Liberty, Politics, Uncategorized

Hope for the Future

Hope speech

 

Comic books have always been a way to tackle social issues in an entertaining way. One of the most famous versions of this is the X-Men. While the struggle from the comics is one between mutants and humans, it is easy to see the connection between the mutant struggle and prejudices in the real world. As with most movements, there are different sects within the larger group. In the Marvel Universe, those sects historically were the violent Brotherhood led by Magneto and the more peaceful mutants the X-Men led by Professor Xavier.

 

In this excerpt, the new mutant, Hope Summers, is meeting Magneto and Professor Xavier for the first time and she isn’t happy to hear how they are discussing the state of the mutant struggle. The conversation takes on a competitive connotation that creates a barrier between the two sides. Hope recognizes that this type of language will only ensure that the humans and the mutants remain at odds even when they say their purpose is equality.

 

The same is often the case in today’s political dialogue. People have chosen their side and instead of talking about solutions and goals, we discuss beating the opposition. We round up people in our minds into certain groups and brand them with the assumptions we have about that group. At that point, what is the point of talking to each other? We already think we know everything about what that person thinks because we have them lumped into their group.

 

This is a problem with three roots. The first is our natural tendencies. Our brains take shortcuts often without our realizing it. To demonstrate this, often times people will overlook misspelled words or think something was in its rightful place when it wasn’t because our brain filled it in. This can happen in our interactions with each other as well. We meet someone and immediately make assumption about them based on any number of criteria (1). The second root is our culture and experiences. This is closely related to the first root, but can often compound the problem. The third root is propaganda. In today’s political climate I believe this is one of the biggest problems we have to overcome. When people consume massive amounts of hateful and divisive content it just piles on the walls separating us from each other. That divide is by design of those spreading the content. It is how they make a profit.

 

Now the danger in realizing this is to swing too far in the opposite direction and not stand for anything. Apathy is a whole problem within itself, but it is not a solution to prejudice.

 

What we can do instead is train ourselves to recognize our prejudices and try to focus on the conversation at hand. If you are talking to a Trump supporter and categorize that person as an alt-right neo-nazi you may miss what that person is actually saying. Listen to the concerns of others and then seek solutions together. This is not to say that we will always get along or agree, but for the most part we all want to see the United States of America and it’s people succeed. We can also make a conscious effort to not partake in inflammatory rhetoric. Maybe don’t click that link with the headline talking about “Crushing” the opposition or maybe don’t share or even “like” that meme that exposes the “stupidity” of someone who believes different than you.  It is up to us to change the political climate to one of working together rather than tearing each other apart.

  1. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/research-states-that-prejudice-comes-from-a-basic-human-need-and-way-of-thinking.html#.WFDetX0VJUc
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Uncategorized

Don’t be what they made you.

There are different levels of influences in our lives. Government controls what we can and can’t do. Media and the education systems control what information we have to work with. There are many more, but these are some of the most powerful when it comes to a nation as a whole. These influences are very good at what they do. They understand what motivates people and how to deliver information in a way that creates the “proper” response. They tug at the puppet strings through headlines and buzzwords. They present false dichotomies to issues and demand we choose sides. It is a relentless battle to control us. Does that mean we have to play along?

Both in the movie “Logan” and the X-Men comics Laura Kinney (a.k.a X-23) is a clone of Logan (a.k.a. James Howlett/Wolverine). She was created to be a weapon. Created in a test tube. Born in a lab. Raised in a cell. Trained as an assassin. In the movie, Laura escapes the lab and ends up in the care of Logan. In one of the final scenes of the movie, Logan tells Laura, “Don’t be what they made you.” With this simple yet powerful charge, Logan revealed the beauty that is independence. This statement doesn’t magically make her enemies disappear or want to control her less. What it does do is reveal the opportunity for her to control her own life despite their desire to control her.



Just like Laura is given a choice to be something more than what those in charge of her want her to be, so do we have a choice. We can throw off the chains of a 2 party system. We can look beyond the headlines and ask “What is the angle?” We can use reason and logic to evaluate a situation and develop a solution. It isn’t going to be easy. Those who wish to control us are powerful, but simply by asking “Why?” you can be freed from the puppet strings. With every person freed, it is a little bit easier for the next person as the enemy loses strength.



We are blessed to live in a country where we can question openly. That freedom is one of the targets of the opposition and we must stand strong against them. There are those who want to silence unpopular opinions. In doing so they hope to strengthen their hold on us. We need to continue to fight, not only for our own free speech, but for the free speech of those we don’t agree with. When we have that ability, we have the ability to look beyond what “they” have made us. We can question and reason together. Find answers outside of what options “they” give us.



“Don’t be what they made you.” Be an individual. Think for yourself. Do your own research. Discuss with others, but reach your own conclusions. If we all submit to those holding the puppet strings, then we only have a few solutions to the world’s problems. But if we all take charge of our own lives, then in the United States alone, we could have 200 million people approaching the world’s problems from different angles. 

Liberty, Uncategorized

This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

The movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my favorite movies. In the movie, we see the secret spy agency, SHIELD has been infiltrated by agents of HYDRA, the Nazi supernatural branch that was thought ended with the death of the Red Skull. Not only has HYDRA been discovered in SHIELD, but SHIELD is on the brink of launching a fleet of Helicarriers that are programmed to neutralize threats before they happen anywhere in the world. When Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, shows Captain America (Steve Rogers) what they are planning, Cap is less than thrilled. What follows is a very brief, but deep conversation about the limits of security.

  • Nick Fury: These new long range precision guns can eliminate a thousand hostiles a minute. The satellites can read a terrorist’s DNA before he steps outside his spider hole. We gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.
  • Steve Rogers: I thought the punishment usually came after the crime.
  • Nick Fury: We can’t afford to wait that long.
  • Steve Rogers: Who’s “we”?
  • Nick Fury: After New York, I convinced the World Security Council we needed a quantum surge in threat analysis. For once we’re way ahead of the curve.
  • Steve Rogers: By holding a gun at everyone on Earth and calling it protection.
  • Nick Fury: You know, I read those SSR files. Greatest generation? You guys did some nasty stuff.
  • Steve Rogers: Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so the people could be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

The World Security Council decided they needed absolute power to keep people safe. They believed they were the good guys and so it was okay to take this step in eliminating threats before a crime happened with no consideration for rights and civil liberties.

Later on in the movie, Cap and Black Widow find themselves in an abandoned base where they meet the computer version of Dr. Zola, a HYDRA scientist from WWII. In an effort to keep them occupied while an airstrike is on its way, Zola explains the connection between SHIELD and HYDRA.

  • Dr. Arnim Zola: HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom. What we did not realize, was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly. After the war, SHIELD was founded and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew. A beautiful parasite inside SHIELD. For seventy years HYDRA has been secretly feeding crisis, reaping war. And when history did not cooperate, history was changed.
  • Natasha Romanoff: That’s impossible, SHIELD would have stopped you.
  • Dr. Arnim Zola: Accidents will happen. HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security. Once the purification process is complete, HYDRA’s new world order will arise. We won, Captain. Your death amounts to the same as your Life; a zero sum.

There is a lot to unpack in Dr. Zola’s statements, so I am just going to start from the beginning.

“HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom.” Sounds a lot like every argument for big government ever. Whether it be the drug war, gun control, or even education. It all boils down to a belief that individuals will make bad decisions and need to be kept in line.

“What we did not realize, was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.”

This statement reminds me of the illustration of boiling a frog. Throw a frog in hot water and it will jump out, but slowly turn up the heat over time and it will stay in the water and die. We have accepted an erosion of our freedoms over time, usually in response to a tragedy. Economic freedoms were sacrificed in response to the Great Depression. Gun rights were sacrificed in response to the Valentine’s Day Massacre. Congressional declaration of war was sacrificed in response to the Cold War. Privacy rights were sacrificed in response to 9/11.

“HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security.”

I don’t believe that the state of the world is the way it is because of some secretive evil organization making calculated decisions about how to get people to give up their freedoms. An organization like that doesn’t need to exist for that outcome. Authoritarianism is as old as humanity. It is the default of civilizations. Freedom is a relatively new concept, but it has catapulted humanity into an age of unparalleled growth. Like anything worthwhile, freedom requires effort to be maintained.

In his podcast, Common Sense, Dan Carlin often asks what will happen after the next big terrorist attack in the U.S.? What rights are left to surrender? What price will people be willing to pay for that promise of freedom? Will we accept outlawing Islam? Will we accept arresting people without a trial (already authorized in the NDAA)? Maybe we will accept rounding up people of a certain background like we did with the Japanese-Americans in WWII?

The purpose of securing our rights in the Bill of Rights was so that emotion and mob rule didn’t infringe on people’s rights when a spirit of authoritarianism swept through the people. Unfortunately, those very rights have been chipped away at for 200+ years and authoritarianism is once again taking hold. It is time to take a stand for freedom. To reclaim our individual rights. Dedicate ourselves to the principles of Liberty even when we are scared or suffering. In the words of Captain America:

“… the price of freedom is high, it always has been, and it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”