The Entertainment of Politics


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

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The 2016 campaign is well on its way with just days before the Iowa caucuses. It seems like more people are interested in this race or in politics in general, than before. It’s no secret that non-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have created a buzz for people that may otherwise not be interested in politics.

Or maybe it’s more than that. It’s no secret the political news networks like MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN are blowing away the “traditional” news networks of NBC, CBS, and ABC. Obviously MSNBC and Fox News have agendas, which people love to lament as networks that “brainwash” people with partisan “propaganda” and maybe that is partly true but when stories are cross referenced with other sources they can prove to be a great tool for sparking interest in politics.

Let’s face it. Politics on its surface is boring. The consequences are enormous but the actual act of governing is a snooze fest. There have been photographs of law makers asleep on the job, or playing on their phones during a committee hearing. Making laws are tedious and slow. Most politics is inconsequential. Naming official birds, or purposeless holidays, providing funding for bureaucratic organizations, and just the other important but monotonous tasks of keeping a state or the country going. Not to mention all the fundraising that has to go on just to maintain your position…to fund raise more in another couple years.

However, these networks, as tilted as they may be do provide a type of entertainment. They highlight the “exciting” aspects of politics. The battlegrounds, the debates, the ramifications of certain policies. They are doing very well with political theater. If people wanted raw politics then they’d be hooked on CSPAN…which most people are not. Political analysis of how candidates are doing and why certain people should or shouldn’t be elected plays out like a real life drama.

I’ve often attributed my political awakening to when I was 17 and came across a CNN special called “Sun Down Towns.” These are towns where it is not safe for African Americans to be out when the sun goes down. This woke me up to a social injustice I thought was from a bygone era but still were prevalent in the 21st century. If I had never seen that special I may not have been interested to see what else CNN was talking about and thus never interested in politics and it pays off.

It always pays off to be interested in politics than apathetic. A citizenry that understands what is happening with their governance (or not happening) is bound to act rather than allow it to persist, and now it has finally come to a head. These political theater shows have never before seen popularity and we have citizenry that is upset with a multitude on issues and candidates on both sides that do not talk like cookie cutter Democrats or Republicans. The reason why they’re doing so well is because politics is changing. Now it may change back if these fringe candidates are unsuccessful once they win the White House (and one of them WILL win) and its exciting for even the casual political observer.

I’ve said to friends that the GOP primary is my favorite reality TV show. Not being right-wing leaning I’m enthralled in the weirdness of it all. Instead of the traditional dance of scooting closer and closer to the right than coming back to center during the general election, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have turned the rhetoric to an 11. Leaving the traditional candidates befuddled. Sanders is doing a similar tactic on the left, leaving Hillary Clinton from the preordained nominee to being down in all the early states and fighting for her political life.

Some may scoff at politics being belittled to a theatrical performance and see news mixed with entertainment as misleading, but what I see them as a net gain. If theater gets people interested in how they are being governed then great. Political commentary should not be confused with impartial news, so as long as people don’t take a mouth piece’s word as gospel, then there’s nothing wrong if it gets people excited. No one turn’s on fox news and expects to hear an unfiltered view of the news. They expect to hear a conservatives take on it.

I know this is a far cry from my usual jaded view but hey maybe 2016 will have record voting numbers and be the year of the people?

 

 

The Antidote to Terrorism


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History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

By now I’m sure that everyone is aware that there was a massive terrorist attack in Paris several days ago. As soon as I heard it I knew what would come after. Facebook posts about tolerance or hatred, political posturing, and a new blow to innocent Muslims.

I believe the severity of a terrorist attack can be judged in the aftermath and the reactions. Take 9/11 for example. Perhaps the only thing worst than the actual carnage of 9/11 was everything that 9/11 brought after. Certainly more deaths, of both Americans and Iraqi and Afghan citizens. It also slashed many freedoms and protections that Americans have relied on for centuries.

If I would have explained the “post 9/11 world” to someone in the 90’s you would have thought I was crazy. “The government is going to listen to your conversations, and your e-mails will be read as well!” “The TSA will make you take off shoes and will look at a close representation of your naked body just to fly because planes are now a weapon” That would have earned me a tin foil hat before but now, everyone would say yeah I know…

The political posturing I mentioned earlier, was also hard to stomach. Politicians like Ted Cruz said that “The gloves are off!” As opposed to yesterday Senator Cruz? The U.S. has ordered of 6,000 airstrikes against ISIS (mainly of which are not accurate but more on that later) but it’s not like we didn’t have them on the radar before. But Senator Cruz would like to up our killing in the Islamic State. Which is exactly what they want. It’s what all terrorists want.

I start my blogs with the quote “history is the autobiography of a madman” because everything that I talk about is something crazy or interesting I see and I comment on it. But that is all modern history and perhaps should more accurately say “society is the autobiography of a mad man” but I would like to delve into some history tonight and tell you a story. A story of Nazis and terrorists and gore, I’ll keep it sensational. And I’ll keep it real.

Most people know that World War I was started by Serbian terrorist, Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated arch Duke Franz Ferdinand but you never heard much more about them as the war quickly started after their attack. The attack was carried out by the terrorist organization known as “The Black Hand” but it would be gone before the end of WWI.

When WWII breaks out there are many different terrorist attacks against Nazi Germany. In America we would call them “Freedom fighters” but one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, so we’ll just call them “terrorists” for consistency sake. Terrorist attacks were seen mostly in smaller countries that didn’t have anything close to a national army that could stand up to Germany. Denmark had several attacks, sinking their own vessels as the Nazi’s approached so they couldn’t take them. But a lot of this “terrorism” was in the Balkan states. And the Nazis came down on all the perpetrators HARD. They were hung in the streets, sent to concentration camps, shot on raids. Hundreds of “terrorists” died and the reason why the Nazi’s were so concerned about them is that the terrorists’ attacks were so effective.

They were so effective they began to make an impact on the war and divert more and more Nazi soldiers to less notable fronts to combat these “terrorists” that their own fronts began to weaken. But they didn’t stop. The Nazi soldiers would find a “cell” of terrorists and two more would pop up the next day, the harder they crushed them more and more citizens would become “radicalized.”  This is because the Nazis began to widen their scope and often would kill or harm innocent people to get to the “terrorists” However, once they harmed a member of a family, their family members would want vengeance, join up with the “terrorists” and boom you’ve just created more enemies.

This is the same situation we’re doing with ISIS. Imagine you’re a twenty something “moderate” Muslim working on a farm with your family and you go to a market to get supplies. You come back and your farm is devastated, your family is dead and your livelihood has been taken away. The remains of your farm are the tell tale sign that it was hit by a drones inaccurate missiles. What would you do? Would you want revenge? It is admirable if you say “no” and would just try to pick up the pieces and rebuild your life. It’s very human to do want you can to avenge your family, and the best way to do that is to join up with ISIS, an organization you previously wanted nothing to do with. So that particular strike eliminated 0 terrorists and created 1 more.

I’m not saying that we should stop them, because they do take out some high profile targets. Putting “boots on the ground” would certainly focus the scope of attacks but would put our brave men and women at in a risky situation that many aren’t willing to take.

There’s only one way to beat terrorists and it’s not with missiles, guns, or bullets. Terrorism will only be an existential threat if we let destroy ourselves. If we legislate our freedoms away, get wrapped up in endless wars against stateless entities, and become a shell of a country.

There’s a sign in Paris that says “Resist in Peace”. And that’s how you beat terrorists. That’s the antidote. The terrorists “win” when we let them change our lives. They win when we do EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT US TO DO (which is a military 101 no no) Stand strong, resist in peace, and fight the fear with living your life.

More Than Just a Game


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

football

I remember the first time I was interviewed for a teaching position. It was December of 2012, I hadn’t even graduated from college or finished my student teaching but there was a long term sub position for 9th and 11th grade at a high school in Baltimore County. I was incredibly nervous because this was going to be my first adult job, and hopefully the start to a long and successful teaching career. I would also be interviewing against my friends and peers to add a level of awkwardness to it.

I arrived to the school way before my assigned time to practice all the questions I was sure to get. “What is your classroom management policy” “How do you engage students” “How would you react if x happened” When I was sure I couldn’t prepare anymore I walked in the school with papers, and extra resumes. I eventually was escorted into the office where I would be interviewed and spoke to an assistant principal and the chair of the social studies dept. Sure enough they asked me the usual questions, but then my dept. chair looked closer at my resume and noticed I had put “President of the Towson University Dodgeball Club” on it as a list of extracurriculars. He smirked and asked how that would help me as a teacher? I paused and thought about it but answered that as President I had to be in charge of the team when we traveled, create practice routines and drills, and be the bean counter of the team as I attended Sports Council Meetings and filled out time sensitive paperwork.

My dept. chair laughed and said… “oh… I was just messing around. I wasn’t expecting that” They asked me to step out of the office and they called me back in minutes later and offered me the position.

Now, maybe they gave me the job because they liked my answers to the standard teacher questions, or maybe it was the dodgeball answer, that was supposed to be a “joke question.” Like I said, I knew some of the people that I was interviewing against and they were the ones that helped me complete my teaching portfolio, and gave me advice and I had out interviewed them, which shocked me. But ever since then I’ve noticed that sometimes sports aren’t just sports.

It’s not just dodgeball though. Any sport that is played forms a bond. This bond can be weak or strong but it’s always present. The bond is made by having a shared experience of pushing your body to its limits, it’s made by sharing joys of victories and bitterness of defeats. Teams lose or win together and the feelings that are invoked are shared as well. As I run into past teammates from high school or college, it’s always pleasant to reminiscence and see what each other have been up to since graduation, even if the field or the court was the only place we would see each other.

Bonds aren’t the only thing that are forged with sports but great character attributes like selflessness, leadership, working in a group, and other attributes are all life skills that make a successful human being. Maybe you never thought much about yourself but was made team captain and were seen as a leader by your peers when that may not have been as you saw yourself. Maybe it’s a sanctuary from what could otherwise be a turbulent life. Maybe you were a selfish person that now works well with others because you had to rely on other players to win games.

This is not always evident to people who don’t play sports. The term “sporting” has come out in previous years by people who don’t understand sports. Saying something like “I sports real hard, sportings harder than the other team, we outsported them and hope to sports really good (sic) next week” is meant to be derogatory to athletes and portray them as the stereotypical “dumb jock” This is seen because the stereotype does exist but sports are simple at face value.

Most sports are trying to move a ball into an area more times than the opponent. It’s simple right? Anyone can do it right? Sports are more than face value. As a coach of multiple sports you have to look for chemistry in players, who can mesh with others the best. There is cunning, strategy, and hours upon hours of practice to get plays and technique right. To challenge yourself and others and to see how your work has paid off. Some sports require more teamwork, some require more intellect, some require more brute strength, but all will better you as person. You will forge bonds with others, learn life lessons, increase your strategizing… and have a nice body to boot!

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed…


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

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A couple weeks ago in my 6th grade world studies class we were discussing Hammurabi’s Code. For those of you that didn’t pay attention in 6th grade, Hammurabi’s code is essentially the basis for written law. The principle of an “eye for an eye” was born from this, because the penalty for striking somebody’s eye…was them striking your eye. Or if you break their bones, your bones are broken, if you steal from someone your hand is severed so you can’t steal again. It had different punishments for different crimes, and it depended on who the offended was. If you hurt a slave that was a slap on the wrist, if you hurt a nobleman, then you’re in for a world of hurt.

Anyways, most of the punishments were pretty severe, ranging from death for something like theft of a priests or nobleman’s property, to the severing of eyes and hands for lesser offenses, all the way down to fines for harming a slave. I was asking my class if they think these harsh punishments fit the crimes that they were attached to and got a range of answers. However, the most repeated answer was either “Yes they do!” or “Death for more crimes!”

Now… again I’m dealing with 11 year olds so I don’t expect a nuanced answer of what is fair and what is excessive, especially with a 3000 year old Babylonian King’s ancient laws. But the people that were so intent on death for the smallest things were the most innocent and most quiet girls in my class. This had me pretty surprised because of their sweet personalities, but when they had the opportunity to be the judge in a fictional case, they always levered the highest punishment allowed by the law.

This had me thinking about our modern world and how Faceboook and Twitter seem to be the places to deal out the highest social punishments for the smallest human transgression. While there’s no Hammurabi’s code now, we still deal out harsh punishments.

Take for example Ms. Justine Sacco. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, one of her tweets might. Ms. Sacco was on a trip to Africa, before her plane went off she tweeted ““Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” She shut her phone off, and took a nap.

She would awake to be one of the most infamous people of that news cycle. The shame that she received for her racially insensitive and scientifically inaccurate tweet was on a scale I couldn’t believe. You would of thought she had killed Kennedy. She was absolutely trashed, she was ridiculed, and in the end her employer caught wind of it and she was fired.

She only had 170 twitter followers at the time but someone who had many more followers was able to retweet it and she became the #1 trending topic on twitter. Not only did she get ridiculed but people delighted in her ridicule, also delighted in the fact they were watching the blow back live, and were waiting for her impending firing.

Now, I’m not defending Sacco’s tweet. It is racist, and awful, and in poor taste. But… it’s a tweet, and an ill thought out joke that was not funny. But who hasn’t said a poor tasting joke before? Who has ever misjudged that sensitivity of something they said? Most people. But most people don’t get fired because of it. Most people don’t develop depression, anxiety, and poverty because of it. Justine did though. She wasn’t the first or the last to be shamed in front of the entire world for something she said.

How many other examples can you think of, of someone who said something dumb or insensitive and the entire social media world shares in shaming this person they’ve never met?

People try to do it with comedians all the time. “Social justice warriors” tried to shame Trever Noah for some of his tweets before he even hosted 1 episode of the Daily Show, Steven Colbert was shamed for a character he played but #cancelcolbert didn’t take off. Amy Shumer is a target now that she is becoming a large star. Most comedians can shake off their shaming though, others are not so lucky.

People who are in the public eye or in public office, I can understand shaming because they want to be in the public eye, or they are making public policy, but I can’t imagine many more things more terrifying that being plucked from obscurity, hated by the world, and then being labeled as “that guy,” and spat back out.

Who needs the pillory when we have twitter and Facebook? Some people just love to find the next person from them to not just mock with a witty retort but attack them with hatred, again this is hatred against a stranger. The phenomenon is very much like my young students wanting to chop the head off in these fake scenarios when the answer would sometimes actually only paying a small fine. Perhaps there is something evolutionary about us, where we enjoy seeing an infamous spectacle… better them than us right?

Now, it’s not all bad though. Actual big issues like animal abuse from Sea World is actually atrocious. The movie Black Fish lead to the discovery of the abuse and they deserved to be shamed and their practices should change because they’re harming animals, and very intelligent animals, at that! So it is at times warranted.

I should be bothering to see people using other humans, especially damaged humans as play things for vitriolic amusement. It’s even more concerning to see the people that are doing the shaming. It’s usually progressive people or “social justice warriors” who are really emphasizing the “warrior” part. It’s progressives acting regressively and as progressive myself it’s disheartening. When controversy is shut down because we’re all terrified of being shamed by our peers (let alone the world) we no longer live in a society where the free flowing of ideas exist. We live in a scared society where all your followers become big brother.

#stoptheshame

(Disclaimer, title and some material is inspired from Jon Ronson’s book “So you’ve been publicly shamed”)

Pessimism…like that will ever work out


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

optimism-pessimism

I once was dating a girl who was a pessimist. She was a nice foil to my unrelenting optimism. A quote that she enjoyed was, “Being a pessimist works out for me. I’m either right, or pleasantly surprised.”  This to me sounds like a coward. Who would take pleasure in being right that bad things happen? More importantly though, it’s the reason behind human progress.

Optimism is the reason for any human advancement that has been ever made. You can pick anything, the printing press, the internet, cars, TV shows, even religion as an institution. All made based on the simple belief that “this will be good.” Otherwise…why make it? The man who invented the toaster didn’t think “this is going to be a disaster so bad, I can’t wait to finish it!”

We make things, do things, and say things all in the attempt that they will benefit others or ourselves. Unless we’re clinically depressed or masochists, we don’t go around doing things that negatively affect our lives.

The most important time to be an optimist is when we’re young. There’s something confusing about a teenager or a twenty something who’s a pessimist. That’s a lot of life to live if you think things won’t turn out great.

Another ex girlfriend of mine had a mother develop cancer while we were dating. I was 19 at the time and when she broke the news to me, I thought the best thing to say was “well it’s going to be okay!” However…there’s not a right thing to say when you think your mother is going to die. Her mother did end up being okay but she was so filled with pessimism she didn’t want to hear that. She kept saying that I didn’t know that and was just trying to say nice things.

I don’t know what a better thing to say would be though, “well that sucks should we pick out a grave tomorrow?” Besides leading to human improvement, optimism and pessimism lead to self fulfilling prophecies. Or in other words, sometimes just because you think something won’t turn out well it may not. This happens a lot with sports. If you were on a poor sports team or were a poor athlete, you will have the mentality that you will probably lose. Why play better if you’ll probably lose? However if you are on a good sports team or are a star you’ll think that you will win then you’ll want to play to your fullest ability and probably pull off the victory.

Obviously this doesn’t always work. Sometimes poor players and teams rise to an occasion and sometimes good players and teams don’t do enough to win. But it can be the case sometimes. I explained this to the girlfriend with the mother who had cancer about hope. Hope can help lead to a positive self-fulling prophecy. Hope, while intangible can be incredibly powerful, especially with health. If you’re optimistic about a recovery or a diagnosis and your mindset is resilient your body will be. If you’re stricken with cancer and you let it get you down the body will respond as such. Alternatively if you’re stricken with cancer and you’re hopeful you will recover then your body will be resilient.

Again, this is not 100%, hope is not the key to immorality but it can be the difference between life and death in beatable diagnoses.

This mindset is much easier said than felt though. Older people laugh at the optimism that some younger people have, calling it naive. Sometimes they’re right, there is a fine line between optimism and naivety. However, there’s also a fine line between pessimism and cynicism. Being optimistic with hard work is how to stop being naive. Thinking that something will work out with out any work to make that thing happen is being naive. The airplane wasn’t invented by the Wright brothers by just dreaming and hoping that they’ll make an airplane. They went and made the airplane. I wonder what else could have been made if people who were naive put in the work to be optimistic.

With an optimistic mind set, hard work, and creativity there’s millions of things that we’ve done and endless possibilities of what we can do. With a track record of that why would anyone be pessimist…it probably won’t lead to anything anyways.

The Problem with Being Colorblind


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

colorblind-racism

One of my guilty pleasures as I’ve said before is online debating. It’s pointless in the end and can get me to lose my cool. But for the positives it does keep me up to date on the latest news, and controversies, and it’s nice to hear a variety of opinions on issues… unless they’re dumb.

Political topics usually run along broad categories of foreign affairs, domestic policies, economics, politicians, and… race. Race has seemed to become it’s own political category of it’s own though it can touch a lot of other categories. Sometimes there is manufactured outrage over some racial issue and sometimes it’s genuine. The latest racial “outrage” I couldn’t help but laugh at.

Michelle Obama, who I generally like, made the statement “Black girls rock” …that’s it. Not black girls are better than white girls, or black girls are smarter, or stronger or any other comparison. Just that they rock.

Ah… and oh the outrage that followed. “WHAT ABOUT WHITE GIRLS?!” “DOESN’T SHE CARE ABOUT ALL GIRLS?!” …obviously she does.

But I get it. If Lara Bush shouted “White girls rock” it would sound bad. So what’s with the double standard?

It’s historical and a numbers game. Black people represent a small percentage of Americans (about 12%) yet a disproportionate number of people in poverty, in prison, drop outs. Saying black girls rock doesn’t mean white girls, or any other type of girls suck. Though it is odd that it’s not Hispanics or Asians voicing outrage…

This is part of a larger trend. It is approaching “race” from different areas. Many who lean on the right want to be “done” with race. That race shouldn’t matter, we should all be colorblind, and everyone’s the same. This would be great..if everyone was there too. But we’re not. This approach cannot answer for racism, both subtlety or institutionally existing. So when confronted with facts like blacks and Hispanics make up a disproportionate number of the prison population they can’t say that it was because of any institutional racism (because to them it doesn’t exist) so they must just be naturally bad…which is a racist argument.

It lacks a historical understanding and leads to ignorant questions like “Why is there a BET” “Why is there a black student union” Different races are just that, different. This is not to say that one is superior or inferior but there are different cultures that come with races. To ignore that is to ignore someone’s identity. To be color blind is to be blind to a part of someone’s identity.

Colorblindness sounds good though right. Let’s just treat everyone equally so no one will be racist. The treating people equally is right but for the wrong reasons. Acknowledging race doesn’t make you a racist, it makes you human. Talking about race doesn’t make you racist, it makes you informed.

If person A was born in a ghetto in the South Side of Chicago, and Person B was born in the Hamptons, who do you think has the greatest chance of being successful? What races do you believe person and A and B are? Probably, but not certainly Black and White respectively. Blacks, disproportionately are born into disadvantaged areas and whites are not. Whites have also run this country in terms of politics, business, religion, and owning other blacks for much of this nation’s history so when you say “White’s rock!” It has a stinging tone to it because white people are already at such an advantage and historically have been so it’s salt on historic wounds.

There’s also no real “white culture” in America. Some of our ancestors were fleeing famines, others came to start businesses, some worked their way to the top, some never made it rich. There are 10000 different stories of white immigration and status in America. There is 1 for blacks, enslavement. There’s Irish pride, or Italian pride, those are flaunted without the slightly thought that they would be offensive to blacks. There’s even a holiday dedicated to Irish pride, where it doesn’t matter if you’re Irish or not.

There’s nothing wrong in being proud of who you are or your heritage…provided that heritage wasn’t based on racial supremacy. Black girls can “rock” without hurting white girls chances of “rocking.” Race isn’t a zero sum game. If blacks gain whites that whites have, white’s don’t lose those rights. Treating people equally is great. Treating people equally by being blind to our differences is not. Diversity and differences don’t have to be bad. In fact they should be acknowledged, and celebrated, they help us understand each other and the world we live in.

Being the Hectagon


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

hecatohedron

This past summer I worked for the 3rd summer in a row at an overnight Christian Youth Summer Camp. One of the prized assignments is doing a “mobile camp.” This is where you and 1-2 other counselors go off site to a church in the region and run a day camp there. You’re done around 3 and the rest of the day is yours instead of working all day like at camp. Not only that instead of spending a week in a hot, smelly, cabin, with kids but you get an actual bed, with sheet, and air conditioning.

That summer I wanted to do the entire summer sleeveless. I took a bunch of silly shirts that I wouldn’t wear normally, cut the sleeves off, and that would be my summer wardrobe. It prevented a farmers tan, keep me cooler in the sun, and I enjoyed showing off my arms.

The last week of camp I got one of those prized mobile camps. Not only that, but I would have several local high schoolers help us out with the kids, and we only had 12. Should be easy, and fun. And it was. During the week though, I had to leave to go on a job interview. I had to run back to camp (where I was living year round at the time) and grab my dress shirt, pants, shoes, and a tie for the interview. I walked around camp for a little while dressed in those clothes and had a lot of weird looks from some of the counselors, saying I look so different than usual. I laughed acknowledging I did, then went to the interview (nailed it) and then drove back to my mobile assignment.

Upon returning to the church with my “camp clothes” I had the following conversation with one of the high school kids that was helping:
Kid: “Hey Mr. Paul where were you this morning? I heard you had a job interview. What for?”
Me: “I was interviewing for a teaching position”
Kid: “Oh like a gym teacher?”
Me: “No, a history teacher.”
Kid: “Oh but I thought you like sports and stuff, you look like you could be a gym teacher”
Me: “Well I do, but I also like reading and writing a lot too.”
Kid: “Really… weird”

It was at that moment I learned I was being judged by how I dressed. I’m sure it happens to everyone. I also had one of my fellow counselors tell me they thought I was a total “bro” when they first met me but learned that I was more of an “enlightened bro” or “nerdy bro”

We as humans love to categorize. We categorize people by religions, politics, sports fans, economics, regions, cities, races, genders…everything. If you’re a man I can make some assumptions about you. If you’re a black man I can make more assumptions, if you’re a poor black man more assumptions, and a poor black man from the south even more…

Should I? No. Do people do it? Yes. Human beings are do not come in a one size fit all model. We have a natural fear of the unknown, so making assumptions about someone or something acts a defensive mechanism so that we fool ourselves into thinking we do know about someone or something when we really don’t.

But there’s another side to this as well. The reason why we can categorize is another human instinct: To belong to a group. We feel the need to belong so we change things about ourselves to fit into a group. There may be subtle differences in a group of “Goths” but they’re all going to want and try to be as similar as possible. Lots of white make up, black clothes, depressing attitudes, and loud music.

In high school this is the most apparent. Kids trying to be “cool” so they try fitting into a certain group by acting or dressing a certain way. It’s not always a conscious decision too. A previous post I made about “group think” highlights that. One person puts out an idea that most of the group agrees with, that idea gets echoed or enhanced by others and soon the idea is echoed and enhanced so much that it becomes part of that group’s identity.

I was able to see this from the outsider perspective in high school. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any friends, I did, but I didn’t want to fall into any particular group. So I would float from group to group. During tennis or soccer season I would spend a lot of time with other players or if I had a class of people I enjoyed I would spend time with them. I would joke that I was just “you’re typical upper middle class white boy” which is what all my friends were despite trying to concise themselves as “preps” “jocks” “nerds” “punks” or whatever the latest trend was.

Flash forward to the future and what am I now? I teach history, I coach tennis, I do Christian ministry with kids. And that’s just my jobs. I also like to game online, read, flirt, drink, go out, stay in.. and 100 other things. So what am I? Depends what day you catch me on and what hat I decide to wear.

Predictability leads to monotony. No one should have you pegged after talking with you for 5 minutes. No one your have you pegged at all. Human beings are the most diverse species of anything on the planet. There is nothing you can compare us to. There will never be another “you” in the history of the world. There never was a “you” and there never will be another “you” so trying to make yourself like any other person for the simple reason as to “fit in” is understandable but a disservice to yourself and your “youness.”

So I would challenge you not try and be a square to fit into a square hole. Be a hectagon and have 100 sides to you. Every interaction you have with someone they should be able to find out something new about you. Surprise others with who you are and you might even surprise yourself.