Thursday, May 7, 2015

About The Hashtag #BlackLivesMatter

By now, we've all been witness to the battle of the hashtags. First up was a call that black lives matter.

Then the rebuttal, that police lives matter.

And finally, the blanket statement that all lives matter.

On the surface, that makes sense. All lives DO matter, or at least they should. And it seems like a reasonable position to advocate.

But there's a problem with that compromise. It presumes that everything matters exactly as much at all times and deserves exactly the same amount of attention and degree of concern. And that's not only wrong, it's impossible.

Here's an example:

Generally, yes, all houses do matter. But sometimes, there are circumstances that dictate that extra attention be paid to a specific house.

Here's another example: 

Of course, other diseases matter. And of course, other people have felt the loss of a loved one. But there is a time and a place for each of these discussions.

My many friends of color are frustrated that they keep running into this same brick wall when discussing what is happening all across America. I feel for them, but I don't know what I can to change the conversation besides write these words:

Based on analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings between 2010 and 2012, young black males were 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than were young white males.

21 times greater.

Sticking with the theme of the cartoon above, this is a house on fire that needs immediate attention. So when my friends share their concerns with me, they are not saying that other lives don't matter. They are saying that there is an urgent need to address the reality that is decimating their communities.

The least I can do is listen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This is why we fight.

I rode to work this morning with a friend, and we spent some time discussing a local conflict between area residents and dog owners accessing an off-leash park in the neighborhood. Apparently, tensions have been rising for a while, and the situation escalated when Animal Control and San Diego Police Department officers showed up and began strictly enforcing the posted rules.

I share this specific tale because it is a fantastic microcosmic example of so much that is wrong in this world right now. Let me explain, and keep in mind that I am speaking in generalities. Of course, there are always exceptions, but I am focused on the majority of folks in a given situation.

So, back to the Great Dog Park War of 2015.

In a nutshell, here is the background:

  • The dog park is zoned "off-leash," meaning dogs can be set free to run around.
  • Surprisingly, the dog park is not fully fenced, which means dogs can run beyond the off-leash area.
  • Depending on where people park, there is a significant distance to travel from the car to the area designated off-leash.
  • There are homes immediately adjacent to the dog park.

And the players. First, the home owners:

  • The "We Hate Them All' folks, who want the dog park closed, report every violation they observe, and actively seek to find conflict.
  • The "We Can Work Together" folks, who are generally okay with the dog park but are frustrated by dog owners who cause problems.

And the dog owners:
  1. The "Freedom For Dogs At All Costs!" folks, who refuse to follow the posted rules, allow their dogs to run free as soon as they leave the car, and don't care that (or clean up after) their dogs are damaging yards, plants, etc, in the neighborhood.
  2. The "We Can Work Together" folks, who obey the posted rules, watch over their dogs, and respect the neighbor and other dog owners at the park.
The majority of people are the "We Can Work Together" folks, and they are generally respectful of each other. The dog owners do their best to make sure their pets stay within the designated area, and the homeowners understand that even the best behaved dog might stray from time to time and make their way to a neighboring yard.

These people work things out when there is an issue.
"Sorry, my dog was chasing a bird and ran into your yard." 
"No problem, thanks for getting her back under control so quickly."

"Excuse me, would you please leash your dog until you get over to the off-leash area? My little girl plays in the yard here and she is not comfortable with unknown dogs running up to her."
"No problem. He gets excited when he sees little ones and thinks they all want to play. I'll make sure he is leashed when we get out of the car here."

It doesn't have to be a problem with these folks. They can talk to each other, explain their position, and work together to find a solution.

But there are exceptions. There are local residents who are determined to have their way and get rid of the dog park. They go out of their way to find something to criticize, even when owners are minding their animals and trying to keep them in the off-leash area.

And there are dog owners who are equally determined to behave any way they want. They let their dogs run free even outside of the designated areas and don't care that their animals are damaging yards or a threat to other animals and children around the park area.

Which brings me to the whole point of this blog post. In the Great Dog Park War of 1915, people are choosing sides. They are either with the home owners or they are with the dog owners. And that is the mistake they are making.

If we really want to resolve the problem, people need to choose different sides completely. They should align themselves as "those willing to work with the opposition" and "those unwilling to work with the opposition."

If the people trying to work with others all banded together, they would have so much power and influence that they could completely shut down the other people. They could focus their efforts on getting the extremists to comply, which eventually would lead to a better situation for all parties involved. Law enforcement could ticket dog owners who deliberately let their dogs run free outside the off-leash area but NOT ticket owners who are actively chasing down an unleashed dog who unexpectedly ran out of the designated area. And the city could tell the home owners demanding the park be shut down that it is there to stay, while listening to and addressing valid concerns of local residents.

In other words, both sides could respect those trying to work together, correct the problems caused by the extremists, and go about their business with everyone happy.

And that's the big point of this blog post, because this exact scenario is playing out all across the country in one hot-button issue after another.

In Baltimore, law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers aren't working together. Instead, they are listening to the extremists amongst them, acting as if every protestor is a criminal and every officer is corrupt. That approach leaves no common ground and creates an adversarial situation where people are either with you or against you and there is no shared solution.

Children are dying from preventable gun accidents in their homes. Gun owners and children's activists should be working together to develop training and safeguards to keep kids safe. Instead, they are listening to the extremists amongst them, demanding unrestricted gun ownership and the banning of guns respectively. Those two extremes leave no room for solutions that might actually help to prevent the death of another child.

Welfare. Abortion. Crime. Poverty. Choose the topic. It's all the same. Extremists on either side of an issue are driving the debate, disrupting any effort to find common ground and work towards a solution. This is why we fight.

And it's killing us. It's destroying our communities, our cities, and our nation.

My challenge to each of us is to ask yourself, "is what I am doing helping this situation or is it making it worse?"

Only you can answer for yourself. But only when enough of us work together against the true enemy will we begin to solve the challenges we face.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Revel Ready Challenge - Cardio

A few days ago I shared that I am starting my Revel Ready Challenge. Yesterday, I talked about the nutrition component. Today, it's Cardio.

First, I'll say this. I consider myself a runner. I have finished six full marathons, for pity sake. I've earned that title. But I'm also being honest with myself about my current fitness level. And that means I need to build myself back up to a healthy weight if I expect to run the distance and pace I was at a year ago.

I have a plan to log sixty miles over thirty days. That's combined, and it involves a few longer days and a few rest days. And I plan to run some of those miles and walk the rest. And I'm just fine with that.

For anyone reading along and feeling like, "I'm just a walker, so I can't lose weight," you are mistaken. Here's why:

See? Both of those numbers were calculated based on my age, height, and weight. I entered a four mile distance and one hour for walking and thirty minutes for running. (Since that is the time it would take to cover four miles at those two speeds.)

Yes, running burns more calories. But walking the same distance (over a longer time period) burns nearly as many. And walking definitely burns more calories than sitting on the couch, so there's that.

Anyway, I share all of that to explain that I am committing to the sixty miles but not sure yet how many of those I will run and how many I will walk. And I'm perfectly fine with that. When I'm out on the road and I feel like running, I will. And I may add some more miles, too. But the sixty WILL be done.

It's not a lot for a dedicated runner. But it's a good amount of miles to get me back on track. And that's the plan.

* Also, a late addition to the plan. Looks like I am now heading to Indianapolis this weekend to run the Indy Mini Marathon. It's a chance to reunite with last year's Sole Mates (along with additional family and friends). I'm not trained to run a half marathon right now, but I don't care. I'm going to get out there on the course, enjoy the time with my friends, and get those miles done if I have to crawl across the finish line.

Plan. Commit. Train. That's what I'm doing now.