Time to clear out some of those tabs I’ve left open. On Facebook this morning, upon seeing that a friend had changed his profile picture to say, “Je Suis Charlie”, I summed up my thoughts with
You know, if someone shoots up the Westboro Baptist Church some day, as much as I support freedom of speech, even for them, and as much as I abhor gun violence, I will not post on my Facebook Wall "I am the Westboro Baptist Church".
Another person posted a link to an article about Pope Francis’ words on freedom of speech, which started a lively discussion. On that one I added,
While we must strongly defend freedom of speech, even the freedom to say really stupid or hurtful things, that freedom doesn't mean that it is necessarily wise to say stupid or hurtful things. As one friend once said, the freedom to be an asshole doesn't mean you have to be an asshole.
Instead, we should be looking at what our intent is and what the impact is. For example, do we post cartoons of Mohammed with the intent of curtailing extremist violence? Is that the impact we are really having?
The other day, Susan Campbell shared a blog post, asking What means “freedom of speech?”, pointing to a BBC post about Muslim girls being hugged by members of a K-Pop band I don’t know Muslim traditions that well, but my understanding is that it is not acceptable for Muslim women to be hugged by men that are not their husbands. The girls, and the K-Pop band members acted in ways unacceptable to the girls culture.
One of the things I’ve been focusing on, is trying to better understand other cultures. So, on my reading list is Being Muslim in France by the Brookings Institute.
As I think about this, my mind wanders to the Amish, with their Ordnung, which is perhaps the equivalence of Sharia law. What is the relationship between Amish ‘Demut’ and Muslim modesty?
The key idea for me is to focus on understanding and accepting other people’s cultures. As an aside, I sang at a Jewish service honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. on Friday night. Besides the Jewish prayers, there were Muslin prayers, Bahai prayers, as well as a wide representation of Christian traditions, including Catholic, Episcopalian, Congregationalist, and Quaker.
Another friend posted a link to 7 cultural concepts we don't have in the U.S.. There are ideas of embracing the imperfect, continuous change, of innovative fixes. There are ideas of valuing time outside in nature and of togetherness inside.
In response to an article in the American Bar Association Journal, Parents investigated for allowing their 'free-range' kids to walk home alone, I posted:
I walked to and from the bus stop a quarter of a mile away every day starting in kindergarten. And when I got home I was free to wander the neighborhood and surrounding woods. It wasn't until I was about seven that I started exploring the whole town on foot and bike by myself.
If a neighborhood isn’t safe enough for a ten year old and six year old to walk in, then we need to make the neighborhood safer. And, here I reflect back on my work in health care, we probably should be encouraging everyone, parents and kids, to get out and walk more often in their neighborhoods.
Another window I have open is The Long Memory – Loafer’s Glory: The Hobo Jungle of the Mind by Utah Philips. It is an incredible collection of recording by Utah Philips that a friend posted about on Facebook. The friend had set listening to all of this as a goal for 2015. I’m going to try as well.
Recently, there has been a cluster of earthquakes around Connecticut, so a few tabs that I have open are related to that. I like looking at the USGS Earthquake Map. Particularly, I like zooming to my location, and then setting the options to show the past months earthquakes nearby. When I zoom to my location, I note my current latitude and longitude.
I click on the little gear in the upper right corner of my screen, and then click on Search Earthquake Archives, I set the minimum magnitude down to 1, and then set a rectangular geographic region to be a few degrees on either side of where I am. For example, if my location is 41.741°N 71.888°W. I might set the region to be from 40 to 42 degrees North and 72 to 70 degrees west. (Note to indicate west, instead of east for the longitude, use a negative value, e.g. -72 to -70)
Another page that I like is the Latitude/Longitude Distance Calculator from the National Hurricane Center. Knowing my own geo coordinates and those of the earthquake, I can calculate how far they were from where I was. The latest bactch were about 65 miles away. There are a few good geocoders out there if you want to find the coordinates for other locations, like http://geocoder.us/
Recently, a friends on Facebook have been criticizing Pope Francis’ comments about Charlie Hebdo, Pope Francis said there are limits to freedom of speech. One friend, a vocal atheist, who generally likes what Pope Francis is saying
Why on earth is it that a belief with no evidence is less challengeable than one with a mountain of evidence to support it?
One person, Lisa, responded, Questioning is way different than taunting. I responded:
I find myself more closely aligned to Lisa's perspective. For those who don't know me, I'm an active Episcopalian involved in interfaith dialogs. Faith is something that should be questioned. We should have constructive dialogs about belief structures. But mocking another person’s beliefs is not a constructive dialog. It is picking a fight.
I'm all for free speech, but with any freedom comes responsibility. When you speak, what are you trying to do? Are you trying to change someone else's opinion? To start a fight? To be funny?
More importantly, beyond intent, what is the likely impact? I think this is especially important for all of my evidence based friends. What evidence is there that your words are going to be beneficial and what evidence is there that your words are going to cause unnecessary violence?
I think if we look at trying to avoid encouraging unnecessary violence, we may find that avoiding mocking other faith structures, and instead trying to understand them, find mutual ground, and then work towards de-escalating violence is much more beneficial.
Later, a friend shared As a Muslim, I’m fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists.
To that discussion, I added,
The question becomes how do we wield the pen most effectively to prevent violence? Do cartoons of Mohammed help prevent violence, or does it incite violence? Free speech is a great starting point, but we need to look further as to having the post positive impact with free speech.
I’ve titled this blog post, “Responding to the Anti-Speech Control Crowd” to link this discussion to the discussion of Gun Control. How do we talk about free speech, while at the same time advocating for the responsible use of that speech?
In November, David Weinberger put up a blog post, Before Facebook, there was DeanSpace. It highlights a video of Zack Rosen, a founder of DeanSpace, talking about how DeanSpace came to be and what it was all about.
But before DeanSpace, there was Hack4Dean. I’ve recently been reading though some of the email archives of this group and wanted to note a few things. It’s interesting to reread some of this today in light of all that has gone on since 2003.
In one example, there was a discussion about Creative Commons licenses: One post suggested
My choice is to require all people who sign up using our code to concede all rights to their material to a Creative Commons share alike attribution
liscense. (or they we could give htem a couple other options for different
In this, we here precursors of discussions about who owns or should own content on social media sites. The DeanSpace idea stayed with each person owning the content and making it available for others to use via a Creative Commons license. As much as I like Creative Commons, I argued against the requirement, believing that each person should have as much say as possible over their own content. We were, after all, trying to reduce barriers to participation.
In a different post, Zephyr Teachout put the issue we needed to address in very simple terms:
there is a more basic role for
Deanster, and the reason for its urgency (w/the idea of experimenting
w/this functionality on top of it).
People can't find eachother.
Dean supporters in the same area can't find eachother.
Dean supporters w/the same interests can't find eachother.
We have, incredibly, a nationwide movement of people who happen to run
into eachother if they use the get local tools -- or show up wearing
buttons -- or are on a listserv. Imagine what it could be if I could
search for local people to ask them to join me?
Here we are twelve years later. We have Facebook and Twitter. We have presumed front runners for the 2016 Presidential election. Perhaps there are or soon will be autonomous emergent campaign organizations, but I’m not seeing them right now. To play off of old clichés, mostly what I see now are cat videos and assorted memes. We see polarization and people unfriending one another over discussions of racism and white privilege. About the only campaign I could see emerging from Facebook right now is Grumpy Cat for President.
Can we rekindle to DeanSpace fire? What would it take?
I remember Charlie. For a while back in junior high school, he was my best friend. We were an unlikely pair. I think his father was a sociology professor, or something like that at the college. Charlie was incredibly bright and didn’t have many friends. I lived on the outskirts of town and didn’t have many friends either. My father, also very bright, was an outcast conservative ideologue. He spoke disparagingly about Charlie’s dad, calling him a Marxist.
I learned about Marxism from Charlie, but more importantly, I learned the word “lampoon”. Charlie was a master at lampooning people. His comments were funny and thought provoking.
That was, of course, until the day he turned his lampoons against me. I was devastated. His words hit to the core, for he knew my faults and my frailties. It was the last time I spoke to him.
A few weeks later, he lampooned the junior high school’s track star, Mohammed. Mohammed was one of the few black kids in town and everyone loved him. He had an older brother that was always in trouble with the law. After one incident, Charlie turned his wit to Mohammed. Where I had just turned away broken hearted, Mohammed lashed back and beat the crap out of Charlie. Mohammed was expelled and Charlie was hospitalized.
Everyone felt sorry for Charlie as he recuperated in the hospital. They turned against Mohammed and the family ended up moving out of town. I felt sorry for both of them.
This year, I ran for State Representative again. People often ask if I won. I always reply, “I won. I didn’t get elected, but I won”. In response to their quizzical looks, I explain that I won by getting people more involved with local politics and what is going on in their communities. I won by talking about the issues.
There were people that encouraged me to go negative on my opponent. I might have had a better chance of getting elected, but I also would have more likely lost on the grander scale. People now ask if I plan to run again. It is too early to say at this point.
What I do plan to do is to continue working on getting more people involved with local politics and what is going on in their communities. This goal, and various issues, like health disparities, remain very important to me, so I’m staying involved for the long run. I’ve kicked around writing a book about running for office, and I’m still thinking about that, if I can find the time and energy.
Yet there is something that I try to do every day. On social media, I try to bend the conversation towards greater civility. Many of my friends, on both ends of the spectrum regularly post nasty stuff about our political leaders and then they wonder why we don’t get better candidates.
I was fortunate that I didn’t get much for nasty comments when I ran, at least that I know of. Perhaps the closest I got was being blocked by a woman who claimed to be a Christian, but repeatedly posted vile attacks on certain political leaders.
So, for 2015, I want to expand this. Please, stop and think before you post negative comments about politicians. Is your post going to improve political involvement in our country? Is it honoring everyone who has been created in God’s image? If not, maybe you should spend a little time in prayer, and find a different way to share your ideas.