To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I went to Curves after work today. (And let me interject that I appreciate the stress-relieving property of exercise very much right now.) There are two circuits of exercise machines. When I started there, the trainer showed me how to do the stuff on the circuit on the left, so that is the one that I always go to. Today there were four women on that one, and only one on the other, so I went to the circuit on the right. The trainer pointed out to me that I was on the different one, and I told her, deadpan, that I didn't want the building to tilt. That tickled her, and she repeated it to the other women. One of them asked me if I am a Libra.

Well, yes, I am. Ha ha. She is too. We Libras like balance, she said.

I like a balance in political thought, too, and it has to be a dynamic balance: it moves back and forth from the tension of people pulling it one way and the other. I'm not bothered too much by differences of opinion. I am bothered by people who pick up opinions from other folks without thinking them through, or who think "because I agree with the Republican/Democrat position on this issue, I have to agree with the Republican/Democrat position on this other unrelated issue". Or who have to criticize politicians of the party they don't favor, on principle. (Case in point - Michelle Obama's shorts. What the heck? Now that she's First Lady, she's supposed to morph into Dolley Madison? Ain't going to happen, and there's no reason why she should. If Dolley were a First Lady of today, she might wear shorts on vacation too.)

So partisanship isn't a dirty word to me, unless people put party ahead of country. I don't like to hear national politicians talk about defeating the other party, or about Americans who disagree with them being bad people. But people who think through issues and end up with different conclusions - that is absolutely necessary for the country to survive. America has changed a lot over the 200-plus years since its birth. It has had to, because the world has changed. Adapt or die. Having tension and even a certain amount of fighting and power-struggling in the various branches of government is kind of like recombinant DNA, in that it's a mechanism for change, and the government needs to change in response to the changing world.

I'm not comfortable with looking only at news sources and conversations that are biased the same way I am. Always afraid I'm going to miss some crucial argument and either look like an idiot or at least not draw the conclusion I would if I had all the facts.

Sometimes there's quite a difference between the lessons other people draw from current events. When Sodini killed those women at the gym, one opinion I saw was that their being at the gym was symbolic of people spending money frivolously to do things in such a way that they don't interact with other people, as they would if they got their exercise by walking or biking; and that this tendency of people in general to insulate themselves led to Sodini's loneliness, so that in a way those women brought about their fate. Even though they didn't even know him, nor he them. My thought here is that people need to be able to go to the dang gym without thinking they are making a sweeping social statement or taking on responsibility for the loneliness, or lack thereof, of total strangers. Sodini had some problems, all right, but they would not have been solved by these women not going to the gym.

On a different site, which I visit to get the left-wing viewpoint, I saw the argument that society caused Sodini's murderous spree, because it is a logical outgrowth of the misogyny that we see all around us every day. No explanation of why all the misogyny caused Sodini alone to do this thing, if we're all immersed in it. In this conversation, it was desired that the term "mental illness" not be applied to Sodini, because it smears people who have various degrees of mental illnesses of one type or another. If you can't place the blame on Sodini, I guess you have to blame society. My thought there is that "mental illness" must be too broad a term if you can't apply it to Sodini without smearing other people, and we need to find some way to express the deviation of a person who is fixed on the idea of killing other folks, lest that come to be thought of as normal. R suggests "homicidal maniac" and that works for me.

But I told R about these two views of society causing that incident, and he sighed, and then he said that as much as it pains him to agree with the left about anything, he thinks those folks are right about the misogyny. I don't watch TV anymore and haven't for a few years, but he does, and he says that what you see on the shows and on the ads is that women are things to be acted on. If you see this and you don't have the thinking skills or whatever it takes to compartmentalize this from your actual attitude and actions, then killing a bunch of women to express your dissatisfaction with life in general is the logical thing to do.

Sometimes I think that all of the bickering that we do about the hot topics of the day actually distract us from the real problems that need to be addressed. How the crap on TV affects society is one big issue, IMO. I've walked past the TV when one of the CSI shows is on, and am APPALLED by the images of dead and mangled people, and the coolness of the protagonists when they are confronted by this. If you set about desensitizing human beings to the torture and agony and death of other humans, I can't think of a better way to go about it than those shows. We have some godawful crime in this country and we just live with it. Murder rates that rival Baghdad at the height of the Iraq struggle. We aren't going to do anything about it because we can't focus enough to figure out what the problem might be and we lack the will to do anything about it. Teen pregnancy and the sexualization of little girls - that's another one that's killing us and we won't do anything about. I guess culture changes are the hardest changes of all to bring about, but cultures do change - no one would have dreamed of having the garbage we now have on TV and the radio a few years ago, and little girls used to be protected from sexual messages; somebody or something evidently is changing the culture, and not always for the better. But try to talk about these things, and you're pushed into a box with a label - "puritan" or "feminist" or whatever - and there's no engagement. It's discouraging.

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