Friday, November 20, 2009

Petition This!

It seems everybody wants me to sign a petition. I've certainly signed my share of petitions in this lifetime, so many, in fact, that if the FBI doesn't have a file on me by now I will have to consider mine a life not well lived. Petitions are perfect for arm chair activists such as myself: they allow me to have a say without really committing myself to anything.

The problem is, petitions don't wield near the power they once did. The Web has made them a dime a dozen, saturated the market, so to speak. If it's an online petition, almost anyone can sign it, there are no age or residency requirements, and it can often be signed more than once by the same person by simply using a different email address. Any self-respecting government official, religious leader, or company CEO that is the target of a petition campaign knows that a web-based petition carries very little weight.

I'm constantly sending emails to congressional representatives, government agency heads, and corporate presidents; I have a growing list of companies and industries that I boycott; and I routinely make financial donations to select causes and organizations. I almost never sign petitions. I wonder which of Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's staffers is the poor soul that gets to respond to my emails. Should get a raise.

Anyway, I recently came across and was particularly struck (annoyed) by the urgent plea to sign a petition against Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. Now, I've followed the actions of Mugabe for years, and he truly is a bad man, one that should have come to a timely end years ago. But as so often happens in Africa, the US, South Africa, and most of the "free world" simply looked the other way. I'm all for making the man's existence as hard as possible, but, come on, a petition?! Do you really think a dictator like Mugabe is going to be stopped by a petition signed by a bunch of nosey foreigners? Will countries supporting the Kimberley Process really be persuaded by a petition signed by some American in Atlanta, GA, whose wife doesn't list the diamond as one of her best friends? Perhaps if 200,000 people in the diamond industry signed the petition, there might be some hope, but a petition "signed" by 200,000 well-meaning global nobodies will fall on deaf ears. I mean, hurrah! for Avaaz for trying, for believing that we can make a difference, but the approach is truly a lost cause.

The petition as a force of global change is dead. It still has local and regional power, but nationally, it's power has waned, too. We weren't all made to be waging whale wars or breaking Starbuck's windows during G8 summits or going vegan or even walking from door to door gathering signatures - trust me, I'm not made of that material - so if all you can or want to do is sign an online petition, then by all means do. But know it will do very little to help the people of Zimbabwe or harp seals near Canada or indiginous tribes in South America or women in Saudi Arabia.

I recently sent an email to the president of the University of Nevada at Reno asking him to halt the practice of purchasing cats and dogs from Class B dealers for animal experiments. President Glick replied back from his own email account letting me know in no uncertain terms that his institution no longer uses cats and dogs in animal experiments. Now, about those rats and mice UNR is using...

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Library Closes

I heard it said that when a person dies a library dies with them. Our family recently lost an immense library when my uncle died unexpectedly. His library of thoughts, experiences, knowledge, feelings, and ideas will be missed just as much as his physical person. We all learned from and enjoyed his library, whether it was sitting around the Thanksgiving table, walking along the beach, watching a Broncos game or huddled together in a tiny mountain cabin. He loaned to us freely: no use restrictions, no due dates, no copyright laws. His life was a library we visited many times, one that I myself spent 40 years in. It was a good library.

We are all libraries. Our lives are books of non-fiction that read like novels. We are collections of short stories; anthologies of poetry; tales of mystery and romance; dramas, comedies and tragedies; scientific texts; philosophical treatise; and spiritual meditations. The depth and nature of our collection is up to us; as long as we keep on living life, our collection keeps on growing.

My uncle's library is closed now, but he left us priceless works that we will continue to reflect upon and enjoy until that time when our own libraries close.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hating the Yankees

I have an unyielding belief in the importance of being a good sport. I expect it of winners and losers, players and coaches, owners and fans. If you can't handle winning or losing gracefully, then you are nothing short of a bad sport. It has nothing to do with being "competitive" but it has everything to do with showing some class.

When the Yankees won the World Series last night, I was hoping that the self-described Yankee Haters out there would display some measure of good sportsmanship. Apparently that was too much for them, and they simply continue to voice their hate. No acknowledgement of it having been a good series; no recognition of Matsui's (yes, there are other players on the team) play; no appreciation for beating a solid Phillies team. No, all that Yankee Haters can apparently do is fume, boil, stew, and spew.

I don't know the hate they harbor. Certainly if the Yankees caused them some personal harm (it's not their fault you bet the house on the losing team) then I would hear them out, but the sad thing is they all give the same reasons for their hatred. First, they don't like that the Yankee players shave and actually cut their hair. One Yankee Hater told me the clean-cut look reminded him of corporate America. Now, really, if you're that frickin' superficial, then, please, just get away from me. To hate a baseball team because their organization requires that the players maintain a certain level of grooming is idiotic and subsequently means you should hate every person of every organization that has a dress code, including me.

Second, Yankee Haters like to hate the Steinbrenners. Yet another superficial reason to hate an entire team, but one that I can somewhat relate to. See, I won't eat Domino's Pizza because the company supports pro-life groups. It's not that the pizza is especially bad or I got bad service once or that I hated the Noid. No, the only reason I don't buy their pizza is because I don't agree with their politics. The difference between me and the Yankee Haters is that I don't hate the pizza, I just don't buy it. Yankee Haters hate the Steinbrenners so much they end up hating the team. I think they call that transference in the psychiatric circles. Grow up or seek counseling.

The third and biggest reason Yankee Haters like to hate the Yankees is that they complain that the organization "buys" championships by paying enormous amounts of money to get the best players in baseball. There's no doubt the Yankees have money to spend and they spend it. And why not? What's wrong with trying to get the best players to help your organization win the World Series? Do Yankee Haters really believe that the Red Sox or Cubs or Rockies or Astros or any team in MLB wouldn't do the same if they had the means? Of course they would! The Red Sox outbid even the Yankees to get Daisuke Matsuzaka (over $51 million), so don't try and tell me it's only the Yankees throwing money around to get the best. And what do Yankee Haters have to say about the fact that only three Yankee players are among the top 10 highest paid players in MLB? The Yankees do have more money than other teams and they spend it, but I'm willing to bet there isn't a team (and it's fans) out there that wouldn't trade banking accounts with them in a heartbeat.

I would understand if Yankee Haters hated the team because they won all the time (and they don't) or out of grudging respect. I "hate" Tom Brady because he is the best quarterback playing, and I know that you never count him out. The man is ice. If your team beats the Patriots, you have to breathe a sigh of relief because you just beat the NFL's best QB. My hate of Brady is really fear of his prowess and respect for what he has, can and will do, and I'm willing to admit that. Yankee Haters won't admit that the team that won last night was the better team; they won't admit that Mariano Rivera is the most feared closer in MLB history; they won't admit that Pettitte closed down the Phillies; they won't even admit that A-Rod and Jeter are actually great baseball players.

Yankee Haters are simply poor sports.