Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hatred trying to hide your fears

There are few things that really, truly offend me. Rarely do I find a joke “too soon,” foul language, while it really bothers my wife, doesn’t really faze me. I very seldom use it, but don’t really care if other people do. And I really don’t care what the outrage of the day is on cable news. If anything, the manner in which cable news operates offends me.

But if there’s one thing that I truly can’t tolerate is racism. Abraham Heschel said “racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hated for the minimum of reason.” The idea that you can spend your life feeling superior to a fellow human being simply because of the pigmentation of their skin is a viewpoint I truly can’t comprehend.  I don't know what causes a person to become so fearful of other races that their fear turns to hate. Life’s too short to fill it with prejudice and scorn. 

 I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that in 2012 we’ve eliminated racism from our society. While we’ve made great strides from the overt racism of previous generations that were socially acceptable, there are still hurdles to overcome. The racism of today is much more subtle. How often do you hear a Caucasian described as “well spoken” as compared to the number of times an African-American is described in that way. In the sports arena, Caucasians are more likely to be described as “intelligent” or “scrappy” while African-Americans have words like “athletic” attached to them. It may not have the vitriol of what Jackie Robinson faced, but the underlying assumptions and beliefs are no different.

So when I checked facebook the morning after the election, I expected to see people lamenting the end of the nation and how we’re facing 1,000 years of darkness, which I did. I also saw enough people proving they only get their news from FOX or right-wing pundits based on the talking points they were posting. That’s fine. We can’t, and shouldn’t, all agree on political issues and while I’d have preferred a little more reasoned discourse, I understand people wanting to blow off some steam after losing the election. (Clearly they didn’t read Nate Silver or they would have seen it coming.)

But what I did not expect was to see someone I went to high school with* using the “N-Word,” not just once, but twice. First in reference to President Obama winning and then, when someone called her on it, she called that person a “N----- lover.”

*Full disclosure: I have no recollection of this girl. Based on the number of facebook friends who are friends with her, we must have been in school at the same time.

And as bad as her post was (and it was horrible), the fact 11 people “liked” it is equally sickening. Why someone would want to publicly endorse such a mind-numbingly stupid comment is beyond comprehension.

A friend took the screen shot posted here and by 8:30 Wednesday night, it had been shared more than 1,000 times, which is fantastic. I’m all for publicly shaming anyone who wants to spread that kind of hatred. As I’ve said, I don’t understand how a person lives with that kind of pent up anger against a class of people based entirely on small genetic differences, but some do.

I’m only slightly less bothered by the fact that this person took down her facebook account early this afternoon as the screenshot spread. If you’re going to be a racist bigot, don’t hide from it. Own it. It’s yours. You posted it. You wanted people to see it.  Simply because people outside your pathetic little bubble don’t agree with you is no reason to conceal who you really are.

If there’s any positive to come out of this, it’s that this woman lost her job. Someone found out where she worked and posted that information. Eventually, a nearby media outlet called her employer and was informed she no longer works there.

Philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." I may not be doing much, but by trying to bring this to light in my very small corner of the internet, I’m trying to do something. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Luke's Listening to

Here's my unofficial, completely subjective, likely to change list of my five favorite podcasts as of today:

5. Smart People Podcast - One I recently started listening to. It's shorter (about 30 minutes) and is two guys who, admittedly, are not smart. However, they interview smart people. Really smart people. Like people who make smart people feel like they're not smart. I particularly enjoyed their most recent episode in which they talked to Mark Malkoff, who has done such (notable?) things as watch 252 movies on Netflix in one month because he wanted to see how he could maximize his value of the $7.99 he was spending for the service. (It came out to between 12 and 17 hours a day watching movies). He also visited and purchased something from each of the 171 Starbucks in Manhattan, just because he could.

4. The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe - This is exactly what it sounds like. A guy named Rany and a guy named Joe talking about baseball. However, these two guys were among the founders of Baseball Prospectus, a website that examines (and in many cases, creates) advanced statistics to better understand baseball. I can't say this is a podcast I'd recommend for a casual baseball fan, but for someone who wants to understand finer points of the game and how it's evaluated, it's certainly a must listen. This one tends to run an hour or more, with their recent playoff and World Series episodes going more than 90 minutes. Sometimes they delve a bit too much into the minutia of the game (I really didn't need a 10 minute tangent on the value of David Eckstein to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007), but any time you can get two smart people debating a topic, you're bound to learn something.

3. Baseball Today (Tues-Thurs. editions) - While The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe take the time to dig deep into the game, Baseball Today just just what you'd expect a podcast with that name to do. It looks at the game on a day-to-day basis, recapping games from the night before, previewing that day's slate of games and analyzing/interpreting what we've seen so far in the season. I specify the Tuesday-Thursday editions because that's when Keith Law is on. He's among the best at making advanced statistical analysis make sense to someone who doesn't understand all the math that goes in to some of the equations. Host Eric Karabell's enthusiasm is evident and he really seems to enjoy doing the show. It's usually about 40-50 minutes long.

2. Fantasy Focus (Baseball and, to a lesser extent, football) -  The 12th most popular popular fantasy podcast (according to their theme song), the three-time award winning podcast is a blend of fantasy analysis and nonsense. The show has spawned both and the counterwebsite It runs anywhere from 25 minutes (when they do both football and baseball podcast, typically mid-August through September) to a little more than an hour (Mondays and Fridays during football season.) Host Nate Ravitz (he of the is or is not a weasel website fame) and analyst Matthew Berry have excellent chemistry and seem to genuinely like each other. There are enough inside jokes that a glossary was created for new fans who want to get in on the inside jokes.

1. Slate's Hang Up and Listen - Every Monday night, I look forward to a tweet letting me know the latest episode has posted. Every Tuesday morning, I look forward to an hour of smart commentary that looks at everything from doping in cycling to the hockey lockout to how media narratives in sports color our view of what we watching. The show's format is fairly simple. Three guys talk about three different topics each week, each for between 15-20 minutes, and an "afterball" segment where each guy gets about 3 minutes to opine on whatever tickles their fancy at the moment. Typically there's at least one and sometimes two guests, usually due to the fact they need an expert on a certain topic before discussing it.

So there you have it. Not that you asked for it, but there it is.