Tag Archives: Twitter

MLK Day of Service 2017: Celebrate Rep. John Lewis

16 Jan

john-lewisMr. Trump’s attack on civil rights hero John Lewis certainly underscores and unequivocally proves the need to celebrate our civil rights pioneers. I had the great honor of actually getting to meet Rep. John Lewis when he spoke at the Atlanta Girl’s School at a convocation we held. While I had always loved and admired Rep. Lewis, and I was fortunate enough to live in his district for many years, after his speech, all I could think of was: I want all children to turn out like this man!

Rep. John Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and endured such physical assaults and hate during the civil rights movement. Yet he emerged as this beautiful soul who has done nothing but promote peace, love, and equity for targeted populations — this has been his life’s work. To see him attacked by Mr. Trump who only has a legacy of avarice, mendacity, and divisiveness, hurts my heart more than I can say. The old rules of human decency seem to no longer apply. The United States seems to only reward sociopathic billionaires now who tweet late into the nighttime how their feelings have been hurt.

With the ascension/anointment of Mr. Trump, we have seen how his supporters are emboldened to thwart human decency. Case in point, Biloxi, Mississippi has renamed MLK Day to “Observance of Great Americans Day.” Thanks, Biloxi. You have made it painfully clear that only white heterosexual men are welcomed to your white city. This new celebration will also celebrate Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I think I just spat up a little in my mouth. More evidence of how emboldened Trump supporters have become, we witness Republican Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter calling Lewis “a racist pig.” Mr. Hunter, you clearly do not understand the word racism. Please step down from your position of power.

I grow exceedingly tired of Trump supporters including Trump’s bitch (NBC) and famous idiots like Nicole Kidman who keep telling us: “We have to trust Trump and support him.”  Why on earth would any targeted person/community trust this man, when he keeps appointing White Supremacists, Homophobes, Misogynists, billionaires to his cabinet? Help me understand why on earth should we trust him.

I am inviting all of us in the United States to reflect around our own racism and encourage conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also invite us to think about how we see our country. For all of us white folk, now is the time for us to stand up against racism — to speak out against and resist those who continue to participate in the system of racism. I am asking for us to become activists and NOT to speak for nor speak over black voices. Find out what it means to be an ally. If you are not speaking out against Trump and against racism then you are colluding with the oppressor. Mr. Trump just cancelled his MLK Day visit to the National African American Museum “because he is too busy.” What kind of message does that send to all of us about his commitment to heal a divided nation and to address systemic racism? If you need to cry here, please do. I know many of us are crying for what the future holds in store.

While I identify as a queer white man, I would argue racism in the United States is most definitely a queer issue, it is a feminist issue, it is a black issue, it is a trans issue, for the intersectionality here makes it an issue for all people living in the United States.

Taking Action: Here we have an opportunity as white people to leverage our power and privilege for black lives. I hope all of us are engaging in conversations that address issues of access, power, and barriers. Can we look for spaces where white people can stand back and stand in solidarity with black people? Can we look for spaces to ensure more black voices are being heard? Please resist and do not normalize a Trump administration. I leave you with this clip from a show called Black-ish.

Pope Francis Taking Catholics Back to the 14th Century

22 Jul
What Would Chaucer Say?

What Would Chaucer Say?

On July 5, 2013 Pope Francis and Pope Benedict issued a joint encyclical condemning marriage equality. Who better to give advice than two single bachelors who have never had sex? Their joint homophobic rant went on for 82 pages as they were frothing at the mouth thinking about gay sex.

Apparently, the anti-gay stand did not go far enough to prove how UN-Christian the Catholic Church has become.  Now, Pope Francis has donned the wardrobe of the Pardoner from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, selling indulgences.  Yes, welcome back to the 14th Century.  Pope Francis announced that if we follow him on Twitter we can get an indulgence: he will reduce the time Catholics have to spend in purgatory. If this does not send millions of folk to see the Pope’s Twitter, I don’t know what will.  Oh my goodness, that did not sound proper at all.

I also hear that he is willing to sell an actual piece of the cross to the highest bidder.  I wonder about all of the priests that were molesting children.  Do they too receive a “get out of purgatory” card if they follow the Pontiff on twitter? How long before my local priest can start selling indulgences and pardons?  Can I pay for these indulgences and pardons on-line?  Does the Pope/god take credit cards?

It almost makes sense for the leader of a group of millions to try the newest tools to reach his flock where they are. When all you do is use new toys to play old games while you ignore the larger issues, however, there is something horribly wrong. We desperately need a counterbalance to this craziness. How about @Chaucer and the Canterbury Tweets?

Bigot of the Week Award: June 21, Jeff and Tanner Flake

21 Jun
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Thanks to my dear friend Bob for inspiring me to write this week’s BWA. Newly elected Senator Jeff Flake (R – AZ) is a complicated fellow. He is staunchly anti-choice and was an active part of the nasty budget battles while in the House. He is also supportive of strong immigration reform and was one of only a handful of Republicans in the House to vote to overturn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Right after joining the Senate, he voted against modest gun control legislation despite pleas from constituents impacted by the Tucson shootings.  Basically, I was not able to understand this man at all.

Sadly, I suspect he is mortified at his son’s behavior and we are left wondering where did his son learn this horrific behavior.

Flake’s 15-year-old son, Tanner, recently gained some Internet notoriety for the following tweet:

To the faggot who stole my dirt bike from the church parking lot, I will find you, and I will beat the crap out of you.

Isn’t that just lovely. Is this common language found in church parking lots?  If it is, we have another difficult conversation that needs to be had. That post led to increased scrutiny of the younger Flake’s online presence. The results? Finding an online game that he plays as n1ggerkiller; countless racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic posts where he freely uses the words “nigger” and “faggot”; calling Mexicans the “scum of the Earth;” and much more. There’s also a video where he pretends to commit suicide with a loaded gun.

Sen. Flake issued a very tepid apology, promising that he had “spoken with” Tanner. This pattern of behavior is far too disturbing to be satisfied with a simple non-pology. The Senator needs to look at his own behavior. Where did his son learn these things? What can be done in his household to ensure a real change? What lessons can he learn from this that will make him a better legislator?

For now, that apology is all we’re seeing. So much for “Family Values.”  Here is where I must take three deep breaths and hope that Tanner gets the serious help he needs and I must believe he is capable of a transformative experience.

Pushing Back Against Bullying

23 Aug

Let’s put a stop to bullying

As the nation gradually heads back to school, it’s important to remember that the problem of bullying is still a major issue for many students. Last year saw an unprecedented number of kids commit suicide because they were bullied due to their real or perceived sexual orientation. Given the endorsement of anti-gay discrimination that came from the Boy Scouts, more bullies may feel empowered to act out their aggressions. Studies show that LGBT teens are still more harassed and depressed than their straight peers and violence against the LGBT community is up overall.

Fortunately, many are raising their voices against this tide, pushing for schools and communities to shut down bullying of any kind once and for all. In the past year or so, a number of voices have been raised against bullying: the It Gets Better project, a wonderful comic book called The Power Within, and families of victims have all made a difference. Two other wonderful efforts deserve our attention.

My friend and colleague Alison drew my attention to an important new film, Teach Your Children Well. Directed by Gary Takesian and narrated by Lily Tomlin, this documentary short consists of many important facts and interviews that demonstrate the ongoing problem of bullying.

The film’s primary goal is to bring homophobia and its harmful repercussions to light, and to hopefully effect a change in society’s consciousness such that the bullying and violence against our LGBT young people is greatly reduced – and ultimately eliminated. It is our intention that the message of this film expands beyond theaters and film festivals, reaching into the areas where these aggressive behaviors take place: our schools, homes and neighborhoods.

Regular TSM reader and commenter Daphiny drew my attention to this wonderful story. Kevin Curwick, a Minnesota teen, has responded to the problem of cyberbullying by creating a special Twitter account. @OsseoNiceThings celebrates accomplishments and positive qualities of Curwick’s classmates. Using social media to emphasize the good and drown out the negative has caught on, with many students around the nation creating similar accounts as Kevin’s story spreads.

These are important steps. We must all continue to shine a harsh light on the realities of bullying and not allow schools to fall back on  the “kids being kids” excuse. Until our communities are safe for all, they are safe for none.

The Mitt-ish Are Coming! or The London Tea Party

28 Jul

Failure does not compute!

Poor Romneybot 2012! He can’t seem to calibrate his circuits for the correct response to anything these days. After weeks of his Mendacity and Obfuscation Routines failing to defuse his tax situation, he decided it was time to flee the country. His Safety and Secrecy Protocol directed him to either Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, but his Invasive Media Sensor indicated that this would only inflame the situation he was trying to avoid. Fortunately his Best Olympics Ever 2o00 memory implant sensed an upcoming games and he decided to journey to London (as the 1% are able to travel like this). Perhaps the more proper English spoken there would disguise his faulty language generator! He strapped Ann onto the top of a private jet and away they went. Sadly, his Social Miscue Engine kicked in, and the trip has been a disaster.

How big a disaster? On his second day a new hash tag showed up on Twitter: #romneyshambles. After the media released a clip of Mitt saying London didn’t seem ready for the Olympics, Mayor Boris Johnson laid into him in front of a crowd of 60,000. He bumbled a secret meeting with British Intelligence, refered to the dwelling at 10 Downing St. as a “backside” and forgot the name of a key politician when speaking to him on camera. Every bit the aloof, prevaricating, hypocritical, ugly American he’s shown since starting his campaign, he’s cast deep doubts on his ability to handle foreign relations even with one of our staunchest allies.

The conservative British tabloid The Daily Mail, never a big supporter of the U.S. at the best of times, has had a #romneyshambles tweet-fest with the visit. A few especially lovely examples include:

  • Diplomacy Romney style: casts doubt on Britain’s Olympic preparations; says last thing he wants is for US to be like Europe. Way to go Mitt!
  • Do we have a new Dubya on our hands?
  • Serious dismay in Whitehall at Romney debut. ‘Worse than Sarah Palin.’ ‘Total car crash’. Two of the kinder verdicts.
  • Another verdict from one Romney meeting: ‘Apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity.’

I guess this is what you get when your top foreign policy advisors are Dick Cheney and John Bolton.

Of course the Mitt-droid was able to activate his Faux News Defense Broadcast. The GOP Network has tried to stir up a bizarre meme that the Brits should be nicer to Romney because…he might be President someday. REALLY? Maybe ol’ Mitt ought to try to be Presidential overseas if he wants that wish to come true. In Romney’s defense, his Time Perception Meter has been off for years; he can’t remember when he left Bain Capital, when he started the Olympics, or when to file his taxes. Maybe he thought this was 1812 and he was on enemy soil.

Whatever the case, Romney is once again faring poorly when compared to President Obama. Comparing the London debacle with then-candidate Obama’s overseas trip in 2008, The National Journal came up with this headline: Romney Abroad – Candidate Obama Did It Better In 2008. Ouch. That has to hurt Mitt’s one feeling. He should cheer up, though; he’ll be leaving Britain soon, and off to Israel and Poland. What could go wrong there?

Wednesday Word of the Week, October 26: Epistle

26 Oct

Where is the SEND button?

This week’s word is EPISTLE

a piece of writing in the form of a letter

Over the past week, I have had two separate experiences which have caused me to ponder the value and relevance of written communication in the modern age. Both of these events are related to my work as a tutor for college students in the Boston area.

Although, at 29, I am barely a half-generation (at most) removed from most of the students with whom I work, the gap in communication strategies is wide. I willingly own a piece of this given my willful resistance to most social media, but as someone who participates in this online community and keeps in touch with many friends by email, I was surprised by how starkly the moments struck me.

The first event involved a conversation with a student about the novel Dracula. It was her first experience with an epistolary novel and she found the experience jarring. She understood the principle of writing letters and obviously knew that the Victorians had no email, but the art and value of letters as communication and persuasion was lost on her. Her entire context for communication was texting and occasionally exchanging emails. The results were immediate and the need for lengthy description and explanation was utterly absent.

Surely, she opined, the author was taking liberties with the form and no-one would ever have written letters like this in real life. This led to a fascinating discussion (and a good thesis for her paper, fortunately) about the very different requirements for communication in a pre-electronic age. Not only could weeks or even months pass between messages, but one party to the communication might well be in a place that the other would never see at all. This required a sense of description and a sensitivity to the information conveyed. It also meant that the writer of a letter had to reflect on his or her content in a way not required by modern communication tools. The result of the communication was INTIMACY

a close personal relationship; something personal or private that you say or do

not immediacy. Such reflection certainly prevented many of the consequences of thoughtless typing that we’ve seen in recent months.

The second event was a conversation with a student regarding his settling into life on campus. I asked, perhaps naively, how the transition from old friends and family to new acquaintances was going. He indicated that he hadn’t met many people outside of his roommate and casual classroom acquaintances because he was still so well connected with his friends from high school. This ought not to have shocked me, but it did. The prevalence of electronic communication (through a device always on one’s person) has evaporated the sense of DISTANCE

the fact or feeling that two people or things are far apart from each other

This student was accustomed to communicating frequently and consistently with friends by text and tweet. The physical distance matters to some extent, but the nature of the communication is not particularly jarring. Looking again at my own experience, things were quite different. I was certainly able to communicate with people via email, faster than the postal service and cheaper than the phone, but I had to be at a computer and had no expectation of an immediate response. That made electronic communication a poor second choice. As a result, I had to turn to the people around me for ENGAGEMENT

the feeling of being involved in a particular activity or group

I had left one home and was building an new community. That experience helped me mature as a person and develop new ways of thinking. The friends who remained from my life before college did so in new ways, reflecting their maturation and growth as well. Based on the conversation with the one student, I later discussed this with others whom I tutor. A significant percentage (not quite a majority) are at least as engaged with their pre-college friends as with any aspects of their new communities. This certainly provides a level of comfort and security, but it also stifles the valuable need to make the most of a new experience. One value of a college education is the development of coping and growth skills. How will people who have never truly needed to fully engage with a new environment succeed when thrust into a work situation that demands participation with new people? It will be interesting to see what employers are saying about this trend in three to five years.

Please do not misunderstand me. I believe that most modern advancement is a good thing. The abilities to maintain connections and receive rapid feedback can be worthwhile. I fear, however, that we are losing our sense of the art of communication. If all one’s friends are old friends and every message is a fixed length, where do we have room to grow as humans?

All definitions courtesy of Macmillan Dictionary Online.

The Perils of a Virtual Community: Take Three Breaths

18 Jul

The Perils of Social Networks

As a blogger and someone who participates in several social media networks, including Facebook, I have been able to celebrate camaraderie and people joining together in solidarity to work, via the keyboard, to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, I have also seen a darker side of humanity, where people seem to leave their manners aside when commenting, thus at times leaving a rather acrid taste in my mouth for human connection in a virtual world.

I am often surprised and disappointed seeing people’s comfort level leaving comments on people’s post(s) that are sanctimonious, disparaging, and presumptuous.  Existing in a virtual community also means that one often does not have the advantage of knowing a person’s background or history, nor does one have the benefit of hearing an accent, cadence, or inflection. I have seen this result in people commenting while operating without a full picture or context and in a very ungenerous manner.  I have seen people threaten others with: “Change the title of this post or remove it,” “Change the title of this post and when you do, I will remove my recommendation to hide your post.”  Unfortunately, even a group of people that purport to be interested in making the world a better place can get caught up in their own egos and fall into a mob mentality, resulting in bullying behavior that feeds off of itself. Here is a pair of related examples that demonstrate how immediacy of information in social networks can be either dangerous or beneficial: Chris Rock’s ill-considered Twitter defense of Tracy Morgan and the really quite wonderful Twitter response from Wanda Sykes.

Solution:

I wonder if it might be helpful for people (myself included) to take a few breaths when leaving a comment for another person. To keep in mind that we may not have the full context or backdrop for each person we interact with and it may prove beneficial to give each person the benefit of the doubt.  I wonder, if at times, it is best to say nothing at all, rather than say something ugly which you cannot take back. There is great power in social networks–in these virtual communities we have created, but there is also the equal power of damage and bullying that can occur.  I wonder if the anonymity of social networks gives voice to social bullying. Take three breaths.

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