Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why I Want To Be Captain America

Let's start simply - as anyone who reads this can probably figure out, I'm trying to better myself.  This is primarily blossoming in a fitness manner at the moment.
As part of this figuring myself out journey I found Nerd Fitness.  I will admit, I adore Steve - the creator.  I enjoy reading the site and have been trying to involve myself on the forums.  Typically on forums, I'm a lurker not a participant.  So participating is a big deal to me and I'm trying to get to a regular posting schedule.
Today, a bit late to the party, I read one of his articles, "Don't Escape, Get Inspired" (Link: http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/10/02/dont-escape-get-inspired).  Also, watching the video is a big plus.
I don't know why but this particular article hit me just right.
So now, I want to be Cap.
But, why Captain America?
Steve Rogers (the guy under the mask) believes in doing what's right - even in the face of extreme adversity.  He doesn't compromise and the means do not always justify the ends.  In a comic book my son owns with Captain America in it, there is a scene where Cap is given the chance to murder a bad guy in order to save the day.  The other good guys (not avengers in this case, aliens) are basically urging him to do it because they see no other options.  Captain America lowers his stance and says "Doing the wrong thing, even for the right reasons, is still wrong."  That line is one part to why I like him.
Other points about Captain America, he is the fighter, the defender, the rally point, the leader.  Everybody looks to Cap for guidance, including Iron Man, Thor, Hulk.  The one guy that is still basically just a person is looked up to by a technological genius, a god, and all the confounding things Hulk is.
Cap also admits his faults.  He has no problem with admitting if he doesn't know something or isn't the best choice for something.
He is also highly adaptable.
I watch Super Hero shows with my son.  Anything with the Avengers in it and Captain America (even when in parody, like Super Hero Squad Show) is still a cornerstone, even when the spotlight isn't on him. 
He doesn't just talk though.  He leads by example.  Captain America was labeled a traitor at one point due to the Skrull invasion (nasty shape shifting aliens used Captain America's personality to further their purposes).  While the world reacts to him with anger and hatred, he carries on doing what he has always done.  He stands for what is right, fights injustice, and ignores that anger directed at him as best he can.
So, yeah, I want to be Captain America.
I think that's a valuable goal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stereotyping and Villainy: Creating Hatred With An Us Versus It Mentality

Let me start this post by saying: We all say dumb things - even me.  Sometimes we know right away that it was dumb.  Sometimes we realize it later.  Sometimes it takes seeing, reading, or hearing a similar comment to realize it.
This is not about the one or two times we all say something dumb.  This is about when that something dumb starts becoming our mentality.

The first question you might be asking yourself is, why is the title Us vs. It instead of Us vs. Them (like the popular phrase goes)?
Well, the reason is that us vs. them works okay in sports and competitions but not so much elsewhere.  In life, when we start thinking of a group of people as a "them", we slowly stop thinking of them as people.  And as soon as people are no longer viewed as people, they become things, its, they are no longer "real".  Once we stop making people "real", they no longer matter because things don't have thoughts, things don't have feelings, things can always be replaced.

The inspiration for this post started with my son talking about the Pledge of Allegiance.  It made me think of the huge debate about the "Under God" add in.  Then previous thoughts sort of clicked into place.

Take a look at the comment section in news articles and watch how quickly it become "Evil Republicans/Democrats" and "Whiny Liberals/Conservatives" are all to blame for everything from Obama's presidency to Brad Pitt and Angelina (seriously, an article about a fluffy kitten who purrs can become a political battle ground).

Now, a reasonable person can deduce that not every Democrat is trying to turn the US into a Welfare State and not every Republican is trying to destroy Equal Rights.  However, if every time you look at the internet, these are the messages you receive - how long will it take before you believe them?

Let's look at race.   All black people live in ghettos and are criminals.  All Hispanics are illegal immigrants that abuse welfare.  All Asians are technological geniuses.  All white people look down on everyone else.  All Middle Eastern people are terrorists.  How many other stereotypes like these and worse have you heard?  These are what I've noticed lately.

Let's try religion.  Christians are bigoted bible thumpers. Jews are greedy. Muslims are extremists.  Atheists believe in anarchy.  Again, how many of these and worse have you heard?

Oh, how about gender?  Women are gold diggers, bitches, sluts, shrews, harpies.  Men are idiots, assholes, violent, oppressors, entitled. 

So what is the point to airing this dirty laundry?  To point it out.

See a lot of people get pissed off at advertising agencies and magazines that promote unrealistic body image to young girls.  Since young females are so impressionable it is irresponsible of these entities to inhibit the growth of self-worth and confidence that these girls need and deserve to have.  The reasoning is that after being bombarded with all these images, girls will believe that what they are shown is the ideal, they will believe the photoshopped hype.

If we can all understand that bombarding a young girl with the idea she can only achieve success in life if she is as fashionable, chic, sexy, skinny as a modified model is bad, why don't we get that bombarding anyone with bad ideas is bad?

If every time you log on to the internet or turn on you TV, you see women bashing other women - how long will it take you to believe that this is okay?  That if another women does something different from you, she deserves to be shamed or harassed?

There is a website for moms that I once hung around - mostly because they had an online game that I played.  Every once in a while I would read part of the forums and it would disgust me.  I sincerely mean that too.  I was disgusted by the attitudes and venom spewed from the keyboards of the women on the site.  Some mother would post a question, asking advice for a parenting concern and the replies fired off had me looking for the trenches.  I was not on the website very long.
I have enough of an issue with people being jerks to each other normally but this is relevant here because this website furthered a stereotype of competing moms.
Some of the women that posted were out of control - you would seriously question what they were doing to raise their kids.  But this only reinforced that "crazy girl" idea.

Okay, now let's move a little further on this...Where do kids spend a significant amount of time?
Connected to the internet.

Over and over kids are presented the worst in stereotyping and vilification of anyone and everyone.  Straight, Gay, Transgender, Gender-Neutral, Married, Divorced, Single, Male, Female, White, Black, Asian, Latino, Native American, Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Country Music Fan, Pop Music Fan, Heavy Metal Music Fan, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Spartan-Living, Consumer-Living, and anything else you can think of has haters, professional bashers even.  There is not one thing you could do that is not criticized somewhere online.

Congratulations - we have a culture that not only condones hate, it propagates it.

The people who speak the quietest often speak most profoundly.  The smallest voices on the internet belong to the people who believe in moderation, who believe in living freely.  That needs to change.
There are places were you can find the lovers, the encouragers, the people that don't bash others for no reason (they may call out dumb but will expect you to call out their dumb too).

Thankfully, there are more and more people getting the message that we need more positive and less negative.  More approval and less reprimand (and vice versa where applicable). 

The first place to start though, is with you.

I've come to a point where I see the differences in people and those differences don't matter.  To me, nearly everyone is lovely and fascinating. 
I'm not saying that you need to run out of the house and start hugging strangers.  But maybe look at where you are biased.  Can those biases be changed?

Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' talks about change the quite effectively:
"I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change"

Remember, only you can prevent forest fires (sorry, couldn't help it).
Only you can change your actions.  You can't change other people but maybe, you can inspire them to change.