Old Diary

Blowing Off Steam


This isn’t my shot, but it pretty well summarizes my mood!

I’m all steamed up with nowhere to blow.  I swear, people do not realize when they are killing their own dreams, sinking their own ship, and jumping out of frying pans into a fire they themselves have lit.

Can you tell, I’m a little bit miffed?

There’s a couple here who would like to change jobs.  There are some significant reasons why the staff have voiced objections over our initial recommendation and, heck, I’m new here I don’t need to go to bat for someone I scarcely know, but I was doing just that.  Until yesterday.Steam

Someone, somewhere should be required to tell us when we are all in school that there are dangers in defensive behavior.  Like pushing the envelope just a little TOO far…. or maybe even a LOT too far.

That was my end of day yesterday. Someone pushing back just a little too hard until my ‘last straw’ broke.  We were having a discussion about incident expense reimbursements.   Specifically it was about a stinking little 5 mile round trip; a round trip that will turn out in the end to have sunk this couple’s boat: the different job they were hoping for on the forest isn’t going to happen.  And any advocacy I might have been inclined to offer based on not knowing them well must now be tempered by my knowledge of their willingness to lie.  To be truthful, now that I know it, I’m not even sure that at some point such knowledge might force me to terminate their stay here on the forest.

Blowing off SteamLife is pretty laid back here.  Staff don’t ask a lot of volunteers — not really.  A free place to park (rent), free utilities (electric,  sewer and trash) as well as free propane for heat aren’t a LOT of virtual dollars in your pocket but they are a benefit many folks would give up a metaphorical arm for.  But entitlement has been known to kill a golden goose or two. (if I may mix my metaphors with my giant Kitchenaid metaphor-mixer)

I really feel bad about my end of day yesterday.  The couple could easily have done the job they were wanting to upgrade to.  They might not have been ideal candidates, but if they were trainable the effort might be well spent.  They are young and strong.  They could have turned out to be long term volunteers.

But that won’t happen now; they might even end up leaving.  All because they aren’t able to:

Audi alteram partem

Literally translated, that’s latin for “Hear the other side also.”

Some 30 years ago I had a field job processing warrantee claims and I admit I wasn’t very good at hearing the other side.  The company I worked for was having quality control problems, I had been given directives about what was allowable and little ability to deviate from that policy.  My only course of action was to be brutal in meeting out ‘justice’ as Mr. Boss Man saw it.

One day one of our distributors took me aside after a client meeting with his customer and told me, “Peter, your problem is that you know your own story too well.”  I was taken aback by his directness but the comment stayed with me — for 30 years!  I could do nothing to change the results of that one meeting; but his comments have affected me in monumental ways ever since.  Ever since I have been trying to  “Audi alteram parted.”

One of the things I discovered soon after adjusting my own attitude is that people (in general) don’t WANT to hear the other side… Most of us are quite happy to have our own opinion, without having it challenged.  Of course that’s not a very realistic way to go through life.  Life challenges everything: every belief, every idea, every action. Gravity never lets up;  Light travels at the same speed;  Karma bites us all in the butt.

I wish there were a good way to pass along the  ‘Audi alter am partem’ way of life.  But I’ve never found it.  I feel really bad about last night — not about the way I handled myself or what I said — but because by digging in their heels and refusing to listen they destroyed their own opportunity, and that is a shame.  But, hey… it was their choice, and in a strange way I have to accept their right to screw things up for themselves.  You see, I have learned to ‘hear the other side also….’

Old Diary

The American Conceit

Enemies-of-Second-Amendment-Will-Exploit-Connecticut-Shooting-People rarely want to see themselves as others see them, but we really need to take a good, hard, look at ourselves as a nation.  It’s morally dishonest for us as a nation to be upset by the recent shooting of children in Newtown Connecticut. As a people we have armed ourselves to the teeth and then we sit around complaining that guns have killed.  Come on now. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.  We can be aghast at what happens when people use guns to kill civilians, but we can’t fix the problem without taking some form of action. The problem is we can’t agree on action to take and we haven’t the will to make up our collective mind.

As a nation we have been at war for 210 years.  We call ourselves a peaceful nation but we (collectively) keep sticking our nose into other people’s problems — meaning that we love to fight wars that take place in someone else’s backyard.
Let's Be HonestIt’s easy to say that it’s politicians that get us into wars, and that “WE” really are the peaceful people we think we are — but we conveniently seem to forget that “WE” were the ones that elected those war mongering politicians into office.

Don’t get me wrong — I love this country.  But I don’t love hypocrisy.  And there seem to be a lot of levels on which we simply refuse to accept that we have problems that we ourselves have created and we ourselves must fix.

So often when something like the Newtown shooting occurs one hears cries for gun control as if no one has ever considered a ban on guns before.  But the truth is that this nation has been talking about gun control for a long time and those who WANT guns outnumber those who don’t.

Gun control is a perennial controversy, the sort of controversial issue that Gallup tracks on an annual basis.  So what has been the result of decades of sustained public debate?

“Americans’ support for stricter gun control laws has gradually declined over the last two decades, from 78% when this question was first asked in 1990 to 49% in 2008, and 44% in 2009 and again this year,” Gallup reported in 2010 survey results. Said the organization in 2011:

A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years.

In addition, it reported the revealed preference that almost half of Americans own at least one gun.

That number: 26% – surprised me. The conceited american in me wanted to think that number was backwards,  that 74% of americans would be in favor of gun control, but the when you actually ask people — lots of people — not just people you know — that conceit doesn’t don’t hold up.

It’s easy to blame the actions of mentally disturbed people on the instrument they use to commit those acts, but the fact remains that people who WANT to do harm, who want to act irresponsibly, who want to hurt others will find a way.  What we have not looked at as a nation, and what we are too embarrassed to look at as a nation is the fact that we are the creators of our own living hell.

Look at the statistics about how guns are being used around the country:

Cities with the highest gun related violence related firearm deaths:

Map based on data from Centers for Disease Control [PDF]


Now look at the map of gun related suicides:

suicidemap cities-highest-gun-suicides

And now gun related HOMICIDES:

homicidemapgun related homicides


Notice anything interesting?

It’s interesting to note that the rate of gun deaths is negatively correlated with states that ban assault weapons, require trigger locks, and mandate safe storage requirements for guns.  You can find more information about this in a recent The Atlantic article.  This is not an argument I’m highly invested in — it’s a societal problem and one person’s opinion can’t change anything.  But it’s tiring to hear the popular whine when it’s a problem that can be corrected — but we just don’t have the collective will to take action.

Guns are a big part of how many americans get their identity.  We have been sending generation after generation of citizens into war.  We train them in the use of weapons, we teach them to kill.  We glorify violence in the media, spending countless hours talking about every shooting atrocity. We glorify violence in entertainment, with death and destruction being far more socially acceptable than nudity and sex.  The number of battered spouses and children is horrific.  But we still think ourselves a “peaceful” nation.

I just wish we could wake up as a country, smell the gun-smoke and say, “We can be better than this.”  Until that happens, I think these maps have helped me decide where I want to RV when we get this house sold.