I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I am on vacation on Cape Cod and my friends are back from the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Sure, we have an African American President, but racism still abounds, as I am too frequently reminded of on Facebook.
Recent commentary has got me thinking more about black culture. When I think of black culture, I think of Nikki Giovanni ego tripping through Africa.
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad
But that was over forty years ago. Where do egos trip today? At the video music awards, Miley Cyrus, apparently trying to tap into aspects of black culture, sang:
And we can't stop
And we won't stop
Can't you see it's we who own the night?
Can't you see it's we who 'bout that life?
Can't stop what? If you can't stop, you're out of control. You need help. Not being able to stop is a sign of addiction. It is part of the Lindsay Lohan path towards court mandated rehabilitation.
But we can stop, and we can stop in unexpected ways. After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, NRA's executive vice president said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Antoinette Tuff showed this to be wrong, when she spoke from her own brokenness supported by a belief in God's love to stop a shooting.
My pastor, he just started this teaching on anchoring, and how you anchor yourself in the Lord…I just sat there and started praying.
Yes, Antoinette stopped a bad man with a gun. What will it take to stop a bad girl with a song?
As an aside, people are spending a lot of time complaining about how everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus as chemical weapons get used in Syria. This is not an either/or issue. In one discussion, I shared,
the dichotomy between women being violently oppressed because of social constructs of race and gender in the United States and women being violently oppressed by others seeking to maintain power in Syria through the use of chemical weapons seems a bit strained. Human justice for women battered because of the entertainment industry is as much of a human justice issue as how women are being battered by oppressors with chemical weapons on the world stage.
So, what will it take to stop a bad girl with a song, a bad girl with a performance that promotes the degradation of women and has troubling racial overtones? Perhaps, it takes a good man with a song,
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind…
All I ever had:
These songs of freedom,
Maybe it will take a great woman with a poem:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Or, as one strong preacher woman I know put it:
Janet's Wardrobe Malfunction; Madonna & Brittany's Kiss; Miley Cyrus's pitiful twerk...its still the oldest profession and pays the bills. Media Pimps and Women are exploited commodities in our sexist world. Pray for our sisters, our daughters, ourselves. Now Rise!
We should not slut shame Miley. We should not overlook the role of those around her in creating and performing the VMA performance. Instead, as Shelly said, we should pray for them, and all of us.
The light rain has stopped. Kim and Fiona have gone out shopping and I am resting at the trailer. There is so much I want to write, right now that I'm not sure where best to start. Several blog posts are half composed in my mind but may never make it online.
So before I start writing about my experiences, I figure it is good to set some context. We have been coming out to the same campground in North Truro since 2008. The first year, we camped in tents, but that was hard on Kim and she found that there were camping trailers for rent, and we've been camping in them ever since.
When we first started coming, I was mostly working as a freelance consultant. Money was very tight and I worried a lot. Then, there were years that I came out when there were conflicts at work, making it hard for me to relax. I've always struggled with how much should I stop and enjoy the world, and how much I should work on improving the world. As E.B. White said,
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
This past year has been very hard for me. I will not call my mother and tell her about camping on Cape Cod when I get home. She died last October in one of those storms that also ravaged the dunes of the Cape. There is so much improving the world yet to be done. I am getting more and more involved in issues around health disparities in our country and I'm disappointed to have miss a training about racism this week. I ran for State Representative last year, which took a lot of out me.
So, this is the first year that I really feel I have the right and need to relax. Yet still, I suffer from aspirations of grandeur. I try to find things to read that will engage my mind, and yet still be enjoyable. I try to take the swirling thoughts in my mind and organize and express them.
Besides carrying with me memories of all the challenges of the past year, I am carrying other thoughts. I come back to Thoreau as he walked on the dunes of Cape Cod and ponder transcendentalism in the twenty-first century.
I wear my Google Glasses and think about the Middletown Remix project; how can I look at the world differently? How can I get others to try and look at the world differently?
I think about social constructs and tried to determine books to bring. Mairead got me The Post Modern Bible for Christmas. I looked through that, through books by S.H.Foulkes about Group Analysis, by Wilhelm Reich about Character Analysis. I ended up with those two books, a collection of poems by H.D. and Orlando by Virginia Woolf.
I ponder writing a story about a person choosing to select different characters, social constructs for online interaction, as part of a performance art project. S/he recreates him/herself with different genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, and belief structures as a basis for interaction with people from online dating sites and invites all of them, ultimately to a big unveiling where they confront the social constructs they've surrounded themselves with.
Mostly, I've been reading Foulkes and thinking about an online priest and group analyst interacting on Facebook.
Think differently, reconsider social constructs, reconsider social contracts based on these constructs.
And then, there is all the news from the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington to Antoinette Tuff to slut shaming and Miley Cyrus's twenty-first century mashup of burlesque and minstrel shows. Tying all that together, perhaps with a little Nikki Gionvanni's Ego Tripping and Bob Marley's Redemption song. That is a blog post waiting to be written.
So, here I sit in the camp trailer, cold and a little damp. My morning walks to the beach are also great blog material. Perhaps, I'll read a little more, walk a little more, write a little more, and relax in my own special way.
I continue to think about what we can learn from our Facebook friends and today, I read through the timeline and have gathered this collection of random thoughts.
A friend has recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has been writing a bit about it. One of her posts said,
An American College of Rheumatology study in 1992 found the the impact of FMS on your life is as bad, or worse , than Rheumatoid Arthritis. They listed one major factor in this as "clinician bias". FMS patients don't look sick, so they are often victimized by clinicians, family, and friends, leaving them with self doubt, guilt, and loss of self-esteem.
I have friends with both RA and FMS and I don't think it is beneficial to get into whose conditions are worse. Yet the comment about having invisible illnesses is very important, especially as it relates to "self doubt, guilt, and loss of self-esteem".
Are our interactions on Facebook helping others deal positively with self doubt, guilt, and loss of self-esteem, or are we posting negative comments about others or positive comments about ourselves in unconstructive efforts to boost our own pride at the expense of others?
As an illustration, another person I know, has been posting almost nothing but negative comments about President Obama and other black leaders. I suspect he doesn't considered himself racist, he's from Connecticut, after all, but he is the person most handicapped by racism that I know.
I've been thinking a bit about handicaps, whether it is invisible illness that is handicapping you, racism that is handicapping you, or more visible mobility issues that handicap you. Several friends of my shared a wonderful video Handicapped man answers "drummer wanted" ad and impresses others. Take time to watch this video and think about your handicaps and what you do to succeed in spite of them.
One final thought from this mornings Facebook posts. Many are telling great stories of heading to the March in Washington or to Burning Man. One friend wrote about her mother, who couldn't make it to the March fifty years ago because she was just out of college and had just started a teaching job.
She was broke, as many college graduates are (I can't imagine that much has changed lol); and was unable to attend the historic March on Washington.
#FastForward to 2013: she spent this whole week at Orientation at Yale Divinity School, prepping to pursue an M.Div.. And tonight she boarded a bus that's DC-bound for the 50th Commemoration of the March on Washington. "I might not get another chance like this."
I would love to be at the March. I would love to be at Burning Man. Other friends are posting wonderful pictures of their vacations, and I am long overdue for a vacation, so, I will do one last go round, cleaning the car, and then we will head off to Cape Cod.
Yesterday, I wrote about whether or not Facebook makes you sad. Today, I turn my attention to the news.
UN pushes Syria for chemical probe, activists send samples
Syria war has created 1 million child refugees
Israel strikes militant base in Lebanon after rocket fire
US soldier apologizes for 'cowardice' in murder of 16 Afghan civilians
Brazil central bank commits $60bn to prop up currency
Crisis of market confidence after Nasdaq shutdown
Illinois Unemployment Second Highest In Nation
UPS to end health insurance for working spouses
Egyptian Tomb Bats Carry MERS Coronavirus
Beastly fire disrupts Idaho vacation heaven; smoke casts shadow over economy
Tropical depression moving northwest in Pacific
Jury expected to begin deliberating case of Ohio mom accused in classroom brawl
US, Australian agents seize $330 million in cocaine from yacht in Pacific nation
Ryan Braun finally admits drug use in 2011
In contrast, I look at the messages on Facebook.
Moments of Gratitude
Today is my last full day of life in India. The grace of God has allowed me this privilege. I am grateful.
Meet the Woman Who Prevented a Mass School Shooting Yesterday
On my way to New Mexico to attend the NALEO Policy Institute on The Changing Dynamics of the 50+ Population.
An image of Christians protecting Muslims and vice versa in Egypt
A picture of a celebration of the nurse practitioner residency program graduates at the community health center.
An image of coworkers white water rafting
An image of a friend delivering his son to college
A picture of a State Rep being recognized for supporting a great community organization
A picture of a boy fighting childhood cancer as he kicks a soccer ball with his prosthetic leg
For those of you that don't know, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month! Lets make this year matter!
There is an old saying that you are what you eat, but these days, as I get more exercise going for walks during the day, I've come to realize, it isn't just what you eat, but what you do with it afterwards, how you metabolize it, that matters.
In the past, I've written about how the idea, "you are what you eat", applies to social media. What is your media diet? What are your friends saying on Facebook? Are you spending time reading people online that edify you or that tear you down?
It is the sort of question that those in the Christian tradition are likely to confront as they read Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
These thoughts have come back to me recently as I've followed the discussion about a recent study about Facebook use. NPR ran the headline, Facebook Makes Us Sadder And Less Satisfied, Study Finds
One friend on Facebook shared this saying,
Somehow this doesn't surprise me... Too much screen time is too much screen time.
Yet as we dig a little deeper, we find some interesting details. The study, entitled Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults was of 82 people around Ann Arbor Michigan, with an average age of about 20. Sixty percent of the subjects were female.
I do question how well this sample reflect Facebook users in general, as well as some of the conjectures about the meaning of the study. The NPR article says,
The study authors did not get at the reasons Facebook made their test subjects feel glum. But Jonides suspects it may have to do with social comparison.
"When you're on a site like Facebook, you get lots of posts about what people are doing. That sets up social comparison — you maybe feel your life is not as full and rich as those people you see on Facebook," he says.
Perhaps it isn't what your media diet is, "lots of posts about what people are doing", but what you do with it. I wrote about the what you eat part of this earlier in You Are What You Eat, the Online Version. What are the choices you make about who you follow on Social Media? Are they people that you can learn from? Do they represent a diverse set of views and experiences? Or are they mostly fellow classmates at University of Michigan going through very similar experiences as you are?
To broaden it, a bit more, are you in a Filter Bubble as Eli Pariser describes it?
Today, I read Facebook posts about a young muslim woman who has already led a very tough life. She lost her son to brain cancer. She is fighting chronic illness of her own, and her relationships with others have not always been as nurturing as one would hope.
Yesterday, she wrote,
Today I was thinking about my son Junaid ... I was thinking about the moments up to when he took his last breath. I was thinking about the state I was in when he took his last breath. Subhan Allah sometimes I felt like I want to loose my mind, but Allah would not allow it, to this day I sometimes don't want to feel at all (go numb) sometimes I cry and sometimes, I ask Allah why.
This woman is one of the strongest women I know. She is doing great things for her community and I have learned a great deal from her.
Today, I read the article School Clerk In Georgia Persuaded Gunman To Lay Down Weapons, which I found through a friend on Facebook.
Yes, I have a bias towards social media. It is what I do professionally. So, I did what any person with an interest in social media and a little investigative reporting would do and sought out Antoinette Tuff's Facebook page. The items over the past few months are a nice compliment to what she said in the interview. Back in June, she posted
God is opening so many doors in my life until I can't do anything but sit here and just cry and watch HIM move just had he has promise me for so many years. Thank u GOD for all that u r doing and the many millions u r going to continue to do. To God be the glory. Thx. Thx Thx God
Little did she know what those doors would lead to, two months later.
As I write this post, I take a few moments to look at Facebook statuses. My eldest daughter is teaching in Japan. I glance at pictures of some of the places she has been. I have yet to make it to Japan, and I could get stuck in social comparison and feel sad that she has gotten to travel to places that so far, I've only dreamt of visiting.
I see posts from high school classmates that I've known for over three decades. One posts regularly about time with his grandchildren. I don't have grandchildren yet and I'm pleased that my children are busy doing other great things besides starting families right now, but I can still rejoice in my friends joy about his extended family.
Another friend from high school has posted great pictures of her vacation on Cape Cod. In a few days, I will be heading out to Cape Cod, and I look forward to my time of relaxation after a very hard year, and I'm glad to see the joy my friends trip to Cape Cod has brought her.
It would be very interesting to see this study redone with a larger set of subjects. Does Facebook usage result in declined feelings of personal well being for all people? Does it depend on age? Economic status? Diversity of friends on Facebook? What the subjects post? What sort of emotional, psychological or life skills the subjects have developed? The amount of time on Facebook?
Does Facebook make us sad? Perhaps if we are college kids who are not seeking a diverse set of Facebook friends and have not yet learned to join with the struggles of friends that are struggling, and rejoice with friends that rejoice. But perhaps that is not so much about Facebook as it is about growing up and maturing.
For me, the new worlds I see, whether it is the painful life of a muslim woman, the wonderful travel of my daughter and other friends, or the simple pleasures of long time friends brings me great joy, and I hope my readers can find ways to re-approach social media so that they can get similar joys.