Thursday, May 5, 2011

Self Censorship: the challenges of being so &@*% Outspoken!

This is a battle I face more times than I care to admit. Well, until now. A recent incident occured over the social network stream of facebook that sent me into a familiar personal battle of self censorship. For those of you who know me, it's hardly a secret that I'm progressive in my political and religious views and I broadcast my opinions in a outspoken fashion. I tweet, I facebook, I Foursquare and I just started blogging. Clearly I feel comfortable in broadcasting my life. I broadcast all my interests of the day from posting photos of my colorful dishes (to showcase my love for cooking I posted a photo below)to posting and commentating on news links (as you can imagine, I'm bit of a news junkie).

My friends and family represent a wide range of political and religious views. I have always welcomed debating politics and religion or any hot topic of the day with those who hold a different view than my own. I love exchanging commentary as long as it's done so in an intelligent and respectful way that can be supported with facts. However, one of personal pet peeves are the common FB postings that many FB peeps cut&paste & re-post that they did not author themselves, like a chain mail. Specifically, I'm referring to the guilt or fear infused ones that make you feel like a bad person or unAmerican somehow if you do not agree with the hate-filled rhetoric. This concept is immoral on so many levels. It plays on the vuneralbility of the "sheep mentality" folks. Many of these postings are based on lies or stereotypes that are not factual plus the "re-post this if you love America..." slant preys on these folks to not add their own original thoughts or bother to fact-check first. Basically, it preys on the less educated to STAY uneducated on what's going on in the world while pushing propaganda for someone's else's agenda. Think I'm over-reacting? You can look at many examples of powerful shifts in political rise of powers throughout history to see that I'm spot-on.

Anyway, recently a family member that represents the polar opposite of my political/religious views, who has a long history of posting these non-factual hate "re-post this" rants, posted such a FB broadcast. Because this person is family, I have maintained a long history of groaning then biting my tongue whenever I read these postings. Another family member that I admire a great deal because she's well-read, well-spoken and compassionate, is also from the opposite end of my political spectrum. But while we may disagree, we have always been able to discuss heated topics respectfully and intelligently. After a long history of self censorship, I decided to apply this same approach to the family member of cringe-worthy postings. HUGE mistake.

I carefully crafted my messaging to explain my concerns with such postings and articulated the reasoning behind my beliefs, but I also made a point to find middleground by crediting the merits of Pres. Bush's endeavors to the long journey of the Osama Bin Laden hunt. I ended my response by addressing the idea that we are all patriotic Americans and therefore we are all on the same team. I read responses from her friends and our mutual family members that reflected a firestorm. Ultimately, she felt attacked, others stated I was mean-spirited and somehow I came across as the bully. HUH? When I asked my husband how I possibly went so wrong in simply expressing my views, he said, "sometimes it's more important to be effective than right."

So, I deleted my responses and wrote my apology emails to those that seemed most offended then I stayed up til 2 or 3am filled with angst. I woke up wanting to withdraw myself from the world. Here I am again. I've been here before...many many times over. Finding the balance of being my spirited, sassy self yet not alienating others at the same time is a BIG challenge for me. I've always tried to keep my political/religious views quiet at my jobs so my social network streams have always been my outlet. Now I feel like I'm torn. Again. It's important to me to respect others and allow them to feel "heard". But how do I do this if it can be so one-sided. It seems silly to only communicate honestly to my more liberal friends and family. I like mixing it up so either side may learn from the other. We may find we have more in common than dissimilar.

Something tells me I will create yet another firestorm with this blog. Perhaps I should only write my honest thoughts in a hand-written journal tucked away in a night table? Not my style to NOT broadcast- so my angst continues...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Celebrity Extremist: A Cautionary Tale

"At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols."

-Aldous Huxley

The author of The Brave New World expressed many prophetic images in his science fiction piece that still remains a classic and required reading for many high school students from my generation to my daughter's. My point here is not to discuss high school reading lists (although a great topic for later), but rather to highlight the current political climate in this country. As someone who actively follows political topics and a self-described progressive, I can't help but notice the change in the air with decidedly extremist tones.

The History Channel yesterday afternoon seemed to have a "Hitler theme" of programming. I watched for a bit and started to wonder, how on earth did the German people get to THAT point?? History shows us that extremist politics only flourishes in societies of truly weak and lost desperation. Hitler's rise to power did not happen overnight and it certainly would never have occured if the country was in a state of true prosperity. Throughout history, dictators and totalitarian regimes rise into power but only when the masses are hungry, poor, and desperate. Extremist politics is gaining popularity here in the US lately. But is it the true voice of the people? Simultaneously, the gap between the poor and wealthy is growing. Extremism seems to be a parallel function of both rhetoric and lifestyle. 

The hot topics of today revolve around the current economic crisis/ federal budget negotiations, jobless rates, healthcare (universal or otherwise) costs, public eduation and immigration just to name a few "biggies". And yet some of the hottest topics that gain the most of our time and attention are those "newsworthy nuggets" that impact our lives the least- such as Charlie Sheen, American Idol, Jersey Shore and the birther debate of our President. While President Obama received over 65 million votes in the last presidential election, so did Kelly Clarkson on American Idol and that show continues to garner tens of millions of votes each season. So while more Americans seem to know who Snooki is than could tell you who the Secretary of Health and Human Services is (my state's former governor, Kathleen Sebelius), it should be no surprise why so many buy into the hype, fear-tactics and flat-out lies of the extremist talking heads. Lately, there are some obvious Tea Party darlings within the extremist talking heads categories: Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Sen. Paul Ryan and Sen. Michele Bachmann. These power-hungry folks make their agendas and targets clear, grabbing the media's attention with not-so-subtle rhetoric that caters to the Snooki-loving masses. The most startling outcome of this recent political climate of these newly appointed "Celebrity Extremists," is the rather blurred lines of fact vs. lies-for-the-purpose-of-brainwashing-the-masses. In modern media journalism, there is rarely time or effort spent on fact-checking first before social media channels can send politically-charged rhetoric into mainstream and the Celebrity Extremists know it. Case in point: Donald Trump's continually arrogant assertion that his hired investigative team is working to unearth some unsettling development regarding President's Obama's birth in Hawaii and thereby natural citizenship. Does it matter that the President's birth in US state of Hawaii has been clearly and repeatedly proven? Apparantly not. According to many recent polls, a slim majority (51%) of primary Republicans do not believe it: And so, the birther movement continues.

The most outrageous account of the Celebrity Extremists' ongoing birther movement is Marilyn Davenport's racist email in which she depicts the President of our country as the face of a baby chimpanzee with a 2 parental chimps with the tag line, "now you know why- no birth certificate." When asked why she depicted this racict image, the Tea Party activist and Republican official claimed she had no idea it would be considered racially motivated. She stated according to the OC Weekly, "I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth."
Another case in point: In Sen. Kyl's recent attack on Planned Parenthood as he addressed the Senate Floor, he confidently asserted that over 90% of the services that Planned Parenthood provides is abortion. When in fact a mere 3% of what Planned Parenthood provides in services is abortion. And the fact that legislation was passed in the 1970's blocking federal funds from being used for abortions seems to be blindly ignored. His office's official response to this 87% blunder? "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement."

So, where do we stand in this pivotal time when extremism is King? Where actual facts and truth is no longer a requirement and not near as sexy as hype, fear and lies?  Where so many Americans are hungry for jobs, hungry for a brighter future and just plain hungry? We need to learn from past history to better navigate our future. At the end of that History Channel piece regarding the Hitler regime, immediately after the end of the war, they revealed footage of German citizens being forced to walk throught the death camps and see massive and horrific carnage just miles away from their homes. They made these citizens, not just the Nazi military mind you, bury the dead. While I watched that shocking old footage of German women in their 1940's era dresses picking up the dead bodies of skin and bones, dead bodies of their fellow German neighbors; and shoveling the dirt into the mass graves, a prophetic voice-over played recounting a German woman's tale of being in that moment. She says that she knows why they made them bury the bodies. To make them feel responsible; to feel accountable for this. She goes on to say that she did not do this but then admits that all of Germany would be and should be held responsible. "Germany is finished," she adds. That German woman, like so many other German citizens at that time, may not have worked in the death camps but with 20,000 death camps and millions of people captured and killed, there is no way a single citizen was blind to what went on.

Fortunately we do not live in a Nazi state. However, there was a time of weakness and desperation prior to Hitler's rise. There was also a pivotal time of change when German citizens chose to look the other way while their neighbors were being ethnically targeted (racially profiling in Arizona anyone?), while extremist rhetoric was growing in popularity and the people are desperate for a brighter future. An extremist example? Perhaps. A cautionary tale, for certain.            

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

introductory bit about me

Welcome one and all (okay, most likely just one) to my blog. I was drawn to start blogging because I enjoy writing and I'm known for being rather passionate about my points of view. I can be long-winded in  my fervent responses on facebook regarding politics, religion, relationships or hot topics. So...time to transition to blogging!

A couple of key points of note:

Self-described as a progressive or a liberal, I'm very grounded and pragmatic in considering opposing arguments. In this world of constant change, it's critical that we pay close attention and voice our opinions. My childhood was colorful and I'm clearly influenced to this day by the poverty of my early existence. This comes across in my political views.

Speaking of being opinionated, I am very proud of my Irish heritage and my family and friends claim that my Irish persuasion is the source of my sassy, outspoken, long-winded (oh, and freckled) ways. They're right. I was raised Irish Catholic for the most part but now consider myself an agnostic. My religious friends and family seem to tolerate me anyway.

I LOVE my husband and my 4 kids above all else. I realize how rare my love affair with husband truly is and am grateful for that gift everyday. My kids keep me in check and too busy to fully appreciate what creative beautiful goofballs they are. I love movies (especially the ol' classics), humor and my beloved Jayhawks.

Much more to come! Thanks for following...