Archive for February, 2014

Drug warrior claims weed killed 37, but you and I can be just as blind

by David McElroy

Michael-PristoopWhen the Maryland state Senate was considering a proposal to legalize medical marijuana, Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop had the perfect rebuttal to this “outrageous” idea.

Pristoop testified to a Senate committee that marijuana is so harmful that 37 people died in Colorado on the first day of legalization there.

Many of us were immediately laughing at Pristoop, because we recognized the story of the 37 dead people as satire making fun of the crazy claims and fears of the drug warriors. Only an idiot could be blind enough to fall for that, right?

Although I laughed at Pristoop, too, I quickly started thinking about something else. What happened to Pristoop happens to all of us at times. We might not embarrass ourselves as publicly as Pristoop did. We might not fall for such obvious satire as he did. We might even be a lot smarter than he is.

But I’ve noticed that we all have our own blind spots. We all have assumptions we’ve made that we can’t even consciously identify. We all have beliefs that are so deeply held that we don’t question them. And as a result, we can all be fooled by anecdotes that support what we’re already inclined to believe.

Pristoop has spent his career as a cop in the context of the “war on drugs,” so he’s inclined to believe that recreational drugs are evil and dangerous. So every story of someone abusing drugs and paying a price resonates with him. He believes those stories — whether they’re true or not — because they reinforce something he’s already certain about.

He’s completely sure that Colorado made a horrible mistake legalizing drugs. Since much of the focus of police work ever since he’s been a cop has been arresting people who use and sell those drugs, he has to maintain his belief or else admit that he’s spent much of his career doing something pretty evil. No normal person wants to believe that. It’s easier to simply stick to what he’s been taught.

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Head and heart don’t agree about love, including Valentine’s Day

by David McElroy

Heart vs. brain

I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. It’s artificial, manipulative and commercial. It’s a “holiday” that’s manufactured by the makers of cards and candy and other gifts. It’s meaningless. Really.

Except when it’s not meaningless. Maybe when you wish you had a chance to say — in a sincere way — what the mushy cards and saccharine sentiment of the day says. Do I actually hate it? Or do I miss the chance to say these things to someone who feels the same in return?

In many ways, love is a conflict between the head and the heart, especially when it’s not clear what the right direction is. I’ve faced this conflict many times. If I didn’t know that other people experience it, too, I would feel crazy because of the ways in which these conflicts pull me in different directions.

One thing can seem to make so much logical, pragmatic sense, but leave me feeling cold. That’s the head talking. Another thing can seem to be as necessary as air and water just to continue living. That’s the heart talking.

For me, fear has been the thing that’s spoiled everything — fear that I might marry the wrong person, fear that something I see inside of someone might be dangerous long term, fear that I might disappoint someone. And on and on. So many fears. So much regret.

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Without the state, who would plow roads? We and our neighbors will

by David McElroy

Plowed street in Suffern, N.Y

When Vincent Ferrari woke up Thursday morning, his neighborhood in Rockland County, N.Y., was snowed in by about six or eight inches of snow. By halfway through the day, Village of Suffern snow plows were still nowhere to be seen, but what happened early in the afternoon is a great lesson in how people can co-operate — if they’re allowed to make their own plans and they don’t rely on government.

When nobody from the village showed up to clear the street, the neighbors did it themselves.

“Without government, who would plow the roads? Let me tell you who,” Ferrari said late Thursday afternoon. “My neighbor’s grandson and five of my neighbors.”

The neighbor’s grandson — a young man named Tommy — has a truck with a plow. The mayor of the village lives about a block from Ferrari, but she’s apparently on a trip to Florida this week. No plowing had been done in the 12,000-population village as far as Ferrari could tell, so by early afternoon, Tommy got to work clearing the street. Ferrari and five other neighbors went out with shovels and worked on the areas right around everyone’s driveways.

“He plowed and then we each dug each other out,” Ferrari said. “You know what that’s called? Voluntary co-operation. You know who hasn’t been down my street? A [government-owned] snow plow. Not a single one. We are the only street in the whole area that’s cleared because we did it rather than waiting for our savior elected officials.”

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I’d love to move to a Caribbean isle, so what’s been keeping me here?

by David McElroy

Caribbean sunset

As I sat for hours in the gridlock of traffic last week while Birmingham dealt with an unexpected ice storm, I had one question on my mind: Why haven’t I already moved to the Caribbean?

It sounds like a joke, but I was half serious. I’ve thought for a long time that I’d like to move to a Caribbean island. I have nothing except history tying me to Birmingham (or any other place). I’m tired of the cold that I experience for a few months in the winter. I’m tired of the humid southern summers. I’ve visited a dozen or so islands and I keep finding myself wanting to go back and stay.

So why was I creeping along — and getting trapped on — highways covered with enough ice to be skating rinks last week instead of living on a tropical island?

I could probably give you a dozen reasons. The cost of living is high. The opportunities to make money are more limited. There would be new cultures to learn, maybe even a new language in some places. I’d be leaving friends and familiar places behind. And on and on.

But the bottom line is far simpler. I simply haven’t been willing to commit to doing whatever it takes to make it happen. I’ve accepted the status quo because inertia was easier than committing to change.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

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David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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