Root Causes

Scene: Shoppers witness a security guard wrestling a man to the ground for attempting to steal some lunch meat. They are glad that this criminal got caught. Serves him right. Justice prevails.

One lone voice offers to buy the lunch meat for the man, and is the subject of ridicule.

Meanwhile, no one has asked the guy why he was stealing the lunch meat in the first place. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he was just laid off, and he has a hungry 6 year old at home. There’s generally a good reason behind desperation. It’s a rare adult who steals just for the pure hell of it.

It’s much easier to make snap judgments and rely on swift justice, isn’t it? It takes a lot more sophistication to look at actions, and try to root out the cause of those actions. Prevention takes more effort than revenge, but it’s a great deal more effective.

Good parents know that if their child is acting out, it’s worthwhile to find out what’s going on with him, rather than beating the bad behavior out of him. And if morale is low in the workplace, it may be that you need to increase communication to determine the source of the problem, rather than saying, “If you don’t like it, quit.”

So much easier to build a wall, or lock her up, or decrease the surplus population…

It’s time that we as a society become more sophisticated. We need to look further down the road. We need to see the forest, not just the trees. These short term solutions and swift reckonings may feel satisfying, but we are truly shackling ourselves. We’re all in this together.


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I admire dedication. For instance, when I watch the rowing crews practicing in the pouring rain in the dead of Seattle winter, I think, “Wow. I could never do that.”

But that’s not true. I could do that, I suppose. But would I? Hell no. I like warmth. And if I can’t have warmth, I certainly don’t want to throw wetness and sweat into the mix. Who does that, if they’re in their right mind?

I’m also in awe of people who dedicate their entire lives to a single cause. I don’t have that clarity of purpose. And I’m easily bored. There. I said it.

Jeez. Now I’m feeling all lazy and stuff.

But here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) Dedication, when you have it, doesn’t feel like some heavy suitcase that you’re forced to lug around with you wherever you go. It’s as natural as breathing. I suspect that most dedicated people don’t even give that dedication much thought.

For example, I’m dedicated to giving my dog a forever home where he’ll feel safe and loved until the end of his days. That could be viewed as an overwhelming responsibility, I suppose, if you’re not a dog person, but I can’t imagine my life without Quagmire, and there’s nothing I’d rather do than give him the life he deserves.

I’m also dedicated to maintaining my integrity, even in times when that feels awkward. I’m often the one who will speak up when others won’t. It gets me into trouble. It can be stressful. But to do otherwise would feel wrong to me.

You, dear reader, are also dedicated. Whatever your reason for being may be, it comes so naturally to you that you’ll probably have trouble coming up with examples of your dedication. But trust me, it’s there. And I find that admirable.

Thank you!


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Youth Protest

Throughout the world, regardless of race, creed, or culture, it always seems to be the youth, the students, who come out and protest when change needs to occur. They are the ones who march on Selma, who stand in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square, who rise up in Tahrir Square.

Oh yes, we adults are there, too, but for sheer numbers, strength, energy and presence, you can’t beat the youth of the world. And it’s ironic, because every generation seems to belittle that same group. We often say they have no purpose, no ambition, no drive. They’re lazy and unproductive, have no opinions and make nothing of themselves.

I say just give them a good cause and see what happens to that laziness.

Is it because they are younger, stronger and healthier that they are willing to sleep in the open to prove their points? Is it because they have the time? Do they have less to lose? It is certainly much easier to walk away from a job to join a picket line when you don’t have a mortgage, a car payment, and children to feed.

Or is it what I fear deep down: that the older you get, the more apt you are to be covered in an ever-thickening blanket of cynicism? I can only speak for myself, but I know that when I was younger, I was much more idealistic. I was much more apt to believe that change could actually occur. I really did think that my voice, when added to others, could be heard and acted upon.

Oh, I still speak out. I still sign petitions, write blogs and letters and newspaper articles, express my opinion, and I will march, even if only for a day. But the fact is, I’m tired. I’m tired, I’m disillusioned, and on my darkest days I’m bitter. I guess I’m just not as young as I used to be.

So I want to thank the youth of the world. Keep up the good work. It’s important.

Raise Hell

(Unfortunately, more and more, I find myself carrying on.)