Category: The World

It’s Time to Admit the Reasons We Tell People to Stay Away From Porn Aren’t Working

I use Einstein’s definition of insanity too many times on this blog because it explain the frustration I feel with a lot of people’s attitudes and actions toward pornography and pornography addiction. I’ve never made my fight against pornography itself because I think it diverts attention from education, but it seems a correlation could be made if people were effectively dissuaded from using pornography, there would be less pornography addicts.

The problem is that our current list of reasons for urging people to stay away from pornography are ineffective. I’m not saying that they aren’t valid reasons – they almost always are. They aren’t scare tactics, which don’t play well with most, but well-reasoned rationalizations for putting down the porn. And none of them work.

I recall about 15 years ago, fast food restaurants were forced to put the calorie content on all of their menus by the FDA, with the belief if we only knew how bad it was for us, we’d stop. Yeah, that didn’t work. People knew fast food wasn’t quality food. In fact, fast food revenues exploded with the invention of the value menus with popular items for $1 or $2. People didn’t want healthy, they wanted cheap. It’s the same story with porn. If you’re paying money for porn these days, you’re doing it wrong. I think most people see it as junk food for the brain. It’s not healthy, but it’s not going to create lasting damage. Our standards reasons to stay away don’t combat that attitude effectively.

Why don’t our go-to reasons for staying away from porn work? I think I’ve figured most of them out:

The actors and actresses are exploited, don’t want to be there and had bad childhoods – All of this may be true, but has it stopped a single person from watching pornography? I think on some level everybody who watches porn understands its very essence is about the exploitation of the human body. As for not wanting to be there, I recently wrote a blog for a freelance client where I had to dig up statistics on job dissatisfaction in white-collar corporate America. Depending on the study, it ranged from 70% to 85%, so nobody likes their job.  As for having bad childhoods and still needing to seek out work, that isn’t a porn-exclusive thing either. I think when most people look at porn, they’re just not thinking about the poor professional conditions because they have to live with those conditions themselves and most would rather be having sex with beautiful people in pretty places than washing dishes at Buffalo Wild Wings.

It’s not realistic and doesn’t depict love – There have been a million and one studies on why people look at porn and one of the top two or three reasons, usually the top reason, is that it is an escape. People understand it’s not realistic because they only have to look to their own lives to reach that conclusion. I don’t think pizza guys and tennis instructors get into those vocations because they see a lot of sex in porno movies for guys in those industries. How many people would want to watch porn if it was people who looked like them doing things that they do? When it comes to love, I don’t think people turn to porn. If they want to see love, there’s a whole Hallmark Channel showing a slightly different version of the same Christmas movie for the next two months.

It’s going to rot your brain – For addicts, it actually does change the brain chemistry, but by that point, any standard reason to not use doesn’t work. I think that we’re told that so many things in this world are going to rot our brains and it simply doesn’t, and most people know that. First, you had people claiming rock music would make us all miscreants and Satanists. Didn’t happen. Then, kids raised on video games would all be prone to violent outbursts. Proven untrue. Porn certainly isn’t good for your brain, but enough people walk away without permanent scarring – or we’re still not talking about that scarring – that this argument falls on deaf ears for lack of proof.

Looking at porn brings you further away from God – I’m guessing this might work on some very devout people, but data would suggest otherwise. Two of the four fastest growing consumer groups of porn are members of the Roman Catholic Church and LDS Church and those who work in service of god (rabbis, priests, reverends) all report higher-than-average porn usage rates. This doesn’t even take into account that there are a lot of people who don’t believe in God or that he doesn’t play an active role in the consequences of their decision making. I have no hard statistics other than my own experience, but I bet 75% of the blogs I find on WordPress that talk about recovery from porn addiction give a lot of credit to God, but threats of the almighty fall on deaf ears prior.

I wish I had some great new techniques and solutions. I think most of the solutions are going to come from talking to our kids while they are young and informing them about the potential physical and mental dangers of taking porn use too far. We can argue whether that has or hasn’t worked with drugs and alcohol, but I think everybody who has a kid that is clean is thankful they said something.

We can keep repeating the standard “evils of pornography” list and while they certainly are valid, they are also ineffective. It’s tough to admit that, but the sooner we do, the sooner people far smarter than I can work to develop the new techniques and solutions we so desperately need.

The term ‘Gaslighting’ Comes From a 1944 Best Picture Nominee, And I Can See Why

It’s been somewhat of an every-few-years tradition of mine to listen to War of the Worlds on Halloween night, ever since I stumbled upon it on the radio when I came back from an eighth-grade party where I kissed a girl for the first time. BTW, the mass hysteria we all have been retroactively led to believe happened that night, didn’t actually take place. The original broadcast of War of the Worlds, I mean. Not me kissing a girl. Although it was a phenomenon rarely duplicated in the next few years.  The War of the Worlds “hysteria” is a fascinating story, but you know how to use the Internet and I’m not wasting space here. Instead, for the first time, I watched a nominee for the 1944 Best Picture Oscar (based on a 1938 British play and remake of a 1940 British movie) that is probably better known for creating a key piece of the Addiction/Recovery/Betrayal Trauma lexicon: Gaslight.

Starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, it’s quite a far-fetched story, even for early cinema standards, and I’m not talking about the actual gaslighting that takes place. Any plot that involves assuming another person’s identity and jewel thieves automatically goes into the “ya, sure, whatever” category for me. That must be why I don’t like Nicholas Cage films.

The psychological part of the movie, however, is very well done, and it is indeed the place that we get the term “gaslighting” from. Boyer hatches a plan to make his wife, Bergman, think she’s going crazy, hoping it eventually results in eventual financial gain. He does this slowly by setting her up to believe she’s a kleptomaniac when in fact, he’s taking things and planting them on her. For good measure, he also deliberately dims the gas in the lights in their house. He insists he never touches them and claims they are always the same brightness, yet they get darker, night-by-night, contributing to Bergman’s self-doubt and belief she is losing her mind. Finally, Boyer flirts with the maid (played by Angela Lansbury, about 300 years before Murder She Wrote) in front of Bergman. Lansbury develops a bit of a disdain for Bergman because she reciprocates the flirting, but when Bergman brings it up to her husband, he again tells her that it’s all in her head.

You’ve had 75 years to see the movie, so I’m going to slightly ruin it. In the end, the husband is tied to a chair by police and Bergman’s learned about his deception…however, he can’t stop. When the police briefly leave the scene, Boyer tells Bergman to untie him so they can escape and be free together. She comes to her senses and lets the police take him away.

While it’s the Hollywood ending the viewer wants and can somewhat see coming a mile away, real life often doesn’t end like that and the gaslighting takes place over may years, not months. It’s not just pornography or sex addiction either. If there’s an addict in your life, there’s a gaslighter in your life.

I heard of cases much more worse than me when I was in rehab and recovery, but I think that’s because I had my hand involved in so many different things I didn’t have to convince any single person of anything too ridiculous. I didn’t spend enough time with any one person for them to get too close to my addictions.

My wife – just like with every couple that has a male addict – was the biggest victim of my gaslighting. Most of the time, it was convincing her that I wasn’t nearly as drunk as I was and fully capable of driving.

Occasionally, she would say things like, “I guess you don’t like us anymore” or “Nobody has to work that much.” I didn’t like anybody, especially myself, at that point, which is why I wanted to be alone. And she was right about how much I worked, but it was the only place I felt like I was in control of my life until the end. I always convinced her she was wrong and acted offended she’d even bring up such things. I even surprised myself  how often I was successful. The last person to say “sorry” loses and I was never the last person. Like I said, not the worst gaslighting stories, but I certainly knew the drill.

Manipulating someone into believing they’re the crazy one, to the point it becomes second nature: Yep, that’s gaslighting and now you know where the term came from.

While none of the Q&As I sometimes post on the site are in the Top 10 most popular you can find on the right side, the one that I wrote a while back about gaslighting is by far the most popular and talks more about the nuts-and-bolts of what it is. If you’d like to take a look at it, click HERE.

Watching My First Connection in Recovery Almost Die in Front of Me

Note: This may be a story worth a trigger warning. It may also be exactly what you need to hear, so viewer discretion advised.

Bob was the best counselor I had at either of my rehabs. He wasn’t medically trained or have 15 groups of letters after his name, but he had risen to run the two small properties in Palm Springs (really just former adjacent motels probably used in the Hollywood heyday of Palm Springs) and he was tasked as my caseworker.

Since they were understaffed, Bob was most people’s caseworker. I started my time at the main property, where about 20 patients lived. That property was overseen by Jackson, who had once been a patient at the rehab. For some reason, Jackson went to rehab 14 times and it never clicked until the 15th time. Now, he was a model of clean living. This 26-year-old didn’t have much of an active role in running the rehab except as the overnight intake person, should one be needed.

Once you completed 30 days, if you were staying, you were moved to the adjacent property, where only about 8-10 people lived at any given time. These people were the “interns” who just did the occasional bed checks and kept attendance at the four daily group sessions, although they only had to attend three. Sometimes you’d also be asked to do additional tasks, like make breakfast, or bring a patient to the nearby “real” hospital if they had a minor injury. I once took a guy for a nasty spider bite. Bob lived at this property, although he kept to himself in his room.

Meet Bob

Bob was around 60 years old. Born in Iowa, he moved to Chicago as a young man and become either an investment banker or high-end stockbroker. He ended up married, had a couple of sons and a brutal, brutal alcohol problem in his late 30s/early 40s. That problem only came under control when he admitted to himself that he was a homosexual. This epiphany tore his family apart and sent him packing to Palm Springs, which at the time (and still to some degree) was a safe place for homosexuals to live their lives openly compared to other places in the U.S. at the time.

Bob continued working in the financial sector for many years. After giving it several years, he tried to rebuild the bridges with his sons, but it was a very rocky road. Bob settled into a steady relationship with a man, but after several years, the man left. With his relationship with his kids still in tatters, Bob was introduced to meth.

While he didn’t have the length of time being a meth addict he did with alcohol, it floored him once again and he sought professional help. Something clicked while he was there, and he decided he’d get certified as an addiction therapist. Along the way, he met another man in recovery who he started a relationship with, and they decided that they’d open a sober house, which was an aftercare facility for addicts.

This went fine for a couple of years, but inevitably, the duo broke up. His partner kept the house and he took a job with the rehab I attended. A friend he met in recovery, Amy, was the day intake person and also led one of the group sessions. They’d just lost their lead and were looking for another. Bob took the job. I arrived about eight months later.

Forming a Bond

Bob saw me almost immediately when I arrived and welcomed me graciously. I attended a couple of his group sessions before we had our first real one-on-one where he told me parts of the story I just explained. Others helped fill in the gaps along the way.

I had told myself that I wouldn’t tell anybody about the charges I had unless they needed to know about them. Probably 97% of the people at the rehab never had any idea that less than two weeks before I got there, I was arrested for possession of underage pornography.

Bob made it clear quickly that he knew I did, but also shared he’d known several men who had the same issue and what happened to them, ranging from nothing to 10 years in prison. We didn’t dwell on this part of my story because he didn’t have the training there. We talked a lot about my drinking, but mostly we just talked.

He had red hair and striking sea green eyes that looked they could see through you, so you shouldn’t bother telling a lie. I opened up to him about my drinking more than any other person I ever had to that point and as a former alcoholic with around 10 years of sobriety, he could relate. I felt a connection with him as a fellow addict that I’d never made with anybody in my professional or personal lives.

When I made it to the smaller property after 30 days, I thought we’d hang out a little more, but Bob kept to himself in his room. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get that “down time” chance to bond, but it was what it was.

The first time I was ever asked to lead one of the groups was when Amy had to intake a client, so she couldn’t lead the late morning group and Bob had called in ill that morning. Aside from Jackson, another office worker and a maintenance manager, that was it for the staff. They should have had at least two more counselors and another staff person there.

After a few days of calling out sick, and not seeing Bob at the adjacent property, Amy pulled me aside and asked if I’d take over the late morning group as a permanent thing. The reality is, anybody can do the job of a group therapy counselor. You just have to be able to keep the ball rolling and get people to talk. My training as a reporter was perfect. When I asked why she wanted to do this permanently (and if it would knock anything off my bill since I was now functioning as a part-time employee) she told me that Bob relapsed and had been asked to leave after a confrontation with the owner of rehab who also owned and operated two other facilities in Florida and further north in California.

Never Saw It Coming

Bob’s relapse really hit me and a few other people who had been there for a while hard. I was probably 40-45 days into my 70-day stay at that point. If he could relapse, it was clear anybody could. A lot of us spent the next few days comparing notes and agreeing he’d had a difficult road in life, but for someone who preached asking for help, he couldn’t follow his own advice.

A new manager named Autumn was hired within a couple of days. She was young, probably in her late 20s and asked me to continue running the late morning group. I liked her and we developed a relationship that was more like co-workers than treatment provider-patient. When Bob left, so did my one-on-one sessions. They closest thing I had to that with Autumn was in the almost daily patient rundown when I’d report was happening in my group and around the properties when she wasn’t there.

At around probably my 62nd or 63rd day, Amy approached me early one morning.

“I knew how much Bob meant to you and we have to help him,” she said in a whisper.

I asked her to explain what she was talking about and she launched into a story of how after Bob left the adjacent property, he went to live with his sponsor. After four or five days of heavy drinking and refusing to go to meetings, his sponsor kicked him out in fear of his own safety and sobriety.

She said Bob then went to live with a friend, but that person kicked him out too after a couple of days. Amy had seen him the morning before when he called to get his last check and she agreed to meet him in a Walgreen’s parking lot. He revealed that he had been living out of his car, spending his days in the park drinking and sleeping in his car in various parking lots, drinking, at night.

Amy worked the phones calling nearby detox and rehab centers and was able to pull some strings to get Bob into one of those facilities if he agreed to go. She finally was able to convince him to go to detox and offered to pay for a night at the Motel 6 down the road so nothing would happen to him.

The problem was that the van that was going to pick Bob up and bring him to the detox center about 20 miles away was not going to pick him up until 4 p.m. and he had to be out of the hotel by noon. She had to stay at the facility, but she said that Jackson had secretly agreed to pick him up at the hotel.

Now, understand that bringing someone from the outside who was using – which describes Bob accurately at the time – was the worst thing you could. Nobody from the outside was let in without prior approval, and certainly not someone with a problem. Jackson couldn’t hide Bob in his room for 5 or 6 hours to wait for the van since it was the main property. Amy asked if I could let him stay in my room next door since nobody monitored that property closely. I was a little hesitant, but she said she’d thought he’d just sleep all day and I could just hang out in the room watching TV or by the pool while he slept.

About an hour later, Jackson and I headed to Motel 6.

Addiction is Real

Jackson had known Bob much longer than me and said he had no idea what we’d encounter at the hotel. I think even he was shocked when Bob opened the door.

I’ve seen peoples in the throes of alcoholic benders, but this was beyond what I’ve ever seen. Bob had been drinking around the clock for who knows how many weeks at that point. He’d lost about 15-20 pounds since I last saw him and his fair complexion was completely sunburned from those days in the park.

He limply motioned to us to come into the room. We entered to a mess of empty Listerine bottles. He took a half-full one from the dresser and downed its contents.

“Do you know why I have so much Listerine here?” he slurred at me.

“Because of the alcohol?” I asked, knowing that was the answer.

“Of course, but here’s the secret. You can’t go to a bar or buy liquor after 1 a.m. But you can go to a 7-11 and get Listerine in the middle of the night and it’s 80 proof,” he said. This was one of those things you only learn through the rehab experience.

Bob immediately turned into a sad, regretful drunk.

“Look at me. Look what I’ve become. You guys are doing great and look at me,” he said.

We tried to let him know he’d picked us up when he was down, and this was our turn. After assuring him we weren’t judging him and everything would be OK, we told him that he’d be coming to my room to wait for the van to bring him to detox. I gathered his stuff while Jackson let him polish off another half-full bottle of Listerine by the nightstand, then helped him outside and into the back seat of the car.

As we drove the two miles back to the rehab facility, Bob kept talking down about himself and saying that we were pieces of shit when he met us but that we’d turned it around and wondering why couldn’t he do the same thing.

In the middle of one of his pity-party sentences, he stopped talking and simply fell to the side.

“Did he pass out?” asked Jackson?

I turned around and saw him face down on the side seat with a disgusting, thick liquid coming out. As I tried to lift his head, we pulled into the small parking lot next to my facility. I ran and opened the gate while Jackson worked on getting Bob to sit up. He just kept slumping backward into whatever was in that puddle.

“He just needs to sleep it off in your room,” Jackson said. “We may have to carry him.”

As we pulled him toward us from him slumped position again he vomited what was clearly Listerine, blood and who knows what else onto himself and Jackson’s backseat.

“Dude, that’s blood, he needs to go the hospital,” I said.

At that moment, Amy called from next door.

“We’re bringing him to the hospital,” I said. “He’s puking all kinds of whatever including blood.”

“But he’s going to lose his chance at detox and rehab,” she said.

“Amy, we need to take him. I’ve never seen this come out of somebody before,” I said.

Jackson grabbed my phone.

“Amy, he’s seriously in trouble. We’re going to the hospital.”

He hung the phone up and gave it back to me. I ran to the other side of the car and jumped into the passenger’s seat.

Thankfully, the hospital was only about three blocks away. We pulled into the emergency room entrance and I ran in, telling the person at the desk we needed a gurney and a couple people to help lift this guy who was OD’ing onto a stretcher.

They were out there within 10 seconds, pulling Bob out of the car and putting him on the gurney. He’s stopped vomiting, but as he lay back on the gurney, I saw his eyes roll completely backward into his head. They whisked him away leaving Jackson and I standing there.

“I probably know more about him, so I’ll stay and try to answer his questions. You should go back. You’ve got a group to run,” he said.

I walked back to the rehab, trying to make sense of the last half hour.

The aftermath

I ran the group like nothing happened. Shortly when it was over, I walked into the courtyard area and saw Amy leaving with her stuff. I ran to catch up with her and she told me that Autumn had just fired her. We exchanged email addresses and I went into Autumn’s office.

She was crying and asked me to shut the door.

“This isn’t how a rehab is supposed to operate,” she said. “I went to three of them myself. I’ve worked at four. This is all wrong. I can’t do this.”

She told me that the owner of our facility got a call from the owner of the facility Bob was supposed to be heading off to had the day gone as expected. When he found out, he called our facility and Amy fessed up to him what was happening. He then asked to speak to Autumn and told her that she had to fire Amy for getting Jackson and I involved since it could have been a liability.

I sat with Autumn for 20 minutes trying to calm her down. I explained to her that this was her first rehab as the facility leader and since it was kind of a bottom-of-the-barrel place, all she could do was move up.

“Do your year here and then find a new job. You have to look at this as just a great line to have on your resume. Someday you’ll be running the facility you deserve,” I said.

“One of the patients who is paying to be here shouldn’t be running the most effective group and soothing the director of the place because she can’t stop crying,” she laughed, realizing the absurdity of everything going on that day. She assured me that I wouldn’t be in any trouble and she appreciated what I was trying to do, but also told me not to be an accessory to any schemes again.

I visited Bob at the hospital the next day with Jackson. He told us that the doctor said if he’d have had that episode in his hotel room and we arrived 30 minutes later, he likely would have died choking on his vomit or the internal bleeding might have caused things to go far worse than they did.

When Jackson and I walked back to the facility I asked him if he thought everybody could be saved from addiction. He said no, the statistics proved they can’t.

“Bob’s one of those guys,” he said. “The bottle is going to kill him. He’s not done with it.”

I preferred to believe those people who died just didn’t get help in time and not that they were incapable.

About 18 months later, I spoke to Bob a few days before I went in front of a judge to be sentenced. He agreed to write a letter of recommendation for me, but it never came. He said he was sober at that point and ironically serving as a counselor for the same company, just at their location further north.

I haven’t talked to him since. I know how to reach out through Facebook, but am not sure I want to do that. I don’t want to find out something went bad, and I don’t want silence, because I’ll assume the worst. I prefer to believe that Bob is still in California, doing well and helping others. I would rather live in a world where Jackson’s conclusion is wrong.

 

10 Blogs I Love That You Should Follow, But Probably Don’t Know About

I appreciate every person that follows me and based on my hits, I know a lot of people read the site regularly even if they don’t want to raise their hand and admit it. That’s fine. I just sometimes wonder if the people who have 2,349 followers recognize how lucky they are. Conversely, I also wonder if the people with 18 followers are doing something wrong but don’t know it. I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

There used to be a great page on WordPress called the Swimming Pool, run by the company itself. Every Monday, people could post their pages, asking for feedback to what they wrote, the look of their site, or anything else in general. It was where I met a lot of the people who I first followed and who first followed me.

They closed down the page and it left a big gap for introducing people to one another. Now, I only learn of new sites if I specifically search for them on the Reader page or if I check out what commenters on other sites have to say.

Anyway, I follow about as many sites as follow me and many of them, like me, have a decent following, but deserve to be introduced to a wider audience. So, in the spirit of giving back, but since I hate those dumbass awards, I’d like to share some links with you.

The following links have between 25 and 300 followers. They have posted in the last month and post with regularity. I apologize to anybody if it offends them that I didn’t list them here. Dry those tears while reading these blogs:

Life Advice

Coaching Skills International – Quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. It may just be a meme reminding you how to stick to new habits or a well-written article on relationship issues, but I always know I’m getting a quality post when this site pops up in my reader.

Tony Overbay’s Official Site – OK, I’m breaking my rule by sharing a site with less than 25 followers (as I write this) but Tony’s got one of the best podcasts out there and links to his episodes here. He’s a brilliant licensed marriage and family therapist. He’s also the co-author of my new book, so I’m probably biased.

Health/Fitness

Revfit – Jason Leenaarts hosts a great podcast, but also provides great inspiration in the areas of fitness, diet, weight loss, philosophy and shares plenty about his own life. I don’t understand how he doesn’t have 500 times the followers. Inspirational and fun to read.

Defeating Stigma Mindfully (DSM) – Dr. Alexander Sinu breaks down all subjects health-related from addiction to to supplements to dementia. He keeps things short, has supporting links if you want to read more and writes with a level of respect and care toward every subject.

Life Happenings

Return of Conflict Girl – Holly is dealing with a lot right now, but somehow, she keeps her wits about her. She’s an introvert dealing with an uncertain future and is a real testament to having inner strength.

Suicide and Sex Work – Hope is a woman 100 times braver than most of us. She went through unspeakable horrors being sex trafficked as a small child by a family member. The fallout all of these years later sticks with her, but she’s open to sharing it and spreading understanding. It’s sometimes very hard to read, but her honesty is powerful.

BetrayedWife.net – This site was one of the big inspirations for me to write my new book and I think is a real gem. Any woman who is dealing with a husband or partner that is trying to navigate recovery from sex or porn addiction should really be reading this blog.

A Mix of Everything

Sophybless – I wish I was as good at writing short fiction that has a message to it as you find here. She’s able to craft vivid characters quickly and leave me both entertained and thinking about what she wrote. I’m not a big fan of poetry, but hers is quite good, too.

Even Christians Get the Blues – Rollie Anderson was one of the first people to embrace me on WordPress and let me know I wasn’t the only recovering porn addict here. Every Monday, he shares Bible verses, his interpretation behind them, and how they fit into the modern world of religion and spirituality. Even a guy like me who isn’t religious and only kind of spiritual gets a lot of out his writing.

Food.For.Thoughts – This has become another one of my recent favorites to read late in the morning. Most of it centers around mental health, with recent posts about social media, insomnia and therapy, usually tying the topic into depression by the end of the post. I very much appreciate how she refers her sources, but also gives her opinion on the facts.

Indigenous People’s Day vs. Columbus Day vs. Porn Addiction Education

In Maine, today is no longer known as Columbus Day. The governor signed a law stating that we are now celebrating Indigenous People’s Day. Those who wanted the holiday renamed said that it celebrated a man who did far more harm than good to the native people of the Americas.

I read an article the other day featuring voices of several people who didn’t like the name change. They couldn’t really speak to the criticism of Columbus, just that they don’t want to change it.

They seemed like the kind of people who were also against wishing people Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas or who get upset when you want to change a high school football team’s mascot because it offends the group it is meant to represent.

I find it hard to figure out why any other white guy like me would really care, or demand to keep things the way they are.

Does it matter what they tell you when you leave Wal-Mart in December, really? Will you stop cheering for, or rooting against, a certain team because their mascot changes? Do you really worry that the next generation won’t understand the history of the confederacy without statues?

I think the other guys care as much as I do, as to say that they don’t specifically care at all because it isn’t about a greeting or history lesson. I think they make a stink about these things because it’s change, and it’s change that favors the opinion of someone who doesn’t look like them nor shares a common background. You could call this racist but…nothing. It’s fucking racist. It’s the very definition.

But as someone who has probably silently supported these traditional standards, I think it’s important I take a moment to recognize that there are people who care and who are offended for deep personal and cultural reasons.

If it genuinely bothers you that the Redskins are the local football team or that a Robert E. Lee monument sits at the front of your library, well then I say to you…sorry. I didn’t know it bothered you, but I listened to your rational, well explained reasons. Let’s try to make the community more inclusive. Let’s change it.

You can wish me a Happy Hanukkah. I’m not Jewish, but whatever. If you confuse me as being Jewish, again, whatever. Give me an old Merry Christmas, or Super Fun Kwanza or say Happy Holidays. It’s all good.

 

Bringing this back to porn addiction…

I think fear of change (in this case, our long history of silence and ignoring the problem) is the reason nobody wants to talk about pornography, or the hellish addiction it’s currently bestowing upon the young adults in our society. If we talk about porn addiction, we have to admit that people look at porn and that it can lead to problems. It’s still too much to stomach for many people.

Do you know what offends me? When a podcast about solving problems in marriage asks for pitches from potential guests and I drop several statistics on them that show porn is a growing issue in marriages, but get a response saying that their show doesn’t think it’s the right time, or it’s the wrong direction, to talk about pornography addiction. Right, let’s talk about more important issues, like painting vs. wallpapering.

It offends me when a library or church group books me to give a presentation about pornography addiction and then someone on the board of trustees or parish council or whatever decides it’s not a good idea because I’m talking about solutions to a substance…that personally offends them! I’ve heard everything from “We’re afraid people who attend will be mistakenly labeled as addicts” to “If we hold this presentation, certain people may believe we are promoting the use of pornography.”

Sure, maybe the morons will think you’re promoting pornography, but that’s why they are morons. We can’t let our standard be that we tailor our message to the morons in society or we have a moronic society.

And yeah, I guess I’m not offended about people’s willful ignorance or shunning of pornography addiction, but I’m scared. I know more data than most researchers about pornography addiction. I’ve seen the depths of its depravity within myself, I’ve contemplated the horrors of it from a jail cell and I pulled myself out of it – but I’ve also seen for every one of me, there are exponentially more that don’t recover for a number of reasons, and how society treats them, when they even acknowledge them at all.

I am scared of a changing world where 1/3rd of men between 18 and 30 label themselves as having a problem with pornography. I’m scared of a world where 80% of female porn addiction addicts take their addiction off the computer screen and actually engage in real-life sexual encounters. I’m scared of a world where 98% of married men and 70% of married women looked at online porn in the last 6 months. In 2010, 47% of American households said porn is currently or was a problem in their home at some point. Do you really think that scary number has gone down in a decade?

 

Wrapping things up…

I think the problem comes down to the fact too many in this country look to the people around them to know how to think and feel about things. Have you ever tried to have a rational conversation with somebody who can only spit the liberal talking points they heard on MSNBC or the conservative talking points they heard of Fox News back at you? When you present them with a counterargument, they get flustered and often result to name calling and attacking the other side. As a guy who is in neither group, I’ve got to tell both of you…you look and sound exactly the same to me. It’s a shame you can’t see it.

Saying or thinking the phrase “porn addiction education” doesn’t make you an addict, nor someone condones pornography. Having a problem with porn addiction education is about having a problem with something else entirely.

Let’s get these indigenous people who despise Columbus in a room with people who really believe that the world is going to be worse off by not recognizing Christopher Columbus and have them explain their beliefs to one another with no bullet points from their political silos. Let me talk to these people who preach “open dialogue” so I can find out what their real issues with pornography addiction education is and why that doesn’t meet the criteria for such dialogue.

Our country is divided because we don’t talk about our differences and solve our problems collectively. We’re wasting too much time doing this while our problems and differences continue to multiply.

Happy Indigenous People’s Day. Try not to look at any porn.

 

Is There Anything Wrong With Following Blogs of People You Disagree With?

I’ve been adding a lot of blog sites to my Reader list recently and I have noticed a trend that many of them actually stand in contrast to my core beliefs, or are so out there philosophically that I’m drawn to what these people have to say.

I first came in journalism in the mid-1990s. While Rush Limbaugh had figured out it was a good business ploy to play to the right claiming that the media was bias, we really didn’t have sides in the media at that point. Today, I have a bit of a different opinion about how things have changed, but that’s not the point of this.

In trying to not take sides, I was always taught to cover both sides of an issue, without making any value judgments in what I was presenting.

Sometimes that wasn’t simple. I heard the Grand Wizard of the almost-defunct Maine chapter of the Ku Klux Klan lived a couple of towns over, so I basically knocked on his door and asked to interview him. Despite the fact he was well spoken and treated me with kindness and dare I say, warmth, I still found his core beliefs repugnant. Nonetheless, I reported what I saw and what he said, talked to a couple of anti-hate groups, wrote down what they said and was done with it.

Up until that point, I couldn’t tell you what the modern KKK stood for, or against. I just knew it as the southern cross burning and lynching group of 50 years earlier. Was it wrong that I learned this information and shared it?

I loved being a reporter. I met famous people, got to experience things for free people spend a lot of money on, have seen historical, dangerous, exciting and tragic events unfold in front of me and genuinely felt a duty to be the eyes and ears of the community – the entire community.

More than two decades later, I still like to get both sides of the story and learn people’s takes on what is happening in the world. I find people, especially those who disagree with me, fascinating. I think that I should be able to hear what the KKK guy has to say without it making me racist or pro-KKK. Allowing someone to share a differing opinion does not, by default, mean you share that opinion.

But it seems like today, we live in a culture where you have to agree 100% with whatever ideological camp you’ve assigned yourself to and if not, you’re a traitor to some indefinable cause.

Here’s a thought for you: Somewhere out there, you will find somebody who has the completely opposite world viewpoint as you. How you feel about Donald Trump, education funding, military exercises, sexual culture, religion/spirituality, abortion, the death penalty, etc., there is somebody out there who opposes you on each of those things.

Are they completely crazy? If they’re half crazy, doesn’t that make you the other half? Are they not crazy at all and just wrong? What makes them wrong? What makes you right? Can you intellectually, and not emotionally or ignorantly, defend your positions?

Many liberal people were freaking out this week when openly gay liberal talk show host Ellen Degeneres was sitting with former President George W. Bush at a Cowboys football game. Why? Because Bush has beliefs that don’t completely line up with Ellen’s. Many people feel that their beliefs are in lockstep with Ellen’s and for her to sit with a Republican that hasn’t prioritized an LGBTQ agenda makes her a traitor.

I loved her response: ““I’m friends with George Bush,” DeGeneres said. “In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK.”

Michelle Obama seems very close with George Bush and has said he’s a warm, wonderful man, despite their political differences. I’ve read accounts from CIA agents who say that he was their favorite leader to work for because he was the most decent, respectful President.

George Bush probably made the most mistakes as president since Jimmy Carter – who by all accounts is another amazing human being – yet is that any reason to shun him? These days, many say it’s the very reason you should shun him.

In real life, I don’t know anybody who blogs on WordPress, despite sometimes knowing a lot about them. I don’t know if I’d enjoy their company or become genuine friends regardless of our similar or different beliefs.

It’s easy to read the blogs of people who have beliefs I agree with and would be even easier to stay away from people who I think have fundamentally flawed viewpoints.

I follow blogs from many people who live in Africa or South America. They seem like wonderful people, although most of their views on marriage and sexuality differ than mine. I follow blogs from a few who do not believe the way the mental health community handles medication is correct, despite the fact I know my bipolar medication has saved my life. I disagree with them vehemently, but still read one blog from somebody who thinks all addiction is nonsense. I read blogs from Scientologists, anti-vaxers and conspiracy theorists. Despite not being religious, I read blogs from people who constantly refer to their religions or religious texts of different varieties.

I would not want to get in a talking head opinion/fact debate with them, and don’t usually leave dissenting messages. Those are the things that turn me away from traditional news these days. Let’s talk, not argue.

The only thing I don’t think I could read is a blog that advocated violence against children or animals or anything containing actual hate speech; real hate speech…not disagree-with-me speech. People confuse the two these days.

We’re living in a world where “cancel culture” is all the rage these days. If your tribe finds something that somebody else did offensive, you attempt to boycott them into oblivion. This allows us to skip due process and punish who we decide are offenders of our opinions directly. Why deal with the courts when you can just render a verdict on Twitter?

I think it’s fine to have opinions and I think it’s natural to find yourself drawn to others with the same opinions. I just think you’re missing out on a lot of perspective, and potentially some genuinely good people, if you allow your opinions to rule out learning about those who are different than you.

 

Hypocrisy, Disconnect and No Second Chances in Today’s Society, Through The Eyes of a Former Porn Addict

Note from Josh: This is long. It’s more than twice as long as anything I’ve ever posted. That said, I think it may be twice as good as anything I’ve ever posted. For those who have said they like my writing, I think you’ll like this if you give it the time. Take it in a couple of sittings if need be. I’d really welcome feedback as I spent the better part of a weekend putting this together.

 

During my recent long road trip, I’ve had many discussions with my wife and father (who joined me at different intervals) about my personal history and the state of the world. Several years ago, they showed great compassion toward me during my legal ordeal and in my early recovery from pornography addiction and alcoholism. I needed them to give me a second chance and they came through.

It kind of shocked me they didn’t agree with the overall theme of argument: We need to be much more forgiving and dare I say, lenient and understanding, as a society, when it comes to giving people second chances.

It also extends beyond illegal/legal mistakes into simple differences between people, and I’ll get deeply into that as well. We have a highly opinionated society and we aren’t in a place to find what we have in common. We feel, as individuals and as members of different political/socioeconomic/cultural groups, that our answers should be the ones that all adopt.

I sometimes wonder if these kinds of people believe the world would be better if everyone shared their opinions, or if that’s what they think we’re ultimately working toward as a society: In the end, one doctrine wins. That’s never going to be the case, and that’s a good thing.

One caveat before I begin in earnest: I believe in understanding/compassion/second chances in almost all cases across the board. My exceptions are when an act is so heinous, like a school shooting, that even a mental health defense shouldn’t spare the person harsh penalties, or when the person openly displays wanton malice and a complete lack of understanding of the serious nature of their crime or mistake.

 

1a.

I will need second chances the rest of my life, but I want to assure people I’ve always been the kind of person to offer them, or at least offer the benefit of the doubt. A longer version of this incident was in my first book, but I think it proves the kind of person I was.

Several years before my porn addiction reached its critical stage, I was working as an editor for a weekly newspaper and a monthly magazine. The Friday night of our December Christmas Party, the owner and his family did not show. The next day, I got a telephone call from a close friend of their family who worked for us – who also no-showed – to explain what happened.

The owner of the newspaper was arrested on charges of Class A (roughly the same as First-Degree in Maine) Arson. He owned several businesses and rental properties. While it’s hard for me to remember the exact circumstances, the afternoon of our party he was pulled out of one of his properties by firefighters after a report of smoke had been called in. He was found with several bruises on his head and was loosely tied with a lamp’s electrical cord. For the police on the scene, it looked suspicious and when they learned he was in overall financial trouble, including having just had a foreclosure notice posted by the bank on the property he was discovered in…well, it just seemed too sketchy and he was booked.

His explanation to the police was that a pair of organized crime connected drug dealers who looked at potentially renting the property some days earlier returned to seek vengeance after he refused their rental. He allegedly had some roundabout connections to certain people involved in organized crime in Southern New England, and this was connected to some kind of bad blood or whatnot. I remember it being unclear in the media.

He was very hands-off at the newspaper and magazine, letting us do our thing, but we liked him very much. The following Monday, I told the staff what I’d been told and what I’d read when I followed up in the media. The reaction was understandably shock, but since I’d had a few days to gather my thoughts, I shared how I was going to handle the situation.

I told them that I didn’t know if he did it or not, but I wasn’t going to play judge and jury. He had given me the greatest professional opportunities in my life, and I was always going to be thankful for that. There were many times when he trusted my judgment and displayed loyalty to my opinions and visions for the company when others had urged him not to let me do certain things. I felt that I personally owed him that same loyalty when it came to his legal situation. I was going to support him as a friend, take him at his word, ignore gossip and let the legal system play itself out.

We had a couple of telephone calls and a pair of lunches where I told him my stance. I didn’t want him to defend himself and I didn’t want to weigh the evidence against him. I felt that I needed to support him as a human I cared about.

Long story short, he ended up taking a plea deal. I told him I completely understood, and it didn’t change how I felt. If it’s between going in front of a jury and rolling the dice at getting 20 years in prison or taking a sure thing of 6 months in county jail agreeing to a lesser charge, whether he was innocent or guilty, I think the reasonable person takes the deal.

Moving forward, some of the people I worked with made jokes alluding to the owner (who sold almost all of his shares in the company to the employees during this time) being guilty. They were meant in harmless fun, teasing the fact that they believed he probably got away with it.

I simply told myself that I could believe he was innocent, or I could believe he was guilty, but if I did that, I still was of the mindset that it would have been an irrational act of a desperate man in a very dark moment. Humans make horrible, horrible mistakes and this was one. Thankfully, nobody was injured, and he served the time the justice system deemed appropriate. That’s enough for me and although I rarely talked to him after he sold his shares, I came to realize that innocent or guilty, that didn’t change how I felt about him. He did nothing to deserve permanent banishment from my life.

 

2a.

Recently, I read an online article suggesting that Seinfeld should be removed from TV syndication and taken off streaming services. The reason was because of perceived homophobia.

Seinfeld doesn’t show a fear of gay people at all, in my opinion. What it depicts is the very real fear that existed in the early-to-mid 1990s of being a heterosexual male in their 30s or 40s who was unmarried and incorrectly classified as a homosexual.

Should that bother someone? I don’t think it would today, but that was a different time. I was in high school those years and nobody was coming out of the closet that young in the early-to-mid 1990s. Today, many kids have no problem defining their sexuality to their peers, but as I mentioned, it was a different time. The men (and women) who were in their 30s and 40s back then grew up in a time and were raised by people who had very different attitudes about sexuality than they do today. I don’t think my kids would have much fear in coming out to me as gay. That wasn’t the case just a generation earlier.

What’s fascinating to me is that the person who wrote this article also wrote an article about a decade ago praising the television show Mad Men for not sugar-coating the gender politics at play in American offices in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It reflected a time when women in the office were seen as things and not people. Sexual harassment was decades away from being a concern and the secretary-boss inappropriate relationship was born.

Why was Mad Men OK in depicting this behavior, but Seinfeld not? I’m guessing the author would say that Mad Men was representing an earlier time and it wasn’t “real.” Technically, neither was Seinfeld. The Seinfeld cast were all actors reflecting the time (which now happens to be earlier) and it’s just as “fake” as Mad Men. Would a Seinfeld-like show produced in 2019 about life in 1992 be given a pass for its handling of sexuality or is Seinfeld targeted because it was contemporary for the period it was made?

The person who wrote the article suggesting keeping Seinfeld on the air was similar to sports teams that maintain racist mascots (Washington Redskins) or cities that keep monuments to those who were known for pushing racist agendas (Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee). Personally, I think that’s a giant leap, but maybe I’m wrong. Nonetheless, it seemed like this person was arguing if any art (yes, using that term loosely for a sitcom) is offensive to anybody, it should be removed from public consumption. That’s a scary proposition to me.

 

1b.

As anybody who has spent two minutes on the website knows, I made the worst calculated error of my life when I decided in early 2013 to pull myself off of my psych meds that controlled my bipolar disorder. My rationale was that if I could tap into a dormant manic side that the medicine quelled, I would suddenly have a reserve of physical energy and the extra creativity needed to save the magazine, which was starting to head downhill as a viable business.

Instead of the desired results, without the meds my increasing dependence on alcohol and pornography to cope with my surroundings exploded. I started drinking multiple times daily and when the pornography I looked at needed to be more extreme to satisfy me, I made the jump to video chat rooms. Over time, I devised a system to catfish women into conversations with an image they thought was me, but was a carefully edited video I’d found online.

I thrived on the challenge of getting these women to expose themselves and defined success as convincing someone who thought they were inconvincible to bend to my whim. It was actually far less about sex than it was about power. When I was successful, I’d take a screen capture as a trophy for my victory, the way that I had personally and professionally collected trophies to prove my worth for the past couple of decades. Obviously, I had no idea how sick I really was at the time.

This routine lasted a few months, and while utterly reprehensible and immoral, the behavior crossed the line into illegal when one of the women I did this with turned out to actually be a teenage girl. I can use the excuse I didn’t know, but I’ve always been well aware there are plenty of females under 18 who may look of age, but aren’t.

I don’t have a defense for what I did, whether the person on the other end was a teenager or in her early 40s. It was scuzzy. My mind wasn’t working correctly, but the responsibility for making sure my mental health remained on an even level was mine. I failed this responsibility and the results were devastating not just to me, but I’m sure there are a few females out there who greatly regretted what they did once we were finished. I may have caused a lasting permanent negative impact in their lives and it sucks to live with that unconformable suspicion. They didn’t deserve what happened to them.

Did I do it out of malice? No. I did it because I was an ill person navigating uncharted, choppy waters. My mind was not processing cause and effect, action and consequence the way that it had when I was healthier. The confluence of neglected mental health care, immense stress from my professional life, a deteriorating family life, off-the-rail addictions, resurfacing trauma from youth and a complete lack of sleep led to what more than one medical professional has called “the perfect storm” I couldn’t handle.

It was my fault and I make no excuses and hope that I don’t come off as rationalizing or minimizing my actions and the fallout. I truly believe the self-neglect would have continued, probably leading to an early death had the police not intervened in March 2014.

I won’t list my entire transformation regimen, but it has been intense. I continue to evolve into the healthiest (mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually) person I’ve ever been and work very hard to share my experience so others don’t go through what I did, will go get help, and will overall create less victims in the world than if I’d just kept my mouth shut.

I’m proud of the person I’ve become. It’s only possible because of the support I had from a core of family members and a few friends that I have turned my entire life around in a way I couldn’t have imagined possible five or six years ago. My second book will soon be published and my speaking and appearance schedule for later this fall is starting to fill up.

Ironically, people who meet me for the first time now seem to appreciate my story, what I’m trying to do and actually enjoy being around me. It’s the people who knew me before – who remember an ego-driven, insufferable braggart who always had to be right – where I don’t usually get a second chance.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the lack of second chances from most isn’t about the actual crime. I believe it’s about seeing a not-so-nice person get their comeuppance. I think it’s about coming to terms with the fact I presented one face to the world, and then they were introduced to the other in (sometimes erroneous) media reports. I think for many of the people who knew me it’s a matter of too little, too late. I presented one person, while hiding a big piece of who that person was. If they accept this new person I am, they have to accept that I may still be hiding a piece of who I am. I think they’d rather not get burned twice, so in the vast majority of cases that I have reached out to people from my past (I’d guess about 80%) I get no response. I think the reality of the situation disinterests most of them. It’s easier to shun someone than try and understand them.

 

3a.

This brings me back to something I wrote about five or six months ago and won’t completely rehash here…the Lori Loughlin college admission scandal. I’m not a fan of hers. I was too old to enjoy the banality of Full House then and Fuller House now. I’d rather have oral surgery than watch her movies on the Hallmark Channel and on the whole, she’s always come off to me as a standoffish snob in her interviews. She’s the kind of person to whom social status in akin to oxygen from what I have observed even before the scandal. I had no idea that she had two daughters or that her husband was a fashion designer until they were indicted, but they act what I’d expect ultra-wealthy people who solve problems with money to act like.

While it’s for a different crime, we live/lived very different lives and the media coverage of each of our cases was on an entirely different stratosphere, I see a lot of the same instinctually reactions and then learned behaviors happening with Loughlin’s family that happened with mine. It’s the whole seven stages of grief thing run out-of-order and in rapid cycling manner.

Did she do something wrong? Allegedly. Probably. Let’s say for the sake of this article that she is 100% guilty of paying off a guy to rig the system to get her daughters, who likely didn’t deserve it, into college by less-than-honest means.

Should there be a punishment? If found guilty in a court of law, of course. Should she get the dozens of years in jail she’s looking at if found guilty because she didn’t make an early plea deal? I have trouble understanding how that does anybody good. I mean, it’s not like they stop making those shitty Hallmark movies because she’s not around. Everybody takes a step to the left and the girl from The Wonder Years or one of the grown-up The Facts of Life teens gets all Lori Loughlin’s parts.

I have no doubt that the Loughlin family lives a life of privilege. Most of us could never be caught up in a scandal like this because we could never afford it. Seeing a few of her daughter’s YouTube videos reveals a sheltered, wealthy teen that doesn’t really understand how the world works; minus the social media following and the money, sort of like almost all 19-year-olds.

Many people who rise to the level of fame of Loughlin have something a little off inside of them that craves attention at an unhealthy level – I had it myself for a long time and still fight it now and then. (I really should look at my WordPress statistics much less). That need for attention drove her to fame, which led her to money, which led her to an equally wealthy and somewhat famous spouse. Despite this, they raised two kids that don’t seem all that abnormal considering their surroundings.

Is Lori Loughlin an asshole because she can buy a new car when she gets a flat tire where the rest of us just pray our AAA card is still active? Is she a bad person because she has the time and money to hire personal chefs, private trainers and can get plastic surgery whenever she wants? Is the fact she has a daughter who admits to wanting to party vs. going to class at college make her any different than any other mother with a daughter in college?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that she wanted the best for her children, recognized that their natural talents may have to be padded with her financial resources, and went down a horrible path to make sure she got what she wanted. And isn’t that what we really want to punish Lori Loughlin for?  She has resources to get what she wants, most of us don’t, and we’re jealous. We want her to feel pain because she used something we don’t have – an almost endless supply of money and clout – in a way that most of us would never dream of using it if we were ever lucky enough to have it.

Yes, she should have just donated a few million to USC for the new Loughlin wing on a building, or presented an endowment in some Hollywood icon’s name. Had she taken either of those routes, like most of the wealthy people do who have kids with less-than-stellar transcripts, her kids would probably be in class right now.

She made a horrible mistake, and she will pay for it, but I just don’t think there was malice behind it. I think she exhibited behavior that, considering how many others were indicted, can’t be found as shocking. It was a stupid path, but to her, the ends justified the means. That’s usually a very bad thing, but in this case her motivation was getting her kids got into a good school and maintaining her lofty status as supermom. It’s stupid. It’s even vapid. But it’s not malicious.

 

2b.

As a guy in his early 40s, I’m in the prime age range to have grown up with Dave Chappelle’s comedy. I knew his stand-up comedy well before he gained cult status with his Comedy Central show or late 90s movies. When he disappeared for a decade, I missed his comedy which was equal parts offensive, clever and socially biting. I put his skill in a class with legends like George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Chris Rock. He, like the other comics I just listed, has a point-of-view toward hypocrisy that is unwavering and doesn’t change with the times because hypocrisy is hypocrisy, regardless of who is perpetrating it and what their status is in regard to gender, sexual orientation, political party, etc.

Chappelle recently released a new Netflix special. I still haven’t seen it, but I started reading reviews. After the third or fourth negative review in a row – something that critics never would have dared do to Chappelle in 1997 – I visited Rotten Tomatoes. As of the moment I publish this on September 9, 2019, 13 critics have reviewed his special and it has 23% positive ratings. Sounds pretty abysmal, huh? Then, I looked at the audience score. Out of 30,520 users’ ratings, it stands at 99% positive.

That’s a giant disconnect that deserves some attention. I’ve always believed critics have had a sense of “aboveness” from the average guy and quite often gave a review based on what progressive social trends dictated. In 1997, Chappelle railed against the hypocrisy of homophobia, the political power struggle and lagging social change. Rotten Tomatoes unfortunately doesn’t have aggregate reviews of his old work, although his 2003-04 TV show was 96% positive.

I think if you’re an average person (or at least 99% of the average people), you can see the themes and tone of Chappelle’s work hasn’t changed. If you’re a critic, you’re writing about a world that is socially and politically divided in ways most of us have never seen in our lifetimes. If you would have told me that news could be delivered in such a partisan way like Fox News or MSNBC do or if you could have told me the Pandora’s Box of pointless opinion sharing Facebook and all the other social media was about to bring into our lives back in 2003-04, I would have laughed at you. I think 99% of us would have laughed at you, but now we pick our cable news stations based on wanting our beliefs reinforced, not new facts introduced. Today, your opinion (in your opinion) means more than ever because you can post it to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Reddit, etc., etc., etc. For many, the most validation they can feel is having more people following them than they themselves follow – or that’s the second most validation you can feel after having a Tweet go viral because Buzzfeed retweeted it. I mean, for crying out loud… “retweeted” is a word people say without embarrassment. I still can’t order Moons Over My Hammy at Denny’s without feeling like a goober.

When 99% of the populace votes one way and 77% of the media vote another, regardless of any “Fake News” rhetoric, it’s hard to reach any other conclusion that there’s a wide gap between sensibilities.

 

2c.

Most will agree that this nation is currently divided and more partisan than they have witnessed in their life, but I think this is happening not just because of politics. I think that we’re starting to look for any reason to differentiate ourselves from one another at a finite level that is new to society. In a country that was designed as a melting pot of race, culture, creed, etc., that’s not a good thing.

The other day, I finally had to look-up what the terms “cisgender” and “pansexual” meant. I generally have always considered myself on the forefront of sexual and gender equality, but apparently I turned my head for a minute because I’ve been reading all kinds of terms over the last couple of years that I don’t recognize.

As it turns out, I’m cisgender. Odds are, you are too. A cisgender person’s gender identity (I feel like I was born a male) matches my actual identity (I was born a male.) When somebody identifies themselves as cisgender, it’s a lot like them saying, “I’m like 99.9% of everyone else out there.” Actually, that’s not fair. In a 2016 survey from the Williams Institute, it is estimated that 0.6% of adults identify as transgender. So, it’s more like saying, “I’m cisgender. I’m like 99.4% of everyone else out there.”

I have absolutely no problem with someone who is transgender, and I absolutely understand the need to label and identify it. But when 994 out of 1,000 people identify as something, I’m not sure there is suddenly a need as we approach 2020 to label it. Are we trying to make the 6 people who are transgendered feel better by labeling ourselves? Did we feel like we’re missing out on being special by not having a label? Was usage of this label popularized by people simply trying to show how progressive they are? My daughter has explained it’s called being “woke.”

Pansexual means not being limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity. I thought that meant bisexual, but apparently not.

I’m still cloudy on this despite reading different definitions, but apparently bisexual people are sexually attracted to more than one gender. Pansexuals claim to not see gender and simply be attracted to the person. I still see it as a different road to get to the same place, but maybe somebody can give me a super-clear definition of the difference I have yet to find.

Maybe I’m naïve, and I’m sure some people will see me as some sort of homophobe (or whatever it’s called in this case) for not understanding the delicate nuances of the many ways we’re supposed to define gender and sexuality in 2019, but I’m not sure the end result of this discussion is enlightenment and inclusion. I think it’s another way to divide people.

 

1c.

When I was on probation for my crime, one of the conditions was that I be part of a weekly support group for low-risk sexual offenders for a year, and then a monthly group until the end of probation, which was two additional years for me.

I would guess in my three years at the group, I shared time with 40 different men in this low-risk group. I heard a lot of stories about their sex and porn addictions.

My first probation officer (who never went to my group sessions) mentioned to me that he regularly attended the local group designed for high-risk offenders. He said that was the place where you’d hear stories that make your skin crawl. These were the people who were repeat offenders and had served many years in prison for depraved acts of violent sexuality, often on children. When one thinks about the term “sex offender” this is where most of our minds leap immediately.

I’m a registered sex offender. A couple times a year I have to check in at my local police station and let them know things like my address and automobile haven’t changed. More importantly, I’m on the state sex offender registry. This is the list of anybody who has been convicted of a sexual-related crime since the registry began, which I think is around 20-25 years old now.

This article is already too long for me to go off on a rant, but it’s important to note that there are no distinctive classes, categories or other way to tell the registrants apart. I, a low-risk, one-time, non-contact offender may be listed next to someone with multiple child rapes with no obvious distinction, on the surface, between our crimes.

In these groups that I attended, I met a wide range of men from various demographic backgrounds. Or, I should say they were from various demographic backgrounds prior to their crime. When one is accused of a sexual crime – not convicted, but accused – they tend to be fired from their job immediately.

The lucky ones, like me, had skills that they could transfer to work-at-home opportunities. A few others were able to find jobs in trucking or heavy machinery, which were far cries from their former lives in the white-collar world. Most sex offenders, regardless of risk of recidivism or nature of the crime, can’t find work.

Unfortunately, the loved ones and friends of many of these sex offenders don’t stay by their side. I’m lucky only 95% of the people in my life left. Many I’ve known have 100% go. These guys are cast out of their former lives and the society they knew. They can’t get work and in most cases, are extremely limited in where they can live based on municipal restrictions against sex offenders and the lack of landlords who will rent to them. The best that many of these men can hope for is to qualify for state disability and public assistance to survive. It may seem like a “free ride” but they are often given less than a quarter in benefits of what they previously earned. These men are fully capable of doing an honest day’s work for a good wage, but there are no white-collar jobs for sex offenders and few blue collars ones either, regardless of circumstances of their crime, time elapsed since conviction, or model behavior in recovery.

 

2d.

I’m the most centrist libertarian I’ve ever met. My liberal friends think I’m very conservative and my conservative friends think I’m far too liberal. That must mean I’m doing something right.

I look at each side of the political spectrum and while I don’t think they can see it, as of late they’ve each embraced a symbol/concept that screams of hypocrisy and exclusion.

For Republicans/Conservatives, it’s Donald Trump. He serves as a symbol of a specific political ideology, but anybody who thinks he actually embodies or believes that ideology is a sucker. Donald Trump was a lifelong Democrat who publicly took stances completely opposite the ones he has now as recently as the late 1990s. Let me ask you…how different are your political beliefs at 53 years old than they are at 73 years old? His are allegedly completely different.

He doesn’t have a strong political platform in his heart and mind. He simply knows how to read the tea leaves and rally groups of people. His natural condition is one of leader, it doesn’t really matter the details.

Republicans, who have always wrapped themselves in God, Family and the Flag chose somebody to represent them who completely destroys that image. If that image is important, as I was raised to believe, someone like Mike Pence should be president. Who sounds more Republican to you: the guy who works to not be alone with a woman other than his wife or the guy who has been married three times and bragged about grabbing women’s genitals?

Republicans traded in a lot of their credibility as the party of God, Family and the Flag in electing and supporting Trump. I can appreciate them liking what he preaches, but he’s preached the complete opposite in the past. You need to find somebody who actually believes the dogma of the party, not just somebody charismatic you can cheer for at rallies.

On the Democratic side, it was the adoption of the #MeToo movement without accepting that in many cases, the facts will be very gray, not black-and-white. The movement exploded when allegations of serial sexual assault and intimidation came to light about movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

Based on the accusations and evidence, it sounds like there is going to be plenty of evidence at his trial to suggest that he regularly intimidated actresses into having sex with him in exchange for favoritism in projects he was involved with and if they declined, he would sometimes sexually assault them. If he didn’t assault them, he still tried to hurt their professional careers. If he’s found guilty, he should serve a long sentence.

When the Weinstein accusations came out, there was a concerted effort to destroy his career. I don’t think the #MeToo crowd needed to work too hard on that one. You don’t get to have a normal career if you’re a convicted sex offender.

People started coming out of the woodwork in the entertainment field with wide-ranging allegations against a startling number of people when #MeToo hit the Internet. They ranged from the sinister (Kevin Spacey accused of sexual advances against underage males) to the mild (Aziz Ansari making a woman feel uncomfortable). Somewhere in the middle were cases of people like Louis CK, Garrison Keillor or Matt Lauer who seemed to acknowledge severely boorish behavior, but committed no crime.

Regardless of where they fell on the spectrum of misdeeds, the initial reaction always seemed to be a call to boycott and destroy their careers.

Take the example of Louis CK, for instance. He asked up-and-coming female comedians to watch him masturbate. Early in his career, they were his equals. Later on, he could help make or break them on the comedy circuit. Once he achieved that status, some of his accusers said they didn’t feel like they could say no, or it may harm their career. They have a point, but CK said that never manifested itself as a reality.

So, we have CK who asks for permission to exercise his sexual proclivity and only does it when women agree. There was no accuser who claimed they said “no” and he did it anyway. He admitted to having a blind spot about being the one with power in the situation. How did Hollywood respond? They stripped him of his executive producer title on several shows, pulled a movie that was just about to be released and cancelled all future stand-up performances. CK has tried to return to a decidedly mixed response…a response that’s very similar to the critics vs. public response to Dave Chappelle’s latest stand-up.

Republicans embracing almost-gleefully morally bankrupt leaders? Democrats destroying Hollywood careers into silence in the name of progressivism? Twenty-five years ago, Republicans would have shunned Trump. Twenty-five years ago, feminist leaders were writing articles of defense for Bill Clinton, who was accused of a variety of sexual hijinks.

As a guy in the middle who mainly just watches the world turn, it’s very confusing, but it all seems to be about isolating, segregating and casting away those who don’t think exactly the same, RIGHT NOW. It didn’t matter what you thought before. It only matters right now. That kind of reaction is scary.

Be it politics or sexuality, we are all about highlighting our differences in today’s society. When we emphasize what separates us, all it does is push us further apart. Ideas of commonality, sympathy, empathy and compromise disappear. Along with that, so does the concept of giving someone different than you a second chance.

 

4a.

“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” – African Proverb

 

3b.

One of my favorite stories, that isn’t recounted nearly enough in today’s history classes, is the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914. Since it was over 100 years ago, there are understandably a few details that are sketchy, but what we do know is that as the Belgian/British/French forces were locked in a grueling ground war with their German counterparts, something miraculous happened.

Accounts of how it started are unclear, though most agree that during stalemates on December 24, hunkered down in the trenches, one side would sing a Christmas carol, then the other side, and back and forth until the Western European forces started singing Oh Come, All Ye Faithful. The Germans joined in, singing the same hymn, but in Latin.

The following morning, German soldiers reportedly came out of their bunkers, wishing their opponents “Merry Christmas” in English. While leery that it may be a trap, the other side emerged, reportedly being told, “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

Stories from the rest of the day have the two sides exchanging gifts, playing in pick-up ball games, sharing meals and being allowed to tend to the bodies strewn across the battlefield they had been unable to reach in weeks.

This truce happened in roughly two-thirds of the places soldiers were fighting and unfortunately, hostilities resumed for some the following day while other locations held off until after the New Year. It was a truce, not an end, after all.

But something about a truce makes it all the more special. How did it happen? Most historians say that soldiers on both sides were getting tired, and feeling like they weren’t fighting the same war as their leaders. The best description I’ve read came from a British soldier, Murdoch M. Wood, who said in 1930, “I came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since that if we had been left to ourselves there never would have been another shot fired.”

Think about that…in the middle of one of the greatest wars in mankind’s history, both sides just stopped fighting and despite language, cultural and philosophic differences, decided to ignore what they were told to do. They decided peace and understanding was most important, even if just temporarily. Had they not given each other the benefit of the doubt and a chance to prove their Christmas Day intentions, this amazing story wouldn’t have happened.

 

3c.

I’m going to spare you another 2,000 words of tying all these loose ends together, because I think you need to do it for yourself. Let these very different stories marinate and mingle in your mind for some time.

I don’t think we’re living in a completely unique time in history when it comes to people’s attitudes. There are ebbs and flows throughout regarding how mankind treated one another. Right now, it seems to me we’re in a time of increased dissension and our foot is on the gas.

One of my main jobs as a ghostwriter is to create books by businesspeople that focus on how to run a business more efficiently. I’ve written probably two dozen of these books with various themes, and one thing I’m told by these titans of business again and again and again is that a company begins to suffer when communication between departments and divisions gets adversarial, because eventually, the communication stops.

Most businesspeople call this either “working in silos” or “sticking with your tribe” and it can not only cripple a business, but spell its end.

If it’s been proven that this behavior is so harmful to businesses, how can similar behavior not be harmful to society?

We’re all on a different page, with little regard to where others are, especially if they don’t share the same mindset and beliefs. The solution is not everybody else getting on your page because you KNOW it’s the right one. There is no right one. Not in America.

 

 

 

 

 

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