Friday, October 14, 2016

The Worth of Souls- and Politics

The concept of divine grace has been coming up in recent politics more than normal.  Since God's forgiveness extends even to the most vile of sinners should the sins of politicians be overlooked?  Should Trump be excused because King David had concubines and had God's favor anyways?  Should white supremacists be personally immune to criticism because as Christian's we shouldn't judge people?  I honestly don't object to religious concepts being used to promote civil discourse towards people... because people are people and have inherent value.  If you want to say that we should define actions as despicable and not people because people are always redeemable or however else you want to express that fundamental respect I am actually very ok with that.  That being said, there seems to be a weird switch going on every time this comes up.  Politicians and religious activists seem to have a tendency to invoke these concepts only when it involves their own political group.  James Dobson can claim Bill Clinton is unfit for the presidency because of his infidelity but that Trump is fit for the presidency because he is a baby Christian who should be forgiven for his mistakes.  Not that all the leaders in this discussion aren't Christian's by some denomination and measure, at least by baptism so that is hardly a relevant point to distinguish one set of people from another as who we should view as receiving God's grace.  Bill Clinton is as a Baptist, Hillary is a Methodist, Trump grew up a Presbyterian even if he lacks much familiarity with Christianity in general.

I think it is valid to argue that there are really two discussions happening here.  One is of someone's political worthiness and the other is about the worth of someone's soul.  Everyone has their political opinions and their political leaders they align most closely with.  Everyone's soul has their elements of brokenness and of goodness and the potential to grow in brokenness and goodness.  Everyone is in some way redeemable and has inherent worth.  I don't think it is dishonest to support a politician whose political goals align with yours even if their personal character isn't to your liking.  But it is very problematic to change the subject from political to moral worth as if they were the same subject.  Sure they are related subjects, but not the same thing by a long shot.  If you propose that your opponent is politically wrong and morally unsuited for office and then propose that your own deeply flawed leader is morally forgivable because God forgives everyone, you run the risk of suggesting that God loves everybody equally but that some people are more equal than others.  At that point the message about God's universal love and your advocacy for moral goodness become eclipsed by your political message.  At which point it would have been better to have never brought up morals or God in the first place and to have just made the argument about politics.  You might even say that the saying about good fences making good neighbors applies to the separation of church and state.  If you try to use God as a servant to your politics your politics can subvert the message about God or subvert your political aims by gaining the opposition of people who believe differently about God.

So go ahead and argue all you want for how we should give broke people a chance to be leaders because God loves everybody- just so long as you actually mean everybody.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Exercise as a mind game

I think there is always a balance between how much increasing the difficulty of your work out routine is actually about slowly building up to build strength and avoid injury and how much of it is just a mind game you play with yourself.  A game where you say "it doesn't matter that I feel exhausted, I can do more" or perhaps "I don't care that the weights look crazy big" or "I'm going to ignore that I'm intimidated by what I'm about to do."  Anytime you increase something there is always that nagging fear in the back of your mind that you aren't really sure if you can do it or not.  Which is mostly a healthy fear- it keeps you from pulling muscles and doing other stupid things to yourself.  But that fear gets in the way of moving on as well.

Growing up as a teenager I loved doing situps.  For one I could do more of them than anyone else I knew with only a few exceptions.  If I had a situps competition with someone else the explosion of power I could command at the start of a set honestly surprised people sometimes I think.  For another it was amazing how many daily life activities became easier to do once my abs muscles were in top shape.  And honestly sometimes the sheer strength was just fun to have.  I was strong enough I could lay on my back and flip my legs up so powerfully so as to throw myself into the air and land in a standing position.

It took probably several years of work to get to my peak- when I did 3 sets of 300 situps 3 times a week.  A lot of that time I spent just being scared- 100 situps in one set was a lot and I felt sore when I got up that high.  It just simply scared me that doing that many seemed kind of insane.  The soreness towards the end of the set of 100 just never seemed to go away.  Finally I got fed up with it and decided to push through the soreness to see how many I could do before failing.  I jumped very quickly from 100 situps to 300.  I discovered it wasn't about whether I was ready to move on physically, it was just a mind game.

Since I started exercising again I haven't really had many specific goals, except that I want to be able to do 300 sit ups again.  After learning how many I could do without feeling like I had practically pulled something I set a goal to always try to beat my last week's routine by 5 situps per set.  As I approached 100 it had me wondering, how much of this is just a mind game again?  I didn't want to recklessly push to see how many I could do before failure, but increasing by 5 has just been painstakingly slow.  In the range below 100 I felt like I had to fight for every increase and sometimes spent a couple of weeks in a row without increasing at all.  Since I past the 100 mark I've started to pick up the pace.  Instead of increasing by 5 every time I've been increasing by 15.  Last week that would have landed me only 10 away from 200, so I pushed through and increased by 25 just to be able to say I hit that mile mark.  Then today I was psyched up enough I increased by 25 again, up to 225 per set.  As I was working through the 3rd set going above 100 I just felt exhausted and scared that I couldn't do it.  225 situps just feels like an insane number, how could I push to that so quickly?  But for the rest of the day my abs have felt fine- no problems.  Tomorrow the stiffness will probably set in and I'll spent 2-3 days feeling the consequences of my rush.  It begs the question, what will I do next week?  And the week after that?  Am I at the point where physically I'm ready but I still have to win the mind game to keep up the pace?  Will it only take me another 3 weeks to get to 300?  Or will I be forced to slow down again, collapsing in exhaustion on my exercise bench?  I simply don't know what to expect.

The problem with doing endurance training with really high repetitions is that they take a long time to complete.  I could use adding maybe another wrist exercise to my routine but I don't have time right now.  Once I hit 300, I plan on switching my situps to be more focused on weight training instead of on high repetitions.  Lets see if I can still do 50 situps while holding 10 lb of weight.  I've never done situps with weights so I don't know what to expect.  But I know when I sit down on that bench there is always the fear that I won't be able to complete  my crazy goals.  But I'm doing it anyways.  Right now I'd say I'm winning the mind game.  And why not?  It's fun.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What does it feel like now that I have two autistic kids?

I wanted to explain what it feels like now that not only just one but both of my children are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.  It is... complicated.

I believe that I am a fully valid person whose being on the autism spectrum is fully part of who I am.  Some days are harder to feel that way because I have to fight to believe in myself.  As I told someone not long ago, I wish I had known I was on the autism spectrum earlier in life so I could have understood why I felt so different from other people and not just like some kind of unexplainable freak.  As an extension of fighting to believe in myself, I have to believe in my children no matter whether they are autistic or not.  Part of me wishes their life didn't have to be as complicated as mine.  But the bigger part of me believes just as much as I believed when my wife and I decided to have children that the kind of life I represent deserved to have a chance to be lived.  We always knew genetically we had a high chance of having autistic children.  That being said, I never would have intentionally tried to have all of my offspring be autistic if I could.  I would have been perfectly happy to see what a non autistic "version" of me could have been like through my offspring.  Now I know that won't happen.  Life is hard enough we don't expect to have any more children and both of my kids are autistic.  While it is easy to say the words "I accept you no matter what" in reality the act of acceptance is tied to the complicated idea of accepting myself.  There is nothing simple about it.

How I feel about my son being diagnosed is so closely tied to how I feel about myself that it is almost impossible for me to approach the subject with other people without including that context.  The thing is, I mostly "pass" as normal and get some privilege from being able to do so.  Whenever I disclose that I am on the spectrum there is always the possibility that I'll run into whatever bizarre stereotypes people have or even direct or subtle bigotry and ablism.  Every single time a person on the spectrum commits an act of notable public violence the news can't help sensationalizing their diagnosis as an explanation for their violence regardless of the fact that autistics are statistically no more violent or prone to criminality than other people.  I can't just walk into my new job and announce "Hello, I'm new here an I have Asperger Syndrome" without wondering whether a coworker will start to fear that I'm a mass murderer waiting to happen or whether my manager will start to view my performance with a biased pessimism based on the assumption that a disabled worker could never be as good of a contributor as a non disabled one.  As a result, even trying to talk about how Lionel has been diagnosed and how I feel about it is a socially tricky situation to navigate.  Unfortunately to be an effective advocate for my sons I need to learn to navigate these kinds of situations.  I already had that problem once over, now I have it twice.

Now I have to confront the world of treatments.  With Taliesin his main problem has always been that social interactions were so frightening that he couldn't talk except to us in specific situations, or in other words selective mutism.  Working with speech therapists in multiple settings and of course just letting time pass has done wonders and he is making great strides to being able to talk to a larger and larger sphere of people.  While he has other problems as well they are not as daunting to us personally.  We've never felt a need to pursue any dramatic scale treatment program.  Mostly he is just fine the way he is as a quirky kid and we could feel ok pursuing narrow treatments for narrow problems.  Lionel, on the other hand, is more "severely" impacted.  I hate using such language often expressed as whether the autistic person is "high functioning" and "low functioning" because these terms generally are used in popular language to mean whether the observer using such phrases is immediately aware of the problems the autistic person has in their life without having to guess much.  Taliesin is not "obvious" if you don't see him in a setting where he is having problems talking, but has problems in his life that I won't elaborate on that are stereotypical of "low functioning" kids even though most people would call him "high functioning" because they can't see the problems.  Lionel, on the other hand, has issues that immediately stand out as what would popularly be called "low functioning" including a delay or abnormality in his ability to use language at a level developmentally appropriate for his age and rather severe issues with trouble paying attention.  In any case, there is a more obvious need to get him a broader scale treatment program.  And, for the first time, we actually have insurance coverage that will help us do that.  In a way is wonderful.  In a way it is a daunting prospect filled not only with questions of how to find the providers, find the time, and find the money but also with the complicated tasks of avoiding the ethical pitfalls of how our culture deals with the treatment of autism.

Therapies for autism have a sullied history.  While I haven't been exposed to many of them first hand since I wasn't diagnosed till I was an adult I've been a part of the autism community enough to learn about the skeletons in the closet.  There are plenty of dead ends filled with fads and quack doctors selling hope instead of medicine.  Some treatment protocols in the past openly advocated for violence and abuse against the children in the name of "curing" the symptoms through behaviorism based psychological interventions.  While generally such dramatic violations of people's dignity are looked down upon now the ghosts of the past are not completely gone.  There are still treatment centers out there that will openly advocate for the use of aversive's and punishments to try to reprogram behaviors.  And even program that don't "intentionally" inflict harm and claim to only practice positive reinforcement can be tainted.  Putting children into situations where they are highly pressured to not show the symptoms that would let people know they are disabled can be extremely distressing- such as being required to suppress stimming or required to show gestures of affection on command with strangers or required to show the appropriate patterns of eye contact no matter how personally distressing.  Once a service provider who had to decide what version of therapy program to run told me that they personally struggled to offer such a program because forcing children into such high stress situations made them obviously miserable.  To an extent valid medicine can hurt just like an injection for a vaccine is still valid medicine even though it hurts.  But when therapies can easily become side tracked by the question of making the child "look normal" instead of trying to help them adaptively interact with the world the infliction of distress and suffering can become questionable.  Another pitfall can be that aggressive service providers and desperate parents will often try to set up treatment protocols calling for extremely long therapy sessions- perhaps longer than 8 hours a day- taking over the life of everyone involved in an act of desperation more than because it is evidence based.  Another pitfall associated with these marathon training programs is that in order to try and make the positive reinforcement training as powerful as possible the service provider will work with the parent to systematically identify everything the child enjoys or takes personal pleasure from- and then remove all access to those things so that the only way the child can gain access to anything they enjoy in life is as a reward for achievements in therapy.  Such a program might technically be positive reinforcement only but is performed in a context of abusively restricting access to anything the child enjoys in life.  I've read that autistics who grew up in such treatment programs learn to try to hide anything that they take pleasure in to the point where as adults the normal social act of someone asking simple questions about what they enjoy is an extreme invasion of their need for privacy that developed as a defense mechanism against their parents and service providers trying to deny them free access to anything that they enjoyed.  Another pitfall of therapy programs is that in order to try to teach "normal" verbal communication it is often suggested that parents refuse to acknowledge any attempts at communication unless a child can reframe the message into "normal" speech.  The problem is that it is completely an unknown factor whether an autistic with a language delay will ever comfortably develop a "normal" speech ability.  Refusing to communicate except through "normal" speech can become a pervasive refusal to communicate or to treat any adaptive attempts to communicate as inherently invalid.  To a point insisting on verbal communication helps develop verbal skills.  Past that point its an abusive refusal to respect the human dignity of the child because they aren't normal.  There is no easy answer as to what is the right thing to do.

On top of it all of the ethical questions and social pitfalls to avoid we simply don't have much spare  time or money to use to pursue treatments.  Even getting Taliesin the limited services he has had has been a real strain.  The entire prospect is honestly daunting and leaves me feeling tired.

After all is said and done, Lionel is still the same person he was before the diagnosis.  He is still the little guy who obsessively loves large trucks, dinosaurs, and trains.  He is still the affectionate little guy who can climb almost anything in the house and on some days loves his broccoli almost as much as he does chocolate cake.  He is still the little odd ball who has for a long time phrased practically all of his questions as statements and frequently communicates through tangential references to his favorite books and movies.  We are enough of an autism family that the diagnosis grants us less an understanding of Lionel which we already had and more gave us the passport to helping the outside world understand who he was, give him the supports that are his due, and have a chance to accept who he is.  So in a way perhaps I shouldn't feel different than I did before.  But there is something in the nature of naming a problem that makes you face it with an urgency you could avoid before.  I could just wish it weren't so complicated.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Goodbye call center

I've spent the last 10 years or so of my life working at a call center.  It got me through school, provided medical benefits for me and my family, got me started on my 401k, paid for several surgeries, and everything else money does for you when you don't really have much of it.  I started out as a minimum wage employee earning around $7/hr and ended at $13.85/hr, more than most of the managers who were forced to work 50-60 hours a week without overtime pay.  I started as a tenor voiced infomercial order taker whom prank callers thought was a woman when they wanted to talk dirty, next was a ATT wireless tech support guru who advanced to being one of the "ICU" agents who got to do floor support in a white doctors coat, and ended off as a Comcast customer service guy who sometimes got to hide from taking phone calls by working on migrating accounts from one billing or phone platform to another.  I was employee of the month once, and won an award by racking up a large number of compliments and thank you's from other agents once.  I've spent most of the last 10 years working swing shift so that I could do classes during the day time.  Only recently did I get a day shift back again.  The first time I heard a chorus of birds singing in the morning I actually started to cry.

I wish I could say I had more to be proud of for the last 10 years other than that I provided for my family.  I tolerated taking infomercial calls and I've despised working for Comcast.  I am more or less proud of the work I did for AT&T.  Its easier to care about your work when the company acts as if doing a good job for people actually matters.

I've started a new job working in accounting and collections for a manufacturing company.  Basically staring at an excel sheet all day and emailing people to remind them to pay for their orders.  Not exactly rewarding in terms of people interactions, but on the other hand, I've never really been a people person.  But I have noticed some huge corporate culture differences.

For one, the new company publicly rewards people on a regular basis.  Drawings for gift cards are done for people who were complimented publicly or for turning in safety tokens.  A big step up from being offered $1 things of shampoo or pasta as an incentive.

For another, if a fire alarm goes off, the building is to be evacuated immediately.  Instead of waiting for permission while the managers scramble to find out if the alarm is real or not.  According to a long term employee, the call center once ordered people to remain at their desks and continue taking calls during a natural gas leak.  Its not as if they care whether we live or die, nor our customers either.  I was once directly ordered not to reach out to the police on behalf of a woman who was assaulted while on the phone with me, on the grounds that we didn't know the full story so we shouldn't get involved in a domestic dispute.

Another cultural difference is that if something is broken, I have multiple and immediate avenues I can pursue to get it fixed without someone else having to give permission first.  I saw a program break down on someone and they were able to get it fixed within a few minutes and got immediate responses from their IT support when they asked for it.  In contrast with a call center that didn't even have an on site repair guy for quite some time and even when he was around managers didn't always care to file repair tickets in a timely manner or at all.  I once had a login sit disabled for 6 months because my request to repair it was looked upon with suspicion.  A computer next to me remained disabled for more than a month because repair tickets weren't filed in a timely manner after IT broke the computer during testing and never bothered taking their own initiative to fix it until multiple repair tickets were filed.

For another thing, the building is clean.  At the call center trash thrown on the floor could easily stay there for more than a week and the place generally looked pretty dumpy.  For a long period nightly cleanings were being skipped because the night janitor was faking their cleaning records.  It was normal to be able to write in the dust on any smooth horizontal surface and all the computer air vents were clogged with dust.  The new job, well, I have yet to see any trash on the floor and the only places collecting dust are the places hard to reach for cleaning.  There might be dust due to construction in the building, but not due to lazy or dishonest cleaning staff.

I'll be glad to leave the call center behind me.  There were calls I was proud of, like the time I helped a father pick out a good phone for his son with asperger syndrome so his son could text him any time about his pokemon obsession even if he couldn't talk to anyone else about it.  Or the time I helped prove that a business man was telling the truth that a sales rep had over promised the coverage from his plan and cost him $13,000 in data roaming charges.  But in general, the call center has left me in a constant cloud of anxiety regarding whether I'll be fired for having my calls too long or not selling enough or wondering when my next screaming angry person would come on the line.  The absurd levels of dust and the employees who continuously ignored the rules forbidding applying perfumes in the building left my allergies turned up so high for so long I had to have surgery on my sinuses to make it harder for my nose to go crazy on me.  I'm just glad to be finished with call center work.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Lifetime of...Supressing Laughter

Let me introduce myself and how I relate to laughter.  Not now, but maybe 25-30 years ago.  I thought the world was a hilarious place.  I laughed at tangential word associations, at slightly odd muscle movements made by my older sister when she chewed, at the slightly amusing faces made at my by strangers at church.  I laughed uncontrollably a lot of the time.  When I was very small I was almost never taken out of church for crying, but I was taken out of church routinely for laughing.  Even as I got older my sister had to not sit across from me at the table often because I found her chewing motions to be hilarious.  I was commonly sent away from the dinner table for excessive laughing since the only way I could possibly finish my meal was to be socially isolated from other people so that nobody would unintentionally make me laugh.  The world was simply hilarious.

As I got older I discovered more problems with this.  Randomly breaking into laughter around other people starts making them worry that you are making fun of them.  Most social occasions don't accept much laughter.  My parents greatly prioritized dinner conversations that were formal and structured in nature and for a time I was relentlessly criticized for being too silly during family dinners.  A lot of my laughter became tightly controlled.  Often instead of breaking into uncontrollable laughter I gave simple bursts of "HA!" that could be cut short as soon as they began.

The last time in my life where I felt secure enough to laugh like was natural to me was when I went on a canoeing trip with the boy scouts up in Minnesota and Canada.  Being with the same group of people in an nonjudgmental setting for so long stripped away a lot of the varnish shall we say.  I regained the ability to laugh uncontrollably.  The other boys might say "There he goes again" while I would burst into unstoppable laughter for minutes at a time if the slightest thing struck me as hilarious.  This once happened while I was eating the remains of a jar of peanut butter.  I laughed so hard the other boys swore I spewed chunky peanut butter out my nose.

Later on I found myself trying to prove to a religious leader that I was "normal" enough or could at least mask having Asperger Syndrome enough to be allowed to volunteer for missionary service.  It was open season for every little odd thing about me to be criticized to give me feedback and allow me to pursue my spiritual duty to be as normal as possible and someone who medically I was not.  During this time my father, searching for a morally applicable way of thinking about my abnormalities, speculated that our shared way of making puns was possibly a prideful ecocentric display of cleverness that should be suppressed.  One of things my religious leader didn't like about me, along with my stimming behaviors, was he found my short bursts of "HA!" annoying.  Stimming I couldn't really stop, but laughing was much easier to manage.  I don't laugh that way anymore.

My father's speculation about puns couldn't really stop me because one I didn't like his analysis and two, my brain processes language in a way that makes the most absurd puns as easy to come up with as listening.  When people say words, my brain often hears multiple possible meanings at once and has to sort them out.  Sometimes my brain is sorting out alternate definitions, alternate groupings of syllables, or sound alike words.  The longer I am in a situation the less often these language rearrangements occur to me since I become accustomed to the phrases and meanings of the situation.  But when I am in a new situation these alternate possibilities sparkle into existence like stars coming out at dusk.  The contradiction of meaning are sometimes enormous in the simplest of situations.  Just earlier today I heard someone talk about how they had a live feed from a camera, and my brain immediately thought how this was better than a dead zombie feeding.  Occasionally this bizzarity of my language processing is more inconvenient especially if it results in a misunderstanding regarding job performance or medical information, but mostly I just enjoy the self renewing supply of absurdities to both share and laugh at.

However, that is not to say they are not greatly suppressed.  The problem with suppressing laughter is that if you keep it up long enough things stop being funny.  As a result I have trouble perceiving my humor as having independent value that I can actually laugh at unless I can share it in a socially appropriate way.  Instead of just laughing because something is funny like I imagine most people do, I might at most creak the barest wrinkle of a smile while taking time to analyze whether the people around me are people I know and trust, whether it is a socially appropriate time to laugh?  Is the pun one likely to be socially acceptable to those around me?  Is it a subject matter upon which I can speak without immediately being considered too much of an outsider to have dared raise an opinion?  Would the pun detract from something important someone is saying that will leave them feeling devalued because I changed the subject to an irrelevancy?  I don't answer these questions by a gestalt of the situation, but by careful examination.  If the answer to any of the above is no, then probably I'll never get to laugh at all.  I once had a boss tell me that they always liked seeing me make jokes because they could use it to tell whether I was relaxed and comfortable.  If I am dealing with new people who don't know me I have to be careful introducing them to my humor because many people find it unsettlingly odd and require a break in period before they will accept it or me without judgement and criticism.  Which is unfortunate since as I said earlier, jokes are often the easiest form of communication for me to achieve.

I know some of the changes I've experienced are simply the result of a maturing social awareness.  Others I am sure are only because I chronically experienced very judgemental people and situations.  I wish I knew how much was which and could magically fix it so that I could laugh again like I used to.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The First

The first autistic I ever knew didn't speak, but loved to feel the stubble on my chin, on anyone's chin really.  He liked bread, and once bit through plastic to get a taste of bagel.  My sister babysat him sometimes.  His brother, one of my friends, was the first to recognize the similarities we had, noting how I stimmed and suggesting that I might be on the autistic spectrum as well because my nervous twitches didn't just come while talking to girls but were essentially all the time.

A few years later I was emailing his brother explaining that his playful suggestion held more weight than he may have realized.  I was indeed on the autism spectrum and the process of finding out was being both a blessing and a curse.  I suddenly understood myself and my past like never before, but knowing also involved telling, opening me to stigmatization and discrimination.  I was not allowed to perform the basic milestones that marked adulthood in my culture…  But I moved on…

Eventually autism colored many more parts of my life, if that could be said to be possible.  Autism colors virtually every perception and experience, making it a core part of personal identity.  However, more of my friends or their family members were diagnosed, my own child was diagnosed.  Some among my nieces and nephews were diagnosed.  Our lives are marked.  But I've moved on, and lived life as fully as I could...

Recently this first autistic that I knew suffocated during a seizure.  Though I don't have them, seizures are common among autistics.  It's a fate that could easily have happened to me or to my children if they had seizures.  He's moved on as I will someday as well.  Since I am verbal I have the privilege of being better understood through my life and my children will have even better.  It's sad to say farewell to one whose identity as an autistic came to be defined in the wave of understanding just before the revolutions in understanding that allowed me to be diagnosed as well.  I can only say farewell pioneer, I hope I can be part of the ongoing revolution of better understanding and care that will make the world a better place for people like you and me, and my own children.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Federal Land... its not First Gun First Serve

With the militia takeover in Oregon and a more recent protest in Utah by others sympathetic to their views I've seen a consistent theme of ranchers claiming that the Federal Government doesn't have valid rights to its lands and that as a result the land should belong to the people who work it.  As a result, these people feel justified in refusing to pay the grazing fees, ignoring environmental rules, and in the case the Oregon militia they feel entitled to seize federal property for their own use or for the use of anyone nearby they feel might naturally benefit from it.  Having grown up as an ultra conservative I think I understand a where they are coming from, but I've learned so much more since then that from my perspective now, these protesters sound like wannabe Marxist revolutionaries.

If these protesters and anti government militias were trained in the same brand of conservative thinking I was raised with, the idea goes something like this-  Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution includes the clause that congress has the power

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

As you'll notice in the sections I bolded, the Federal Government only is described as having lands if it purchases them from the states for the intent to put buildings on them.  So the thinking goes that obviously all the land should have been state land originally and that any federal purchase of land for any use other than for building plots is unconstitutional.  So obviously by that reasoning national forests, national parks, monuments, or general multi use public lands owned by the federal government are all unconstitutional.  If you start from the assumption that the federal government has no valid property right to begin with, its pretty easy to justify not having to obey federal laws regarding that property.  But of course this doesn't answer the question of who should get to have the land if not the government.  For this, John Locke provides a very convenient answer:

Sec. 30. Thus this law of reason makes the deer that Indian's who hath killed it; it is allowed to be his goods, who hath bestowed his labour upon it, though before it was the common right of every one. ... And even amongst us, the hare that any one is hunting, is thought his who pursues her during the chase: for being a beast that is still looked upon as common, and no man's private possession; whoever has employed so much labour about any of that kind, as to find and pursue her, has thereby removed her from the state of nature, wherein she was common, and hath begun a property.
Sec. 31. It will perhaps be objected to this, that if gathering the acorns, or other fruits of the earth, &c. makes a right to them, then any one may ingross as much as he will. To which I answer, Not so.... But how far has he given it us? To enjoy. As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by his Tabour fix a property in: whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy.

So in essence, the public lands should be redistributed to anyone who has and can use them without wasting any of it as a result of having too much.  So grazing land should belong to ranchers, mining land should belong to mining companies, and nothing should belong to land users who don't do something productive with the land- such as owners who might use land for scenic or conservation values since they would only hold land to allow its productive values go to waste.

Before I go on to discuss why this argument actually feels downright marxist, lets take a few moments to take apart these arguments.  First off, the constitution is actually no where near as narrow regarding land use as section 8 makes it sound.  Article 4 section 3 states:

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

Or in other words, Congress can do whatever it so pleases with federal land and the Constitution can't be read to automatically judge property claims.  So the argument that Federal Land other than for buildings is automatically invalid is absurd on its face and I'm embarrassed to say this was the interpretation I grew up believing was true and the interpretation believed by many of my former associates.  At the most narrow reading I can imagine as a lay person, the federal government might be restricted in what it can do with lands it purchases from states, but those restrictions wouldn't apply to land that had always belonged to the Federal government in the first place.  And that is making an extremely narrow reading of the text.  I believe some would accept that reading, but argue that all federal lands originally belonged to the states originally anyways so how could there be any valid federal land from any other source?  Well, there is a lot of complicated legal history that would go into answering that fully, but the biggest part of the answer is actually from Article 2, section 2 which includes that the President

...shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur...

Most of the territory of the United States was obtained by treaty, either by outright purchase and/or as the conclusion of a war.  Such lands weren't state lands to begin with, they were federal.  Later states were created and state lands were granted to the states according to whatever deal was written into the enabling act allowing the creation of that state and according to whatever legislation congress passed to dispose of or keep federal lands in that state.  Early in history the attitude was to give away lands as much as possible.  Later congress and the country changed their minds and the default position was to keep federal lands federal.  Due to many factors including the relative fertility of the land and absurd assumptions about how rainwater worked this meant that the western United States is mostly made up of federal land.  While this might feel unfair, it isn't unconstitutional and it isn't a land grab conspiracy.  As much as anything, its an accident of history.

As long as I'm tearing apart the constitutional theory about why Federal land is supposedly unconstitutional, I might as well give a side note regarding John Locke's property theories.  The anti government militia in Oregon provide an excellent example as to why John Locke's theory might sound nice on paper but have less to say about real life.  The ability to use property throughout history has not been limited by the possibility that excess property would go to waste.  Instead the ability to use property is largely determined by your or your ancestors ability to use force to capture and defend that land.  Thus, American Indians don't have many land rights even though in a perfect world most of the USA might still belong to them.  So while the Oregon militia might have been thinking in terms of high flying theories, in practice they claimed the ability to use the land by force of arms and have lost that ability because they don't have the political or military power to keep what they seized.  A labor theory of property ignores the messy history and by default awards property to whoever had more guns in the past.

In any case, why does it feel like to me as if these protesters are wannabe Marxists?  Well, lets trade roles for a moment and see what would happen if I tried to make similar claims about situations in my own life.  Lets just say that I decide that the property of my employer should be jointly owned by the sum total of the employees to have made the business productive over the years.  So I grab all my weapons and a group of friends and coordinate attacks to seize control of the buildings and property.  Because don't you know, the means of production should be owned by the workers not some fat capitalist whose money comes from an unjust system of taxation designed to benefit the rich at the expense of normal people (which is just about as twisted of a half truth as the idea that federal lands are unconstitutional).  Then I put out claims on social media asking all of my friends to take over all the local businesses in their area to do the same.  Then I start threatening the lives of any local government officer whose official duties might involve disagreeing with me.  You wouldn't call me a freedom fighter, you'd call me a communist rebel.  But somehow because these protesters talk about the constitution a lot and are scared about how their ranching livelihoods might disappear in a changing economy they portray themselves as freedom fighters fighting for the right to seize government property.  Even though I understand a lot of where they are probably coming from, they still sound like wannabe Marxists to me, trying to force ownership of the means of production into the hands of the working class.  If they care so much about the constitution, then they need to follow the constitutional process for how changes in government land management are done, that is, through congress.  If congress so wishes to gift or sell these lands to them, so be it the Constitution was followed.  Refusing to obey the laws regarding your grazing lease, seizing property with guns while wandering around town threatening to burn down the homes of BLM employees, threatening the life of the sheriff's wife and parents, or threatening that all your militia buddies are going to come mow down anyone who opposes you just doesn't count as pro-constitution freedom fighting.  It's domestic terrorism.