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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Behold the Dreamers, and Behold, Those Hot Dogs!


Its regurgitation in newspapers of record and blogs of repute would be another reminder why the American society as a whole could never call itself highbrow, why its easy availability of stories on the private lives of others was turning adults, who would otherwise be enriching their minds with worthwhile knowledge, into juveniles who needed the satisfaction of knowing that others were more pathetic than them. - Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue

Before entering the secure and not lucrative world of public service, I spent the first ten years or so of my career working for a private consulting firm. It was a good place to start and I did crazy fun stuff in some pretty amazing places. I worked in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada (more or less in order of how exciting those locales were). I flew in helicopters and stayed in a fishing lodge once where we were served prime rib and fresh dungeness crab once a week.

A view of a hawk's nest from a helicopter



The hawk baby's view, maybe?

When things were going hot in the American economy, I was hopping and things were looking pretty great. For someone who was willing to try anything, it was as good a place to get a career start as I can imagine. I got my fingers into every plum the environmental permitting world had to offer, skipping through baking hot oil fields, collecting overtime and saying, "what a good boy am I."

Pictured: A good good boy

On one job I would do burrowing owl surveys in the morning, starting around 4:30 AM. Then I'd survey for cactus for 10 hours. Then I'd finish with an evening of burrowing owl surveys. Another job saw me doing owl surveys all night and then a breeding bird survey at sunrise before trying to sleep the day away in a too-hot cabin surrounded by enormous ponderosa pine trees and noisy California quails. 

I accrued enough frequent flyer miles and free hotel visits to take my family to Oregon to visit my sister, and we stayed in the nicest hotels I'd ever seen. I grew up either camping in KOAs or going from Motel 6's to Motel 8's and sleeping on a roll-away bed that was too short for me, and I knew at the time that this gravy train would someday stop, and that my kids would be ruined forever by good hotels and top-notch complimentary breakfasts. But I didn't care.

"Our people say no condition is permanent... Good times must come to an end, just like bad times, whether we want it or not."

That's where I was when the sub-prime crisis hit. And for a while, I weathered it. It almost looked like I'd get through it without a scratch. I graduated with "just" a bachelor's degree and had a job in my field pretty much on day one. A couple of years later, I was helping review resumes for a temporary field tech job that I had been doing while I was still a college student, and was a little humbled by the quality of the candidates. This was for a job that literally consisted of walking back and forth and looking at the ground. The year before we'd been hiring river guides and snowboard instructors and now I was looking at resumes from people with PhD's who had owned their own companies. 

I was looking like a genius and eating crab in Alaska while the folks who went on to grad school when I hit the workforce were trying to get jobs that I'd had when I was a junior in college, and they weren't even getting those. Things were getting a little tighter, sure. It used to be there was always work in the oil fields when my day-to-day office work was getting old, but that dried up. That was fine, though, because the hotels there were gross and wind farms were where the fun work was anyway.

But then the wind farm subsidy went away. And a project we'd won that was supposed to keep us busy for the next ten years dried up. And then things got scary. Like best-friend cats who turn on each other when they can see the bottom of their food bowl, we started getting a little punchy among co-workers. When one's ability to pay their mortgage hinged on whether they were put on a project or not, we became hyper-aware of who was busy and who wasn't, and came up with all sorts of nefarious reasons.

Decision-makers who were overworked would still hoard their projects in fear of finishing too early and working themselves out of a job. Clients started paying very close attention to every line of the contracts and started asking that experienced biologists get pulled because their billing rates were too high, or refused to pay for travel, instead asking that we hire local temporary workers instead of keeping full-time employees busy. 

Full-time employees started resenting temporary employees, and established staff started resenting the new, cheaper folks. There was a bit of we-were-here-first attitude. And also some main-office-employees-should-get-work-before-satellite-offices murmurings (I first wrote "murmurations," but when I looked it up found that it only applies to a flock of starlings, which is awesome). It wasn't the new people's fault that they lived closer to the projects, and they needed work, too. 

At the end I was working about 24 hours every two weeks with a few hours of office work here and there in between and we were going to lose our house. It was really close, you guys. I was sending out 4-5 resumes a week without a single interview. I was super lucky to find a job in time. It certainly didn't get easier overnight, and things are tight still, but also infinitely better.

Last day of work smile
In America today, having documents is not enough. Look at how many people with papers are struggling. Look at how even some Americans are suffering. They were born in this country. They have American passports, and yet they are sleeping on the street, going to bed hungry, losing their jobs and houses every day in this…this economic crisis.
There's a PTSD that sets in after something like this, and a lot of us have it. Not too long ago I sat down with my grandpa while he was interviewed about growing up during the Great Depression. He lived in a boxcar and they were lucky to have it. Like a lot of grandparents of kids of my generation, I would sometimes laugh at him. He had a great job and a wonderful retirement and hasn't had to worry about money for decades, yet he still relentlessly scoured the swap meet for brass antiques, which he would turn around and sell by the pound for a minor profit to a guy who would melt it down.

"If God cuts off your fingers, He will teach you how to eat with your toes."

The Great Recession left me with milder scars. I don't rinse off aluminum foil to reuse it yet. But it messed me up a little. I still don't want to buy a house, because I don't want to have to sell a house. I worry about losing my job. I worry about my wife losing her job. I see coworkers sometimes as trying to undermine me. I worry that I'll be replaced. I blame other people for my problems even when I know that I lost work at my old job because I didn't do good enough work the first time.   

Imagine that on a nationwide scale and you can start to see where some of the political unrest we're dealing with comes from. When there was a lot of work at my consulting job, we loved each other. We loved the revolving cast of seasonal employees we met (except for the gross ones), and there was always more work and hours to go around than people to fill them. I loved mentoring new people and finding them opportunities. There were some paranoid people even then who didn't like to share, but it was pretty apparent how wrong they were. We needed to train up the people who would replace us before we went on to run the world.

I rebounded OK, and even though things are tight and sometimes we have to figure out how to feed a family of five with a combination of leftovers and our last $5. We are still eating. That's not the case for a lot of people. And for whatever reason, whether it's their fault or not, they want to blame someone. It's wrong and it's gross and I hope that we can all accept this while simultaneously recognizing that wrong or not, that blame usually ends up with immigrants.

We love the immigrant story when things are going gangbusters. Anyone not named Mike Pence who can afford to see Hamilton sings gleefully along (hopefully in their heads, because you guys) at the phrase "Immigrants, we get the job done." That's pretty easy. It's tougher to root for someone who has way fewer advantages than you but seems (from the outside) to be doing better. Why should they have a job when I don't, you may find yourself saying. They shouldn't even be here.

It's like being angry that someone is getting that sweet 1.50 hot dog and soda combo at Costco and you know they don't have a membership. There's nothing that makes Americans angrier than someone who looks like they are flaunting the rules and having a great time doing it. We assume the worst, because that's the narrative that makes us feel the best. You see someone parking crappy or speeding by themselves in the carpool lane and you wish you were driving the Condormobile with lasers and rear-mounted flamethrowers. When you or I park crappy or speed, it's always, always for a good reason though.

Here's the thing about all of that stuff: I've never seen Costco run out of hot dogs. And there are almost always more parking spots. I was near apoplectic when I found out that I couldn't get an SNES Classic preorder because scalpers were using a bot. I couldn't believe the unfairness. They weren't following the rules and were getting rewarded for it. But when I got an email a little later saying that a few more preorders opened up and I managed to snag one, suddenly I was pretty zen about it. Like, I was still mad because other folks weren't getting one and my heart hurt for them, but I wasn't that sad.

Even when they are following the rules, sometimes we find reasons for resentment. In Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers, Jende is a Cameroonian immigrant trying to get a green card via asylum laws. He's in New York legally with a work visa, but it's set to expire. He works as a cab driver while sharing an apartment with four other immigrants until he saves enough money for a tiny, cockroach ridden apartment and can bring his wife and child over, his wife on a student visa. In other words, they've done everything right so far. But this American Dream is like the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's very aesthetically pleasing, but look at the bones.



Jende gets a job as a driver for the family of a big time Wall Street executive at Lehman Brothers. Jende is making four times what he was as a cab driver, and the work is easy. Pleasant, even. The Edwards live in a perfect penthouse apartment and have a mansion in the Hamptons. As first Jende and then his wife Neni get to know the family, they see cracks in the perfect facade. They begin to see how precarious their livelihood is, and how the whims of these rich white people who they love but also fear can mean an end to their American Dream.

The year is 2008. There are bad days on the horizon for Wall Street executives and their drivers.
My advice to someone like you is to always stay close to the gray area and keep yourself and your family safe. Stay away from any place where you can run into police-that's the advice I give to you and to all young black men in this country. The police is for the protection of white people, my brother. Maybe black women and black children sometimes, but not black men. Never black men. Black men and police are palm oil and water. You understand me, eh.
Like Jende and Neni, Mbue is from Limbe, Cameroon. There visitors are welcomed with a sign that says, "Welcome to Limbe Municipality, the Town of Friendship." In New York City, the message is mixed. Today, immigrants are an easy scapegoat for unemployment in the United States, but we also hear that in two California counties, $13 million worth of crops rotted in fields due to a labor shortage. Even when farmers offered salaries above minimum wage and a 401k plan, Americans weren't willing to do the job that migrant workers did before immigration crackdowns made it too difficult. In my own work, we're facing abnormally high prices for habitat restoration work for the same reason. Costco is not running out of hot dogs, you guys. We just don't like hot dogs enough.

I don't know if that metaphor works but man, those hot dogs are too big for one person to eat. That's my main point.
People in this country, always worrying about how to eat, they pay someone good money to tell them: Eat this, don’t eat that. If you don’t know how to eat, what else can you know how to do in this world?


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Fire This Time and Today, We're Just Going to Listen

I threatened to do this two weeks ago, this time I'm going to do it. I really love to write, you guys. That's why I do this. I like to hear myself talk and by that I mean read what I've written. I genuinely go back and read old posts and sometimes I laugh and I say dang, kid. That was good. I can't do that today, though. And it's not because I'm lazy. I'd love to write some jokes and anecdotes and pal around with you all before laying down some hot social justice warrior riffing from the rad electric guitar that is my keyboard. I'll do that next week, I bet. Today, though, we're just going to listen.

These are all quotes from The Fire This Time, a New Generation Speaks about Race. The book is a series of essays edited by Jesmyn Ward. In 2 Corinthians 13:1, it says "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." In The Fire This Time, we have witness after witness of what it's like to be Black in America. Not in the 1800s, not in the 1920s, or even '60s. This is right now. This is the world I'm a part of and you're a part of and to some extent we are all responsible for by our votes, our actions, and the way we defend the institutions responsible for this fear. Please just read this and think about it. See you next week!

Most of the essays quoted are available on the internet and links are provided.




Please know that there will be times when some people might be hostile or even violent to you for reasons that have nothing to do with your beauty, your humor, or you grace, but only your race and the color of your skin. Please don't let this restrict your freedom, break your spirit, or kill your joy. And if possible do everything you can to change the world so that your generation of brown and black men, women, and children will be the last to experience all of this. And please do live your best lives and achieve your full potential. Love deeply. Be joyful. In Jubilee, Mom. - Edwidge Danticat (link goes to my book reviews)


"The world is before you," I want to tell my daughters, "and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in." Edwidge Danticat


A friend recently told me that when she gave birth to her son, before naming him, before even nursing him, her first thought was I have to get him out of this country.
I asked another friend what it's like being the mother of a black son. "The condition of black life is one of mourning," she said bluntly. For her, mourning lived in real time inside her son's reality. At any moment she might lose her reason for living. - Claudia Rankine

When I started riding the city bus to high school, I observed that a muffled radio message from an annoyed bus driver--about someone talking too loud or having the right fare--was all it took to make the police rush in, drag a young man off the bus, and beat him into submission on the sidewalk. There were no cell phone cameras back then to record such abuse, and most of us were too terrified to demand a badge number. 
Besides, many of us had fled our countries as exiles, migrants, and refugees just to escape this kind of military or police aggression; we knew how deadly a confrontation with an armed and uniformed authoritarian figure could be. Still, every now and then a fellow traveler would summon his or her courage and, dodging the swaying baton, or screaming from the distance, would yell some variation of "Stop it! This is a child! A child!" - Edwidge Danticat

"Somebody loves you enough to try to keep you safe by informing you of your rights." - Emily Raboteau

The boy was in a rotten mood. He demanded a drink then rejected the water we'd packed. He whined that the walk was too long, then challenged our authority in a dozen other hectoring ways until we at last arrived at Highbridge Park. There he refused to descend the hundred stairs to the bridge by flinging himself onto the asphalt with his arms and legs bent in the style of a swastika, not five feet from a dead rat. The kid's defiance bothered us for all the usual reasons a parent should find it irksome, but also because if allowed to incubate in the ghetto where we live, that defiance could get him killed. - Emily Raboteau

When we first learn to walk, the world around us threatens to crash into us. Every step is risky. We train ourselves to walk without crashing by being attentive to our movements, and extra-attentive to the world around us. As adults we walk without thinking, really. But as a black adult I am often returned to that moment in childhood when I'm just learning to walk. I am once again on high alert, vigilant. - Garnette Cadogen

A city was waiting to be discovered, and I wouldn't let inconvenient facts get in the way. These American criminals are nothing on Kingston's I thought. They're no real threat to me.
     What no one had told me was that I was the one who would be considered a threat. - Garnette Cadogen

I remembered that people of color from my region of the United States can choose to embrace all aspects of their ancestry, in the food they eat, in the music they listen to, in the stories they tell, while also choosing to war in one armor, that of black Americans, when they fight for racial equality. - Jesmyn Ward

"There was a lynching every four days in the early decades of the twentieth century. It's been estimated that an African American is now killed by police every two or three days." - Isabel Wilkerson

...we cannot talk about black lives mattering or police brutality without reckoning with the very foundation of this country. We must acknowledge the plantation, must unfold white sheets, must recall the black diaspora to understand what is happening now. Second, it reveals a certain exhaustion, I think. We're tired. We're tired of having to figure out how to talk to our kids and teach them that America sees them as less, and that she just might kill them. - Jesmyn Ward

I remembered how easy it was for me to ignore what was already obvious, so I wrote down some details to remind myself of what I shouldn't forget: people were carried like chattel on ships to America; they were sold to other people; they were stripped of their names, spiritual practices, and culture; they worked their entire lives without just compensation; they were beaten into submission and terrorized or killed if they chose not to submit; when they died they were buried in the ground at the far edge of town; and as the town grew; roads and houses were built on top of them as if they had never existed. - Wendy S. Walters 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Ramona, The Champions, and Parenting

Recently I realized that my son has already hit the age where he has discovered that his dad isn't the hero he though he was when he was little. My middle daughter might be there, too. Heck, even my youngest has probably known it for a while. 

The problem is that I am often not great at doing anything. They see me lose my temper while playing video games and get tired and yell at them when it's bed time. The other day I was trying to write a blog post and my youngest girl wanted to sit by me and I said, "I'm sorry, I can't write with someone sitting right here." She wanted to know if I would play a video game instead and she can just watch, but I was like, "the fans need a blog post."

We both know that this last part is a lie and life would have gone on just fine sans said blog post, but also that writing them is something I do for me and sometimes a dad needs to do something for him. That's what I tell myself, but it's a bad look. I'm not proud of it. I'm not proud of how many times I've been reading or watching Rube Goldberg machines on YouTube and one of my kids has sweetly asked if I want to play a game and I say "can I just sit still for a minute because I'm exhausted."

I just read Ramona and Her Mother to said youngest girl and that wasn't what I was planning on writing about but it's actually not a bad idea. I've loved Beverly Cleary since reading Dear Mr. Henshaw in elementary school, but I didn't read Ramona books because duh, I was a boy. Now that I'm reading them to my kids I find that they are wonderful and I cry always.

Ramona's mom and dad get angry sometimes, and it really affects her. While I was reading, my wife would come in and out of the room, and afterwards she'd tell me how the book made her feel when she read it as a child. One part she remembered perfectly: it's when Ramona's mom and dad get into a fight and go to bed angry. Ramona can't sleep, so she climbs into bed with her unfortunately nicknamed sister Beezus and they wonder aloud if their parents are getting a divorce. That's heavy stuff for a little girl and it's heavy stuff for adults, too.



Even with their fights, though, her dad is clearly a better dad than I am. The book was written in 1979, and it's clear that he does as much housework as her mom does. That's pretty remarkable for the time and according to a recent study, leads to ambitious daughters. He is "cross" sometimes (I wish we'd bring back the word cross), but soon is ready to laugh things off again. He doesn't like his job, but he leaves his work at work and is ready to love his kids. I often felt bad reading it to my little girl who just wanted to sit with her dad while he wrote or played Stardew Valley.

I know, you guys. I know that she'll grow up and not want to play games with her dad anymore and I'll look back on every single time I turned her or her sister or her brother away when all they wanted was to spend time with me. I'll sing "The Cats in the Cradle," and I will probably cry like I just read a Ramona book. I definitely will not look back and say, "but that blog post was pure fire," because by then it will be something I only reflect on with embarrassment.
Ramona could not understand why grown-ups always talked about how quickly children grew up. Ramona thought growing up was the slowest thing there was, slower even than waiting for Christmas to come. She had been waiting years just to get to kindergarten, and the last half hour was the slowest part of all. - Ramona the Pest
That's something that happens with parents and kids, we know that. Some kids idolize their parents even though their parents are demonstrable garbage piles and spend the rest of their lives trying to love them again in spite of it. There are kids whose parents are driven and disciplined and create unbelievable achievers and maybe pushed too hard on violin or sports or whatever and their adult kids eventually look back in awe at everything they did for them.

And then there's the ones in the middle. Kids of parents who most of the time are doing their best but blow it as often as they don't. These kids promise that they will never make the same mistakes their folks' made, but at some point in their own parenting hope that they can do at least as well with their own kids. At some point most of us look back on our lives in amazement that we survived and that we are as happy as we are, whatever level of happy that is. Not because our parents were flawed but because this world is a meat grinder and it will tear you to pieces and we look around and see the casualties every day.

As a dad all I want is my kids to do better than me. I want them to know at a young age the things it took me a life to try to figure out, and like scientists taking over for the generations before them, build on it and do even more. If that means they look back on what I did and critique it honestly and find me wanting and make some changes and unlock more secrets to living a happy life, I'm glad they're doing it differently if that's what it takes.

That's what gets me to the book I really thought I was going to write about, which is Book 1 of Champions. Whoops, I tricked you into reading a post about a comic book. Not sorry at all. Comics are good, and you can put that on my headstone. In fact, please put that on my headstone so that bored kids on Memorial Day who explore the cemetery looking for anything interesting would revisit mine every time and wonder who I was. Maybe they'll leave comics there and I can read them as a ghost. This is literally the best idea I've ever had. Oh my gosh. If I don't ever write a will I hope this blog post is legally binding because I want this bad.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Champions. Here, look at the cover that I have verified I can use according to copyright law because it illustrates the comic book in question:

Marvel

Here's what you're looking at here: in the front is young Cyclops who was brought forward from the past to remind old Cyclops (who had turned villainous) to see his young optimistic self and change--which doesn't work--and who is now stuck in a time he doesn't understand. Then there's The Totally Awesome Hulk, who is Amadeus Cho, the 7th smartest man in the world. Then there's Nova. You know Nova. And the floating pink girl is Vision's daughter Viv who is like a robot? And then of course in the middle with the lightning bolt is Ms. Marvel. I don't need to talk more about Ms. Marvel, do I? Read Ms. Marvel.

Matt Howard
Born: 7/23/1979; died whenever of Mountain Dew poisoning
Comics are Good

Summary: a Korean-American, a Pakistani-American, black Spider-man, a robot, a white guy, and the son of an alien and a Mexican housekeeper team up after quitting The Avengers because The Avengers don't get it anymore. The Avengers are old and wrong and disappointing and it's up to the young kids to fix the world. This book is the worst nightmare of baby boomer journalists who pay their house payment exclusively with columns about how Millennials are to blame for everything.

They kind of have a point, though. If you're not following the comics because you're not insane, this is coming right after Civil War II, where Captain Marvel and Iron Man get in a war and drag everyone in and terrible things happen. The Champions vow to do things differently, and they do. They rescue girls being trafficked in Baltimore, fight for the rights of Muslim girls in the Middle East, and take down a racist sheriff in a small town.

Marvel
Yeah, you guys, they're wearing costumes and one of them is giant and green and another is pink, but the thing that's awesome about Champions so far is that they fight real-world problems, and they don't do it with their powers. Instead they empower the people who live there to solve their own problems and just provide some very, very powerful backup. Because they've figured out that a superhero can fly into a city and stop a crisis right then, but not protect everyone all of the time (and also because in real life the people who are reading these don't have super heroes to save them so they have to do it the old-fashioned way).



They don't have everything figured out because they're just kids. They definitely screw up and argue, but also they don't let the fact that they're just kids stop them from trying. This week I was in a meeting with some high school kids who want to do science on a property I manage. They don't know a lot, but that doesn't mean they can't discover something that's never been discovered before. I saw a presentation this year by a kid who frickin' blew the roof off of badger behavior and got worldwide attention. He didn't know that's what he was looking for, but recognized it when he found it and advanced science.

We spend all of our time wringing our hands about how the next generation is making our world uncomfortable for us, but never stop to think about the world they are inheriting. It's a different place, and the kids who are growing up on smart phones and unpaid internships and fidget spinners and racism didn't invent those things, the generations before them did. They're just stuck with them.

The most boring thing you can say is that young people's adaptations to a world we created but are rapidly losing touch with are wrong.

Books are scary!
The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison? - Reverend Enos Hitchcock, 1790
How about chess?
A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages...chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises--not this sort of mental gladiatorship. - Scientific American, 1859
Here's the thing: we complain all day about how kids are so cynical but don't take any credit for the cynicism. We could argue that our entire nation is still recovering from a president who hired criminals to break into the opponents office while kids who should be in college or learning how to be carpenters or artists or whatever were dying in jungles and there were less than 500 bald eagles left in the United States. Even Captain America was so disgruntled he gave up the costume for a while.

Just in my lifetime I've seen a presidency where 138 members of his team were investigated, indicted, or convicted for various scandals and his administration thought that the AIDS epidemic was funny. Then we get a president who appoints a sex-offender to the Supreme Court, then a president who commits adultery and lies about it, and has been accused multiple times of rape, then we get one who attacks a country in response to a terrorist attack that country had nothing to do with, then a president who ramps up US drone programs responsible for killing somewhere between 400 and 800 civilians. And those are the conventional ones. I can't imagine the lasting imprint this current administration is going to make.

If our government officials are (heaven forbid) our parents, and we the kids, we've got plenty to complain about. The signs of abuse are all there. The effects of trauma last generations. And we have the right to want something better for the future. But sure, let's blame the historic amounts of marches and protests on the fact that millennials want free stuff. That works, too, I guess.

Ramona Quimby isn't a real person, but I still think she turned into a great woman because her parents were doing their best. They're always poor and Ramona has to spend time with the neighbor and her pill of a granddaughter and sometimes they fight. But they love her and they're good examples. Her mom gets a job because the family needs it, but stays at the job because she loves it. Her dad scrubs the bathroom after work. They are just barely making it, and I know as a parent that they want their kids' life to be easier and better and more fulfilling and sacrifice to get there.

The Champions have super powers, but want to do something new with them. The old stuff isn't working anymore. While The Avengers are saving the universe and fighting among themselves, somebody has to save the neighborhoods in a way that makes it so they don't need saving anymore. Of course the internet is losing their mind that comics are suddenly filled with social justice warriors (here's a rebuttal, btw). But guess what, they always have been.

Every generation overstays its welcome and gets real sad about it, but that's only because most of us don't spend time with actual young people other than being annoyed by them on public transportation. It doesn't take much to realize that maybe they aren't like us because we were wrong sometimes and they're figuring out how to be right. It's not the craziest thing I've read in a comic book.