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Category Archives: Politics

Health Insurance, Health Care, and Consumer Rights

Open Enrollment Looms

That rhetoric may sound dark and scary, but it is how I think about the open enrollment solution. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. Settle in because the answer is long.

Insurance vs Care

Years ago the AHCA was at Congress. A long struggle ensued with some strange tactics being used to try to get it passed. The whole time this was going on, I shook my head in anger. It was, for the most part, based on the individual mandate, as the reaction was for many citizens that were against the act, but it was also because being a person who takes frequent trips to the doctor for various reasons, I didn’t see how insurance reform that basically only included the mandate would change the issues I had experienced. I didn’t see a reason for insurance reform, unless it involved more coverage of big expenses and less coverage of little expenses. I did see a plethora of reasons for care reform. Why do hospitals charge for pills every day that patients may not even take? Why do doctor’s offices charge for a “consultant” when the second doctor only poked their head in the room? Why do doctors get to refuse patients sterilization based on age? Why do hospitals get to refuse reasonable care that patients need and request, only because it may hurt their stats? Why do a group of doctors get to decide who is even eligible for organ transplant based on any factors, some of which include moralistic reasons? Why do hospitals get to decide that physical harm is more important than financial harm? Why don’t most hospitals and doctors have to tell patients up front the costs of visits and procedures? These issues have very little to do with insurance. They are caused (and thereby fixed) by the health care industry.

For a personal anecdote (remember I’m not trying to make a generalization by using this evidence but to call your attention to cases of similar problems), there are a lot of forms one has to fill out for procedures. When Patient A went into the Mayo Clinic (considered one of the best hospitals in the U.S. if not the world), A had an EGG attached to their scalp with glue, and it was going to stay there for days and possibly weeks. More than halfway through attaching it to A’s head, a tech handed A a form to sign concerning the procedure. A actually read the form. It said the glue and attachments could cause permanent scalp damage including bald patches. This feels like something A should have been told before the start of application. Lesson: Forms should be given to patients before procedures are initiated.

Another example: A year ago Patient B was looking for a new yearly doctor. B called places that would be convenient or that were recommended and asked for the prices of the visit and the lab work. B picked one that said (without insurance) it would cost $100. When B made the appointment during a second phone call, B confirmed the cost. When they called B to remind B about the appointment, B confirmed the cost again. When B got to the doctor’s office, they told B it would cost about $136. Needless to say, B was angry. The women at the desk tried to tell B that the up charge was due to B being a new patient. B told them that the woman who made the appointment entered B as a new patient and still confirmed the $100. They said she was wrong. B said, well, she could have been wrong, but I expect you to honor the price I was quoted. Some readers may think, it’s only $36, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that as a consumer, B expects the price B was told. Lesson: If you as a consumer ask for a quote, the vendor should honor that quote. To do otherwise is unethical.

If you want examples similar to this, check the doctors and hospitals in your area on Yelp. You’ll probably see a lot of problems on the care level that do not involve insurance.

No Insurance even with Options

The point of AHCA is to make healthy people get insurance to make it cheaper for sick people. The majority of these healthy people, according to a lot of the supporters of the act, are people in their twenties. Well, let’s think about that for a moment. What expenses do people in their twenties have? Many of their parents can’t afford to have them living in their homes rent free, so there’s that plus groceries and utilities. But wait, what if they are in college? Again, many of their parents didn’t really save a lot for them to go to college, so there’s tuition and fees and books. Maybe they live in a dorm, so that offsets their cost of living somewhat but not in all cases. Even with a part-time job, they probably can’t afford all that on their own because they go to a moderate to great school so they are more likely to get a job after school, so they get loans. Let’s say that all that has already happened. They’re out of school, maybe just last May or maybe in the last five years. They need an apartment and the countless accouterments that come with one (for cooking, cleaning, sleeping, hygiene, and just plain sitting). They need a job too. They apply in their industry, but not everyone is hiring as there are no new positions (the companies don’t have the money to grow) or no openings (as no employees are leaving for other companies or retiring), and the few interviews they get have competition with thirty years of experience on them. They do anything for income, ending up underemployed, with a job with no benefits or too little pay to take advantage of the benefits. Six months after getting out of college their student loans come due because while underemployed they make enough so that they don’t qualify for deferment, and now have an extra bill to pay every month. They keep searching for a better job, but one isn’t forthcoming as there are just too many applicants for the few postings that are appropriate for them. I’m not saying this is every twenty-something’s experience, but it seems to describe a lot of them. I’m not just talking about myself. I’ve read a lot of personal accounts that meet this description. Now tell me, how in the world is this person supposed to help anyone? If our Congress wanted to saddle the youth of our nation with subsidizing the AHCA, then they should have subsidized the education of the youth, and that means helping students, not universities.

Oh, but they qualify for subsidies? Before I go into how subsidies aren’t all that helpful, let me just say if the demographic you expect to lower premiums needs subsidies then they really aren’t the people to look to to fix the problems. That’s like building your castle on a crumbling foundation. The subsidies only come once a year while the insurance payments come once a month. This creates an imbalanced fiscal year for people. I may accept this imbalance as workable if the subsidies came before the people had to start paying their insurance premiums so they could set that money aside, but they have to go in the hole and go without until the next tax time instead. Most people, I would think, would want a place to live and food on the table before having health insurance. I’m sure this is why a lot of people stopped paying their premiums. It’s tragically ironic that they have to choose the healthier option (shelter and sustenance) over something that is supposed to make going to the doctor cheaper. In some cases, I don’t think the subsidy offsets the premiums enough. For example, if the premium is a quarter of the person’s monthly income, the subsidy is just not going to make that cost manageable.

The insurance itself isn’t worth the high cost though. Why? Well, as a professor who focuses on health insurance rhetoric once said to me, health insurance is meant to prevent people from going bankrupt because of extreme illness or injury; however, if a person can’t afford a deductible of $10,000 or a procedure with a $50,000 price tag then insurance really didn’t do it’s job. Extreme illness and injury are still a financial death sentence in this country, regardless of the possession of insurance. It makes me wonder why people are willing to pay such high premiums if it is no guarantee against bankruptcy. What was the point then of years of monthly payments? Right now a lot of the options for buying insurance are like choosing between a car missing a frame, a car without an engine, and a car that blows up when you turn the ignition and the salesmen has a gun on the customer and the asking prices are three times Kelly Blue Book. That simile may need some unpacking though. The options are not worth it. They do not have good coverage for extreme illness or injury, the issues that need the most coverage. Back to cars (but not the simile), auto insurance covers accidents and system failures which are the equivalent of extreme illness or injury, but not oil changes and routine tire replacement which is the equivalent of check ups and typical long term medication (such as birth control and asthma inhalers). I’m sure most readers have heard this analogy before, but my point is that I don’t see the point of health insurance if all my options don’t really help me out financially if I were in an accident or developed a serious condition or illness. I can get care; what I need is something to offset large expenses.

What do I mean by care? I’ve found ways in my current large city and in the much smaller city I used to live in to receive the maintenance care I need without breaking the bank. You’d be surprised how resourceful one can be when one starts coughing up bloody phlegm. In my small town, a visit to the doctor meant $10-$35, depending on the type of doctor I saw and not on the procedures I received. For example, it cost me $10 for outpatient surgery. In my current big city, my doctor’s office is not capable of as much as the one in the smaller city but the price went down to $0. In both instances, prescriptions were also included for an addition of $0. I may not go to the dentist every six months (do people with insurance go to the dentist every six months anyway?), but I still can get problems taken care of for an affordable price. But were I to get really sick or hurt, I wouldn’t have much luck, nor would I if I had insurance. Although, there is a hospital in my city that will tell you exactly how much a procedure will cost and has reduced prices for uninsured and under-insured patients. These options are all so much more affordable than health insurance, but not every city/state has these options. Frankly, they should. A lot of these kinds of systems are based on income or have very limited abilities to be flat-out free, and a lot of places just don’t have a system in place to help patients in extreme cases. So all this fixes the oil changes and tire rotation, but not a collision.

Consumer Rights

I don’t buy products that suck. If the value doesn’t match the price tag, I won’t buy a product. Simple as that. This is why companies compete in the first place. Some try being cheaper, thus lowering the quality of their product. Others raise the quality, thus raising the price. But if a product is both expensive and crap, I’m not buying it. This is the main reason behind me not buying fast food on most occasions. For example, Taco Bell isn’t very good. It’s also not cheap. I can go to Filiberto’s and get much better food for about the same price. I refuse to buy Great Value brand pancake and sausage on a stick. It being vomit-worthy makes any price too expensive. In fact, if I had to eat those I would request that WalMart pay me first. I’m almost always willing to pay more for a better product, because I get more enjoyment out of the higher quality product and if said product is non-perishable, I will most likely not have to buy a replacement item for some time (Remember: The Poor Man Pays Twice). I would rather go without a product than buy a cheaper, going to suck product that I’m just going to have throw in the trash someday soon.

In my personal finance course, I learned this handy dandy rule about product buying: Fast, Cheap, Good–Pick Two. This means a product can only be two of these things at a time. More often than not, I will refuse to buy a product that only lets me pick one. Example: More than a year ago, I was shopping for furniture, and for some reason I believed I needed a dining table because I had a dining room. A dining table would most likely not be used for dining in my life but for projects of another nature (that sounds suggestive, but I just mean drawing and writing). We went to La-Z-Boy and found something we liked. It was small (geeze what’s with all the six to eight people tables) but still had comfortable chairs and was made of wood (why in the world are all four person tables made from metal and glass? this isn’t for my patio!). Unfortunately, it was counter height (why, why, why? who wants this!?), but they did have the option to order table height. It was going to take six to eight weeks, and the set price was high. Okay, so I can have good only. Sorry. Nope. We walked away. But some places don’t have a single one of these attributes, so I don’t ever buy from those companies.

The point of these examples is the consumer’s right to refuse to buy. This sends a message to companies that the attributes were lacking in some way. We shouldn’t buy products that are of no value to us. The three attributes are how we gauge value as consumers. Most health insurance I’ve seen is not good (it does not have good coverage for extreme incidences visible by the deductible), is not cheap (most premiums for good insurance are prohibitively high), or are not fast (reviews of the company show that their turnaround for claims is slow or the fastness of service was not discernible before purchasing and making a claim), so why in the world would I let the company think I like their product by spending money on it? My right to refuse a product tells a company that their product is not satisfactory. Taking away my right to refuse a product means the whole industry doesn’t need to care if their products are satisfactory.

The counter-argument, that the price will go down once everyone has insurance and that coverage is better (no pre-existing condition exemptions, more preventative care, full coverage), is unsatisfactory to me. Why? Because I can’t afford it now, and I’m not the only one. People aren’t going to break their banks, when their banks are already broken, right now for something that is maybe going to pay off in two or three years. Preventative care is great, but you can’t force people to be healthy, nor is preventative care as good as fixing existing problems, i.e. coverage of extreme illness and injury (I will say it again and again: this is the most important point as it is the place where health care destroys lives financially). I don’t need maternity and child care coverage when I’m never going to have a child, nor does a single man need well woman visits. The only good thing to come out of this mess (btw, I did attempt to read the monolith of an act but it was mired by incomprehensible language to anyone but a freaking expert lawyer) was the pre-existing condition exemptions. Us asthmatics and epileptics thank you for that, but please leave your moral judgments at the door when it comes to smoking, and this is coming from someone who hasn’t smoked a day in her life.

Again, I’m sure everyone has heard this argument in some form (i.e. capitalism), but I do think the health care industry was trying to respond to the lack of insurance that typified some of their patients; otherwise, I wouldn’t have the examples in the second part of this post. And the AHCA doesn’t fix the gaps in protecting everyone, insured or not, from extreme illness or injury, so I’m not sure what the whole point was if it was not something seedy like helping health insurance companies get more money.

The Point

Regardless of if an employer has to offer insurance or the government offers subsidies, health insurance is still prohibitively expensive to the point that many people just have to do without even if they have a health condition, especially those who are unemployed or underemployed and those with student debt (sometimes a person can have all three attributes: unhealthy, unemployed/underemployed, with student loans). Health care reform would have been very helpful, especially if more subsidies went to hospitals and doctors offices and if they stopped letting doctors make moralistic judgments with their patients. I would rather have more government subsidized clinics staffed with a lot of RNs and a few doctors with prices less than the average water bill.

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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Politics, Social Issues

 

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Firearms: A Single Purpose Tool and Why that Doesn’t Frighten Me

Last November I had my first hands-on experience with a firearm. I took a CCW course, learned about my state’s laws concerning firearms, and shot ten rounds at a shooting range. If one’s paying attention, one will see that I had no previous direct experience with any kind of firearm. I’ve heard people talk about their first time pulling that trigger, and sometimes it’s about how powerful they felt or how they felt immediately that this wasn’t for them, as in the essay “Shooting Dad” (for those of my readers who have not read this essay, she did not shoot her father), but for me there was no strong reaction either way.

The Act Itself:

The protection over my ears made my ability to understand my classmates as they spoke drop dramatically, everything coming to me like Charlie Brown’s teacher. The dimly lit range made my already poor eyesight worse, but I often felt before that in situations like these people allowed visual stimulation to overrule instincts, often like overthinking a multiple choice question when one’s first guess was right all along. Bowling, which is a long-range aiming sport like shooting, is often based more on a person’s muscle memory than their eyes, and the teacher of the CCW course seemed to agree with the idea that aiming is based more on stance than eyesight, not that eyesight is not completely unhelpful. I waited as others filled the practice lanes designated for the class and watched their shots. Someone first shot sent up a small cloud of smoke and the shell casing actually flew behind him, coming close to another student. I couldn’t help but exclaim “Wow,” as the sight of the bit of metal flying back a couple of feet and several students laughed at the wayward ejection.

We had all spent the last several hours introducing ourselves to the class, telling the group why we wanted to take the course, and then the majority of the time on firearm safety and the mechanics of firing one. When it had been my turn to introduce myself, I told the class that I grew up with guns in the house and felt that the most rational thing in that case was to learn how to use one safely. I also stated that I was a writer and felt that to write about someone firing a gun, I needed firsthand experience. The teacher jumped on the fact that I was a writer, asking if I had a blog, and while I do (made evident by this entry), I was more of a creative writer. Both of these reasons were honest. Introductions, the reasons, and the firearm safety and use all led up to the moment we went to the establishment’s indoor range to prove that we could fire within an inner circle on a target seven out of ten times, five shots at five yards and five shots at ten yards.

When it was my turn, I needed help jacking the slide on my pistol, because it’s pressure was too much for me, though of the two guns we own it was the only one I could pull the trigger on, the other requiring too many pounds of pressure for my index finger to handle. The needed help was only slightly embarrassing, but I have yet to find a handgun I can completely operate on my own. After having the pistol ready, I took a slightly wide-leg stance, gripped the gun with both hands, right pushing forward and left pulling back, elbows firm but not completely extended, and lifted to aim at the five yard target. I fired and hit pretty close to center. The recoil barely moved me; the slide jammed in the process—this wasn’t a very high-end (or even middle-range) handgun, so it jammed a couple of times, and I needed help (as I wasn’t strong enough to work the slide) each time. But all of my shots, even those at ten yards were in the middle circle. I had passed the practical of the exam. And frankly, I didn’t feel any different than I had before even though this was my first time firing a real firearm.

Later, the teacher went over our state’s rules for carrying firearms and using them. My state has a very high gun freedom rating, which actually makes me feel safer (I will explain this later), and some of the laws seemed very logical to me. Such as: a person cannot use a deadly weapon to defend their property, but a person can use a deadly weapon to protect themselves against extreme physical harm (this means any situation wherein they could end up in the hospital), a person can show that they have a firearm (defensive display) to ward off the possibility of violence, and some others demonstrated below.

The Situations:

Imagine that you are at the mall and when you come back to your car, you find someone breaking in. In my state, you cannot use a deadly weapon (crowbar, baseball bat, knife, or firearm) to defend it because your life is not in danger, only your property.

Imagine that you are a man walking down a residential street and someone starts to come at you with a deadly weapon (same as above). In my state, you can use a deadly weapon to defend yourself because your attacker may put you in the hospital with his/her weapon.

Imagine that you are a woman and a man stronger/bigger than you attacks you. In my state, you can use a deadly weapon to defend yourself because this is a demographic difference wherein your attacker can put you in the hospital by his superior strength.

Imagine that you are a man surrounded by two or more unarmed attackers. In my state, you can use a deadly weapon to defend yourself because your attackers outnumber you increasing the likelihood that you will be put in the hospital.

Imagine that someone starts coming at you aggressively. In my state, you can say that you are armed, and if they keep approaching, you can take out that weapon without aiming it at them.

Imagine you see a man attacking someone else. In my state, you can defend that third person responsibly if it appears that the attacker may put the third party in the hospital.

To my mind, all these scenarios have appropriate laws associated with them. This is a major part of why I’ve chosen to stay in my state. The laws are rational and applicable to real life possibilities.

A Tool of Lethality and a Tool of Transportation:

Firearms are all designed to kill, to be lethal. This scares people, understandably, but many knives are also designed to be lethal. Firearms are a tool, which is why I felt no different about who I am upon using one. All firearms are designed with lethality in mind but not all lethal events involve firearms. Death, and especially murder, is not always perpetuated by firearms. The tool in this world that scares me more than a firearm is a vehicle. A vehicle is not designed to be lethal, and by this very fact, people do not treat vehicles as carefully as they treat guns. Safety is paramount when dealing with firearms. The savvy individual holing a gun knows that what they have in their hands is lethal and must be treated with care. Since the vehicle is not so greatly associated with lethality, as that is not its designed goal, the goal being travel, and people use vehicles every day without incident, they get careless. I am more afraid of a careless individual behind the wheel of a car then I am the trained, even not by government, individual who carries a firearm—and most people behind the wheel of a car are careless. Accidents involving vehicles happen every day, many involving death. Accidents involving firearms don’t happen as often, partially because less people own them than cars but also because those people are more careful. Willful shootings happen less than car accidents. Carelessness has always been more frightening, and frankly insulting, than malicious intent, because it is far more preventable but far more prevalent.

Do I need cite a statistic on the ratio of car accidents versus shootings? I think not, mostly because if a reader disagrees they will simply explain away the statistic, but also because willful shootings—and even accidental—make the paper and the nightly news every time they happen. Car accidents do not, but you can drive down a busy street and pass one on a nearly weekly basis in any larger city. This accidents don’t always involve poor driving conditions either. My city has the most regular weather, and I couldn’t tell you the last time it rained and it doesn’t snow here, but we see car accidents all the time, meaning that carelessness is usually the cause. This is why I fear car accidents more than being shot.

Why Less Gun Control Makes Me Feel Safer:

I have worked in jobs that are prime targets for mass shootings, which truly feel rare to me. While one part of me was on the task at hand, another part of my mind was on the possibility of a mass shooting happening and what I could do in the situation. I have to be perfectly honest here but in those positions where firearms were not allowed on the premises, I felt more vulnerable to an attack than on those premises that allowed employees and visitors to carry firearms. Why? Because if the building has a no firearms sign, the person who is willing to take a human life is not going to care about that sign, but those law-abiding citizens inside the building are now defenseless. Some may argue that that is what security is for, but schools of all levels and malls are much too big to trust that a handful of security guards will be able to control the situations before human life has been lost. While some may argue that this loss of life is negligible, the loss is not negligible at all when it is yours or that of a loved one or friend.

The biggest reason why I feel safer knowing those everyday people around me may be carrying a weapon is that any potential attacker also knows anyone around him or her may be carrying a weapon, meaning that they are less likely to see the opportunity to victimize those around them. Attackers, of any variety, are like predators. They assess each situation for the possibility of getting what they want. They look at the woman walking alone and try to gauge if she knows how to fight or has some way to defend herself. They look at locations to see if the public at that location is disarmed and at ease. They look at houses to assess if they are easy to break into and if the inhabitants may have a firearm. I look at a no firearms sign on a building and see a target sign. That’s what scares me. Because the more people who are armed, the less time an attacker has to hurt people. I’m not saying that people should wear t-shirts that proclaim the fact that they are carrying a weapon because that also is a target sign and that’s not smart. Don’t forget that while a firearm is a tool of lethality, a potential victim can use it just as well as a potential attacker, and the tool itself does not care of its user’s motives. Instead people need to care about the user’s intent, and the phrase fight fire with fire makes more sense with firearms than any other situation.

What Makes a Potential Victim and Why Other Answers Aren’t as Effective:

Basically just being weaker than the other guy. Seems obvious. For example, the other guy knows karate and you don’t. The other guy is a man and you’re a woman. The other guy is twice your size. The other guy is fifty years younger than you. The other guy is actually three guys. The other guy has a firearm or other deadly weapon. Etc.

But most people who don’t like firearms state you should run away. I hate this simple response like running is always an option. It’s basically never an option for me with my exercise induced asthma; I’m sure an attacker could catch me easily, and others with similar health conditions that prevent running away may also find this insulting (wheelchair bound, advanced age, damaged joints or bones, chronic muscle weakness, blindness, an incomplete or missing limb, etc. all can preclude running). But there are also other situational factors that could preclude running: trapped with the attacker between the victim and the exit, the victim wearing shoes that prevent speed and agility (such as high heels and ballet flats which women are apt to wear but are not good for running), and uneven, dangerous, or confusing terrain. If anyone makes the argument that the chances of an attacker choosing people with these conditions or in these situations is slim are smoking something very interesting because attackers (as stated above) choose conditions that will most likely put the situation in their favor. It is more likely that they will choose someone at a disadvantage.

I have heard the argument that a victim should just let the attacker take what they want. This makes sense if all the attacker wants is just material items. But it is naïve to think that an attacker will always only want a car or TV. Any woman should know that sometimes an attacker wants to hurt you, but everyone should also be aware of this, because sometimes their goal is not just to hurt their victim but to kill their victim. This is why the “don’t fight your attacker” argument never works for me. We cannot read the minds of those around us, and someone who is willing to threaten another person with extreme bodily harm may ultimately plan or decide to kill that other person. I will not hope for the best case scenario when a person is attacking me. I’m not going to just cross my fingers that I will come out of an attack alive and unharmed. I will plan for the possible eventuality that an attacker will seriously harm or kill me, because that is a possibly and I don’t play Russian roulette. The idea that I should allow an attacker to take my life in his or her hands without putting up any resistance, not to mention the maximum possible, is insane to me, because what they are doing is wrong on every level, especially morally and legally and the attacker’s lack of scruples could cost my life. We should fight back because no white knight will come to save us and we shouldn’t hope only to survive it, we should hope to prevent ourselves any harm. I brook no slack for a person willing to break the law at the expense of another person’s well-being because the safety and rights of the person who has not broken the law but is threatened by the first person matters more than the law-breaker’s rights and safety.

Armchair Judgment:

The majority of the time I disagree with the idea of trying to pass judgment on the potential victim who has defended him or herself mostly because of the telephone/rumor game the media puts over any situation. Judgment should truly only come into play in a courtroom. The whole “Well, he could have done this” argument is most often presented by people with no prior experience with a life-threatening situation involving an attacker. In a perfect world, we would all be omniscient and could predict a situation to the best possible outcome, but this isn’t a perfect world and we are always working on imperfect knowledge. Victims can only say that they felt their life was threatened and that they defended themselves. They may themselves look back and think of how things could have gone differently, but we have a saying for that as well: hindsight is 20-20. The panic and fear of a real life-and-death situation can prevent a person from seeing all of the options and instead presents a person with the quickest and most feasible solution to getting out of danger. It is not about thought; it is about the protective instinct. One could argue then that the victim is reacting in an uncivilized manner, an animalistic one, but they are in an uncivilized and animalistic situation where the most basic principles of life and death are at play. It is easy to act civilized from outside the situation, but do not pretend that the situation itself is civilized. That is why armchair judgments are without merit.

Distrusting the Statistics:

To those people who don’t know about my freaky memory, I have been known to retain information, sometimes word-for-word, read or spoken to me. A couple of years ago I read an article that reviewed a several year study on gun related deaths. The review was a rhetorical analysis of the study and why its findings were inaccurate. The study counted the number of deaths involving a gun, but the study did not state the number of firearms owned in America which would give a percentage of gun related deaths versus the number of gun owners. It also did not compare the number of all unnatural deaths versus gun related deaths. Then it came down to the qualifications for what constituted a gun related death. Some were suicides, but not all by gun; some were simply gun owners who committed suicide by hanging or the ingesting of pills, the gun not involved in the act. In some cases of deaths involving two people, the deceased owned the gun and the gun was not involved, such as strangulation, vehicular manslaughter, and stabbing. Nor was there any mention of how many of the two person incidents involved a gun that was not legally attained. Because of all these possibly willful oversights and frankly numbers fixing, I found that I could not trust the conclusions of the study. All data on firearms are based on emotional and/or political bias—either way, so all data is untrustworthy. People should just get over their need for data on this and live and let live. You don’t have to own a firearm if you don’t want to, but that shouldn’t stop others from owning firearms because it is the Second Amendment. The argument that “people” meant the states when the Constitution uses the word “state” in reference to the states is a kind of etymological gymnastic. And arguing that “keep” isn’t a synonym for “own” or “possess” seems disingenuous. Lawyers like to argue about the definition of words but debate is their job not etymology.

The Conclusion:

I understand that firearms are frightening to many people. It is truly a fear of what they represent: death. But this tool can prevent it as well given the right circumstances. Allowing fear to overcome reasoning, or even drive reasoning, is wrong and damaging. Pandora couldn’t put it all back in the box, and neither can we. Firearms exist, and we cannot unmake them. They will always exist. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and legislate them out of existence. They are also an American tradition and part of our history; there is the added bonus that their production creates jobs in a country sorely in need of employment. The more legislation on them, the less they feed into our economy. But the most important reason that I believe that firearms are not to be feared is that it is not the tool which causes harm but the intent of an individual and whatever tool they use, be it a firearm, vehicle, blade, pillow, or their own hands, we can never disarm our society completely because we have not yet disarmed all intent to harm. Anything can be a weapon and anything can cause harm put into the right person’s hands, but we know an object is not even needed. Our fear has been misplaced on the tool. Inanimate objects have no intent, despite the magical realism to the contrary in one of my thesis stories. People have intent. Fear the person who is willing to harm others, but don’t take the tools away from those who would defend themselves.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Empathy, Politics, Social Issues

 

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“Afeared” of Facebook: Political Posts and Offending Friends

Recently, I ended a one week absence from my personal Facebook account because of the Supreme Court ruling on the individual mandate. Why was I absent? I noticed on the day of the ruling that some of my many friends were posting responses to the ruling, most of them in celebration. As a moderate, I realized Facebook had become a dangerous place to anyone who felt strongly about the ruling either way. I changed my status to say I was taking a break for a week and got some Likes and some comments on how smart a move this was. However, I can’t help but feel that this should not have even been an issue. Why should anyone feel the need to run away from a social site? Is it right to chase away your friends?

The problem, as I see it, is simple. Facebook is a social networking website and political posts can be offensive.

Out of Site (pun intended) . . .

Say Person A is at a bar with their friends, the individual mandate has just been upheld, and Person A thinks about saying something. However, they look around at their friends and realize that one of them is not on the same side of this debate as Person A is, so Person A decides not to say anything and stick to less volatile subjects.

Facebook is like a virtual bar, but a person cannot look around the room and decide for the benefit of their friends not to say something possibly offensive. They are alone, so to them, there is no one to notice that may be offended. The chances are, in fact, that they will post something very offensive, and purposely so, without any thought that a friend may be offended. Such a post is basically when a whole group on the other side of the debate is decried for idiots. The problem with that is that some of the poster’s friends may be part of that group. The poster is not thinking of their friends specifically (if they are not trying to bait them, that is), but they have insulted their friends nonetheless.

Consequences

The results to any political post, even the non-insulting ones, can be disastrous. A long lasting argument, name-calling (virtual blows), accusations, and possibly being de-friended. This can be especially damaging because of two reasons: the two people arguing may know each in real life with mutual real world friends in common and others can see the argument. How someone conducts themselves in this argument is reviewed, albeit informally, by their real world connections, including employers, colleagues, family, and friends. These people can make the decision to stay out of it (both on Facebook and in the real world), comment on it (in either world), or take action (as an employer may have to). Opinions of both/all parties of the argument may be changed.

How to Avoid This

The best thing to do to stop a future argument is to to keep one’s mouth shut. Take the “Thumper’s Mother” approach to political topics. Why? Because Facebook is a social network, not a political forum. If a person likes their friends (which they should if they are friends with them), then they should try their best not to insult or offend them.

But Wait!

Isn’t it someone’s First Amendment right to say what they think? Why, yes, it is. We, in the U.S., have an actual right defending our posts on Facebook (not specifically–but wouldn’t it be funny if it was that specific?). So what is stopping someone from being offensive to the max on their Facebook account? Well, social grace, one would hope. Being purposely inconsiderate of others can result in ostracization (or an outrageously awesome career if you are a video game reviewer). A person is allowed to express themselves but probably shouldn’t be purposely rude to others whether in the specific or general. Otherwise, they may end up losing friends or their job.

When Insulted

If a person is looking around Facebook and is insulted by someone’s political post, the first thing they should not do is be a jerk too by commenting on a post with rude and insulting language in return. That’s trolling and akin to “two wrongs”. Better approaches are: not saying anything or telling the poster (in a private message) that their post was inconsiderate. If the friend is not a complete ass, they will apologize and say they didn’t mean to offend.

When Insulted Again

If the friend is an ass, they may say they don’t give a damn if they offended anyone. At this point, it is better not to take it any further. Why? Because “you have the right to be offended, you have the right to offend, you do not have the right to not be offended”. Why? Well, because we are not Betazoids who can read minds and know when we are offending someone. I am a firm believer in avoiding something that actually bothers you (go to another website, change the channel/station, if you are offended, but don’t be chased away from public places like the park). We should understand that being offended is not as big a deal as one would think. Move past it; there are more important things in life. Harassment is another issue altogether because it involves persistent attacks as opposed to inadvertent insults or the expression of reasonable opinions.

Social or Political?

If one does wish to avoid political posts on Facebook, it can be somewhat tricky to distinguish between social and political subjects because social has two major categories: personal and societal. Personal tends to be the safer of the two choices because it is hardly ever related to something political. But personal topics are not inane as so many are? My exercise program is about as interesting to some of my friends as someone else’s toddler in potty training is to me. I’d say, though, that personal good news is always welcome no matter the type. Political celebration or protestation is best left as a comment on a news article where you can argue with strangers that don’t see you in the real world.

 
 

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