Friday, October 28, 2016

Stop asking.

Just a quick one, because I was impressed by something I heard on a podcast I recently listened to. "Dear Hank and John" is a podcast put together by Hank and John Green (creators of Crash Course, SciShow, and other popular channels on YouTube as well as the books Fault in our Stars, Paper Towns, etc.) in which they take questions from their listeners and offer dubious advice in humorous fashion. Occasionally they'll answer a question that's a bit more serious, and in their recent episode they answered a question they've gotten from a lot of their listeners, and I felt it's very important for everyone to listen to it. You can listen below. The segment I'm referring to starts at 12:55 and ends around 17:00.
(You can click this link to jump directly to the segment:
Or listen to the embedded player below.)

To summarize Hank and John's remarks, when you ask someone if they would be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship and they say no, you absolutely must accept that as their final answer and respect that answer. Failing to do so by continuing to ask them is a form of harassment. As Hank said, I think many of us (myself included) have been guilty of this, perhaps innocently thinking "I should ask again. Maybe things have changed." We don't think we're having that creepy stalker vibe portrayed in my little cartoon above. But we may not realize how uncomfortable and even unsafe continuing to push the issue may make the other person feel. On the other hand, honoring their wishes shows respect for that person's agency.
So please, if you seek a relationship with somebody and discover that they aren't interested, however innocent you may feel your intentions are, leave them alone. You will likely save both of you a lot of stress in the process.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wasted Vote

Green pig? Sure, why not!

 I haven't yet spoken out about what Presidential candidate I support. That's partly because I'm still deciding, doing research and some serious contemplation, and partly because I want very much to avoid the unprecedented toxicity this election year has brought with it. But while I'm still not totally decided yet who I'm voting for President, I've finally decided to humbly voice a few of my opinions.

I'm fairly confident I will be voting third party. Many supporters of Trump and Clinton have been quick to mock, insult, and even shame those who support a third party candidate, claiming that by so voting they are giving their vote to the other side. There have also been many a well worded explanation for why that logic is false. The reason that stands out most to me is that the results of each election do not just affect who will be President for the next four years. The effects are more far-reaching than that.

Ending the polarization
 If there is one common complaint about modern American politics, it's that it is so polarized. The left and the right are so extreme that it's actually ridiculous. I think most Americans don't agree with the extreme positions taken by the party they support, but they feel they have no choice so they adopt a platform they don't feel comfortable with out of fear of an even worse platform. However, doing so shows support for the current system. Think of it this way: if the election turns out to be split 49% vs 51%, regardless of who actually wins, that is enough to show both parties that their party supports their position. So for the next election, they are likely to not only maintain their position, but push it even further to an extreme to gain even more support.

 If on the other hand a significant portion of voters shows dissatisfaction by not voting for either of the two main parties, think of the message that would send. If for example the election results were split 40%, 41%, 19%, even though a major party still may have won the election, they may seriously consider what they can do to win over that other 19%. After all, if they could gain their support, that would be enough to win the next election by a much more comfortable margin. How would they win over that 19%? By finding out what it is they want. And if what they want is a more moderate platform, they might, might just back down a bit from their political extremism. So even if a third party vote has very little chance of getting that third party candidate elected, it can still affect political discourse for the next four years and even the following election.

 Now, I'll fully admit I'm pulling these numbers out of thin air. I'm no political scientist, but I don't think anyone can say what will happen in each situation with near the level of certainty they claim to have. But that brings me to one final point I wanted to make:

Voting with a clear conscience
I believe if you do your research and vote in a way that you honestly feel is best for your country, you can do so with a clear conscience, regardless of how you actually voted. That includes
  • voting Trump or Clinton because you believe he or she is the best choice,
  • voting Trump or Clinton to keep the other out of office,
  • voting McMullin, Johnson, or some other third party because you believe they are the best choice,
  • voting third party to break the grip of the US two-party political system,
  • etc.

Call me naive, but I think a person's reasons for voting the way they do are way more important than who they actually vote for. Why? Because if a person votes for a candidate because they believe they are the best choice and then later finds out that isn't the case, they are likely to vote differently and more carefully in the future. On the other hand, if they vote for a candidate out of blind party loyalty or even selfishness for something that candidate has promised, they are likely to stick to their guns regardless of what may actually be best for the country.

Making sure you're voting for the "right reasons" requires being honest with oneself. It requires asking "why do I want to vote for this candidate? Do I really believe voting this way is what is best for my country?" I would challenge everyone to ask themselves these questions, and then to do their civic duty and vote.

Because the only truly "wasted vote" is the one you don't cast.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tune out the noise

A while back I conducted an experiment I called the Social Honesty Project in which I tried to be more genuine when I posted on social media. I tried to talk more about what exactly was going on in my life at the time, rather than curating and portraying only the best parts about my life. I was pleasantly surprised to find that when I talked about things not going super great, I didn't just get ignored. My friends and family were very supportive of me during even the minor pitfalls.

I feel blessed to have friends who support me. Unfortunately, I've seen others subjected to ridicule and unkindness when talking about what's going wrong in their lives. But there have nearly always been those small but sincere voices cheering in the background, expressing their love and encouragement. Sometimes those voices may seem difficult to hear among all the loudmouths who appear to only be interested in tearing others down for their own amusement. Pay them no mind. It's easy to tear down, so I guess it's not surprising to find more negative voices than positive at times. But look for them. And when you find them, focus on them and tune out the voices that have nothing to offer but venom. Because in the end, it's nothing but noise, distracting you from the voices of your true friends who will love and support you no matter what.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vain Prayer

It is good to pray for those who are need. But it is better to pray to know what we can do to help, and then go out and do something! We can't just sit back and wait for God to do the good that He has sent us to do.