Dad Blog: The Beginning

I became a dad over ten weeks ago, and I’ve been meaning to write about the experience this entire time. That should be a good indicator of how becoming a parent can upend your expectations (and I’m just a dad—we have it easy). Not to mention, as I’ve always said, it’s just so very easy not to write. Also, did you know it’s a law in America that at least one parent is required to blog about their experience within the first year of having a child? You get an extra tax credit if you combine it with a novelty Twitter account and get a book deal.

Truly though, I do consider myself somewhat of a writer and I’ve been intending to get to this for a long time, but the longer I waited the more I had to write about so I’m going to try to hit one thing per entry to make it easier for myself. So here we have: The Beginning! How did it happen? Well, you see, when a man and a woman—no, too basic.

My son Del was due on Tuesday March 21st and things had been going generally pretty well. My wife had been getting weekly scans due to her Advanced Maternal Age, which starts at 35. It’s also known as a geriatric pregnancy because we hate women and want them to feel terrible about their choices. Anyway, that means that in order to catch any complications that could be more likely with a mom who’s not a fertile high school kid or whatever, there are more checkups. We went in on the Thursday before the due date and it looked like her fluid was a little low. It had been on the low side for a while but this was the first time it approached levels they’d want to take action on. Those actions being 1) inducing right then, which even though the due date was five days away knocked us to the floor; 2) going upstairs for an IV; and 3) going home and drinking a ton of water. The hospital called my wife’s doctor and she said to send her home. So, we stuck with our plan of seeing Logan in the theater while we could still see movies in the theater, and Amy drank water like it was a dare. She waddled down 9th Ave to the movie theater and back and I’m certain someone thought she was already in labor. Our son was riding pretty low in the saddle, so to speak. We climbed over mounds of snow piled up at intersections from a snowfall a few days back. We really wanted to get in one more child-free activity.

We got home after the movie, which we really enjoyed and thank god at least one film finally understood the character while Hugh Jackman was still playing him, and we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. The plan was to go back to the hospital first thing in the morning and see if Amy’s fluid was back up. If not, inducement was a certainty. We weren’t going for a natural birth or anything, but we were worried that inducing could prolong the whole thing and we really wanted that last weekend! Seeing Logan was just one of the things we’d had planned while we were still hot youngsters in the best neighborhood in the best city in the world, and not some dumb parents who loved their kid or whatever. We needed to pack in more activities! We needed to become perfect people before trying to raise a child! We needed time!

I had pushed a film shoot with a good friend, something we’d been working towards for years, to the weekend before the baby was due. Really trying to beat the buzzer. So I would either make a short movie the next day, or I’d become a dad. Both things required a little planning the night before, and I didn’t feel like doing anything. Amy didn’t either. We sort of drifted around the apartment, aimlessly watching MTV Classic, talking about how we were putting everything off but not really doing anything about it. I finally made a lame shot list and we packed a bag for the hospital and went to bed.

Sure enough, after barely consulting the scan the next day, they told us to go upstairs to the delivery floor and get ready to do this. We proceeded to wait three hours in the lobby up there while they found a room. Amy insists this was a tactic to take our mind off what was about to happen, because it just pissed us off. It was successful. We had time to reach out to family and let them know what was up. Plenty of time to complain to each other about sitting in a sad hospital lobby for three hours. And then we were off to the races! I wasn’t sure if the room they brought us into would be the room where it happened (which used to just be a normal phrase til Hamilton), but when I saw the little newborn care station in the corner I realized my son was going to be in it at some point in the overwhelmingly near future and I got choked up in a good way. We had a great view of the Upper West Side and it was a sunny day. We settled in. Then we quickly heard the woman in the next room in the throes of what sounded to be a painfully natural birth. Our eyes were wide. A nurse walked in and we mentioned that and she said “oh don’t worry, she’s having a natural birth. It’s her second.” After a few more cycles the woman’s groans were met with the cry of a new baby. I got choked up again.

A quick word on nurses: they are angels who walk the earth among us mere mortals. Amy and I have both been lucky enough to avoid any major hospital time, so this was our first prolonged interaction with nurses, and they have seen everything and answered every question and allayed every stupid little fear but they still make you feel like you’re totally normal for worrying about the slightest thing or asking the silliest question. They all got invested in us and knew that we were really hoping Del would hold off until March 18th, because St. Patrick’s Day is generally a waking vomit-soaked nightmare in our neighborhood and we’d love to keep his birthday from being associated with that. They knew how bummed Amy was to be missing the Beauty and the Beast remake which came out that day (another sore point of that three-hour lobby wait—we totally could have gotten in a 10 AM screening). The postpartum nurses dealt with some pretty personal body things and made us feel like we could in fact take Del home without getting Child Protective Services called on us, so we owe them a great deal.

 

We settled in the room for what we assumed would be quite a long night. The TV was on MSNBC and I made sure to change it so that Donald Trump played no part in my son’s delivery. We thought the Food Network was a good neutral choice. Amy eventually turned it off because after she got her epidural she had to stop eating. We chatted with nurses, Amy rode out some pretty intense contractions before that epidural got set up, and I went out and got myself a burrito. We watched an episode of The West Wing on Amy’s laptop. I eventually dozed off a little after midnight in a rather comfy chair they provided for the partners.

 

Around 2 AM or so (yay, we made it out of the St. Patrick’s Day danger zone!) the doctor came in and said Amy looked ready to go. Like, right then. So I woke up and put on shoes because it seemed important to me to be wearing shoes for whatever was about to go down. Amy asked one of the nurses if it was probably going to take a couple hours, because we knew several moms who had to push for at least a few hours when they were induced. “Um, no, I think this is going to be pretty quick.” We got into position—my job was to hold Amy’s left leg, which had been knocked completely out of commission by the epidural (this had caused a few funny mishaps when she tried to move it and it just fell off the bed). It only took three contractions and Amy was amazing. Seven minutes later Del was in the room with us. There was a point where he wasn’t, and then he was, and there was no time in between and it was astonishing. I’ve thought about it a lot and that is the best word I can use to describe it. We didn’t get the whole movie moment where the exhausted mom tearfully cradles her new child on her sweaty chest. The doctor put him right onto Amy and we just looked at each other like “what? Is that it? Is he ours?” He was perfect.

We didn’t make it to the recovery room until 6 AM or so. I honestly have little memory of the intervening time. I awkwardly held Del for the first time, we took pictures, I called my mom. We all rolled upstairs to the room Amy would spend the next two days in and she got orientated by a nurse while I followed Del to his first bath. At this point I’d been awake for almost 24 hours and my services were not really needed at the moment (a common theme for dads in the early days). I watched drowsily as a nurse washed my screaming red son, thinking “I can just leave the room and go sleep next to Amy, right? Am I a terrible person for thinking that? I can’t leave my son alone. But he’s not alone, this lady knows more about him than you do at this point.” I eventually sat down in that room and dozed off while they finished checking him out and put him under the warmer.

I managed to sleep a little more in the chair by Amy’s bed. At some point I got up, got breakfast for myself and some coffee and checked in on our cat Tommy (our dog Omar was with a very good friend of his just down the street). It felt different to walk around our neighborhood. I was a dad now. This wasn’t just where I lived, it was where my son was born.

Amy’s dad got a last-minute flight when he found out we were inducing and got to hold Del less than 12 hours after he was born. We all sat around and stared at Del. It’s what you do with new babies. It’s what you do with 10-week-old baby too, and I assume an 18-year-old graduating high school. Amy tried to figure out the nursing thing. It turns out feeding a baby is a huge ordeal, who knew! Partners were not allowed to stay overnight unless it was a private room, which we weren’t about to shell out the cash for, so I guiltily left at 11 PM after being awake for 41 hours and slept more soundly than before or since. Amy is again a champion for dealing with a newborn and her own body in a dark strange room by herself. Mothers are the heroes of the world.

After two days in the hospital we took Del home. I brought the carseat with the assumption that we’d catch a cab the few blocks from the hospital to our apartment, secretly hoping that Amy would be up for walking because I had no idea how to go about getting a carseat into a waiting cab in traffic. We left the hospital, looked at the cars backed up on the street and Amy said “do you just want to walk? I think I’m good for it.” So we walked through Hell’s Kitchen on a bright cold day carrying our new son and a bag full of hospital goodies and everyone seemed to know he had just been born. A guy in a construction crew, clearing slush from that snowfall out of an intersection, stopped and said “Hey, how old’s your baby?” “Two days.” “That’s great, congratulations!” Classic NYC. We got him home, showed him all his stuff, sat down, looked at each other and said “what now?”

I’m not sure we’ve answered that question yet.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.

The Death of Rationality

One of the great spooks of my childhood was a little old lady out of Stephen King’s story “The Library Policeman” in *Four Past Midnight*. I don’t know why she’s the thing that stood out of all the disturbing material I read before I hit puberty, but she certainly did. Our basement was mostly finished. I’m not talking about some half-lit dank storage space. It was essentially my playroom while I was young enough to have a playroom. We had to walk through it when we came home and parked in the garage. It was a welcoming, fun place. But every time I had to head up the narrow steps to the main floor, I imagined this woman turning the corner as I made it halfway up. I would never look behind me, because to do so would be to acknowledge a belief that someone might actually be behind me even though I knew the basement was empty and secure and most importantly, this woman was not real.

My ability to experience the irrational, the fear that this fictional character was stalking me up the steps, and use the higher functions of my consciousness to allay that fear, is what I value most about being human. It helps us overcome the irrational, which is always bouncing around in our subconscious. Hatred, jealousy, murder—of course these things occur on an individual level, but as a species we’ve largely abandoned the every man for himself method of society, to the benefit of pretty much everyone. I think this is also the aim of most religions, though they generally operate through irrational methods. Please understand this isn’t an insult to religion! Faith is by nature irrational, as is love. Irrationality has its place in our lives. It’s an engine of creativity. But it requires a balance, and that is what makes us human.

So you can imagine my distress over the current administration’s facile handling of evidence, truth, and reality. Our country’s official stance is the one I avoided as a child: despite all evidence to the contrary, there’s a boogeyman over our shoulder and we need to drop everything that defines us to get away from it. We live in a time of overwhelming data. There is no longer a reason to pass laws and set policies based on irrational fears of what could be when what is tells us a different tale. We have a president who achieved office by convincing a minority of the electorate that the last eight years were some sort of Thunderdome that left us all in financial ruin, clinging to piecemeal rafts in a choppy sea full of sharks. All evidence points to the contrary, but here we are. Take your pick: the feasibility of walls as a countermeasure to immigration, the need for a new wall, the funding of said wall, the response to a perceived threat from countries that have not threatened us in several decades, the idea that “foreigners” and not automation have something to do with the reduction of manufacturing jobs in America, the idea that coal companies need to dump waste in the water that their workers drink in order for those workers to keep their jobs when in fact cheap natural gas is running coal out of the market, the idea that voter fraud on a level never seen in the entire history of American politics suddenly took place in an election that still rewarded the office to the candidate with fewer votes, that climate change is not a man-made phenomenon, the number of people present at an event witnessed by national media. I could go on.

I’m not a scientist, but I’m essentially talking about the scientific method. While not in a STEM field now I always favored them in school and initially went to college as a physics major with an eye on astronomy. Apparently this gave me a greater appreciation for the scientific method than most, because I despair at what I see around me. I know public policy isn’t “science,” per se, but there’s no reason not to treat it as such. Identify a problem, study its causes, and outline a solution based on that study. Rinse, repeat. We have decades of information regarding economics, public safety, social programs. This data should allow for evidence-based governance. Evidence destroys fear. Fear has no place in our government. And neither does Donald Trump.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.

What I’m Thinking About Today

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 pre-launch test failure that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Challenger explosion, and Feb. 1st marks the Columbia disintegration. I had no idea all these dates were so close together, though fortunately the actual events were all separated by decades. 

At a time of such division and strife I find it reassuring to reflect on these accidents, tragic though they are, and what they represent about us as people–in short, the best of us. Humans have an innate drive to innovate and explore, and the space program represents the highest realization of that drive. Every astronaut puts his or her life on the line for the sake of human advancement, and these astronauts all made that ultimate sacrifice for us. 

Science makes life easier for us, and it cures illness and keeps us alive. And yes, it enables us to destroy ourselves with shocking efficiency. But it also gives us a perspective we didn’t have before. It helps us understand where we came from and where we may be going. It helps us make decisions. The space program in particular gave Carl Sagan the chance to show us the pale blue dot we’re all clinging to in the void. We are small, the universe is large, and we need each other. 

Random thoughts on impending fatherhood

This photo was staged for profit and I find that hilarious.

We recently went to a class about taking care of newborns. While getting ready to head there I thought I should put on a nicer shirt, so I’d look more like someone who’s ready to be a dad. Like dressing slightly better is the only piece of the puzzle I’m missing right now. I’ve had the same thoughts at the meetings with the OB/GYN. I’m sitting there in a hoodie and a tshirt and sneakers and I feel like she’s looking at me thinking “why does this manchild think he can be a father?” I should stress that this is all on me. The teacher of the class and Amy’s doctor are both wonderful people. My impostor syndrome has never been stronger. But I am kind of an impostor! I’m not really a dad yet. I keep waiting for someone to come along and say “whoa buddy, you didn’t clear this whole thing with the right people.” And when they don’t, I think really? You’re all just going to let us go ahead and make a person? Wow.

People keep asking if we’re getting everything ready. Nope. I moved one bookcase out of the nook that will be the baby’s space. We have a registry and a shower in a bit so we’ll get stuff then, but the baby is about eight weeks out. The waiting is already getting a bit excruciating, and I don’t think sitting in our living room staring at a crib and a shelf full of diapers and bottles will necessarily ease that. I do for real want to make sure I’m in tip-top physical shape on the day, because I have no idea when I’ll be able to exercise afterwards and my sleep schedule and diet will mostly be “get what you can when you can,” so.

Someone asked me about working on a project that would probably take some of my time in the weeks after his birth, and I told them I’m game but I have no idea what my availability will be. My son’s birth is a singularity in the Kurzweilian sense. Something’s going to happen. I know that much. I can make guesses about what follows, but until I’m in it I can’t tell you anything about it. The time I’ve spent learning about Buddhism has helped me let go into the interstitial limbo.

In all honesty I’m really excited and nervous and I know it’s going to be intense and weird and wonderful and the class taught me that I’ve got more of a paternal instinct than I thought. I think we’re going to be OK.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.

George Michael and Me

georgemichaelfaithalbumcoverI was seven years old when George Michael’s Faith was released. My mom bought it on cassette and it joined the regular rotation of tapes in her Honda Civic. The music I listened to as a child was whatever my mom listened to. To that point in time I remember a lot of Air Supply and Billy Ocean, and several soundtracks like Dirty Dancing, Cocktail, and Footloose.

I was not a cool kid.

There were songs on all those soundtracks I enjoyed, but most of them were written for the movie or classified as oldies. I didn’t listen to the radio and I remember being way out of the loop whenever anyone brought up a current song at school. But Faith was different. I was there for that one, and I loved it. I loved the title track, I loved “Father Figure,” and yes, 7/8-year-old Colin spent a lot of time rocking out with his mom to “I Want Your Sex.” Someone else can unpack that factoid for me, because I’ve chosen to stay away from it.

I didn’t realize it until he was gone yesterday, but George Michael was my introduction to pop music and pop culture at large. I remember the video for “Faith.” I remember seeing this perfectly-stubbled little guy rocking out to his own song in the tightest jeans I’d ever seen. I remember the titillation of that slow pan up that model’s legs as she stood against the wall grooving to the jukebox. I remember skating parties at Rainbo Skate Center in Clarksville, whatever song was playing segueing into that endless pipe organ intro, knowing that once it was over I was about to rock that rink to “Faith.”

No child has ever been as excited about a pipe organ solo.

I also remember Dana Carvey doing George Michael on Saturday Night Live. This was right when I started watching that show, my first cast being Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Nora Dunn, Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Dennis Miller, Victoria Jackson. Classic seasons. Carvey as I remember mostly just yelled “Look at my butt!” via “satellite” on Weekend Update. George Michael was not only my introduction to pop culture, but my introduction to what we do to our pop culture icons. This, as you know, would be something that would follow him for a long time.

I was too young to understand sex and sexuality, which is why I unabashedly enjoyed “I Want Your Sex” while mom drove me around. I could, though, intuit that there was something a little different about George Michael from, say, Kevin Bacon’s character in Footloose or, perhaps ironically, all the characters I’d seen Tom Cruise play to that point. I knew what it meant to be gay, academically, but beyond that I had no idea about stereotypes or subcultures or anything like that. But I had an inkling that George Michael maybe fell somewhere outside the “boys who like girls” camp, which I figured I was a member of. He taught me, just by being himself, that sexuality is something that exists along a spectrum decades before I ever learned anything about Kinsey and his scale. And I was fine with it. I liked “Faith,” George Michael made it, so I liked him. Now I’m a grown man loosely connected to the entertainment industry, arguing for inclusion and representation wherever it’s lacking. That’s a lesson George Michael started teaching me in 1987.

George Michael had several iterations over the course of his too-short career, and it never felt like he was anything other than himself. Once I grew up and revisited this album that had such a secret impact on my childhood, I realized he was one hell of a vocalist too. It turns out that he was also an incredibly generous person. David Bowie meant a lot to me, but I didn’t realize how much George Michael meant too until he was gone. I know there’s an unspoken ranking to these people, impact craters that feel larger when some leave us as opposed to others. I don’t think we can underestimate the value of a pop star who taught a straight kid from Tennessee that not everyone is the same, and it’s fine because the people who are different can make awesomely inappropriate music to listen to with your mom and make you feel like the king of the rink.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.

From One American to Another

I sent this email to 119 electors in states which do not require their electors to vote according to the winner of the popular vote there.

Hello,

I hope the holiday season is finding you well.  I sincerely apologize for bothering you, but I am reaching out as one American to another to make a request of you.  It is an unusual one, but we find ourselves in unusual times.  To put it simply, I am asking you to reconsider casting your electoral vote for Donald Trump.

I can only imagine how that statement makes you feel!  Please just hear me out and give some time to what I have to say.  I’m not here to make an argument for Hillary or anyone else.  I’m here to make sure you know some things, things which I will continually remind you are real, not normal, and not American.  Of course you know you are not obligated to cast your vote for any specific candidate.  You’re in a unique position in that regard, and that’s why I’m reaching out to you.  I’ve included sources as well, credible journalistic sources.  

I’m not a member of your party, and I won’t pretend to make an argument on my behalf based on my party’s principles.  I want to do my best to frame my argument based on the principles of the Republican party, to which you’ve evidently given a great deal of service.  Remember, I’m writing to you as one American to another, not as someone trying to shout across this ideological gulf that we’ve been told is splitting American in two.  I personally find I have more in common with my fellow Americans than I have differences.  This is something I wish the media would remind us of from time to time.  

I want a strong, healthy Republican party.  Our country has done as well as it has based on the checks and balances that keep everything running.  I think that system extends to our political parties as well.  If one party is weakened and divided, led by someone who does not represent its principles, then all Americans suffer.  The tension created by the difference between Democrats and Republicans leads to a balanced centrist growth for everyone.  The GOP believes in hard work and self-sufficiency.  It believes in lifting oneself up through innovation.  Donald Trump has not thrived based on these principles.  He inherited his wealth from his father, who gained it largely by exploiting existing government programs1.  Donald Trump has continued to exploit government tax code and loopholes to maintain his largely inherited wealth2.  This doesn’t sound very Republican to me.  

Remember, this is all real.  It is not normal.  It is not American.

Donald Trump has no plans to avoid violating the Emoluments Clause of our Constitution.  He has openly admitted that he will stay involved in his company’s business affairs while he serves us as President, and that he sees no potential for conflicts of interest3.  It is clear that he has every intention of abusing his position as our leader to advance his own business.  This won’t help anyone but Donald Trump.  And it violates the document that both parties value as the blueprint for America.

This is real.  This is not normal.  It is not American.

Another important point to consider is the participation of a foreign state in our election.  I’m not saying that the votes were hacked, and I’m hoping the upcoming audits and recounts will bear that out.  But I am saying that our own intelligence community has discovered that Russian hackers accessed our voting databases4, and Russian “troll farms” as they’re called helped spread false stories about one candidate and one candidate only during the campaign5.  And, as we’ve all heard a million and one times, Russians were responsible for the DNC email hack–they targeted one party, and one party only6.  The cherry on top of all of that is that we know the Trump campaign was in touch with Russian parties during the election7.  This is absolutely unprecedented.

It’s real.  It’s not normal.  It’s not American.

Finally, I want you to consider the fact that the Trump campaign and subsequent electoral success has given a full-throated platform to the white nationalist movement in America.  There is a reason they’ve aligned with one of the candidates and not the other.  It is not random.  And it is now an association with your party that has been seared into the mind of any American paying attention.

And?  It’s real.  It’s not normal.  It’s not American.

You have a very difficult choice in front of you, and you are the front line defense for America’s future.  I can only imagine the sort of turmoil created when you consider casting your vote for someone other than Donald Trump.  Please remember that what is right is often not easy.  You may fear alienation from your friends and your party, but I know for a fact that more than half the country would consider you an absolute American hero.

Please make your choice wisely, and thank you so much for taking the the time to read this.

All the best to you and yours,

Colin Fisher

PS I made a pledge on Facebook months ago that any time I posted something political, I’d add something cute to offset it. I didn’t always follow through, but I’d like to do that now. So here’ s a picture of my dog. His name is Omar and he’s the best. https://www.instagram.com/p/BM1miGiAjNC/?taken-by=omarcomin_

Sources:

  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-donald-trump-got-rich-2016-3
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-trump-exposed-the-corruption-in-the-us-tax-code/2016/10/06/612eec4e-8bf8-11e6-875e-2c1bfe943b66_story.html
  3. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-11-22/trump-says-he-can-t-have-a-conflict-of-interest-as-president
  4. http://abcnews.go.com/US/russian-hackers-targeted-half-states-voter-registration-systems/story?id=42435822
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html
  6. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/08/us/politics/us-formally-accuses-russia-of-stealing-dnc-emails.html
  7. http://www.wsj.com/articles/interfax-reports-russia-had-contact-with-trump-team-during-campaign-1478791392

So, there you have it.  That email went out to 119 electors yesterday evening.  I got two bouncebacks and three “hahaha you’ve gotta be kidding” autoresponses.  One was actually quite well thought-out and considerate, though I fundamentally disagreed with almost everything the man said.

If you’d like to do the same, compose your own email (feel free to use anything I’ve written here or a script you find online, though I encourage you to personalize it) and go to http://asktheelectors.org.  You can copy and paste the emails and send them from your own email account, rather than a form email from a website as things like this often go.  If I had this email to write over again, I’d tweak what I said about Donald Trump abusing the tax code.  He’s absolutely abusing it, but unfortunately that’s largely the Republican way.  I’d rephrase that as him taking advantage of what is essentially government welfare, which I know is not something most Republicans are fond of.

Look, I know this is a long shot.  I know it’s circumventing the way things are “supposed” to be done in this country.  I don’t care.  I have to take actions to keep Donald Trump out of office, or in the very least actions that keep his policies from being enacted, because I care about this country and the only person who will benefit from a Donald Trump presidency is Trump.  If you believe otherwise you’ve been fooled and/or you’re kidding yourself.

Ken Bone and the Public Predator

During last night’s debate, as soon as they announced that the next question would be from Ken Bone and I saw the man who was saddled with that handle, I had about three tweets ready to fire off.

Then I paused.

I realized they were just snarky observations about the incongruity between his name and appearance. I don’t want to be a guy who mocks someone based ultimately on their appearance*. Then I listened to the man. He asked a pretty good question. We’ve BARELY touched on climate change during this election. The breakneck pace of the longest trainwreck in history unfortunately hasn’t allowed for us to consider the long game. He seemed genuinely excited to be there, asking these people his question. He was mild mannered, wearing an adorable red sweater (because he’d split the seat of his suit pants earlier in the day), and you just wanted to hug him.

Then after it was all over and everyone was milling around on the stage, you could see him snap a photo of the set with a disposable camera and walk off. How innocent and real this man seems in a time largely devoid of both traits.

(When I say innocent I truly mean innocent; I assume he’s been living alone in a Faraday cage for two years if he’s undecided at this point).

So as you see his story play out this week like any other internet meme, think about why he stood out so much last night, think about how people are reacting to that, and think about how we got where we are right now.

Also Donald Trump is a monster and a villain and I can’t believe we actually have to ask who won a debate between a woman with thirty years of political experience and a man who has called for the forced deportations of Mexicans, the banning of Muslims, and bragged about sexual assault.

That’s all.

 

*Look back through my Twitter history; I’ve surely done this at some point.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.

If you’re white and you don’t think there’s a problem…

I’m feeling feelings based on events in the news and I don’t really know what to do with them.  I see comments online, not so much from my own friends but from their friends on Facebook or comments on news stories (why?  why do I keep reading those?) that indicate a lot of white people who don’t seem to understand that the racial tension in America stems from very real things that need to be dealt with in a very real way.  The general tone seems to be that people in bad situations are personally responsible for being there.  I want to share some things that have helped open my eyes to the depth of the racial problems in America and what “institutional” really means.  These are things I’ve learned from just listening.  I think the first thing a privileged group should do when another group claims oppression is just listen.  It’s literally the least you can do.  Listen, absorb, consider.

You can draw a pretty straight line from slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow to the institutional racism of 20th-century housing practices, drug laws, and law enforcement.  It’s like forcing someone to race to earn a living, breaking their legs before they run the race, then fining them for not finishing it.  Here are some things that helped me trace that line.

The first time I began to understand just how fundamentally different things can be between white America and black America was after Trayvon Martin was killed.  I was appalled that it happened, but unfortunately that wasn’t the first or last time a child of color would be killed as a result of gross overreaction.  It wasn’t the actual murder that opened my eyes as much as it was an article about “the talk” a black parent gave their children about how to behave in public in order not to get murdered.  Here’s one example, but I encourage you to dig around for more if you’re interested (that goes for the other points I’ll bring up).  I’d been brought up to respect police and to know they were there for my protection.  If I was ever in trouble, I could go to them and they’d help me.  One of my only real contacts with the police was the DARE officer in my elementary school.  He was a good guy.

Which reminds me, you should also google the disproportionately racial aspects of the war on drugs.  I know that’s another field where it’s easy to say “well, what do you expect?  If you get caught with drugs you should get punished.”  Sure, but the laws don’t seem to act the same for white people and black people.  And one of Nixon’s aides recently made an astonishing admission that their drug policy was enacted with the direct intention of keeping African Americans oppressed.

Anyway.  Learning about this talk that a lot of black parents have with their children really shook me into a realization that things just don’t work the same way in America for white people and black people.  Another thing that really helped me understand what “institutional racism” means was an easy-to-understand article about the history of racist housing policies and their effects on the black community.  We all had to read A Raisin in the Sun in high school right?  I would argue that very few teachers are actually teaching that play, unfortunately, because it was just a couple months ago that this lesson was really brought home for me.  Home ownership played a big part in the rise of the middle class in America post-WWII.  For white people.  Black people weren’t given the same access to the loans needed to own these homes.  They were denied access to wealth in the form of property in a country where wealth more or less equals political power, or at least the power to make decisions about your own life.  Denial of this access led to lower property values for de facto segregated black communities, which led to poorer schools, which leads to that societal handicap I referred to in my second paragraph.  Nikole Hannah-Jones has done some absolutely fabulous work on the problem with race and schools in this country, both for This American Life and the New York Times.  Please check out her work.

And now, obviously, we have high-profile killings of African Americans at the hands of police when it seems that such force was completely unnecessary.  This has been particularly hairy.  I know that most cops aren’t racist and most cops aren’t shooting people who don’t need to be shot.  But there is no room for error in that job.  It’s not an easy one.  I’m certainly not cut out for it.  It requires literally supernatural abilities to divorce yourself from emotion so you can make split second decisions in life or death situations.  I think we need to examine who we’re hiring for this job and how we’re training them.  And until we start seeing a wave of videos of white people dying in these same circumstances, you can’t deny that this is a problem for minorities in America.  I don’t think this is going to change until the good cops start speaking publicly about the bad ones.  I don’t know, I’m not here to provide answers.  I’m just an actor, I have no idea what to do to fix these problems, but acknowledging the problem has to be step one.

Everything I’ve mentioned is recent history.  We were all taught about slavery and the Jim Crow laws and their defeat by the civil rights movement; however, I’m not sure we were made to understand the reality of these things beyond facts on a page.  Africans started out life in this country as literally less than full people, per the United States Constitution.  We eventually fought a war over that and changed it with new amendments, and that needed to happen, but understand that those amendments were ultimately just words on a page.  You can’t pass a law that changes how people see things, and the Civil War didn’t end that long ago in terms of generations.  The practice of lynching certainly didn’t end long ago, generationally speaking.  Something that helped me understand how widespread this heinous practice was, and the monumental ignorance of it on the part of the US government, was Ann Hagedorn’s Savage Peace.  It covers the year 1919 from start to finish.  You will never see Woodrow Wilson the same way.  And lynchings were common for decades after that.

Wealth and power take generations to build.  The Irish were coldly received in this country when they began flooding in after the famines in the mid-1800s.  Eastern Europeans weren’t welcome at the end of the 19th century.  But they didn’t face the same institutional roadblocks that African Americans have faced in this country.  They were able to start businesses, buy property where they liked, elect their own to office and build wealth they could pass on to their children who would then continue to grow.  It took generations.  So when I see people complaining that affirmative action is trying to fix racism with racism, I shake my head.  I understand the reasoning of the argument, which as I understand it is that you’re trying to end discrimination based on race by using discrimination based on race.  This would be true in an even playing field, but I hope I’ve shown that America has been anything but.  To shut your eyes to race is to shut your eyes to the history that has led us here.

I really hope this has been helpful.  If you thought so, please pass it along.  I’m painfully self-conscious of trying to play some sort of white savior here, because that’s not my intention.  I just want this to serve as a platform to help white people who say otherwise realize that there are very real problems in the country that can’t be ignored.  We need to take it upon ourselves to get educated about them and listen.  Your experience is not THE experience.  Listen.  And hopefully then take some sort of action.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.

Thoughts on the fatal Tesla autopilot accident

I have some thoughts about the fatal crash of an autopiloted Tesla in Florida that occurred on Thursday.  Get caught up here.  Before I say anything about the social implications, I want to say that of course this is a tragic accident and I feel deeply for Mr. Brown’s family.  What a strange circumstance to have to deal with, especially since Mr. Brown was such a fan of the technology and its potential.

The tenor of coverage surrounding accidents like this is usually something like “will this be the end of driverless cars in America?”  I find this very unfortunate, because we badly need this technology.  It will absolutely save lives, reduce accidents, keep traffic flowing, and make driving in general a more pleasurable experience.  The fact of the matter is that driving right now is not a safe endeavor.  It has become safER, over the decades, thanks to improvements in manufacturing and safety measures like seat belts and airbags; however, that same technology has been known to kill people.  See the recent recall regarding Takata airbags.  That doesn’t signal the end of airbags.  It means we need to figure out how to consistently use airbags safely.

Accidents involving autopilot don’t mean we need to stop pursuing autopilot as a means of driving cars.  It just means we need to work harder to make it practical.

Because of driver inability to stay unaffected by emotion while driving, or because of the limit on human reaction times, there will always be fatal accidents due to human error.  Making autopilot the standard of driving will eliminate that subset of accidents.  It will introduce its own set of problems, which will sometimes involve fatalities, but on the whole as studied thus far it will reduce fatalities overall.  It will improve traffic, safety, and even gas consumption.  We need to make this technology the standard and we shouldn’t let fear dictate this issue.  From the article linked above: “The crash also casts doubt on whether autonomous vehicles in general can consistently make split-second, life-or-death driving decisions on the highway.”

Humans certainly can’t do that consistently, so please explore other ways to make driving safer.

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