Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Boulder Shooting 2021

It's probably not the best time for me to be writing. My head has been in a fog for days on end lately. It's not that I have anything profound to add to the stories circulating about the shooting that took place less than a mile from where I live.  My thoughts are more with those who lost loved ones and those who were there, facing what will most likely be the worst moments of their lives, but writing might help me process what I'm experiencing. It feels really selfish to do so, but maybe if I get it out, I can stop my mind from spinning andsleep. 

My mom broke her wrist on Thursday. Considering her advanced age and the severity of the fall, she is doing incredibly well. I'm taking care of her, but in her usual stubborn way, she still does quite a lot on her own. Still, I'm cooking her meals and helping her with the little things. Because I knew she had an appointment on Monday morning, I did the shopping I usually do on Monday afternoon after work on Sunday evening. 

I have to admit that I'm much better at dealing with my own pain than I am seeing someone I care about in pain. Since my mom is 95, surgery wasn't an option, so, at her appointment, without any kind of anesthesia, the doctor manipulated her wrist into place before his assistant applied plaster for a cast. At one point, my mom yelped, but she tolerated the pain much better than I imagine most people would. Before we left, the doctor told us she could take Tylenol if she needed. 

When we got home, it was almost 1 p.m. I fixed her lunch and could see she was uncomfortable, so I went to look for some Tylenol. I vaguely remembered tossing some out a few months ago and assumed we didn't have any, so I told my mom that I was going to put a few things away and go to the store despite her protests, saying she didn't need anything. Since I missed going to the bank the week before, I figured I would stop there before going to King Soopers. Shortly before 2 p.m., I started gathering my things and got ready to head out, but I really did not want to go. There was no way I was going to let my mom suffer, though, but before I left, for some reason, I decided to check the cupboard again to see if I could find any Tylenol. And there it was, a bottle tucked away on one of the lower shelves in the corner. When I pulled it out, I said, "I found it!" and triumphantly held it up to show my mom. She said, "I know you would have gone if you hadn't found it, so I'm so glad that you did." 

About 30 minutes later, I turned on the television to see that there was an active shooter in the area, right where I would have been. We could hear the helicopters while watching the breaking news. I also got on Twitter because I knew Mitchell Byars would have the most up-to-date information. What I didn't expect to see was an update from the Roots Running Project stating that Maggie, one of their athletes, one whom I actually met at the King Soopers where she works in the pharmacy department, was safe but there. What a shock. I can't even imagine what she went through. 

Throughout the next couple of hours, my heart felt broken. I haven't cried and can't seem to fully process all of it. I'm numb. When I went by the store today, all the memories from my childhood flooded me. That was our store. That was where all the kids went and hung out. It was a safe place. Now it's where 10 people were murdered in cold blood. How can anyone process this? 

I can't even think straight. I'm not bothering to edit this. I mostly want to let people know that my heart and my thoughts are with everyone affected by this senseless act of violence. When I saw that the murderer was bullied as a kid, it made me angry. Nobody should be bullied and it seems to be a huge problem, especially in the United States. But jeez. Look at all the other people who were bullied or are mentally ill and don't go out and murder innocent people who were just going through their day. It is not an excuse. This guy had an assault rifle and planned this. He is a monster, not a victim. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Women's Day

With podcasts being so popular these days, it's not surprising that my conversations often start out with, "I was listening to a podcast the other day," but good podcasts make great conversation starters. The usual suspects in my list of favorites include Crime in Sports, Small Town Murder, Sword and Scale, Crime Junkie, and The Last Podcast on the Left. I occasionally listen to Sam Harris or spend time getting lost in one of those deep-dive podcasts that covers a single true-crime or newsworthy incident.

This past Monday, March 8th was International Women's Day, and I listened to the Crime Junkie podcast with Britt Prawat and Ashley Flowers. The episode was about Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping. Hearing her story made me think about her willingness to be vulnerable and her commitment to being honest. It also made me think about the contrast between someone like Elizabeth and those who stretch the truth in order to make a story more compelling or relevant. I've seen journalists pull this stunt, lying to support a viewpoint, appear more relatable, or to sound more interesting. 

A woman did this last week, in fact. After posting on Twitter about running throughout the pandemic, she wrote an article suggesting she hadn't run at all. What's strange about this is that it wouldn't have taken much effort to put together similar content without even stretching the truth a little. I guess she thought otherwise. I've also seen people alter their telling of past events in an effort to come across as approachable or more experienced. It's all lying in one form or another. I'm not talking about little white lies here; I'm talking about obvious deceit by many people from influencers, journalists, and social media personalities to athletes, politicians, and tv personalities. So many quotes by Tolstoy come to mind as I write this. He really did not like liars, but a more appropriate quote here is by Twain: "A little lie can travel halfway 'round the world while Truth is still lacing up her boots." This is even more accurate with the Internet.  

When the truth is presented from the heart and with good intentions, there's no need to add excess fluff, and it's not necessary to pull a complete storyline out of the blue. If making shit up is your thing, go into fiction writing, not journalism. In order to be relevant or interesting, you don't necessarily have to have a history as tragic but ultimately inspiring as that of Elizabeth Smart. Even minor anecdotes told in the right way can touch another human being. Most of the best running bloggers and influencers aren't loud and obnoxious fibbers; they're everyday honest people who just happen to have a way with words or have something important to share. 

One thing that stood out to me in Elizabeth's story was her admission that, in order to stay alive, she had to become someone she knew she wasn't. She was forced to engage in acts that went against who she is as a person, and she was forced to go against her core beliefs and her religion. If she hadn't, she wouldn't have lived to see her family again or eventually have a family of her own. There's a difference between not being true to yourself in order to survive and lying to get attention or because your ego needs some stroking. Elizabeth wouldn't have survived to tell her story had she gone against what her captors demanded, and ultimately, she wouldn't have been able to tell other victims of abuse, rape, kidnapping, and emotional torture her very, very important message: It is not your fault

In my book, I share some traumatic encounters I experienced with men. Already, in my head, I'm thinking I should clarify that what I went through wasn't anything like what Elizabeth and others went through, that I should minimize my experience. It wasn't a real rape; it was merely coercion. It still makes me uncomfortable when I think or talk about it. I have to tell myself to stop when I try to diminish my experience because it wasn't as bad or as violent as what others have gone through. It could have been worse. The incidents that happened when I was 13 years old I remember clearly. I don't remember what happened to me at the hands of some older kids in the neighborhood when I was a child, but to this day, I still carry tremendous guilt for what occurred, all of it. 

No matter how many times I tell myself it wasn't my fault, I was a child, part of my brain kicks in and insists that "I could have" or "I should have," or worse "I deserved it," so it was good for me to hear from someone who has been on a healing path since her rescue that victims need not go there. Elizabeth said that she was often questioned about why she didn't try to run or escape, and her response was not what I expected. She didn't have to explain herself. Instead, she began going back to all the things that could have been different, this incredibly long list that included everything from her parents locking the window that night and the construction company building the house differently so that it would have been more secure to her screaming or trying to run. After all, these little changes all throughout the years could have eventually prevented her kidnapping, right? But, she went on, none of that happened. Her stance is that it's not helpful to think about the many, many steps that could have possibly been taken differently. That will not help heal the trauma, and getting caught up in "if only" thoughts doesn't allow forward movement. It's done. It's over. 

In 2006, the #MeToo movement started online, but in 2017, after allegations against Harvey Weinstein went public, a new wave of awareness around sexual abuse flooded social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. Media coverage was widespread, and, before long, some critics of the movement claimed it had gone too far. Actors like Matt Damon and Bill Mahar insisted that different degrees of sexual misconduct should be identified, some kind of rating for other people's trauma. Not all abuse is the same, right? While I know this to be true on an intellectual level -- a violent attack at knifepoint is not the same as an inappropriate touch or suggestive comment said by a boss at work -- the concept of any kind of ranking at a time when women were simply trying to be more comfortable coming forward didn't sit well. It became all too easy for people like me, somewhere in the middle of violent rape by a stranger and uncomfortable comments by an acquaintance, to slip back into that negative thinking that what we went through wasn't bad enough to warrant compassion or even acknowledgment. 

The truth is, any kind of unwanted sexual attention is bad. I think most healthy people agree. #MeToo was supposed to be a chance for everyone, especially women, to be heard, no matter how big or small the grievance. Sure, there are different degrees of harassment, but that shouldn't prevent a victim from speaking out. It most definitely shouldn't cause those coming forward to be harassed and teased. I'm leaving alone the second part of this topic regarding appropriate action taken against abusers. In that case, yes, it's important to recognize the difference between a bad joke or a date gone wrong and more damaging abuse, but I believe this can be done without discounting the victims. 

Before I get too far off on this tangent, I want to go back to the start and explore the idea of a core identity because after trauma, however an individual defines that for herself, it's essential to rediscover and possibly even redefine it. When Elizabeth was being held captive, despite being forced to act in ways that were contrary to who she is, she never lost sight of her true identity. It's hard to say whether her kidnappers were driven to commit terrible acts because that's who they are deep down, monsters, or if it was due to other circumstances, upbringing, drugs, alcohol, religion interpreted in a harmful way, or some combination of some or all of the above. Fortunately, that's not for me to decide. Monster or not, the court deemed Brian David Mitchell competent to stand trial, meaning, from a legal standpoint, the guy chose to do this and wasn't driven by any kind of delusion, mental illness, or outside influence at the time. Who he seems to be, as Elizabeth herself stated, is an evil person.

When the topic of identity is brought up, people often think of self-identity. This is how an individual perceives him or herself, a perspective of the personal identity. Personal identity is broader and includes an individual's personality, beliefs, physical characteristics, gender, talents, aspirations, values, and other traits that make each of us different. What's interesting is how this can change in various settings. In other words, self-identity is fluid and can be affected by our surroundings. Who a person is as a youngster need not be who she is as an adult. I've mentioned before that clinging to part of an identity that's no longer useful can be a detriment to one's health. But there is a core identity, our true being that's separate from all of that. We can't help but be shaped by our experiences, yet there is something in all of us that is unchanging, unique, the foundation of who we are. 

More individuals are bringing up the difficulties that athletes face as they approach retirement or as their bodies change. It's not surprising that elite athletes who have faced severe injury struggle with their identity as well. This is why it is so important to be able to separate who you are from what you do. A new category of therapists has emerged to help athletes transition into retirement because this issue can be so problematic. In fact, I know of at least two runners who struggled badly as they aged and eventually killed themselves. While suicide isn't usually the result of one event, the depression that can occur when an individual is no longer able to perform combined with a loss of self can contribute to feeling worthless and suicidal ideation. 

I'm glad to see that both coaches and therapists are becoming more aware of the difficulties athletes face when they can no longer participate at a high level in their sport of choice. I think when athletes are injured and when they begin to contemplate retirement is the time when they need the most care and guidance. Anyone with talent can run and even run well, sometimes even under coaching that's not optimal, but it takes tremendous strength, courage, and patience to adapt and get through injury and major transitions in life. The more we can find coping strategies and keep track of some kind of core identity within each of us, the easier these major transitions could be. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Danger of Disagreeing

The other day, I jumped into a discussion on Twitter that addressed Colorado voters and Lauren Boebert, the representative of Colorado's 3rd US Congressional district. Someone tried to put the blame on all residents of Colorado for her winning Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, 51 percent to 45 percent over her closest opponent. I and a few others were trying to explain that the entire state doesn't vote in specific districts and that most residents of Colorado, including many of her own constituents, are unhappy with her representation. Hers is one of seven districts in Colorado, meaning that by definition only about one-seventh of the state's voters even had a say in whether she was elected, and has leaned strongly Republican for many years. 

Someone who couldn't seem to understand this started arguing with me, and, after just a few responses, he went berserk and started posting right and left, calling me a racist and a Nazi. I don't need to prove that I'm neither of these things by explaining my heritage (we're all mutts, as they say) or detailing whom I've dated in the past or who my friends are and have been. It's just a flat-out ridiculous accusation, especially if you consider what I was saying in the thread.

Oddly, or maybe these days not so much, this guy and I have the same general political viewpoint, something he didn't realize until later. His rampage started after I suggested that I and others in Colorado, including some Republican leaders, are not happy that an extreme right, gun-collecting Trump supporter with a shady past is in congress and possibly causing trouble. Claiming that even a significant fraction of Coloradans voted for her, let alone all of them, is like insisting people in Utah are responsible for the city council members elected in Nevada. It just doesn't make sense.

Like many online trolls, Boebert can't take criticism either, much of hers coming from the people who live where she actually was elected. The Twitter troll later put up a poll on his page saying he "got into it" after someone "came at him" and didn't realize he and this person were "on the same side" and had a list of possible actions to take to help him move forward. The whole thing was weird and unsettling, and someone else on Twitter pointed out that the guy's posts tend to be consistently inflammatory. However, the damage was done. Others who don't know me liked his Tweets that called me names without even knowing what the discussion was about. 

But I'm not the only one who experiences this kind of outlandish attack. See, the left extremists have become just as radical and full of hate as those on the right, and they're as quick to stoop to name-calling and lying, sometimes even more so.

Two incidents that occurred on social media recently demonstrate how closed-minded and quick to criticize and exclude others some individuals who claim to accept and even promote diversity are.

In the first incident, a writer, Kevin Beck, posted a piece celebrating diversity and referenced a well-written article in Runner's World. In the blog post, he praised four of the five individuals who were profiled in the RW article and the author herself. It really is a good article. The fifth person profiled in the article is an outlier, someone who has been in a position of both bully and victim and has been caught in at least one lie, among other transgressions. When the blog post caught the attention of people in a Facebook group where the link was posted, several of the members were quick to criticize Kevin rather than his article, one going as far as calling him a "crotchety old white guy." Others poked fun at his use of big words, claiming he uses a thesaurus excessively. 

I know the author and have for a really long time. Comments criticizing his work upset me far more than they affect him at all. That kind of vague criticism of the piece being too long or too wordy reminds me of the "too many notes" scene in Amadeus. For the record, in all the years I have known him, collaborated with him, and spent time with him, I have never, ever seen him use a thesaurus. Whatever you think of his writing style, which of course is not at all the point anyway, the guy's just really fucking smart, and, for whatever reason, I think that upsets some individuals. A few of the same people complaining about the blog post admitted to not having read the whole thing, which makes me wonder why they would take the trouble to comment at all, but everyone likes to be heard, even those who don't have much to say. There were plenty of people who were happy to read the blog post and even agreed with the content. Kevin told me he got more new sign-ups and subscriptions in the days after that post than after anything else he's published, so maybe not everyone has the same amount of trouble with big words.

As unpleasant as it is to see someone I admire and care about being called names, it's far more concerning to see at least one of these critics lie about him. In the thread in the Facebook group, the same individual who was the first to stoop to name-calling also claimed that the blog post was an "article written by a man who has pretty clearly stated over and over again that's he's uncomfortable with so called "social justice warriors" and diversity and longs for the good old days." All of this is a lie in one form or another.  

This same lie has been told off Facebook, too:

Kevin very clearly defines two different types of social justice warriors, one he supports, as he did in his blog post that ultimately caused some friction, and the other he does not because he sees those involved as not being authentic. Regarding the latter, he states, "SJW antics are invariably a power-attention-and-money grab, not earnest activism. This means that fragile alliances and bridge-burnings are inevitable and easily foreseen features of any relationships forged with such people, whether they call themselves influencers or not."

It's laughable, almost, that, regarding a blog post celebrating diversity, the critic wants his audience to believe that the author has stated over and over again that he's uncomfortable with diversity. When pressed, the critic ignored that particular part of his claim and simply went on to say that his usual response is "what I said is valid, so it's not my fault that trolls and bigots are amplifying and repeating it." Notice how quickly he tosses out loaded terms like "bigot," and, as others in the group pointed out, he tried to make something that was about ethics and morality entirely about race. He also accused the host of the Facebook group of treating a black woman differently but offered zero evidence, zero. Meanwhile, the host of the group presented evidence to the contrary. There is also no evidence that the author of the blog post ever made any statements about longing for the past. This accusation is entirely fiction. If you go looking hard enough for something you want to find, though, you will probably eventually find it, even if it's not actually there.

It gets worse. On one of the critic's social media accounts, he posted the content of an argument that unfolded in that same thread but very craftily left out the last few posts to make it look like he had the upper hand, when in fact he did not. 

Omissions like this are another form of lying. It looks like he wants to make it appear like he "won" as if a conversation is some kind of competition, which shows exactly what kind of person he is, not someone who is for inviting a civil exchange of words. Anyone who's into publicly putting down others in such a way that the ones involved aren't invited to reply is not the best example of a model for inclusivity. Then, he has the temerity to suggest that others who don't like Snell's lying and bullying could look the other way and claims, without any proof, that people want her to disappear, yet he looks pretty comfortable making public comments about people he could easily ignore. Why the double standard? 

For someone who talks about wanting to make running spaces inclusive, this individual sure is combative, arrogant, and not truthful -- that is not the best advocate for bringing about harmony in any space at all. Still addressing the string of lies in just that one sentence, the author of the blog post never mentioned the good old days, not in the blog post referenced or anywhere else, for that matter, and the critic never bothered to provide a single example. Whenever a person takes an "I'm right, you're wrong" stance without any evidence at all, there is no room for dialogue. 

People can criticize Kevin's flowery language and lengthy posts, but the truth is that he's bringing up topics that many others are too afraid to discuss, most likely because bullies and trolls who claim to be woke come out in droves to insult anyone with an opposing opinion. Fortunately, Kevin's skin is thick, so bullies and general critics who either don't bother to read the content, make assumptions about it without reading for comprehension, or just plain lie about him don't affect his drive to address difficult topics. 

The other incident involved a tweet criticizing an individual, the same ACLU lawyer I have mentioned before, for lying. The one posting about the lawyer was immediately called homophobic and a bigot, and only one person asked for more information before defending the lawyer who lied, claiming he had done great things. That may be so, but he has also attempted to damage the reputation of several people simply for voicing their opinions, and, again, he hasn't always been operating above board. This kind of scenario is the perfect example of shooting the messenger. 

Here's my problem with all of this. Online debate, even bickering, is one thing, and I think most people like the idea of a healthy or lively discussion. The hosts of the Keeping Track podcast, Alysia Montano, Molly Huddle, and Roisin McGettigan, do an excellent, really outstanding job of encouraging conversation. They are shining examples of how the running community can become more inclusive. In stark contrast to these women and others who actually invite a civil back-and-forth, are those who can't control themselves and immediately call others racists, Nazis, and bigots throw out some serious accusations, often without merit, and, in turn, look more like fanatics than those whom they are attacking. 

It's uncalled for to drag out such potentially damaging smears when simply expressing an opinion is an option. Not that long ago, an American was sued when he called some German officers Nazis because he was upset, not because they were acting like anything other than officers. Certain words shouldn't be used simply because a person is pissy. "Wah, I'm mad so I'm going to slander your name and attempt to ruin your reputation." What an awful approach to life. But that's where we are, and the more people respond to their unchecked anger with a string of hateful insults, the more division it will cause. 

Tricia Griffith of Web Suleths says that nobody should be allowed to make false accusations against another person and attempt to tear a person's life apart, but, for the most part, it's legal. You can call someone a racist, bigot, or Nazi online with little to no repercussions. I know this doesn't matter to those who live in a small online bubble among like-minded individuals who like to see bullies attack anyone, no matter the reason, but these types of bullies will lose potential allies because of their bad behavior.