May 28, 2014

Good guys who would never…

I am compelled to write about the Santa Barbara tragedy, and the subsequent, and vitally important #YesAllWomen movement that’s taken shape.

I want to write because I think it’s so important for men to hear these stories and take stock in them, because I know for a fact many men simply don’t understand how big of a problem this really is. I know that for a fact because it has taken me a long time to realize that my own actions have been at times, objectively terrible.

It’s easy for men to chime in and say that they are good guys who would never … but, what’s vitally important to realize is that phrase easily describes every single man. The world isn’t filled with good guys and bad guys, with some easy line or test to differentiate the two. Sometimes men make themselves known as misogynists, but it’s usually not so simple.

I know that I have let my anger get the best of me at times in a relationship, and I have said things that were mean and awful. I know that I have made ridiculous demands that were unreasonable and impossible to meet.

At the time, I rationalized my behavior as being part of a relationship “problem”, or some other nonsense that let me off the hook. I made myself feel reasonable. I was the one shouting but somehow I was the victim.

I don’t know exactly how to say all of this, except for the fact that this type of behavior is normalized far too much in our culture. To many men, maybe we expect the bad guys to look like bad guys, and to make themselves known. But it doesn’t work like that. Bad guys look a lot like us, no matter who we are.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the ways in which I’ve fallen short in my own life. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand that what might seem like “a stupid fight” to a man, might feel like a dangerous situation for a women. I’ve learned that you need to call out sexist, misogynistic, and abusive behavior when you see it come from others. I’ve also learned the most important part is realizing when it’s coming from you.

It’s easy to be a good guy on Twitter. It’s a hell of a lot harder to understand and accept that we haven’t always been the good guy, and that we all have a responsibility to change our culture, starting with ourselves.

Oct 3, 2013

Close to home

I was feeling pretty sick this morning, it’s been a hell of a week and I was trying to practice a little bit of self-care. The big thing on my calendar for today was a 2 p.m. meeting at work, and I was deciding if I’d go into the office or not. My office is right across the street from the Hart Senate Office Building.

I decided to join the meeting by phone. I had a bit of a headache and my sinuses were clogged. The call was mostly standard stuff, talk about what’s going on with the government shutdown, that sort of thing.

17 minutes into the call, just before 2:20 p.m., I heard a commotion on the other end of the line. I heard some loud noises and some confused voices of people wondering what was going on. Then I heard someone say “gunshots” and someone else yell “get away from the windows” and then I heard nothing.

Probably the scariest silence I’ve ever heard. I had no idea what was going on. I hung up the phone and tried to call my girlfriend who works in the Hart building. No answer. I worried maybe there was an active shooter and I shouldn’t have tried to call her, lest her ringer alert someone to her location.

I checked Twitter and saw reports of a crash and shooting at Second Street NE and Constitution, literally right outside both my office and Hart.

I live eight blocks away, and I walked over to Hart once I saw the lockdown was lifted. At that point I couldn’t get to my office, but I could take this photo.

Everyone I know is OK, but today was probably the scariest day I’ve had in D.C. since I’ve lived here. And I’ve been here for eleven years.

Sep 16, 2013

What we talk about when we talk about shootings

image

There was a shooting today, close to where I live and where I work. It was at a place I used to work, in fact. Twelve people and the shooter are dead, others wounded.

There was a shooting today, so that means it’s time to talk about shootings again. It’s time to talk about the horror and the panic, about how the man got the gun, about why he shot those people, about why he shot some people and not other people, and all of the other hows and whys.

Today we talk about whether it’s too soon to talk about it, or whether it’s too late to talk about it, or if it’s already and always too late to talk about it. We talk about why we only talk and why we never act, or why we need to talk less and act more. We talk about why we care about twelve people shot all at once but we don’t care about twelve people shot separately. We talk about what it actually means to care, because even though we talk more about the twelve at once, we still do the same that we do for the twelve separately — nothing.

Today the people on the television talk and talk, all day in fact, about this shooting that happened right near where I live and work and maybe near to where you live and work, and certainly near to where the President and Congress live and work.

I didn’t hear the shots today, I was too far away. But I’ve heard shots when people die and when people get hurt. I’ve seen them laying in the street, I’ve seen relatives crying and asking why. The idea that these things are just expected, whether a dozen together or a dozen separately is something that while I am used to makes me sad in a way that’s maybe worse than hearing about the shootings in the first place.

But what I’m trying to say is: when these things happen all of the time it’s never too soon or too late.

Sep 10, 2013

Reflecting on 12 years ago

On September 11, 2001, Air Force fighter pilot Heather “Lucky” Penney scrambled her jet into the air over Washington, D.C. Her F-16 fighter had no live ammunition or missiles. Her mission was to intercept United Flight 93 and make sure it did not reach Washington — using the only means possible — ramming it with her jet.

Watch her talk about that day, and recount a story she heard about what happened at the Pentagon when she flew over (around the 47:00 mark).

Nobody knew. There was no information for those individuals as they were evacuating the building. Was there another one coming in? I mean there had been two that had hit the World Trade Center.

And then, we flew over. In full afterburner, coming low, right over the Pentagon as we headed up north to look for Flight 93.

And this individual said that the entire crowd erupted into cheers, because they knew at that point in time that they were safe, because we were airborne, and we wouldn’t let anyone else come and hurt them.

Apr 3, 2013

Elissa Silverman for D.C. Council

Recently in this space, I wrote of my endorsement of Brianne Nadeau for the Ward One seat on the D.C. Council. Today, I would like to explain why I am supporting Elissa Silverman for the At-Large seat in the April 23 Special Election.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen several candidates run for At-Large seats under the “progressive” and “reformer” banners. In 2011, we had Bryan Weaver. In 2012, we had Peter Shapiro and David Grosso. Two out of these three candidates lost, with many people talking about how the “progressive vote” split, allowing for the “establishment” candidates to win. That trend was broken in the November 2012 General Election when David Grosso defeated incumbent Michael Brown.

Now in 2013, we are facing yet another Special Election. There are several choices, and the top tier of candidates includes progressive candidate Elissa Silverman, Republican reformer candidate Pat Mara, Democratic reformer candidate Matthew Frumin, and Democratic incumbent Anita Bonds. Out of these choices Elissa Silverman is the best choice.

Anita Bonds, who was temporarily appointed to the Council via an internal vote of D.C. Democratic Party members, could be considered the establishment candidate. She is the chair of the D.C. Democratic Party and works for a construction company that does a lot of business with the city. She’s well connected with the older generation of D.C. politicians. While I respect the work she has done with the D.C. Democratic party, she doesn’t bring new energy or a new perspective to the Council.

Matthew Frumin, who has been civically involved in his neighborhood and surrounding area for some time, offers something of an interesting campaign. He is not part of the traditional D.C. establishment and is running on a “reformer” platform. He has prior experience running for political office — he ran for Congress in Michigan in 2000. I think Frumin would make a good candidate to one day run for Council from Ward 3, but he doesn’t bring enough to the table right now to represent the city as a whole.

Pat Mara, a Republican running under the reform banner, has run for city-wide office several times and presently serves on the State Board of Education. He says he is “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” That term is a nice way to introduce a Republican to your Democratic friends, but it’s difficult to understand from a policy perspective. In many cases it’s very difficult to balance those two. He signed Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” and was an ardent supporter of both Mitt Romney and John McCain’s presidential campaigns. His fiscal conservatism runs at odds with too many things I value as a progressive Democrat. I don’t argue with the claim that Pat Mara will bring reform if elected, but I worry what kind of reform that would be. I know it wouldn’t be progressive.

That leaves Elissa Silverman, the former journalist and budget analyst for the non-profit D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. I have known Elissa personally for several years, and I have urged her to run for office in the past. When she told me she was considering a run, I told her it would be the hardest thing she would ever do, but it would also be the most important thing. I’ve watched her build a strong campaign and avoid many of the pitfalls and mistakes I’ve seen other candidates make.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with many candidates on many campaigns. I’ve seen good candidates lose elections and bad candidates win. Elissa is a strong progressive candidate, who challenges the current political environment from the left. That’s a good thing for a city that is plagued by income inequality, education inequality, gun violence, homelessness, and many other problems. Elissa understands the D.C. budget and isn’t afraid to be tough to get results. She’s also working hard as a candidate and has built an infrastructure that I believe can turn out enough votes for her to win.

I hear some say that supporting Elissa will yet again splinter the “progressive” vote and lead to an “establishment” victory. I would argue that the conventional wisdom surrounding some of the recent progressive defeats is incorrect. There’s a million ways a campaign can lose an election, and it’s very often not the fault of an opponent. Those who complain about vote splitting as a reason for defeat are usually destined to lose. A campaign that wins should be focused on identifying, persuading, and turning out voters. Focusing less on vote splitting and more on vote getting would be a better strategy. 

With your support, Elissa Silverman can win on April 23. I offer her my vote and my strongest endorsement. I hope you join me.

Learn more about Elissa Silverman.

Mar 27, 2013

I endorse Brianne Nadeau for D.C. Council

I am thrilled to support Brianne Nadeau’s campaign for the Ward One seat on the D.C. Council.

I previously worked with Brianne on a D.C. Council campaign and I have seen her talent and dedication. She also served as my ANC Commissioner when I lived in Adams Morgan. I know that she works hard and delivers results for her constituents.

Bringing new leadership to the Council for Ward One will be challenge, but I am confident Brianne has what it takes to win. Over the past several months, I have seen her build a strong, professional, and powerful campaign. She has demonstrated that she has what it takes to run a winning campaign. I fully endorse Brianne and will do everything I can to ensure she prevails on Election Day.

Mar 22, 2013

#SupportAdria

This is important so I wanted to make sure I say it as loudly as I can. It’s very important to stand with Adria Richards.

I want to say it loudly because I have the opportunity to say it and for you to read it. This is a privilege as well as an obligation.

First, this Forbes post, “Why Asking What Adria Richards Could Have Done Differently Is The Wrong Question,” is an important read and is right on the mark. There’s also an amazing hashtag developing on Twitter right now, #IAskedPolitely.

The very short version of all of this is that Adria Richards was at a conference and overheard men making sexually explicit jokes during a plenary session. She took a photo of the offenders and tweeted it. The offenders were asked to leave the conference and one of them was apparently fired from his job. A whole bunch of ignorant, hateful people began to target Adria and her employer, SendGrid. Many made very explicit threats of violence to Adria. Hacker groups and others targeted SendGrid with denial of service attacks. As a result, SendGrid fired Adria.

In the wake of this, there’s been a lot of talk about whether Adria handled this correctly (wrong question: see Forbes article linked above), whether the offending man should have been fired (I don’t know), whether SendGrid should have fired Adria (no), and then all sorts of other ignorant questions and assertions that make my blood boil.

When I was a senior in high school, I was a volunteer server administrator for an online gaming network. I’d stay up way too late playing Counter-Strike and removing abusive players, cheaters, etc. One of our very strict rules was that we didn’t allow people to make “gay” jokes on our servers. A lot of people would come on the server and say “gay” when they got killed, or call other players “gay” or “fags” or whatever else, and I’d have to warn them and then kick or ban them if they continued. It was weird at first — growing up and at school everyone used “gay” or “fag” as an insult or whatever else, so I was used to it. I didn’t even realize how used to it I was until I had to look for it and enforce this rule on the server.

But I was just joking! they’d say. Lighten up! I would hear. Didn’t matter. I’d warn them and if they did it again, they’d get kicked off the server. Do it again and you’re banned. No questions. No exceptions. That’s the rule and if you break it, you’re out.

At the time I thought it was kind of a pain to enforce the rule and didn’t really understand why it was important. At the time, I was 17 and a dumb kid. A dozen years later and I am very thankful we had that rule. We decided that using that kind of language was unacceptable, and we stood firm. And you know what? It worked. People didn’t use that language on our server. And for people like me, I thought about the use of those words in my own life, and decided not to use them, and I called my friends out for it when they did.

There’s a lot of people in this world who don’t think about how what they say or do affects others. That’s simply the truth, and in fact it can be very hard to really think about how your words might make others feel. But here’s what I know, and I think most others know as well: the tech industry is not very welcoming or empowering to women. There’s a hundred or so reasons why this has come to be, and there’s a hundred different things that need to be done to fix it.

But here’s one thing that’s simple: be professional and consider how your words may make others feel. I simply want to throw my computer out the window when I read something somewhere that complains about how this whole incident will have a “chilling effect on free speech.”

Newsflash: It should have a chilling effect on stupid, offensive speech. Good lord, how is this that complicated. While you may not intend your dumb joke or explicit story to offend or make anyone uncomfortable, it’s a problem when it does. Let me try to be clearer on this because it’s really important. When someone is made uncomfortable in those situations, you don’t get to tell them they shouldn’t feel that way. You don’t have that right. No one has that right. No one can tell Adria that she shouldn’t have felt that way.

I support Adria because she spoke out against something that wasn’t cool. She made it clear in the way she felt best that she was uncomfortable by the comments she heard. Good for her. It’s really hard to stand up for yourself sometimes. You know how you always imagine what you’d do in some far-fetched scenario like getting mugged or your house burning down? And you think you’d always do things the right way? Or even just some dumb scenario like ordering coffee at Starbucks and then you screw up your order when you get to the counter. It’s really hard to stand up for yourself. It’s really hard to stand up especially when you know the Internet is going to bring forth all kinds of nonsense wrath and threats and who knows what else. So good for her.

She stood up and said something wasn’t cool and she did so in a way she felt comfortable doing. End of that part of the story.

Should the guy have been fired? I have no idea. That’s up to his employer. Maybe he’s had a history of offending people and this was the last straw. Maybe there’s another explanation. I have no idea. But that was a decision made by his employer, not Adria, not women as a whole, not feminists, not feminist bloggers, not feminist tweeters, not anyone other than his employer.

Should Adria have been fired? No. SendGrid had an opportunity to send a clear message to the tech community that they stand by a woman who stands up for herself and for other women. But, they balked at that. They didn’t have it in them to push back against the vitriol. That says something about SendGrid and their management team.

There’s a lot of work to do to make things better for women in technology. I don’t have all of the solutions, but I know we need more people like Adria.

Mar 13, 2013

"It was interesting"

From the New Yorker:

We looked at each other with a mix of tenderness and befuddlement, moist-eyed. It was clear to both of us, after the five or ten minutes of our hasty conversation, that this chance meeting was the last time we ever were going to see each other. I would never find myself in Yekaterinburg, and he wouldn’t be returning to New York or coming to Montreal. We wouldn’t have seen each other, either, had he not recognized me a few minutes ago in this unlikely locale, in the middle of a bustling New York bookstore.

But that was O.K. Knowing we would never see each other again—it was O.K. When you’re young, you think there’ll be plenty of time for everything in your life: counting all the grains of sand in the Sahara Desert, seeing all the people in the world, becoming greater than Jesus and Lenin and Lomonosov and Pushkin and Einstein all rolled into one, reuniting at some point with everyone you’ve met once in your life, befriending every man, falling in love with every woman… Life is a process of gradually coming to terms with the meaning and the very concept of never-ness. Never—well, so be it. Quoth the raven: oh well, them’s the breaks. Get used to it. Get over it. Life is a perishable proposition of rapidly diminishing returns. You could’ve become this or that; you could’ve been here and there and everywhere; but that didn’t happen—and well, so be it. There won’t be, in the end of your life, a joyous, transcendentally meaningful regathering of everyone you’ve ever met on your path, with stories shared and wine flowing and laughter lilting and happiness abounding and life never-ending—well, so be it.

“Well, so—how was it, in all?” I asked him, just as we were about to part ways and give one another an awkward farewell hug.

He understood me. “Life, you mean?”

“Yeah, you know… life,” I said, with embarrassed chuckling. “What did you think of it?”

“It was O.K. Good. Better than one might have expected,” he said, pensively. “I can’t complain. How was it for you?”

“Interesting,” I said. “Yeah, definitely. Pretty interesting. I wouldn’t know what else to say about it. I, too, can’t complain—and it would be pointless to complain, too, because … well, who or what would one complain to? It was interesting.”

Jan 20, 2013

A second inaugural address

Fellow-Countrymen: 

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865

Dec 29, 2012

Like Dylan in the Movies

Earlier this month, I was out in San Francisco. I end up out on the west coast once or twice a year for work, and this was the first time in 2012. I had the pleasure to catch up with a friend of mine who had fled the east coast for greener pastures a few years ago.

We met up in the Tenderloin, not far from my hotel. We caught up on the past year or so over fancy cocktails in a perfectly dimly lit bar. He came out west for Twitter, I stayed out east because of Twitter. I talked about having spent most of the year working on the election, and he recounted how different it was to be in California for an election.

A couple of days later, we’d meet up again at Twitter’s offices for lunch. It was an odd experience to see their giant dining hall, with hashtags such as “#comfort” over the different food stations. It was at once surreal and predictable. Here we are at Twitter headquarters. Of course they have hashtags in the dining hall and there are engineers everywhere wearing Twitter hoodies.

That night at the bar, I tried to find the right words for why Twitter has been important to me. It was difficult, but there was an unspoken understanding with my friend. Since he worked there now, I wanted him to know: Thank you.

Something else was on my mind, a feature soon to be released. It had been promised for some time: the Twitter archive. The ability to download all of your old tweets. It was a feature I wanted so badly. Three years of tweets, more than 29,000 of them. The primary source on the history of my life, 2009-present.

I was worried, though. What would happen when I opened this box? Would I agonize over certain moments, certain events, certain tweets? Would I replay the years over and over with the perfect narration that was already in my own voice?

A few weeks later, as soon as it became available to me, I eagerly downloaded my archive.

Before I dove in, my friend warned me:

Also — be careful, it’s like the Mirror of Erised … “It does not do well to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.”

As I explored, though, I was pleasantly surprised. First off, the interface is wonderful. It’s exactly how I imagined browsing my old tweets. It’s sorted by year and month, with a little bar graph that shows your volume of tweets per month. I wasn’t particularly surprised by which years and months I tweeted the most. I already knew.

What was surprising was what I ended up pulling out as I went through the archive. I didn’t focus on the sad stuff. I laughed at my favorite jokes. I noted my observations that seem silly a few years later (e.g. “IPAD IS A HORRIBLE NAME” or “I really want Google Wave!”). I found fewer things that were embarrassing than I imagined, and the sting of certain things was less than I anticipated.

For me, the archive was serious business. I had wanted it for so long. I found a lot of things I was really proud of, and I could see how I had evolved since 2009. It was startling. It was incredible. I saw a few things I wish I had done differently, but such is life. I didn’t dwell. I smiled. It was good.

Ultimately, the archive just reinforced what I love about Twitter. That it’s here and it’s now. It was nice to look back, it was nice to find those funny and poignent moments — but it’s not to dwell over. I am glad the archive is a download and not a page that anyone else can see. The wonder of Twitter is how instant it is. How it’s all about what’s happening right now. Sometimes it’s vapid. Sometimes it’s sad. But it’s real. It’s the realist thing, and I mean that in all the ways you can mean real, that I’ve ever experienced on the Internet. It’s real, and it’s amazing. That hasn’t changed, even though now I can look back, perfectly, over all of it.

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About
He had already learned there was only one day at a time and that it was always the day you were in. It would be today until it was tonight and tomorrow would be today again.

Hi, I'm Dave Stroup. I write and take photos in Washington, D.C. You can call me an organizer, but of people and not things. I'm on Twitter and Flickr. Here's a small bio. You can view my resume on LinkedIn. Questions? Ask me. I can also be reached via electronic mail. You can subscribe via RSS.