Earlier this year, I converted my long-time blog (which was primarily about triathlon) to a professional-type site to showcase my work and me and all that crap that people want to see when they hire you. Though, since I haven’t gotten a super awesome amazing job in that time, maybe I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
At the time, I was also sort of, semi-quitting triathlon, so it seemed like a good opportunity to leave the whole triathlon/sports blog thing behind. Instead, I started this Tumblr and was well on my way to being part of the internet hipster elite.
But, the Tumblr never really worked right. [I couldn’t get the comments to show up always.] And, it turns out what people mostly like reading about is me and sports and triathlon and all that stuff I actually know a lot about and have experience in. Also, it turns out that’s mostly what I like writing about.
Then, last week I interviewed a bunch of uber-popular running bloggers for an article. They were all very, very nice people and had lots of very nice stuff to say about running and their stories and inspiring other runners with their stories. But, I felt like they largely didn’t represent my experience or story. In fact, a lot of the athletic internet doesn’t represent my experience, because a lot of it is slightly, well, too cheerful. In my experience, sports aren’t always cheerful.
Maybe I’m totally wrong about this. Maybe I’m really the only person in the whole world who starts out looking up something online and ends up completely side-tracked jealous Google stalking random people whose lives I wish I had and trying to figure out how they got there. Maybe. But, I don’t think I am. I mean Google-ing is a verb for a reason.
So, I thought I’d start my own sports blog again. Here it is: It’s Always Sunny Running.
And, I hope to do more stuff with it, have other people write, post resources, get people’s opinions. We’ll see. I hope I’m not totally wrong.
I do this thing where when I'm reading stuff I'll click links that sound interesting and leave a bunch of tabs open, so I can go through them later. But, then, sometimes, I forget why I opened something and am left mystified about what I was thinking. This is one of those links.
This morning I had a Round 2 interview for a job with a major news service, which I was all torn up about because I wasn’t sure I would end up taking it if I got it.
But, that’s not going to be a problem, because I was rejected immediately upon answering the phone.
The problem it seems is that I had expressed online the opinion that in modern America we no longer have the need for the citizen militia (ala Switzerland) upon which our right to bear arms is based. Expressing this opinion, I was told, seriously damages the credibility of said major news service and disqualifies me from the job.
This is wrong. It’s an outdated (though prevalent) journalistic idea that does a disservice to the reporters, the news organizations, and the readers.
I am not the first reporter ever to have an opinion, nor am I even the most prolific in those opinions. Newsrooms, behind closed doors, are full of loud points-of-view on every current news topic and many no-longer-current news topics. Some of those views are based on information from covering stories and some are based on long-held biases. It is almost certain that said major news service currently has on staff someone with a passionately opposed view to mine. These people are, afterall, people.
The internet did not make opinions exist, it simply brought those opinions out from behind closed doors and made them more accessible and transparent.
If I hadn’t said online that I believe the Second Amendment is predicated on the obsolete need for a citizen militia, I would have probably still said it to friends. If I hadn’t said it to friends, I would have likely muttered it at the TV. And, even if I never let those thoughts out of my mouth, but locked them deep inside, they would have still existed in my mind.
And that would have been far more insidious and harmful to the freedom and accountability of the press.
It’s not that I don’t understand where this editor was coming from. I do. But, it is not a reporter’s job to be a robot, devoid of any human emotion. It is their job to go into things with an open mind, look at all sides, get the facts, and deliver a fair story. No one has ever accused me of not doing that.
(More than once I’ve actually had people assume my opinion was completely different than what it really was based on a story I wrote.)
If I was currently covering a political beat, I would probably not actively voice lots of political opinions online, simply because I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood (ah, well) or create a liability. But, I currently cover travel, sports, and finance. So, how far does the line extend into what I’m not allowed to have an opinion on? How much am I not supposed to be a person?
This is the second time I have lost a job because of something I wrote online. Neither time was what I wrote defamatory, slanderous, crazy, racist, sexist, outright mean, or otherwise terrible. In both instances, I was also well aware that the people hiring would find lots about me on the internet. I link to my blog from my website; it doesn’t take a genius to find it. I simply didn’t think, in either case, that being a human would disqualify from either job.
People will likely tell me I should be more careful or that I should learn from this. But, they’re wrong. Or, at least, they’re wrong about what lessons I actually did learn.
We, as a society, need to learn to stop lying about who we are. I see more and more people on facebook use pseudonyms because they worry someone seeing pictures from their trip to Tahoe will hurt their professional image. I know more and more people worried about how exactly this conversation will look or that email will read or if they failed to maintain an entirely blandly innocuous exterior. I hear more and more journalists opting out of any kind of involvement in their communities out of that same fear that they’ll somehow tarnish their ability to do their job — or they simply won’t get the job. Reporters too disinterested or unintelligent to care aren’t good for the press either.
You are who you are. If you have to pretend to be someone else half the time, you’re lying. And, eventually, you’ll slip up. And, you may not even need the internet to do it.
Me having an opinion about the Second Amendment — an opinion formed after lots of reading and thought and talking to people and watching video — is better for journalism and for the people who will read my stories than all those reporters pretending they don’t.
I’m getting really tired of everyone on the internets asking over and over: How can we stop this gun violence? How can we make sure this never happens again?
I have an answer to the first question. And, it doesn’t involve playing fewer video games. (The second question has no answer. There is nothing we can stop from ever happening. We can only do our best to make things more rare and more difficult to achieve. It is not impossible to try to kill many people with your bare hands or with a knife, but it is far, far more difficult.)
[And, yes, internets, we should have better resources for the mentally ill, but not because we fear them, but because they are people who deserve our compassion and help too.]
Here’s my answer: The Second Amendment, which we hear a lot about, actually doesn’t say anything about owning guns for protection or for hunting or for collecting. It doesn’t say you have the unadulterated or unregulated right to any and all firearms. The Second Amendment says, explicitly, that it is necessary for citizens of the newly-formed country to own guns because a “well-regulated militia” will ensure a free state.
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
As a country we have, of course, moved away from a system whereby we rely on armed citizens to serve as a citizen army. We currently have a formal, professional and quite costly military. We also, generally, no longer believe that it is the duty of the everyday citizen to violently ensure that the state never steps on the freedoms of its residents. We largely already outlaw armed militias attempting to take the place of those formal armies. Patriot Act and entrapment and civil rights violations aside, we — generally — do not consider it legal to build up an arsenal with the sole purpose of using it as some sort of quasi-governmental entity.
It seems to me that you can’t have the second half of that Amendment without the first part.
If the reason for something no longer exists, then that thing no longer has a reason to be. It’s time to say we got that one wrong in the Constitution.
In our modern society there is simply no reason to own guns, any guns. Not assault weapons as vaguely defined by law, not semi-automatic rifles, but any guns. (I am willing to make a very narrow exception for hunting with specific parameters on what constitutes a hunting rifle and for collectibles that would be tightly permitted.)
We do not live in a society that requires you to violently defend your land. We do not live in a society that requires you to act in some sort of quasi-legal enforcement capacity. In fact, it tends to go badly when people do. We live in a society with a formal police force trained to do the protecting. And, no, that doesn’t always work, but it works better than anything else. (As study after study shows, arming random people makes them more likely to be shot and makes them more trigger-happy.)
Have you never watched a TV show or movie or the news or, like, read a history book? The whole take-the-law-into-your-own-hands thing has a lot of casualties and doesn’t make for very nice place to live.
And, yes, overall gun violence in the US has gone down from a peak in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but it is certainly still high. It is not the highest in the world, despite some claims out there, but is the highest of the Western developed nations.
No, I don’t believe we have a violence epidemic. No, I don’t believe our schools are fundamentally unsafe places where every teacher needs to be armed. They are, generally, pretty safe, not perfectly safe, but pretty safe.
But, I do believe, we can not cling to a document written 236 years ago as a detailed handbook on how to live our daily lives now. It’s time to say we got that wrong.
Every news channel all today has been running full coverage of the shooting in Newtown and every social media profile I have is filled with people commenting on the devastation.
I don’t approve of and I don’t deal well with our desperate reporting of these kinds of tragedies, hanging on each new piece of information. Partially, I don’t understand the attraction we have to be part of collective grief. But, more than anything, I think the around-the-clock coverage revels a little too much in the details and creates a climate that encourages someone else to do the same thing.
We want to be able to do something, I understand. But, comments on facebook - I would argue - don’t do anything. They don’t even relieve our sense of guilt at having done nothing. They simply inflame it.
A nearly complete list:
Oh, shit. They're making a movie of Ender's Game. With Harrison Ford. I am not sure how I feel about this yet.
The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns Explains the Fiscal Cliff
My article, which was picked up by the WSJ online, and in which I tried to use the term "shuckster."
In the last couple weeks I’ve had a whole lot of cross-country going on. My high school kids had conference and then sectionals (which the boys won and the girls got 7th) and then state for the boys.
So, there was a lot of standing at meets and yelling ‘Come on, you got to pass him, you can do this, let’s go’ over and over.
And, it’s easy, with all the yelling and the knowing the kids and the watching race after race, to forget that it’s not easy. It starts to seem like of course you can run fast; it’s simply a matter of a series of inputs and a will to run fast.
But, then, I actually ran a cross-country race and I remembered, oh right, it’s not.
It’s not that I’m slow. It’s just that I’m not all that fast either.
I did the Pacific Association Cross-Country Championships in Golden Gate Park sometime in between watching all those high school races. Pacific Association means that some Olympian won and some other Olympian got second and I was like 97th. And, I did it faster than I’ve ever done it and it still wasn’t particularly fast. It wasn’t even particularly fast for what I can do.
What I’m trying to get at here is that I didn’t quit or fall down or pass out or start crying or get a cramp or hurt myself or lose a shoe or have any of the numerous bad things happen that have happened to me in races. I just slowed down. I just thought, “You know, this is fast enough, I don’t really want to throw up today, no one is going to care anyway.”
And, I was right, no one did care.
At the California State High School, I was standing about 300m from the finish line, close enough that you could see it, but far enough that the runners still had a good minute to go. It was the last race of the day and, after the superstars went by, the pack of girls was getting a little more crowded. It was probably about 15th place or so — still far faster than I can run, but nothing anyone gets too excited about — and this girl just fell over.
Her legs gave out and she slumped to the ground. I watched her try to stand back up right in front of me, but her legs were visibly wobbling and they crumpled again. And, then she sort of pushed her way back up with her arms, but was weaving around like a drunk and you could see her legs give out again.
There are rules about no outside help, so the course monitors rushed over to her but couldn’t touch her unless she wanted to be pulled from the race — not that she was even in any condition to tell them if she did. So, they formed a non-touching circle around her to catch her if she passed out I suppose and to stop what was now a swarm of girls from running into her. But, she wasn’t staying in one place. She was trying to move toward the finish.
And so it went. She weaved back and forth on unsteady legs, falling over again, crawling now on hands and knees, and they bobbed back and forth around her, never touching.
Eventually, she started stumbling forward toward the finish line, then shuffling. She made it 100m or so and then her legs just gave out again. But, still she trying to get up and she kept falling over again.
I’ve seen this in videos and at the end of long races — multiple hours — but never in real life after a 5K. And, physiologically speaking, it’s hard to say what exactly you could do to yourself in 18 minutes that would cause the muscles in your legs to stop working. Yes, you can run yourself to passing out. Yes, you can run yourself to throwing up or falling over or peeing your pants or just being like, you know, this is enough pain. You can do a lot of things. But, you kind of have to have something already wrong, the flu or you donated blood or you’ve been fasting (all things I have seen kids race after), to have your body quit on you in that amount of time.
Or, maybe you just have to be able to take yourself to a place I don’t really visit anymore. Because there was a time, probably in high school, when if that happened to me I would have crawled my way to the finish line too. Because, oh my god, did it matter and people cared and there was nothing more important.
But, now, when the only thing riding on anything is my own personal sense of self-esteem, if that happened in a 5K, I’d probably just lay down and cry.