My Conclusion: It’s more important to me to be anti-racist than an educator about pornography addiction

Please note, I know this is twice as long as my normal blog entry, but I think it’s more than twice as important. I hope you’ll take the time to read it. I’m sure there are mistakes. I’d rather post it now and edit it better later.

About two weeks back, I wrote in this space about the issues I was having justifying trying to live a life that is anti-racist, not just against racism, and balancing that with spreading information about pornography addiction. I worried one would not always be copacetic with the other. You can read that blog HERE if you didn’t get a chance. It was something I have still been wrestling with and until I had my memory jogged very recently, it wasn’t clear what I should do. It is now.

In late 2008, I began the process of building the first issue of the magazine where I would serve as editor and publisher. Those first few months, it was really just me, the director of sales who was one of my brother’s best friends and the designer who also worked at the weekly newspaper where I was editor and publisher.

The first issue was to come out in April 2009, which gave us about six months to get things ready. I got a newspaper writer to contribute a major story and hired two freelancers to write some smaller pieces while I took the main story and the feature Q&A. I wanted to make sure they were high quality because if we swung and missed, there might not be a second issue, especially if we weren’t able to convince the community’s businesses that advertising with us was a good investment.

Thankfully, my fears disappeared quickly. We sold $9,990 worth of ads in the first issue, $14,000 in the second, $18,500 in the third and from that point forward, we were never under $20K, often reaching or surpassing $30K. The magazine was a success up until those last few months five years later when my addictions got the best of me and I lost the great people who were there in the beginning.

I don’t tell a lot of stories from that era of my life. I know the time and devotion I put into that magazine came at a hefty price to my relationships with family and friends (I’ve not spoken to that director sales once since he left in mid-2013) and my own physical and mental health. My pornography addiction and alcoholism reached critical levels at this point in my life. Despite having some crazy adventures and times that were genuinely fun, my overall feeling of that time is not positive. While it happened though, at least for the first four years, it was a great time.

There was only one thing that happened again and again that really bothered me and I didn’t handle myself the way I should have.

A Cultural Shift

About 15 years before the magazine began, there was a tremendous influx of Somali immigrants into the area I live. This happened in many other cities and towns across America as hundreds of thousands of people fled a genocide happening in Somalia. The first 10 years here were rocky as the Somali community leaned on social services more than the two cities that make up the region I live expected. You can’t have 10,000 people flood an area of 70,000 people with more than half needing social services immediately and not have a big effect on the bottom line.

We actually made national news when one of the mayors sent a letter to the elders of the Somalian community asking them to not invite family and friends who were settling into other parts of America, or those who were back home in Somalia to join them here. I knew this guy and while I can’t say if he was actually racist or not, I know the letter was intended to show a picture that our property tax rates were rising too high because of the need to support this community. He just did a very poor job explaining this position and unfortunately, many of the proud racists held up this letter as an example of “these people” needing to get out of our community. They knew nothing about the Somalis or their culture, but that didn’t stop them from spreading rumors like the government was giving them free cars or that they lived in apartments with goats. The racists of the community simply did not like the fact that our super homogenous demographics now had a large minority who were not born here and that they took up residence and opened up shops in the downtown area. This was the hustle and bustle and heart of the region in the 1920s through the mid-70s. Despite the fact the downtown was abandoned for 25 years, these old-timers remembered when it was hopping and somehow saw the Somalis as desecrating their history by setting up their lives there. I think it also stung that instead of becoming 100% Americanized their first weekend here, most of the immigrants held onto their traditions. And of course, the sudden opening of a mosque didn’t help calm things for those Christians in the area who were religiously intolerant of others.

Over the next 15 years, things settled down. Many of the older white people, and older Somalis, died off, so tolerance and customs grew slightly closer. While there was a lot of issues integrating Somali children into our school system early on – chief among them that there were many in their teens who had never been to a real school, nor spoke English – by the time the magazine started, there were now teenagers of Somali descent who were born here and spoke better English than a lot of the white people.

After renting a small space in an office building, when the magazine really took off in our second year, we relocated our office to a recently renovated storefront in the home of what had been dubbed “Little Somalia” in the downtown. It was only two blocks of Somali stores and restaurants with a few non-Somali establishments like ours mixed in, but if you said “Little Somalia” people knew what part you were talking about. We recognized that we were going to be a minority in the neighborhood, but we also thought that it sent a message that many needed to get.

I went on the major sales calls with our sales director. When the second biggest hospital in Maine or the largest real estate company within 50 miles were dropping $20,000 in advertising with my company for the year, I found it was always good to make an appearance and personally thank them.

Meeting our Racist Customers

As success came, and our staff grew, we made every effort to reflect our entire community and that included our Somali community. We would profile their restaurants, other businesses they owned and noteworthy member of their community – because they were noteworthy members of our entire community. We believed that they only way to push the cities forward was to do so with a sense of inclusion. Every member of our community should be represented.

Once in a while I would service an account for a smaller company. When things really got rolling and we became a bit of a well-oiled machine, I spent as much time with sales as I did with content.

I don’t remember when it exactly happened, but probably 10-12 issues into the magazine, we ran a cover story about the traditions of the Somali community to help continue to bridge the culture gap. The front cover photo was a beautiful Somali woman wearing the traditional Somali garb including headscarf. Not all Somali women were continuing with that tradition, but it was one of those things we explained in the article, nonetheless.

Over the next several months, as I was out doing sales, I heard from many of the smaller business owners how we shouldn’t have put her on the cover. I heard that we shouldn’t write about their restaurants because “those of us who are really from here don’t eat at those places” and that we didn’t talk about all the crime “those people” brought to the area (despite the fact statistics couldn’t bear out that belief.)

I heard from our sales manager and my assistant editor that they had been met with similar responses. I felt bad that despite the Somali community making up around 15% of our population, we covered them with far less than 15% of our stories. That said, Somali-owned businesses made up less than 3% of our advertising base and less than 2% of our subscriber base. Sure, they were part of our community, but they were not helping our business stay afloat. The sad reality was, many of our advertisers and readers who were keeping us afloat were racist.

We talked about this as a staff a few times, with everybody disgusted this kind of racism was still in our community. Ultimately, I think it was decided that while we would never agree with someone who slandered Somali people, we would never lecture them on what we knew to be the truth if they spoke incorrect facts, nor would we engage in a philosophical discussion of why they were welcomed and why racism was wrong.

Maybe we didn’t come to a group decision on this. Maybe it was just me. I don’t really remember 10 or 11 years later. I was afraid to alienate anybody who was sending money in our direction because while we did OK, we were never rolling in it, and I wasn’t great at managing our expenses.

Taking the position we did nagged at me for a while, but it wasn’t until my recent pledge to myself to not only be against racism, but to be anti-racist that this memory came flooding back. Back then, I rationalized that not being racist was enough. I didn’t want to hurt our bottom line, so as long as we were not part of the problem, it was OK if we weren’t part of the solution in face-to-face exchanges. I rationalized as long as the Somali community got some coverage, we were probably helping, right? Right? Maybe?

The reality was, we weren’t part of the solution, so we were part of the problem. Just like it is now, the racism we were met with should not have been tolerated. The Somali community didn’t have advocates, didn’t have any local government representation, nor any real influence in the larger community. They were not going to have the opportunity to confront these racist situations that we were faced with because they’d never have a one-on-one conversation with these people. And what did we do? We dropped the ball. I dropped the ball.

Time to Change

No more dropping the ball. That’s done. I’m a better person now. I’m a healthy person now and I want this world to be left in better condition, with better people than when I got here.

Pornography addiction education and awareness is hugely important in my life. It feels like my calling and I am all-in on trying to teach everybody about it and help those who suffer with it, and their loved ones who suffer in different ways alongside them. I would never turn my back on anybody who needed my help.

That said, if somebody I was helping asked me something offensive like, “You don’t help those (N-words) with this, do you?” or some other racial slur, I would tell this person forcefully that they were never to say that kind of thing in front of me, that having that kind of attitude was racist and wrong, and that they were ignorant. Hearing it a second time, they’d be gone.

It would be the same if that person started to tell me that systematic racism doesn’t exist within police forces and the court system, even if it’s unintentional. I’m not looking to pillory a boogeyman, I’m looking to educate. We have enough statistics – ironically provided by police departments and the courts – to prove institutional racism. Is it intentional? I would like to think in most cases not, but it is still there and it needs to be addressed. I’m not looking for the cop or the judge to blame, I’m looking for how we fix this.

But, if that person I’m helping continued to tell me that it didn’t exist and they weren’t willing to listen to reason and facts, preferring to fall back on their ignorance and hate, I’d be done with them. They clearly have a bigger problem than pornography addiction.

Early today, a discussion between myself and a longtime follower was escalating on the comments of their page. I believe they can’t recognize their racism and largely look to the conservative talking heads for their speaking points. I asked for clarification on some of the things they said, and asked for documentation and statistics to back up their position, but I doubt much is going to be coming at me. They are wrong.

This isn’t an issue of appreciating someone else’s religion or even political views. Racism is not a political view, it’s just wrong. If 85% of black people say something is racist, you don’t get to tell them that they’re wrong and you’re right. You’re wrong!

I didn’t block this person, and while I doubt they’re going to respond with anything to defend their position aside from more of what Tucker Carlson said last night, if one more word racist word is spoken, I’ll retort and then be done with it and block them.

Ironically, as I was editing this, the person wrote back. Do you think they provided a single statistic? Nope. They’d talked to minorities in their life, so they knew the real score. I made the smart move and responded with a sentence or two that simply said they had no statistics and much of what they said could be interpreted as racist and I hope they one day would understand why. I’m not writing paragraph after paragraph to this person any longer.

I’m anti-racist, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to beat my head against a wall trying to explain to someone why they have a broken brain and dark heart. I’m going to explain it to them a few times and then I’m moving on. I will not continue to engage with ignorant fools. It’s what I need to do for my mental health.

A Paragraph With More Profanity Than You’ve Seen From Me

If you feel like I’m describing you as one of the racists, I guess I’d request you move along, out of my life. If you can logically defend your racism with statistics and back up your facts, I’m all ears, but if this is because your daddy didn’t like the black neighbor, you’re a fucking moron and I just don’t have room for fucking morons in my life. I’m going to stand up to them two or three times, but then be done with it. If you’re one of these fucking morons, save me the time and unfollow me now. If you have racist views and want to have a logical conversation, I’m your man. If you’re not racist, then start speaking up because not being racist isn’t enough anymore. It’s time that we are anti-racist and we call these fucking morons out.

I’m Finally Proud to be from Maine

I’m rarely proud to be from Maine. I see it more as something that just happened. On my mother’s side, her relatives arrived from Canada three generations ago to work in textile mills and shoe shops. On my father’s side, I think it was either four or five generations, mostly from Ireland, who first arrived in Boston, then came up to Maine looking for a better life. I could have just as easily been born in Massachusetts or New York had those families made slightly different decisions, or I could have been born anywhere in the world if my parents didn’t feel the need to stay so close to family.

I left briefly several times, living in Boston, Providence RI and Tokyo for several months each when I was much younger, but I always ended up back here. Part of me always felt disappointed in myself about my retreats, but through recovery and lots of therapy, I learned that I needed the security blanket that being near my parents always provided. In many ways, I still do.

One of my biggest complaints, whether I was 22 in the late 1990s or 44 today, is that lack of choices that comes with living here. Yes, if you’re an outdoorsman, it sounds like there are a myriad of opportunities to scratch that itch, but I’m not an outdoorsman, and it seems to me that there is outdoors in every state. Maine has more trees per acre than any other state. Big deal. Outside of the cocoon of downtown Portland, Maine doesn’t have an endless supply of interesting, independent businesses. It doesn’t have a bevy of dining choices or cultural opportunities. Even many of the biggest chain stores don’t come here and quite often, those that do don’t survive. I was waiting for 20 years for a Krispy Kreme to come here, and when two were opened in Maine in 2018, they survived about 9 months. Despite far superior donuts, you don’t go against the morning coffee monolith of Dunkin’ Donuts.

That coffee example is another thing I’ve not liked about being here – people are labeled as fiercely independent, but seem to mostly think with one mind. You get your coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, you hate the New York Yankees and despite the hype, you rarely eat lobster. I used a photo of a lighthouse to lead this article because that seems to be the stereotype so many have of us. I’ve never been in a lighthouse, nobody lives in a lighthouse anymore and I can tell you the names of exactly two. Mainers mostly don’t care about lighthouses, yet if Google the word “Maine” it’s almost the only thing that comes up in the images category. There are pockets of true independent thinking here and there, and the sameness can change depending on what part of the state you’re in (keep in mind that by square miles, Maine is as large as the rest of New England combined.)

I am very proud however, in how most of our elected officials, businesses and residents took the Coronavirus seriously from March 11, the first time Donald Trump admitted it was a problem in the evening address on television. My son was only in school two more days, and all of the non-essential businesses were closed within the week. My wife, who ironically works in health care, was furloughed a week after that. Patients just weren’t seeing their doctors if it wasn’t an emergency.

Mask orders came immediately, we were social distancing very conservatively before it became in vogue and people took the orders to stay at home and stay away from family and friends seriously. We also urged out-of-staters to stay away and put a 14-day quarantine in place for those from away.

Most of the northeast, whether hit hard like New York or Boston, or hit mildly like we were in Maine or Vermont, took serious precautions. Yes, it pissed off some people and business owners, but those in power held firm. Never did it seem like a political statement. Even when Donald Trump started shifting and making this a conservative vs. liberal issue did most people in the northeast make it about that. Sure, there was our cranky former governor trying to score political points demanding our governor do this or that, but I think he just saw his opportunity to make a few headlines. He shut up when it was clear no more than a couple hundred people were going to support him.

I remember watching the cable news channels as how to handle the virus was becoming political, and that’s when I really stopped following closely. I have never been able to understand how people can so quickly detach from common sense in the name of supporting their own little political tribe. I think they look to these tribes to be convinced what they should think and don’t apply common sense. If they did, many of these state leaders, like the governors of Florida, California and Texas would not have rushed to reopen. They would have listened to their health experts who warned the peak hadn’t happened there yet. But, they wanted to show how business-friendly they were and that they knew what was best for their residents.

I’m not going to start railing against Donald Trump. If your common sense doesn’t tell you that he has mishandled this crisis and misinformed the citizens and world of what is happening, you’re coming from a different place of logic than me, so I probably can’t convince you otherwise.

Here are a handful of maps that put together that tell the real story of what is happening:

So what do we learn from this map? It shows only the positive progress that is being made in the fight against COVID-19. Any state that is not light blue is doing better than it was either one or two weeks ago, and in most cases, both. Beyond just the northeast, you’ll see that northern mid-western states which had a vocal minority demanding the states be reopened — but officials who refused — are doing the best. Also, while the majority of the states doing better are blue states and led by Democratic governors, this is not the case across the board, underscoring this is not a conservative or liberal problem and it isn’t about a conservative or liberal solution. It’s a virus. It doesn’t care who you vote for.

This is where the “Too many tests equal too many positive cases” of many virus deniers falls apart. Obviously, you’re going to get more cases in more populated states. You’re obviously also going to get more positive cases if you test more people. That’s simple math. However, you can make things equal by working on percentages. If only 100 tests are given and 5 are positive, it’s a 5% infection rate. If 1,000 tests are given and 50 are positive, it is still only a 5% infection rate. Once again, in this map, you’ll see that the infection rates are higher in the south and west — the states that reopened without any plan, in defiance of public health experts.

Here’s another one that shows where the cases are increasing without regard to total population. It only takes someone with vision who is five years old to recognize that purple and hot pink are bad, and off-white and light pink are good. This is about as solid a map to teach the Mason-Dixon line as anything I’ve seen.

Yeah, I’m usually not proud to be from Maine, but when I look at these maps, it’s nice to know that our leaders have exercised common sense in handling the virus. They put public health ahead of small business profits. They put public health in front of the renegades who didn’t like masks. They put public health in front of all else and like the governors and other public health officials of states around us, the results are hard to argue with.

Maine just opened dine-in service at restaurants and it’s still very strict. There are still lines outside of certain stores and while mask restrictions have eased, many stores demand you have them, and many residents have them anyway. Gyms, nail salons, tattoo studios and several other “high risk” businesses still won’t be open for a little bit… and while I’m itching to get my yearly tattoo, I can wait for the greater good.

If you’re in one of these hot zones, I don’t know if your leaders are going to see the light and start relying on serious data instead of their political supporters to make common sense decisions. You may just have to self-quarantine and take care of yourself, exposing yourself to people who have no common sense as little as possible.

I’ve seen a lot of people who had that “the virus isn’t going to get us” mentality, for whatever naive reason they had, later go on TV and lament how stupid they were, or how they lost a loved one because of not taking the virus seriously. Over 120,000 in the US have died of this. Compared to the entire population, yes, it’s a small number, but if one of those people was a beloved friend or family member, the only number that matters is theirs and it doesn’t matter who they voted for in the last election.

Finally, I’d urge you not to get distracted. While cases of COVID-19 are higher than they’ve ever been, conservative cable news stations are dedicating far more time to Southern statues being torn down. This isn’t happening nearly as much as they’d have you believe and not a single statue has caused hundreds of deaths daily. Do not be distracted by cable news stations trying to play on your emotions. The riots and looting are long over, even if they show old videotape. COVID-19 is a serious health risk. Do not be distracted.

Please, my friends in the states where things are the worst, take this very seriously and take care of yourselves.

REDDIT: Anti-Racist? Yes. Anti-Porn? Nope.

It’s nice to see corporations put their money where their mouth is, or to put their actions where their words are and in the wake of the civil unrest of the last month, many organizations seem to be making changes, both substantial and symbolic, or in the case of NASCAR banning the Confederate Flag, both.

One of the items that caught my eye was Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian stepping down from the board of his company and asking that a person of color replace him to better represent the diversity in America, and the diversity of Reddit.

For those unfamiliar with Reddit, which bills itself as “The Front Page of the Internet,” it is essentially a giant bulletin board-like forum where you can find just about any topic that interests you and participate in discussion on that topic, or simply look at pictures and videos other people post. From politics to pets, there really is something for everybody there.

I’ve not been a big “Redditor” over the years. I participated last year in the room (these individual rooms are called subreddits) that dealt with betrayal trauma for porn addicts’ partners and exercised my creative muscle in a room for roasting people, but after a few weeks with both, they seemed to fall by the wayside. Like a lot of online technology that was new to me, I just couldn’t find the long-term value with integrating it into my life. That said, I know hundreds of millions of people do enjoy the site and it does have a tremendous amount to offer, from mental health resources to help planning road trips.

With Ohanian’s bold statement (which I still wonder how much was taking advantage of the opportunity for a positive PR spin from somebody planning to leave the board anyway) Reddit has reportedly taken a serious hardline stance against racism among its users. While the site, depending on who is a moderator of a subreddit has long been criticized for randomly, arbitrarily and often hypocritically enforcing its own rules, it seems to be clamping down on racism. As a privately-owned business that is free to run things however they wish, they’ve decided that racism will not be tolerated. They are not covered by free speech in The Constitution and I respect and appreciate that fact.

I also appreciate the fact that despite having millions of users, some of whom are probably extremely questionable human beings, the site tries to make sure there aren’t things like prostitution, sex trafficking or other nefarious crimes taking place under the surface that have plagued sites like Craigslist.

However, the site does seem to not have a problem with one of society’s major ills: Pornography. There are dozens upon dozens of rooms devoted to the spread of online pornography. When I frequented the betrayal trauma room for partners of porn addicts, most lamented the irony of while they were getting support they needed from the Reddit community, it was also Reddit that was giving their partner the very pornography fix that was driving them apart.

Enjoy naked celebrities? Reddit has got you covered. There’s your typical naked celebrity page (686,000 members), but if you’re into specifics, you can find pages geared just toward female celebrity genitals (208,000), their nipples (107,000) or movies where celebrities performed an actual sex act (225,000). Prefer the younger girls? There’s “Barely Legal Teens” with 218,000 members, “Barely Legal” with 133,000 and “GoneWild18” with 427,000.

Other subreddits have such classy names as “Hold the Moan,” “Happy Embarrassed Girls,” “Incest Porn,” “Sex in Front of Others” and “Bottomless Vixens.”

And don’t worry about Reddit being racist when it comes to porn. You can enjoy, “Black Boobs,” “Ebony Nude Selfies,” “Latin Sex Girl” or “Jew Sluts” among its many other specific offerings like “Amputee Porn” and “Grandma Porn.”

I didn’t mention the membership numbers of those room because it doesn’t actually matter. You needn’t be a member to view any of it, so it’s probably safe to surmise that exponentially more people are viewing than the numbers I listed above.

One of the worst parts about the vast majority of the porn on Reddit is that with the exception of clicking a button that says you’re 18 years old, there is no security, firewall or other way to prove that its viewers are actual adults. For kids who are all over the subreddits about anime, video games or Korean pop music, it’s a couple clicks until they can see hardcore pornography, all courtesy of this “socially responsible” website.

I’m not going to take a deep dive into overall website figures because I won’t be able to break them down by room or demographic, and I don’t know if that would prove anything more.

I don’t expect Reddit to change its policy anytime soon. They know sex sells and they know as long as they keep quiet, the millions who are in their pornography rooms daily will also keep their mouths shut. Sex sells and like every other website out there, Reddit makes a lot of money on advertising. Gotta keep those eyeballs on the page, right?

I simply wanted to highlight the fact that while some sites out there are unabashedly promoting pornography, there are others that feature a ton of it (like YouTube) without calling attention to itself, and if you think kids don’t know this, you don’t remember what it’s like being a kid.

What Do You Do When You Have Two Moral Positions on a Collision Course?

Aside from the obvious “Being a good husband/father/provider” answer, I believe that just about the most important thing in my life right now is being an advocate on the topic of pornography addiction. I’ve got a new book coming out in July, a much bigger announcement coming (within the month) and for the first time in my life, I genuinely feel like I have a calling.

But I’m also a human being who has morals, values and beliefs that are not connected to my pornography addiction crusade. I have cultivated these over the years both based on what I was taught by my parents, what I have experienced on my own and what I have witnessed in society.

I worked very hard during my years as a journalist to never take a political stance on just about anything and being an introspective moderate, I took that seriously. A few weeks back, I made the statement here that after seeing how President Trump handled the COVID-19 and George Floyd issues, I could no longer defend him as a suitable leader. I still believe he has been overly attacked on often trivial things, but the events of the last few months have hardly been trivial.

I also stated a few weeks ago that I heard somebody on television say that it wasn’t simply enough to be against racism, which I always have been, it’s time to be actively anti-racist. Now is the time to call people out on their faulty thinking and reasoning, especially those who you could get through to who may see the error of their way and change things. I’m proud to say that I have had discussions with several people discussing issues like the faulty “few bad apples” excuse or how BLM is about equality, not minimizing other lives.

Ten years ago, I’d have spirited debates with people about politics on Facebook. I was running a “fluffy” magazine, so there was nothing controversial and I was a city councilor, so people often wanted my opinion on matter that went well beyond the borders of our city. Upon my arrest in early 2014, I discontinued my Facebook account.

I can objectively look back and recognize that I probably didn’t change too many opinions and while I do consider myself an open-minded person, I rarely heard arguments that changed mine. The entire exercise was one in frustration, and when I briefly returned to Facebook last year in advance of my second book, it didn’t take more than a few days to see that this wasn’t the place for me. In the six years I had been off Facebook, I have changed greatly as a person. It’s been hard work, but I’m regularly reminded how much I’ve changed when I dip my toe into things from my former life. Maybe it was the same, but Facebook seemed like a forum for unbridled, unchecked and unsolicited toxicity at a level I couldn’t remember. I attributed it to the fact that this country has only become more divided, not united in the last six years. Again, that’s party on our leader’s shoulders.

I hoped I could use Facebook as a forum to promote my work, but it was clear that option would leave me angry and depressed, which is one of the reasons that aside from headlines on Google News, I rarely followed politics during this period of recovery from pornography and alcohol addiction.

I did, however, join LinkedIn for the first time in late 2019. Probably 90% of my connections were people I did not know in my daily life, but had some connection to the mental health industry. Many of them have become trusted allies and I do not regret starting a profile there. Had I not made the connections of the last six months, I do not believe the new book would have the depth of interviews it presents.

The other 10% has been either random people from other places in my life or people outside of the healthcare industry who asked to make a connection with me for whatever reason.

I’ve been introduced to many trends of character quirks that I didn’t recognize exist in the mental health industry and obviously, I neither understand nor agree with all of them. There are clearly some who are out for money and glory and others who will only selectively help people, exhibiting some kind of moral authority. Despite being “experts” many have no idea what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder, PTSD, anxiety or addiction, yet they’d never be able to admit they don’t know. And there are many who are very broken people, should actually be on the couch, and are trying to save themselves by saving others. All of this said, there are generally a really high-quality bunch of people who stick to the mainly professional platform LinkedIn was intended to be. Sure, people will post a joke, or a cute cat video, or cheesy inspirational memes, but that’s just society today. Every social media platform has them.

I would also say that of these professionals, they seem to either all be in agreement regarding racism, and being anti-racist, or they have taken the stance to keep their mouth shut. It’s this other 10%, specifically the ones I didn’t know in the past, where the problems are arising.

Many of them don’t mind sharing their politics and their views. While I don’t necessarily want to read about what they think of every little move the Democrats or Republicans make, and the name-calling, selective facts and general buffoonery that comes with it, I did make the decision to be anti-racist, so I have begun calling people out when they do racist things.

Last night, I got into a long discussion with a person who posted a TikTok video on LinkedIn that was a parody of what police will be like in 2021. It showed a sheepish man in golf apparel coming to someone’s door and asking them if they would like to come with them down to the station. The message was clear to me… the changes that are being demanded now will leave police as ineffectual nothings if they happen. The message is change is bad and while this was an obvious overstatement full of hyperbole, at the core of it, to me, was the message that the changes that are happening or will be happening are bad.

In my opinion, that’s passive-aggressive racism, and while I generally respect the guy who posted it, many of the comments that came after were from right-wing types who were more blatant with their distaste of recent events and changes those events might prompt. They want things to stay the same way. We have enough statistics — provided by the police departments themselves — that prove systemic racism against minorities. Even if you’re the most racist person on earth, it’s hard to argue with the math provided by the police.

I was highly disappointed that this man took an active blind eye to why this video might be considered racist, preferring to debate that humor is subjective, yet not explaining why it was funny when I asked, nor responding to my question about if humor against disabled people, including mocking them, could be funny.

I do not believe he is intentionally racist, but when I challenged him about providing a platform to allow people who were clearly racist to spread their rhetoric, he got bogged down in exact meanings of words and why we can never assume things about anybody. Despite continually trying to bring it away from his word smithing and back to the topic at hand — especially since I could tell he was doing everything in his power to avoid the core issues that I sense he knew were wrong (and he added a disclaimer to his post as we were talking which suggests knowing there was something wrong) but he didn’t want to play thought police. I told him that his actions were his and I know I had no control nor could change them, but I thought they were wrong and they were promoting racism. He disagreed. When it was finally just after 1:30 a.m., I’d have enough and called it a night.

I should also mention that I just checked LinkedIn and it appears he has either completely erased the post at some point in the last 12 hours or he has hidden me from it. I really hope it’s the former and my grousing for over an hour made a difference.

This guy gets a lot of traffic. He’s figured out the LinkedIn algorhothims and has thousands of more followers than I do. In one sense, it’s good to be seen by that many people for my pornography addiction mission. In another sense, I have some real fear that I may be hurting my position as an authority by having a different political or social opinion than many of his commenters. People are quick to dismiss EVERYTHING about others these days when they are first introduced by highlighting a philosophical difference. You and I may like the same sports teams, restaurants, kinds of movies, etc., but if we’re introduced because we differ on gun control, odds are there will be division, not unity, in that relationship and certain conclusions will be drawn.

I really don’t care if people don’t like me. I got over that a few years ago. When I finally recognized most people don’t have enough facts to logically judge me, and that I can only let someone’s opinion affect me I respect them, it was like a load off my shoulders. Wish I learned that at 18.

What I do care about is people jumping to the conclusion that pornography addiction is fake, that education is unnecessary, that it’s a ridiculous topic or whatever their sudden issue is with it, simply because we disagree about something else. I don’t want to hurt my mission because an opinion that has nothing to do about pornography addiction soured someone on me as a person.

While I want to remain anti-racist, I don’t want to hurt this pornography addiction education path I’m on. You could say, “Only open your mouth about racism with people who you know agree with you” but that completely misses the point. It’s the people who disagree with me — even if they are unwilling to change their racist (even if unintentional) ways — who need to be called out the most, repeatedly.

It doesn’t seem like these two things can co-exist within each other. I feel like the only answers are shut up about the racism, which makes me feel like I’d be part of the problem, or to speak my truth and deal with the fallout, recognizing there is a trade-off. I mean, which is more important… ending racism or teaching the world about pornography addiction. Most would easily say racism, but I’m in a unique position with the pornography addiction. If I’m not out there doing this advocacy, who will?

I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and I’m not sure which way to move. As Gorilla Monsoon so eloquently put it during the Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant fight at Wrestlemania III, it’s the irresistable force meets the immovable object.

Something has to give…but what?

Empathy Does Not Mean Agreement, It Means Understanding

Way back when I was going through my legal ordeal, I had to take 101 assessment tests to determine if I was deemed a risk for “reoffending” because I committed a sexual offense. Everybody who ever administered a test or has been a therapist of mine knew the results before the tests happened, but it’s part of the whole system and it wasn’t like I was in a position to say no. Time after time after time, they proved what we all knew. I wasn’t pathological ill. I made a horrible mistake which was a result of my addictions to porn and alcohol.

There was only ever one red flag in these assessments and it came up again and again. It indicated that I had an abnormally low sense of empathy. I did the sympathy thing well, but I was not good at putting myself in other’s shoes and hypothetically seeing and feeling this from their position.

Part of me still disagrees with this conclusion. Back when I was deep in my addictions, I think I drank and looked at porn not just for the control that lacked in my life, but also because it numbed my emotions. I can’t tell you the number of movies or TV shows I cried at back then. Heck, specific pieces of music, especially operatic arias and piano solos, made me weep. I intentionally stayed away from news about kids and animals that would make me sad, really anything that would get me going because once I started, I couldn’t stop. I had to make sure the sad movies only came late at night. It was easier to cry myself to sleep than be crying all day if I saw the movie at 1 p.m.

In public, I had to keep the stiff upper lip and often that meant turning a blind eye to emotion. I couldn’t succumb to it. I think I had so much unresolved in my life that I managed with my addictions that if I started to think about others, it brought me to bad places because it made me think about me. Sometimes, in forcing myself to keep a stiff upper lip, I came across at heartless to others. I didn’t say horrible things very much, I just gave off the vibe that I didn’t care.

I built a wall because, much like my bipolar disorder (and maybe because of it) I had two emotional checkpoints: full-on and off. It was easier to just stay switched to the off positions. Part of me wonders if that popped up in those assessments because they happened so early into my recovery.

That said, there are many indicators that I’m a much more outwardly empathetic person these days. Nobody seems to ever call me on the carpet for being callous or saying the wrong thing anymore. I also almost never cry at movies or TV. It has to be very, very emotional. In some ways, I think people would see that as being harder now, but I think I learned to be healthy in real life, so I don’t need to have the outlet of fantasy to be emotional.

In the last year or two though, I find one other thing happening… I seem to be developing a more liberal, human-friendly attitude toward the world. This has been underscored this last two weeks watching the social unrest happening coast to coast and being absolute disgusted by the ways so many people are reacting. Whether they are government officials, run-of-the-mill racists, or looters, the trend I’m noticing is that I’m offended when there is a lack of empathy being shown.

I’ve heard if you’re not a liberal at 30 and conservative at 60 that something is wrong, but I think I may be operating in reverse. I think because of the integrity I tried to maintain as a journalist I prided myself on being very middle-of-the-road. As I said in a recent post, I’ve been able to vote in six Presidential elections and I’m 3-3 voting Democrat vs. Republican. I was always fiercely independent because there is just so much wrong with a blind loyalty to each party.

I’ve witnessed this graduation to conservatism in many of my friends who I followed on social media before I got off of it years ago. During a brief return last year, the fact they became different people than I once knew is part of what drove me away. There are now extended family members who I wouldn’t want to share the same room with because of their willingness to openly spout their rhetoric.

Now, I still greatly respect the Republican Party, the principles it was founded upon and what it is supposed to stand for, but over the last three years, its leaders have seemed to reach a place where they have co-opted that belief system for whatever it is that Donald Trump stands for…which I think is largely just whatever makes him feel powerful at the moment. There has been so many concessions to their core beliefs that I would never identify as a Republican these days. I wouldn’t want somebody to confuse me as one since they have morphed into the party of no empathy.

The rallying cry of many Republicans over the last two weeks (once they say that they are not racist and George Floyd shouldn’t have died) is that “All Lives Matter!” Well, no shit, Sherlock.

What they can’t do is put themselves into the shoes of black people (or any other minority) and understand why we are highlighting black lives right now. They do matter equal to all others, but historically, they haven’t been treated as equal, especially by law enforcement and the court system. The statistics are so overwhelmingly anti-black that it is far more than the lame “a few bad apples” excuse to the fact that in a place like Minneapolis, the police are historically going to use force against a black suspect seven times more than a white one. That is not “a few bad apples.” That’s profiling based on the color of your skin.

I sometimes wonder if these people are really meaning to say, “All lives matter, but it’s OK that they matter differently as long as mine matters most!” All lives do matter, but when some are treated differently, we have to lift them up so it’s equal. Black lives matter because currently, black lives don’t matter as much to many in law enforcement.

I can understand why early on in these kinds of events, you see property damage, fires, etc. These are caused by many people who cannot regulate their emotions and have reached a breaking point. Get many of these passionate, emotional people together and you’ve got recipe for bad things happening. But, as you’ve seen over the last two weeks, once that initial inability to process thoughts and emotions fades, the protests have become mainly peaceful. If you have empathy, you can understand how a frustrated, angry person who had been treated unfairly in a country that pretends it’s all equal, will lash out.

It was a very different group of people looting. These are not people who are empathetic to the cause and the suffering. They don’t think about how they hurt the message or how they are causing damage when they are stealing. They are opportunists who should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Thankfully, I live with a wonderful woman who has always had empathy and while she doesn’t follow politics, has a very compassionate heart. We don’t talk politics. We just talk about people who are very insensitive and don’t seem to “get it.”

Her best friend from school — who she was actually the matron of honor for at her wedding about 15 years ago — has been mentioned a bit in the last few years. She married a guy who was very conservative and has adopted many of his beliefs. I really liked her when I first met her 18 years ago, but he was the kind of guy set in his ways at 25 — probably because he just mirrored his father’s beliefs without much analysis — and those people are not fun to be around, especially when they are under 70.

They’ve not seen each other often in the last 10 years, sometimes going out for drinks with other friends and my wife, who successfully went through bariatric surgery, helped her friend into that process. In the end, her friend dropped out of the process because it was too rigorous.

When my wife mentions her friend, it’s because she’s said something on social media that does not reflect the person she knew as a teenager, and it actually doesn’t reflect the person I knew the first couple years we were married before she met her husband. It reached a point this week where my wife decided she had to stop following her friend. She’s turned into someone unrecognizable and someone she doesn’t need to regularly follow.

The last straw was when her friend complained about a protest march between the two cities, that basically make one community, where we live. The march went over one of the three major bridges between the towns, and traffic was tied up for — get this — 9 minutes. Her friend was bellyaching online about this, citing that emergency personnel couldn’t get through if they wanted and that a demonstration could have been somewhere away from people who didn’t want to be bothered.

Several people pointed out to my wife’s friend that the bridge is regularly closed down for things like the Fourth of July celebration, various parades and 10K races, etc, and that she was just miffed because she didn’t support the cause. She didn’t respond after that.

This got me thinking that I don’t believe you need to support a cause to still understand it. I’m not even asking for someone to appreciate it…just objectively understand, which is the first step toward empathy. I believe we are now in a climate where if you admit that you understand someone’s opinion that is not like yours, that there’s this belief you’ll be labeled as one of those people. I think that there are conservatives, particularly those who participate in the comment section who would rather be called a pedophile than a liberal. Conversely, there are people who are afraid if they say the word “pedophile” they will be labeled as such.

I don’t approach nearly as many podcasts to appear as I once did because they’re approaching me, but in the past, when I was politely rejected, I often got the feeling that they feared a discussion about pornography addiction would somehow morph into their listener’s ears into an endorsement of pornography. I get the same feeling with these “All Lives Matter” folks. If they take a few minutes to understand why people are chanting “Black Lives Matters” they fear they’ll be lumped with the group. Since when is ignorance the better option to anything?

Now, you could turn this on me and say, “Do the Black Lives Matter people understand what the All Lives Matter people are trying to say?” and I have to say, I think that answer is yes. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the All Lives Matter people are challenged by change and are for the status quo. They think that things are fine, or fine enough that we don’t need to overhaul the system.

Putting yourself in another’s shoes is just simply asking “Do I understand where they are coming from?” Understanding others does not mean agreeing with them, but it is a solid step in the right direction as a “united” country. Thank can only happen with empathy.