of never saying anything ever.

The second option puts the onus on the listener, but it is a far smaller responsibility, and one that is possible to fulfill. The biggest manner that this could be implemented would be to quit punishing people for “offensive” actions when the offense is clearly not intended; along with putting a stigma on people who make accusations without considering the intent of the speaker.

The article, upon citing two other teachers who have been blamed in similar incidents, then states:

Cleveland High isn’t the easiest teaching post in the Seattle district.

Some of the students aren’t enthused about learning and some parents don’t exactly knock down the door to get involved in the education of their kids. The school’s budget — like the rest of the beleaguered Seattle Public Schools — is tight. A teacher must possess tenacity and humanity to inspire Cleveland’s students — even if it is a tough environment, where some students feel “the man” is out to get them and are quick to blame outsiders for the school’s woes.

I agree that being a teacher in a poor public school can not be easy; but this is precisely why the district should not be so eager to shoot down their best and brightest. These teachers have a dedication to teaching these kids (or they wouldn’t be there), and the schools are throwing further obstacles in their path — all the while scratching their heads and wondering aloud why it’s so hard to give these kids an education that’s worth anything.

I am reminded of the recent case in which a white Southwest Airlines flight attendant recited a variation on a children’s nursery rhyme: “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go.” Two black sisters took offense at this, deciding that it was targeted at them, because once upon a time there was a a racist version of that same rhyme. Never mind that the flight attendant had never heard of that variation (nor had I before reading this story); the women are suing the airline for discrimination and demanding that the flight attendants be sent to Sensitivity Training to avoid such a thing happening again. This pretty much falls under the category of offenses that, from the speaker’s side, could only have been avoided by never saying anything to anyone, ever. If she’d never heard the racist version of the rhyme, she could not possibly have known that it might offend. On those grounds alone the case should have been thrown out of court at the first hearing. The only racists here are the women flinging the accusations.

So what does all this have to do with the shepherd boy? I’m referring to the huge damage that the Jesses Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the like have done to the cause that they supposedly hold dear. The national environment wherein it is impossible for blacks and whites to have a frank discussion of race, because too many blacks have been trained to take offense at nothing. The environment wherein a person can point a finger and cry “Help! Help! A Racist!” and destroy a reputation. An environment wherein a book such as Huckleberry Finn can be banned from libraries because it contains the word “nigger”; and Disney neglects the release of one of its most famous movies, Song of the South, because the Black Community™ takes offense at the accurate portrayal of black speech patterns in the Old South.

This is not limited to racial issues. I can also point to the atheists who run around suing towns for putting up Christmas displays, or the Ten Commandments. “Church and State! Church and State!” they cry, sounding not so much like the shepherd boy as Chicken Little, and down come the displays; (and lest you’ve forgotten, Chicken Little was eaten for his trouble).

The high school teacher made a sarcastic remark in a way that commented in race relations, in a manner that might in other circumstances have opened a useful discussion among the students about just that topic. Instead, the powers that be have thrown the book at him and closed off any such possibility now or in his future career (assuming he still has one). Some day when racial or religious discrimination rears its head for real, people are going to think of the “Southwest Sisters”, or the atheist troublemakers, or their counterparts in whatever the injured group is, and turn away; and genuine injustices will occur. It will be allowed to happen because the general public just won’t give a damn anymore. In the meantime, any honest attempt to address the social issues these groups are ostensibly trying to fix will be stillborn under the weight of self-serving lawsuits and accusations.

Before you accuse someone of insensitivity, be sure that an offense has actually been committed. In other words, be sensitive to their meaning and intent.

[28 April 2004: This entry has been edited (mostly in the second half) in response to some reader comments, in order to smooth some rough edges and clarify things a bit. The original can be found here.]

UPDATE: Fox News has an interesting article that touches on some of the issues I discussed here.

There’s Only One???

Friday, April 2nd, 2004

Dan writes:

Where is the April Fools Day posting???

The fan of your website wants an April Fools Day posting. He doesn’t really mind what topic. Maybe Americans have been on Mars for 8 years or the Chinese pilot that ‘killed’ himself flying into the American recon plane had died in a space related accident and that the air crash accident was a cover up to make the Chinese angry at the Americans.

So what is on the far side of the moon?

Heh. Ummm… the joke was making you wait for an April Fools post. No really. Kind of a variation on the old “How do you keep an idiot in suspense?” joke. (Or my personal favorite, the one that starts “Three nuns and a hooker walk into a bar….” I’ll tell you the rest later.)

It’s funny — I hadn’t realized how long it’s been since I posted. Guess it has to do with my dealing with some major upcoming life changes and all… I’m getting hitched in August and I’m moving before the end of this month! That and that fact that, beyond speculating on just who John Kerry’s mysterious foreign supporters are (yawn… “Kim Jong Il”?) the political landscape hasn’t grabbed my attention spectacularly. Others have commented quite nicely on Spanish Cowardice, and as for the killings in Falluja, well…. I find the silence far more interesting than an instant response. We will find them — the morons taped themselves.

Oh, sorry. I’m supposed to be funny, right? My Bad. I guess I’m just not feeling very funny today; I’ve been under the weather all week, and busy and tired at the same time. If you want to be amused, go check out some bleats. If Lileks isn’t your style, there’s always The Onion.

I’ll see what I can drum up over the weekend. ‘Til Next time.