Grasping Thorns

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn Should never crave the rose." ― A. Brontë

Category: Government

Oops. Sorry, all.

So . . . I forgot to update my blog when I moved to writing for Bustle and then Daily Kos (a Dissident Voice is thrown in here, too). I imagined that everyone who read me here would read me there by following my Facebook links (like H&G’s breadcrumbs). But, some of my readers here aren’t as Facebook crazed as I am. 🙂

I’m still writing, though! Here’s a list of things I’ve penned, along with where to find me now.

April 28th: The Baltimore Riots Should Remind White People To Listen And Act — Not Judge Protestors

May 5th: Why Responding To Bigotry In Facebook Comments Matters

May 7th: On Mother’s Day, Remembering My Daughter’s Birth Mom

June 17th: God is Disappointed in You is a Book Every Evangelical Christian Should Read

June 18th: That Moment When Your Friend Finds a Bullet Hole over Her Son’s Room

June 19th: The Charleston Church Massacre and “Making It Right”

June 20th: Disturbing Conservative Commentary: A Compilation

June 21st: An Open Letter to Governor Haley

June 23rd: Dear Governor Haley, Part 2

June 24th: This is What “Discussion” Looks Like in America Today — And Why It Must Change

June 26th: Senator Pinckney, President Obama, and New Eyes for Seeing

July 14th: The Importance of Remembering “It’s Not About [Your Name Here]”

July 16th: A Mass Shooting Hits Home — Again.

July 19th: A New Southern Wedding Tradition: Yes, I Wish I Were Kidding

July 24th: It’s Our Fault People Are Dying: American Gun Culture and the Myth of Personal Responsibility

July 29th: Dr. Walter Palmer, Lion Killer: Meet Lawrence Anthony, Elephant Whisperer

July 31st: Last Night, I Watched Two Videos: Planned Parenthood’s and Sam DuBose’s

August 6th: Release Time Bible Programs Are Invading Public Schools. God Help Us.

August 15th: God Got A Dog: Another Book That Evangelical Christians Should Read

August 19th: Sacrificing Our Children’s Lives: America and Her Guns

September 4th: American Exceptionalism as Exceptionally Bad … Also: How to Make It Better

September 5th: Dear America: Stop. Painting. Bullets. Holes. On. Our Kids’. Heads.

In short, it’s been a bloody, busy summer.

If you want more fire for your rage-machine, start following my Daily Kos page.

love to all my readers. xoxo

 

 

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The Worst Memes on Facebook (at the moment, and possibly in the history of the world)

I haven’t written, at least publicly, in months. Work. Kids. And I may have started fostering dogs again — because with all the racism/torture/terrorism in the world right now, sometimes you just have to rescue a dog from a kill shelter.

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With newest foster dog Annie Cresta by my side, I’m tackling the five worst memes I’ve seen on my Facebook Newsfeed lately (which means, yes: they’re being shared by. people. I. know). They’re being shared by women who bring casseroles to new mothers and to widows and to anyone, really, who hints they’d like a casserole. They’re being shared by men who wave in a neighborly way and hum Christmas carols. They’re being shared by women and by men who have children, or at least seem to like children. So, clearly, they must not understand; and, since I can’t see such things and not respond (b/c “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”), here’s my two cents:

5) The “no mother should have to fear for her son’s life” meme. Actually, one of my students came across this on her Facebook Newsfeed and mentioned it during class discussion, but I’m sure that one of my 600+ Facebook friends is featuring it on their page too, because it’s the type of meme they’d love and the type that — yes, I’ll admit it — took me awhile to process before I even got it.

In the photo, a young black man stands with a couple of protestors while holding a sign that reads: “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he robs a store.”

Me: “Of course not — because we don’t shoot people for stealing. If someone steals, they’re arrested for theft — not shot on the street.”

My student had to explain that the young black man was holding a different sign (one that read “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he leaves home”), which was photoshopped to read the other version.

Oh.

So we talked about the ABC bike theft experiment (what happens when a white guy, a black guy, and a “hot” blonde girl steals a bike?) and whether the response to theft is consistent. Hint: it’s not.

And I talked about one of my friends in high school, who was around Michael Brown’s age when he stole gas from a local station (back when you didn’t use debit/credit cards for everything). He was busted, but he was white, and I watched and listened while people laughed about it, called him a rascal, and chalked it up to what seventeen-year-old boys do.

I’m not saying his mother should have worried about him getting shot. What I’m saying is that Michael Brown’s mother shouldn’t have had to worry about her son getting shot either.

*qualification: i’m less interested, here, in engaging with the finer points of this case (like the fact that wilson stopped brown for walking on the road rather than the sidewalk, not stealing cigarillos; or the fact that wilson said he was threatened) than I am in exposing some people’s disturbing tendency not only to appoint themselves judge-jury-and-executioner when a young black man is involved but also to flaunt, through photoshop and Facebook, that mindset.*

4) The “don’t like cops? the next time you’re in trouble, call a crackhead” meme. Two things:

First: As Jon Stewart points out, “You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.”

Being critical — of the fact that neither the Brown nor the Garner case was deemed trial-worthy, when over 90% of cases that go before a grand jury end in indictment — is not the same thing as not liking cops. Pointing out that it’s a potential conflict of interest to ask local prosecutors (who work with police) to present evidence against the person who may be their Secret Santa is not the same thing as not liking cops.

Second: It’s annoying when people stereotype isn’t it? — whether they assume that you’re a bad guy b/c you have dark skin, or you’re a bad guy b/c you’re a cop. Okay. So, don’t assume “crackheads” (dehumanizing much?) — or, people who may be struggling with a drug addiction — aren’t capable of helping and doing good. Geez.

3) The “quick! which one is bb? Too late. You’re already dead 15x over” meme. This meme features a cop holding a real gun and a not-real gun, and they’re virtually indistinguishable.

YES. Cops have a dangerous job, are afraid, and are right to be afraid — not of people of color but of being shot. In 2012, 30 cops were killed in the line of duty.

We have a gun problem and need sensible gun control reform; as Matthew Yglesias writes, “This is true if you think Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson should have been found guilty of a crime. But in many ways it’s even more true if you think he’s innocent of any wrongdoing. A system in which legal police shootings of unarmed civilians are a common occurrence is a system that has some serious flaws.”

The rub? The person who posted ^this^ meme is against gun control. She was posting it, no doubt, to defend the cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Ricenot to point out the fact that maybe (just *maybe*) the NRA shouldn’t be blocking legislation like California’s Senate Bill 798 — legislation that would require not-real guns (air gun, airsoft and BB) to be distinguishable (as in brightly colored) from real guns.

409 people were killed by cops in 2012, some of them children. And that’s a problem for everyone: the dead people; the families of the dead people; and the cops, some of whom have to live with mistakingly killing unarmed kids.

Think that’s just what happens? Number of shots fired by police in Britain last year? 3. Number of fatalities? 0.

2) The “breathe easy. don’t break the law” meme. This little slogan is actually a t-shirt, designed by police officer Jason Barthel.

So . . . people can breathe easy, as long as they don’t break any laws . . . but, if they DO break a law (like selling untaxed cigarettes), they may be choked to death by police, and we should be okay with that.

If you do not understand why ^this^ is problematic, please reread #5 and/or go looking for your absentee conscience.

1) The 9-11 torture meme. Whether the meme quotes Rush Limbaugh or Dick Cheney, the argument is the same: torture isn’t defined by what we do to other people (e.g. beating, rectally infusing food, shackling, water boarding, etc.) but what other people did to us on 9-11. Never mind that at least twenty-six of the people we tortured in retribution were totally innocent. Never mind that every.single.person who is giving.the.thumbs.up TO TORTURE on Facebook (at least in my circle of friends) claims to follow the teachings of a man who consistently challenged the myth of redemptive violence; as activist Shane Claiborne explains:

“[Jesus] abhors both passivity and violence and teaches us a new way forward that is neither submission nor assault, neither fight nor flight. He shows us a way to oppose evil without mirroring it, where oppressors can be resisted without being emulated and neutralized without being destroyed.”

Another person who shows us a way that oppressors can be resisted without being emulated and neutralized without being destroyed? FBI Special Agent Ali H. Soufan, or the guy who “elicited some of the most important confessions from terrorists in the war against al-Qaeda—without laying so much as a hand on them.”

To anyone giving a thumbs up to torture? You should read Soufan’s Black Banners — oh! and Jesus’s teachings too.

So ^those^ are the top (or bottom?) worst memes on Facebook at the moment. And I’ve had a couple of reactions to seeing them. My first knee-jerk reaction is to emulate my friend Mike, who wrote this oh-so-fabulous Facebook status update:

“Rather than respond to all of the disgusting comments I’m reading about the people in Ferguson, I’m just gonna do some spring cleaning on my friends list. If you’ve used the words ‘savages’ or ‘animals’ to describe the protestors/rioters/looters (whatever you want to call them), you’ve been removed. I’ll just continue to THINK racism still exists, rather than have you morons prove it to me on a daily basis. Good luck out there…..you’ll need it.”

But I’m going with the hope that those who have posted any (or all / shudder) of the five memes are confused, probably because they haven’t realized that the “thoughtful” commentary they’re hearing about these current, heartbreaking issues isn’t thoughtful commentary at all but propaganda. One way to tell the difference between a thoughtful commentator and a propagandist = their ability (or lack thereof) to empathize and identify with the “other” side.

Think Jon Stewart only goes after Christians for their silly war on Christmas? Watch him call down Freedom from Religion this past week for being just as petty.

Think Daily Beast, as a liberal news Web site, only glorifies protesters and vilifies cops? Read Michael Daly slam certain NYC protestors on Saturday for insulting Detective Larry DePrimo and Officer Conor McDonald, two men who he calls “civic treasures.”

Watch John freaking McCain address the CIA torture report with Jon Stewart applauding him.

And then, for Christ’s sake (which is not blasphemous — b/c I mean, literally, for the sake of Jesus and his Golden Rule), look at all.the.people who share this planet with you, give them the benefit of the doubt (i.e. actually listen to what they have to say), and then reevaluate your position (which, I promise, will not kill you).

Or, at the very least, stop being such a shitty person on Facebook.

Sh*t People are Saying on Facebook about the Shutdown

So, I stayed up way past my bedtime on Monday night, because I just couldn’t believe that the government shutdown was actually going to happen. And since it’s happened, I can’t believe some of the things I’m seeing on Facebook — although, really, I should be used to it by now. But, then again, maybe it’s okay, and kind of the point, to never get “used to” gross misunderstanding.

I’ve decided to take Anne Lamott’s advice and employ her first plan of action in response to the shutdown: “Writers need to keep writing. We cannot let you off the hook just because of our collective Confusion. We need you now more than ever: Barry Lopez said that when all is said and done, all we have to help us are stories, and compassion. So get back to work! Short assignments, shitty first drafts; just do it.”

In that spirit, here is a paraphrased list of Facebook status updates that have peppered my Newsfeed, and my response:

1) “So just Republicans are to blame for this? Come on! Really?”

Yep. Wanna see the letter? Here it is. 80 Republicans signed it. 0 Democrats signed it. In case you can’t read the fine print, the letter-signers propose using “the power of the purse” (i.e. they will refuse to do their jobs and pay bills) unless the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is defunded.

2) “Ugh. If the Democrats would just compromise, this would be over.”

Ugh. No. As Thomas Friedman explains here: “What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake.”

Despite all the Facebook references to the healthcare “bill,” Obamacare isn’t a bill. It’s a law. As Andrew Sullivan explains here: “Obama has played punctiliously by the constitutional rules – two elections, one court case – while the GOP has decided that the rules are for dummies and suckers, and throws over the board game as soon as it looks as if it is going to lose by the rules as they have always applied.”

Not convinced by Sullivan? Brian Normoyle provides an even more specific accounting of all the ways Republicans have already lost this battle:

  • in the 2008 election in which this was a primary issue;
  • in a year-long debate in the halls of congress, media, and the public square, after which the law was passed by both chambers of congress and signed by the president;
  • in the Supreme Court–the final arbiter of the constitutionality of a law;
  • in the 2012 presidential election, which 2/3rds of Americans now see as a referendum on Obamacare;
  • in the 2012 congressional election, in which the GOP failed to take the Senate, lost seats in the House, and lost the popular vote in that chamber by more than 1,000,000 votes;
  • in the 46 House votes to repeal, defund, or delay Obamacare that were dead on arrival in the Senate and had no chance of becoming law.

We have a way to affect laws that does not involve extortion. It’s called an election.

See Thomas Friedman’s article again: “If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process.”

Here’s the deal Republicans: I’m a Democrat, and as much as I’d like to believe that this extortionist strategy wouldn’t set a dangerous precedent if successful — b/c Democrats would be too noble-minded to use it — I know that’s not the case. And Friedman agreed in this NPR interview: “What’s to prevent Democrats from winning the house the next time around and under a Republican president and a Republican senate saying: ‘you know that B1 bomber you approved? . . . we’re not happy with it and we’re not going to pass the debt ceiling unless that is removed.’ You will have a government where nothing is ever settled. And that’s a recipe for disaster.”

In other words, if the Democrats “compromise” (i.e. cave), this would most definitely *not* be over — quite the contrary.

3) “[Insert ugly name for Obama here] is going to starve kids and babies.”

Okay. This didn’t pop up on *my* Newsfeed, but that of a mutual friend. She sent me a screen shot.

Unlike the chuckleheads at Fox News” who actually joked about whether or not people would have to resort to “potted meat and Tang” during the government shutdown, this Facebook poster does at least realize that:

“During the shutdown, the Department of Agriculture will stop supporting the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provides nutritional information and health care referrals to those who need it. The program aids some 9 million Americans” (see “The Nine Most Painful Consequences of a Government Shutdown”).

However, it’s kind of like Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (i.e. in the book, Frank explores why working class Kansans repeatedly vote against their own interests by voting conservatively). This poster recognizes the painful impact of the government shutdown while not only refusing to support but also insulting the party fighting poverty with both food subsidies and affordable healthcare.

People are entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.

Anne Lamott says that we also need compassion, so in an attempt to be compassionate toward Facebook posters 1, 2 and 3, I’ll recognize the fact that they watch Fox News and are probably legitimately confused, since Sean Hannity has been referring to the “liberal shutdown.”

But, in the end, you might argue that it is, ultimately, a personal responsibility to seek out facts. When the Fox News pundits refer to the “liberal” shutdown one minute and claim responsibility for it the next, you should probably question your fact source.

Lamott compares House Republicans to the alcoholic uncle who “finally goes and does” the “something rash” he always threatens. In response, she pledges “to try to love the poor, degraded sick uncle” anyway but says: “I will forgive myself if this doesn’t go as well as hoped.”

Ditto for those family members who assert that the poor, degraded sick uncle isn’t the family drunk, despite the fact that he’s drooling on the floor under their feet. I’ll try to love them too . . . but will forgive myself if that doesn’t go very well either.