Category: current events

When Your Friends are Accused of Sexual Harassment

Last night, a friend was discussing the recent #metoo movement into children’s literature. I’ve been following the #metoo movement off and on, and I’d recently seen a backlash start to emerge, as quite a few people were posting about how they couldn’t stand how much credence anonymous accusers were getting, and how we needed to slow things down instead of destroying careers over baseless accusations. Up until then, my general stance was that the #metoo movement is a positive, if difficult, process. Something each person needs to go through, to recognize sexist, harassing behavior and stop it.

But my friend mentioned a few names (just first names) of people who had been accused, and they were names I recognized. Not just recognized. They were people I was friends with. Good friends with. Myke. Dan(!) But it couldn’t be them, could it? I was sent off to scouring the internet, trying to figure out who accused whom, when, of what. And I was led to this post on School Library Journal, where the comments section was basically outing whomever people had seen harass other people.

I was relieved to see that the accusations against Dan Wells were later retracted, and he has blogged about his reaction here. But it wasn’t that way with all my friends. Myke Cole is a guy I know and like. I roomed with him at Boskone several years ago. I look forward to seeing him at cons, and we share the same agent. He was accused. He has since blogged about his response, and I really respect him for being as open about things as he has been. James Dashner has now lost his agent over the accusations. I don’t know him well, but he’s friends with many of my friends.

On the one hand, I can see why people are upset about the anonymous accusations. I can see why the “witch hunt mentality” discussions are arising. People gather in an anonymous forum, lob a general “So and so harassed me and is a creep” without any sort of explanation, and suddenly so and so is put on a blacklist, his career ruined?

Some of this is complicated by how broad “harassment” can be, and how its definition can vary from one person to another. In the worst cases in the news, it involved rape. Using position of power to force others to do humiliating things. In milder cases, it can be about inappropriate touches. Leers. Creepy flirting. To conflate all these behaviors and punish them all the same would be a mistake. Making an unwanted pass at someone at a party is very different from groping someone, which is also different from outright rape.

But on the other hand, I understand the need for anonymity in these cases. People in positions of power (or perceived positions of power) can have a real dampening effect on accusers. People who have been harassed fear to come forward, because there is a very real and very vicious backlash against many of the harassers. So they become victims twice, first when they are harassed, and then when they’re torn apart publicly by fans of the author they accuse.

So where do I come down in it all? Because I think that’s a very important question to ask yourself. Failing to engage in this discussion is the same as dismissing it, and I definitely believe dismissing it is a mistake. Have I ever done or said anything at a con or conference that came across as hurtful or harassing to others? I hope not. But I also realize I’ve got a mouth that sometimes says things without thinking. And that sometimes casual comments can cut other people. I look to Myke and Dan’s posts for cues on how I might be sure to be a part of the solution, not the problem. It’s very interesting to me that Dan responded with continued support of the #metoo movement, even after being falsely accused. People calling for an end to that movement might want to think about that response some.

But beyond all that, there’s something more I wanted to say to the people who are claiming “It could never be _______,” and then justifying their defense because of the number of interactions they’ve had with that person and never been harassed or seen harassment. Just because you haven’t seen it or experienced it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It doesn’t invalidate the experiences of those other people.

People are complex. They have good sides and bad sides. We have all done things in our lives that we should not have done. Serial harassers will out. An accuser comes forward, and they’re followed by more. Many voices join together, and action is taken. I’m reminded of the people who come forward after a serial killer is caught and express surprise. “I never would have thought it was him.”

It’s not like we walk around with scarlet letters across our foreheads, proclaiming our sins. We are good at showing one face to the world. The acceptable face. Hopefully we’re all trying to become better people, but it can be a rocky path.

In areas where there are clear victims, I believe those victims have a right to be heard, even anonymously. Especially if that’s the only format they’re comfortable coming forward. They shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed because they’re finally coming forward. If it’s a one off, hopefully it will catch someone before they become a serial harasser. If it’s the very rare case of a false accusation, it will do the same thing. Cause a person to reflect, change behavior if necessary, and move on. But if it’s a deeper problem, it needs to be stopped.

Those calling for an end to the #metoo movement should stop. You can’t choose to be out of this. Or rather, you can, but not without being complicit in what continues to happen.


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Closer to Mars

In case you missed it, yesterday SpaceX (the company owned by the Tesla car guy, Elon Musk) tested their biggest rocket yet: the Falcon Heavy. They live streamed the event, so you could watch it at home, and they stressed ahead of time that all sorts of things could go wrong. The rocket could blow up. It could malfunction. It could do nothing. Or it could work as planned.

If all went according to plan, three booster rockets would fire in tandem, launching a payload into an orbit that stretches beyond Mars. Then, after the rockets were done, they would turn around and fly back to where they launched, landing themselves upright, perfectly balanced.

It sounded way too cool to be possible. I’ve always loved the history of space exploration, and this sounded like something not to be missed. It ended up being spectacular. Here’s the whole launch:

And check out this picture perfect landing of two of the rockets. I was dumbfounded:

That’s just incredible. Yes, the third rocket didn’t manage the same feat. (It ran out of fuel for some reason.) But it’s still remarkable what they managed to achieve. The payload was delivered: Elon Musk’s personal Tesla is now rocketing to Mars, blasting David Bowie’s Space Oddity as it flies. You can see a live video of it here:

Musk has been talking for years of his plans to put a colony on Mars. It’s seemed like an outlandish goal to me, especially when he starts talking about his timeframe. Five years? A decade? But when I watched that launch and saw just what he’s capable of doing so far, it sees much more tangible. He’s got plans to send an enormous rocket carrying 100 passengers over to the red planet, where they’ll establish a foothold on Mars, and then grow from there.

He’s been talking about doing something on the moon as well, because why not.

I looked at pictures of his planned colony, and I actually thought about what it would be like to live there. Not in a fantasy/sci-fi vein, but in a real, “I wonder if they’d need a librarian” sort of mentality. (In case you’re worried, I decided I’d much rather live on Earth. I like my creature comforts too much.


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Why I Might Watch the State of the Union

I typically like to be as plugged in as possible to what’s happening in the world. (Well, as plugged in as *reasonable,* which is a different thing, I suppose.) I’ve watched the State of the Union for the last decade at least. And it’s irritated me most of the time. It’s full of a lot of promises that don’t end up doing anything, and I can’t stand the endless traditional applause.

But in the run up to today’s State of the Union, NPR has been playing a promotional piece, including sound bites from many of the past States of the Union. And listening to all those presidents say some of their famous lines has had me dreading Trump’s performance this evening. I felt like I should watch it, just because that’s what I’ve always done.

And then I asked myself: why? Why in the world would I want to subject myself to whatever he’s going to spout off about? There are three alternatives to how tonight will play out. In the first, Trump sticks to his teleprompter, feeding out lie after lie, distortion after misrepresentation, all while every Republican in the room interrupts him constantly with applause. It’s tailor made for Trump’s ego, and it’s sickening that Republicans in Congress will do it.

This is the version I’m really dreading, and it’s the one that’s most likely going to happen. And if this turns out to be the way things are playing out, I will most likely shut off the speech and go do something more productive, like jabbing myself in the eye with a fork.

But part of me (the naive part) is holding out hope that one of the two other possibilities happen. The least likely is that Republicans don’t put up with Trump’s garbage. That they don’t applaud him continually. That there are lines where Trump pauses for applause, and all he gets is a few hand claps. This is what *ought* to happen, and I wouldn’t want to miss it if it did. (A guy can dream, right?)

Then there’s the third possibility. That Trump, despite being drilled on the importance of staying on message and not going off the teleprompter, just can’t resist ad libbing. I think there’s actually a fairly good chance of this happening. Surrounded by all those sycophants, all of them pumping him up with more and more applause, I could easily see Trump reverting to one of his campaign-style rallies. He’s practiced that schtick often enough, after all. And if there’s one thing I learned playing an instrument, it’s that you perform in public the way you’ve practiced.

Trump has all those years of reality television under his belt. I think he thinks he’s still on a show. One where he can be the bad idiot at times, and all that really matters is the ratings at the end of each episode. Knowing he’s got such a big audience, I have a hard time thinking he’ll be able to resist throwing in a few zingers.

Which leads me to hope that some of the Republicans might come to their senses, though I won’t be holding my breath.

Really, the State of the Union under our former presidents has been dated and pompous, but not really disturbing. Under Trump? How can it look any other way than dictatorial?

People keep telling me to ignore what Trump says and focus on what he does, instead. On the policies he’s trying to pass. Folks, even if I agreed with all of his policies, the way he behaves would make me unable to support him as President. The end most definitely does not justify the means.

So anyway. We’ll see which version plays out, and we’ll see how long I last watching at 9pm this evening. How about you? Are you planning on watching? Why or why not?


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My Daily News Diet: Choosing the Good

I’m a BYU fan. As such, I like to keep a close watch on the teams (primarily basketball and football, though I follow all of the sports now and then). And in my effort to know as much about the team as I can, I started turning to fan sites to get all the insider scoops. I have a slate of websites I typically check every day, and I added cougarboard to that slate about two years ago. I’ll right click on a folder of bookmarks and select “open all in new window,” then quickly scan through the headlines of each to see what’s going on in the world. Currently those bookmarks include the following:

  • CNN (national and international news)
  • The Deseret News (Utah news)
  • The Daily Bulldog (local news)
  • The Lewiston Sun Journal (Maine news)
  • The Bangor Daily News (Maine news)
  • Gamespot (video game news and reviews)
  • Mythicspoiler (upcoming Magic the Gathering cards)
  • Magic the Gathering’s News Feed (does what it says on the tin)
  • Powerschool (to check on my kids’ grades)
  • Weather Underground (to check on the weather)
  • FiveThirtyEight (political and statistical tidbits)
  • ESPN (sports)
  • Cougarboard (BYU news)
  • ChannelFireball (Magic the Gathering strategy)
  • MTGGoldfish (Magic the Gathering strategy)

In addition to those news sites, I have a series of blogs I check every day as well, through Feedly. Deal sites, library news, technology news, movie news, and generally interesting sites I enjoy. I could write a blog post about that on a different day. I also follow some subreddits.

But after I check through those sites, I feel like I’m brought up to speed on what’s happening in the areas of the world I’m curious about. I think the sites you turn to every day says a lot about you as a person. Looking over that list, you can draw some conclusions. Fox News isn’t on there, but neither is MSNBC. Then again, I know some conservatives view CNN as liberal leaning. (But hey, some conservatives would view the Pope as liberal leaning too. I’m not worried about some conservatives.) I don’t read the Salt Lake Tribune, because I feel like they have an axe to grind, both against BYU and the Mormon church, though I will read them from time to time to try and get a fair view of what’s going on with an issue in Utah, just as I will turn to Fox News sometimes to hear what’s coming from that corner of the interwebs.

Clearly I like Magic the Gathering (everybody needs a hobby), and I care about video games and some other general interest things. I like to be well informed.

Today, I cut Cougarboard out of that list of bookmarks. I did it for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I’ve found the bulk of their “reporting” to be flat out inaccurate. They treat rumors and news pretty much equally. They do have some scoops now and then on what players or coaches are up to, but not often enough to warrant a daily consumption of their posts. Secondly, they’re very negative, always complaining about the teams, regardless if those complaints have any real merit. And so I just asked myself: is this something I really want to fill my life with, day in and day out? The answer was no. (In a similar vein, I used to check Drudge Report daily, because I wanted to know what his adherents were coming up with. I cut it fr0m my news diet, because I found it very biased, and often inflammatory.)

So what are the sites you go to every day? Are there any you’ve added or removed recently? Why? Inquiring minds want to know . . .


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Trump wasn’t Talking about Countries. He was Talking about People.

I didn’t really want to write another Trump post. There have been so many of them, and when he decided to refer to African countries as “shitholes,” I was anything but surprised. He continues to do and say the same things he’s always done and said. Expressing shock or disappointment at this point seems pretty redundant. And this post isn’t really going to be about Trump, believe it or not.

It’s about the rest of us. It’s about how we respond to Trump, and what that says about us.

Because in the days after his shithole comment, there have been a variety of responses. Outrage and disappointment were expected, but what was not expected were the ones where people tried to continue to defend the man. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by that, but I am. And I have seen two main arguments used to try to excuse his remarks. Both leave much to be desired.

First, Trump and some of the Republicans in the meeting are saying he didn’t actually say “shithole.” Instead, this is what each are claiming:

  • Trump: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”
  • Senators Cotton and Perdue: “We do not recall the President saying these comments specifically”
  • Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen: “I don’t recall him saying that exact phrase.”

And in each case, the defender then tries to deflect the conversation back to what’s “really important,” which is immigration and how impassioned Trump is about it, and how we have to blah blah blah. And there are other Republicans who just aren’t saying anything, and some who are ignoring the comment altogether, skipping straight to focusing on what’s “really important.”

I go to a lot of meetings. Day in, day out. Meetings. And if I were ever in a meeting where the person running it used the word “shithole” in the middle of the meeting, I would remember. It would be blazed across my mind, because the people I go to meetings with just don’t use that kind of language in formal settings. So to have even the defenders hemming and hawing about it, spouting out about strong language and exact phrases? Even if I believed them, all it adds up to is Trump used some comment other than shithole. Not only that, but he uses such foul language in meetings on a regular basis that “shithole” doesn’t really make a lasting impression on people. I wonder what would.

So this defense pretty much agrees with the fact that he used terrible language to describe some countries. So much of it that “shithole” as a single adjective kind of blended in with the rest, perhaps.

“Tough” language indeed.

But let’s move on to the second defense. I’ve seen multiple people (some of them friends of mine) try to excuse Trump’s remarks by saying he was just crudely stating what many people believe anyway. To them, “shithole” is shorthand for “economically challenged, corrupt, unstable nation with severe infrastructure problems.” And as I look at that definition, it seems to fit “America” more and more with every passing day.

Except what people try to make this mean is that there are some countries we’d rather visit or live than others. That anyone who’d rather go to Norway on vacation is just as “racist” as Trump. Except that’s not how this works. There’s a huge difference between preference and labeling, especially when you’re the leader of a major geopolitical power.

I have traveled a fair bit in my life. I have seen places where people are living in abject poverty. Where they don’t have enough money to provide heat and food for their families. But even in those dire circumstances, the people I’ve met and talked to have always impressed me. They’ve been outgoing, passionate, and generous. Even in the worst of circumstances, I’ve found places to admire and wonder at. History that amazes me. Adventures all over the globe. And the more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve seen that people are people, no matter where you go. There are great people, and terrible people. Motivated people, and lazy people. I don’t care what country you’re from. Your life is what you make it. Your culture might be different, but that just means we’ll have a bit more trouble understanding where we’re both coming from, not that my culture is better than yours.

But even after we take all of that into account, we’re missing the point. Because Trump wasn’t having a conversation about where he wants to go on vacation this year. He was talking about immigration, and who is coming to our country. We must not forget for one moment that Trump wasn’t just referring to the countries when he said “shithole.” He was asking why we want more people from these shithole countries.

It wasn’t about the countries. It was about the people who live in them.

And that’s where the charges of racism stick and no amount of wiping will clear them away. All of Trump’s defenders have been so focused on that one shithole word that they didn’t realize words themselves are fleeting things. It’s what we use those words to say which is far more important. According to reports, Trump wondered why we couldn’t get more people from “good” countries like Norway, as opposed to all these “shithole” countries like African nations. He wasn’t talking about places he’d like to live, or where he’d love to go on vacation. He was saying people from Norway are better than people from Africa. More desirable to have in our country.

If that’s not racist, I don’t know what is.

And yet people continue to defend the man. People I know. And instead of talking about what we should do about Trump–how we might mitigate the damage he’s doing to our country–we end up discussing the words he uses. He continues to do and say terrible things while we waste time being outraged. And we get tired. And we don’t want to talk about it anymore. I know I don’t. I’m so sick of hearing what he’s up to that I just want the next three years to be over and done with. Except ignoring it doesn’t help. It just lets him have an easier time of it.

So don’t be fooled. Don’t let them switch the conversation, or change the meaning of what he said. Remember that it wasn’t about the word (though the word was bad enough as it was). And it wasn’t about the countries (though that too, would have been awful). It was about the dismissive thoughts he had about the *people* in those countries. When  you can dismiss entire countries of people with such ease, how are you anything but a racist? And you’re one step closer to treating people like commodities, not individuals, something which I think Trump already does. The more we focus on the word and not the meaning, the more we allow ourselves to be inundated with his ideology. We begin to normalize it, and it becomes that much easier for racist groups to thrive in  our nation.

Words have consequences. They lead to actions. We need to keep our leaders accountable not just for what they do, but what they say.


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $3/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

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