Monthly Archives: September 2014

Men need a movement

Every Thursday, I have a “Guy’s night” with craft beer, wings, and NFL football.  But if I’m out with my wife, you might see me guzzling white zinfandel.

I am a pretty damn good basketball player, and once dreamed of playing in the NBA.  But I also dreamed about playing the lead role in West Side Story or The Music Man.

My favorite movies are Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.  But I saw Pretty Woman and Titanic in the theatre.  With another guy.

Some of you probably wonder why I’m telling you this because you think nothing of it.  You don’t care.  But others may get a chuckle out of it.  Or call me names.  Or think I’m less of a man.

I spent a lot of time talking with my wife this week about the latest incidents of violence in the NFL. We watched the public service announcement for the It’s On Us campaign to stop sexual assault on college campuses.  And we capped it off by watching this video of Emma Watson kicking off the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign promoting gender equality.  Notice anything?  Who’s at the center of all of this?  Sing it with me–“Men, men, men, men.  Men, men, men, men.”

Men, we need a good ol’ fashion steaming movement.

Not THAT kind of movement.  Men take those every day.  I’m talking about a movement for change.  Women, you have yours.  Call it Women’s Suffrage, the women’s movement, the feminist movement, or women’s lib, the name doesn’t matter.  It’s been going on for about 130 years.  It started as the right to vote and evolved into the right to work.  Now, it can mean the right to equal pay or reproductive rights.  You think the war in Afghanistan was long?  It ain’t got nothing on the war women fight every day.

But the movement forgot something.  Hello!?  {Waving hands violently while jumping up and down}  We’re right over here!  Yep, it forgot about men.  It became too much about “me”  and “you,” and not enough about “we.”  It forced society to change its view of women, without any thought to how it SHOULD change its view of men.

Think of it this way–all your life, you, as a woman, have eaten nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  And finally, after years of fighting, you get the chance to hit a Golden Corral.  Now, it’s a buffet of whatever you want.  “I’ll take a little right to vote and run for office.  But I may not eat it.  Do I want to try some of that right to work, or just go with the housewife?  I’d like to see what the right to join the military is like, even though I haven’t heard many good things about it.”  Then, when you’re done, you head to the dessert bar to dip some fruit in the “I can sleep with whomever I want” fountain or grab some “I’m going to have an orgasm, too.”  You get a smorgasbord of choices, one society as a whole finally accepts.

Men, we’re stuck over here eating the same “real man” sandwich.  Two slices of bread winner,  slathered with some “Husband and father” on one side, and “Strong, emotionless, problem solver” on the other.  Same meal, day in and day out, for the last 130 years.  What if we want some “Stay at home father?”  Society gives us the stink eye.  Women, you SAY you want us to eat some “Sensitive, emotional man.”  But when you get a taste of it, you spit it out.  Just once men would like to try a little “Women ask me out and pay for the date.”  Oh my God!  Chivalry is dead!  If we eat our sandwich in front of the television, we get a choice of “ruthless asshole” or “bumbling oaf.”   Because, you know, those are the only two roles men play in society.  And if we don’t want to eat our sandwich?  We get “You’re a bitch/pussy/girl/’Insert creative word for a female body part here'” for dessert.

Then there’s the bloating, indigestion and stomach pains.  Men commit the vast majority of violent crimes like armed robbery, domestic violence, child abuse, and rape.  Men commit suicide at an alarmingly high rate.  Divorce rates continue to climb.  Look at male-dominated arenas like the NFL and the military, corporate and political America.  They are all microcosms of a society perpetuating beliefs of what a “man” should be.

So what happens after the meal and stomach issues?  A race to the bathroom for a movement.  And now’s the time for that movement.  Maybe we should stop measuring a man’s value by his job and paycheck.  Instead of rewarding men for how hard they work, can we reward them for how hard they work as a husband and/or father?  I’m all for a longer maternity leave.  But what about paternity leave?  Shouldn’t we teach young boys “nice guys” don’t finish last, that it’s okay to cry and express your feelings?  Can we embrace mental health and therapy for men instead of demonizing it?  Battle violence and aggression by talking about and finding solutions for the “why,” instead of just punishing the “who” for the “what?”  Realize that as the role of women evolves, the role of men does too?

I’ll leave you with two recent incidents that really stuck with me.  I was in Target and a woman was standing in the toy section with her two boys.  One was two or three, the other about five.  The older boy was crying, while the mother attempted to quiet him down.  As I got to their aisle and we made eye contact, she yelled, “Do you want everyone to think you’re a girl!?”  The other was a conversation my wife had with an employer.  He served in the Navy, and told her he didn’t believe in post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  He says it’s just an excuse for people who are too weak, or can’t handle the military.

You may have seen incidents like this.  You may perpetuate some of the male stereotypes.  I’m know guilty of it.  It happens every, single day.  So does the fight for gender equality. By definition, it means “the measurable equal representation of women and men. It does not imply women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment.”  But as a man, how can I see women as my equal if society still refuses to treat me like one?

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Race and Rice Part II

Looks like we got the lynch mob back together!  That’s right, after a job well done ending Donald Sterling’s basketball ownership, and destroying half of Ferguson, Missouri, we once again broke out the hoods and torches, marched to the jail, pulled Ray Rice out of his cell, and gave him a proper hanging.  After all, It’s the only way he could get what he deserved, right?

So who’s next?  I’m looking at you, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald.  Adrian Peterson deserves a good “whooping” for the beating he gave his son with a “switch.”  Or should we just go straight to the top and throw NFL commissioner Roger Goodell out the window of his posh office?  It takes a little time to get a proper lynch mob together.  Why waste it?

Look, I get it.  I am outraged by what Rice, Hardy, McDonald, and Peterson did.  While a jury found Hardy guilty, I was shocked when Atlantic City prosecutors recommended Rice enroll in an intervention program with no jail time.  I thought Goodell did a horrible job explaining the punishment.  And when the second video came out showing Rice slugging his now-wife, it was so abhorrent I knew he was in serious trouble.

And, of course, he was.  Or is.  And probably always will be.  Because, you know, when we don’t like someone’s punishment, it’s only fair to enact mob justice to make it right.

Let me be clear–I believe all these people should be punished.  I just believe they deserve to be punished fairly, not severely.  ESPN’s Cris Carter, in his passionate speech about Peterson’s suspension, said, “You can’t beat a kid to make them do what you want them to do.”  So why do we try to do it with adults?  Does it help or change anything?  Or is it simply a way to make us feel better?  We’re acting like a pit bull on a two year old.  We won’t let it go.  And speaking of pit bulls, that leads me to the way I believe we should have handled Rice’s incident.

When I watched NFL games this weekend, I was reminded of a player who experienced a similar situation.  He only played a handful of snaps Sunday, and his only significance in the game was getting sacked.  But he plays a significant role in the debate we’re having right now.

When police arrested quarterback Michael Vick in 2007 for running a dog fighting ring, we expressed the same anger and shock as with Rice.  The NFL immediately handed down an indefinite suspension.  When Vick pleaded guilty, we applauded his prison term.  In 2009, after 21 months in prison and halfway houses, Goodell ended the suspension.  Vick returned to work, presumably a changed man.  Now, he not only plays in the NFL, he works with the Humane Society of America educating others about dog fighting and animal abuse.

That is how our judicial system is supposed to work.  We elect lawmakers to pass laws.  We elect state and county attorneys to prosecute the violators of those laws.  And we elect judges to hand down a fair punishment based on those laws.  And when the sentence is fulfilled, in most cases, the person returns to society, hopefully a better person.

Except when we don’t like it, right?  Ray Rice is paying a much bigger price than Greg Hardy or Michael Vick  And I believe it’s because they were convicted and Rice was not.  Some of you are doing to Rice what Peterson did to his son–we’re trying to beat him into submission.  He took a deal we all would take in that situation, one allowed by law and explained in further detail on www.nj.com.   Some of you were appalled at the two-game suspension Goodell handed down, especially after seeing what happened inside the elevator, without taking into account Rice was a first-time offender and was not found guilty.  The outrage basically took away Rice’s livelihood, probably forever, while giving Michael Vick’s back.  Discounting Michael Vick’s prison term, do you know how many games he missed he was eligible to play in?  Exactly two.  Again, sound familiar?

Look, I don’t blame you for not liking the punishment.  But don’t blame celebrity privilege or demand the prosecutors resign.  Work to change the law.  Don’t demand Goodell quit or be fired.  Why do we care if he lied about not seeing the video?  His first punishment was the right one based on the union contract and the past history of Rice and similar disciplinary action.  If you don’t like it, use the almighty dollar to make the NFL change the culture.  Stop watching.  Demand companies stop sponsoring and advertising.  I never understood why CoverGirl was the “Official beauty sponsor of the NFL” anyway.  And don’t force Sterling, Rice, Peterson, Hardy, McDonald, or Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson to the fringes of society.  Punish them, yes.  But allow them to learn from their mistakes and return to their jobs.  Are we better off if they were at the head of a fight for change, or with their heads on a pike?  Think about it, and in the meantime, keep those hoods and pitchforks at the ready.  Because you’re going to need them again, real soon.

Race and Rice

First of all, I’d like to thank those of you who showed support for this blog.  I had a good, long talk with myself before writing it.  And I appreciate your kind words and low expectations.

I think the hard part of writing something like that isn’t airing the dirty laundry.  That’s easy.  It’s knowing some of you won’t like it.  Accepting others judgement about you is the tough part.

And that’s where I’m beginning, by doing what I do best.  As so eloquently stated by Donald Sutherland in “JFK”:  stirring the shitstorm.  And what better way to do it then with race and Rice.

Three big stories emerged recently:  The Ferguson, Missouri shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.  Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson selling his majority ownership of the team after a past e-mail surfaced about why he thought “blacks” and “hip-hop music” kept “affluent whites” from coming to games.  And the NFL basically kicking Ray Rice out of the league for punching his then fiancee/now wife in the face.  To me, all three follow the same theme as my first post:  acceptance.

As a society, our emotional reaction to these acts tends to overwhelm us.  We’re angered, sickened, upset.  We want retribution, punishment, jail time.  We want to form a posse, or angry mob, or start a witch hunt.  Like the commercials for Old El Paso salsa used to say, “Get a rope!”

Here’s the problem:  You need to believe it.  Watch it.  Take it all in.  Because It happens.  Always will.  That’s part of acceptance.  Don’t accept the act.  Accept the act OCCURS. I constantly try to get my wife to watch animal abuse videos.  She hates it.  But I always say to her, “You can’t fix it if you don’t know what people do and why they do it.”  You cannot fight racism without first accepting it will always exist.  Domestic violence will always exist.  Gays, obese people, immigrants, women, Jews, atheists–let me say it again.  Some people will always hate you. ALWAYS.  Accept it.

That’s why I am not surprised, shocked, or angered by what happened.  I AM surprised, shocked, and angered by the reaction.  In Ferguson,  people raced to judgement on both sides.  Protests, riots, destroying businesses who had nothing to do with it.  Our emotions wanted to ruin the life of a police officer without getting his side of the story.  Instead of letting the legal process play out, our anger demanded an immediate sacrifice to feel better.  People on both sides of the argument entrenched.  It’s the same thing with Levenson.  After the Donald Sterling incident, the NBA began looking into his racially charged e-mail.  And Levenson was forced to fall on his sword or be sent away to Sterling Island.

Rice is by far the worst example of it.  If I let my emotions get the better of me, I would say good riddance.  We’ve all seen the video.  It’s appalling.  Ask my wife and she’ll tell you I do not understand how people commit animal abuse, child abuse, rape and domestic violence.  But if you think about it logically, you would first think about this:  Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent will eventually play in the NFL, possibly this year, after killing his friend and teammate in a DUI crash in December of 2012.  Michael Vick suits up despite spending time in prison after abusing and killing pit bulls in a dog-fighting ring.  Earlier this year, a jury found Carolina Panther defensive end Greg Hardy guilty of assaulting a girlfriend and threatening to kill her.  Yep, he’s still playing pending his appeal.  I don’t think Rice’s crime is any worse than these three.  His real crime: it was all caught on video.

When the first clip came out, it was shocking.  A man dragging his then-fiancee’s unconscious body out of an elevator like a Mafia hit man disposing of someone he just whacked.  We learned what happened and our emotions changed from shock to anger.  The NFL’s two game suspension led to outrage at what many perceived as a light sentence.  But as time passed, our emotions faded.  We may not have liked the punishment, but we moved on.  Then came the second video.  We saw what actually happened, not just read about it.  We were in the elevator with them.  We saw the argument and the punch, watched her head slam into the elevator rail, and what seemed to be Rice’s nonchalant reaction by simply kicking her to see if she was still alive.  Roger Goodell said it changed things.  Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it changed things.  We as a society said it changed things.  Why?

Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock touched on this here after the Donald Sterling incident.  “In a society filled with impurities, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers committed the crime of speaking impure thoughts in the privacy of a duplex he apparently provided for his mistress. And now an angry, agenda-fueled mob provoked NBA commissioner Adam Silver into handing Sterling a basketball death sentence.”  Sound familiar?  I don’t care about the video.  I don’t need to see it to know what happened or to believe what a reasonable punishment should be.  But obviously, many of you do.  Are you burning Greg Hardy’s jersey?  Where’s the call for his head?  There is none because the media doesn’t have video to ram down our throats.  Sports Illustrated talks about it here.  Reading about it doesn’t make us feel anything.  Seeing it does.  Outrage replaces logic.  And what was a fruitful discussion turns into a drunken bar brawl.

Look around, because that’s all we do nowadays.  We fight about everything.  Men vs. women.  Black vs. white.  Democrats vs. Republicans.  We don’t talk, or debate, or discuss. When someone doesn’t agree with us, we fight.  We don’t try to understand their logic.  As Whitlock says, Sterling grew up in a white supremacy culture.  Do we care?  No.  We just want him gone.  But sending Sterling away doesn’t mean the culture goes with him.  Levenson followed.  Many more will come.  Replace Ferguson, Missouri with the name of another town or city, because another police shooting of an unarmed black man will happen.  Rice’s video is just visual proof of one domestic violence incident in a string of thousands.  Once you accept that, we can have a real conversation about it.  Until then, praise the new punishment of Rice.  Demand the heads of coach John Harbaugh and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  Watch NFL games.  Your emotion and anger will soon go away.  But the problem never will.