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The Disturbing Truth About Social Media

header-bad-reviewsThe ugly truth is that social media is becoming less about engaging and connecting- enriching our lives; and more about attacking and spreading untruths.

Do you think before you post? We’ve all been guilty at one time or another of sharing a post or link without investigating it first: Like the reoccurring Facebook privacy-protection posts. Hopefully, we can all learn that its better to check it out first before we spread false alarm to our friends.

There’s a lot of anger and hate online. Lately, I’ve witnessed a lot of business owners using their personal accounts to attack and smear their competition. They post negative and misleading comments and reviews– even though they’ve never used their competition’s services.

Can you defend your posts on hot button topics? Are you willing to?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… what do they mean to you? Do you primarily rely on them to keep in touch with others? Make new connections? Do you believe everything you read?

What is social media?

Social Media: forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)

Social Networking: the creation and maintenance of personal and business relationships especially online

GEJs-aide-Mrs-Sarah-Pane-cautions-on-use-of-social-mediaDo you use social media the same way today as you did, say, two years ago? I keep asking myself how long social media will remain the phenomenon it has been or whether its popularity is starting to die off. Many of my friends barely even post anymore. A number of them have begun deleting their accounts. With all the negativity, it’s no wonder why.

Bullying Online. There is a frightening trend of hateful and often unfactual content online. More and more people attacking others for their personal opinions, calling names and even harassing individuals and businesses without cause.

I find myself getting more and more worked up over the insensitive and hateful nature of so much that is being posted through social media– particularly Facebook. Anonymity of online identities versus face to face confrontations is allowing brazen cowards to spew hate and bully other people for having opinions.

People that attack others online– and there are a lot of them– aren’t doing anything more than showing their ignorance.

Agree to Disagree? What happened to free speech and open debate? I just had someone delete my (polite) comments after they posted some derogatory comments about a political figure. They didn’t represent all the facts. My comments were not disrespectful or aimed at the poster– I just wanted to clarify and perhaps shed some light and encourage them to look at the situation in a different way. They really couldn’t disagree with my comments because I was stating fact- not merely taking a position. Instead of challenging, discussing or debating the issue; they just deleted my comments and added even more hateful (unsupported) comments of their own.

In another recent exchange, I had what I thought was a wonderful debate with this same individual over an entirely different issue. See the mixed signals here?

If social media ceases to be an open platform for the exchange of thoughts and ideas- what is the point? If you post something, do you really expect everyone to agree with you? If everyone does agree with you, what was the point of posting it to begin with?

Fact is Fact. This is true. BUT anyone can spin a situation to make the actual facts support their position. You also have to remember- everything that is stated as fact– isn’t. I have a general rule that if something doesn’t make sense, or I want to back up a position; I try to find a minimum of 5 agreeing sources before I’ll accept it as probable truth. This often means I have to search beyond the media-bias reporting from agenda-based websites that will regurgitate the same thing from another similar site, without researching its authenticity. Is it a fact, is it a commentary, or is it a lie?

Social Connection. Life isn’t always exciting. Sharing what some may consider ‘mundane’ things is perfectly fine with me. The idea is staying connected.

You want to get your opinion across– that’s understandable. Do you know when enough is enough or when your simply beating a dead horse?

In my world of social media, I’ve started unfollowing people that post the same negative content over and over. I don’t do it just because I may disagree with them. If that’s all they post and they never share anything of personal interest to me or about their own lives; then they are just clogging up my news feed. If unfollowing them doesn’t do the trick, then I delete them all together. I won’t tolerate unfounded hate and ignorance as anyone’s only form of communication.

The positive influences of social media are being overshadowed. The potential for good is being diminished.

In terms of longevity, social media is still quite new. It’s still evolving. Unfortunately, that evolution is taking a dark turn where hate can be expected and ‘fact’ cannot be relied on.

deleteIt’s time we bring back accountability and respect to all of our interactions. Especially online. If we want to stay connected to one another through social media we need to practice kindness and tolerance. The alternative is only a click away.

The Post I Wasn’t Going To Write

IMG_0290I wasn’t going to write a September 11th blog post today. I’ve written several already, along with posts on the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. No, today, after changing my Facebook cover photo, posting my favorite Memorial picture on Instagram and watching  the coverage in New York and Washington; I had intended to remember privately.

I also wasn’t going to write about something else (directly connected) that has really bothered me for quite some time.

Such is life– things changed. So here I sit and write.

In the past, most of my posts have been structured with a specific point. This one is going to be a little more free-thought.

A few hours ago I was scrolling through Facebook and saw I was tagged in a post from a former student, then a post from another student and one from a teacher-friend. Plans changed.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 12.35.45 PMWhen I was working at Bartlett High School, I wrote a play called, September’s Heroes; an ensemble, multimedia production; performed in honor of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I’ve been stalling getting it published because I felt it still needed some work. In any case, had things gone the way I planned, September’s Heroes should have been on stage tonight. (I’ll get back to that later.)

Three Posts On Facebook. Natalie is an incredibly gifted young actress currently studying theatre at the University of Miami. I had the privilege of working with her and she was one of the key ensemble members in the cast of September’s Heroes. This morning, Natalie posted this:

“On September 11th, 2011, I walked off the Bartlett High School stage with tears in my eyes because I was so moved by the story of “September’s Heroes” that I had just shared with the audience. This was the first time I had reacted so viscerally to a piece of theatre. Each year I grieve for the souls we lost in 9/11 — each soul that didn’t get to finish their story. I am proud to be a theatre maker. And proud to be an American.”

Then I found a post by another student in that production that moved me for similar reasons. Ken wrote:

“It’s necessary to remember 9/11 as an important part of our history. To readily mourn the innocent lives lost that day and the graphic images captured of the tower collapsing.

However, its just as important to acknowledge the level of Islamaphobia that followed 9/11 that continues to haunt muslim folks, south asian folks, and everyone ‘mistaken’ as such still today .

Both the pain of those that lost loved ones on 9/11 as well as the families that continue to feel endangered today matter.

Acknowledging the former without recognizing the latter is being downright selective of the kind “American” history you want to remember.”

Ken- September's HeroesIn September’s Heroes, Ken had a monologue we referred to as “Hate” calling attention to the rise in fear and open racism that was a by-product of the 9/11 attacks. Now, Ken is becoming a voice– an activist; speaking out for minority rights. He current studies African & African American Studies at the University of Minnesota.

The third Facebook post by Charlie, a teacher-friend that I know from past theatrical productions wrote:

“9-11 isn’t even a memory to those I now teach. It is something they (may) have heard about…wow. As Ferris said, life moves pretty fast.”

Three different people. Three different posts. All three, unknowingly giving me a kick in the butt to do something I’ve put off for too long. Publishing September’s Heroes.

How Today Was Supposed To Happen. In June 2014, I started the process of securing space from the City of Elgin to produce a season of five shows, two weeks each at the Elgin Art Showcase. September’s Heroes was to be one of those shows. It should have– it would have been on stage tonight if it hadn’t been for the irresponsible actions of a city employee.

From the time I began the process, I dealt with three different people responsible for booking the space. The first left (who kept putting me off, delaying the process), the second was filling in (and tried valiantly to be accommodating with my requests) and then there was the third: the newly hired coordinator for the space. She flat out told me I couldn’t have the dates because she wanted them, even though they had already been promised to me.

I need to back up and say that I had also applied for this coordinator position. I had more than enough qualifications and experience, I’m an Elgin resident but I didn’t even get an interview. I was later told (by an insider) that the person they hired had already been tapped for the job, before the opening had even been posted. On top if that, she doesn’t live in Elgin (city officials claim to favor residents first) and she already holds a conflicting position, managing another space downtown. Strangely, her space is constantly active, while the Art Space sits empty.

Of the ten weeks I wanted, there has only been one, two-hour event in the space during the entire list of dates I had requested. It was nearly the end of last October before I was given contractual dates. At this point, it was already too late to successfully publicize the first two shows. I planned to release all but the last two bookings but when I discussed this (through email) with the new coordinator, she told me I couldn’t have the September dates, she was using them for her event. So I cancelled them all.

It turns out, IF they are using the space, it’s not on the city calendar AND the event (which is happening) isn’t until next week. My production of September’s Heroes could have gone on. At no point was I ever contacted and told that I could, in fact, have those original dates I had requested.

Yes, I’m bitter about this. I’m bitter about not being given consideration for the job and more so for having dates I had been given– in writing, taken away from me and then not used. The city pays a lot of money to subsidize this space and due to poor management– it sits empty. Yet another example of Elgin’s waste of taxpayer’s money.

Moving On and Being Inspired. So September’s Heroes is not on stage tonight but that’s not the end of it. Thanks to the inspiration of friends, I’m working on a new edit of my script to publish. Hopefully it will see productions for next year’s fifteenth anniversary.

Theatre moves, educates and inspires people. There is a whole new generation of children in school that weren’t even born when the terrorists attacked. They need to know the story. They need to hear about the heroes and the innocent people that lost their lives that day.

One Last Story. I want to end with this. I may have shared it before but if I have, it bares repeating. One of the people that ‘liked’ one of the Facebook posts this morning, is the mother of another one of the young actors that was in September’s Heroes in 2011. I didn’t really know him very well (at the time) besides the fact that he was talented and very polite. During the rehearsals, I got the feeling he was having a little trouble connecting to the material.

In January 2013, I chaperoned a student trip to New York and he was also on the trip. Besides seeing Broadway shows, we toured a little bit of the city and visited the National September 11th Memorial. We stood at the two pools that form the footprint of where the World Trade Center once towered over lower Manhattan. It was there that I saw this strong young man, emotional, as it all became real for him. It was a touching moment. An important moment that I’ll never forget.

It reminds me constantly of the power of theatre… the importance of history… and the necessity of telling and retelling the story.

It’s our duty to share, remember and #neverforget.

736813_10200218208595651_1111456643_o

No Money Blues or Ruse?

How many people are familiar with this scenario?

You step away from the catered lunch spread, company paid for ‘just because’; and you walk into your supervisor’s office, noticing his new laptop. His old one was only six months old while most of the other computers in the building are at least five years old. You ask if you can discuss the purchase of a new piece of software that will result in time and efficiency savings for your department – leading towards a substantial growth in productivity.

Your supervisor stuffs the last of the free muffin in his mouth and ponders for a moment. Closing his new laptop and leaning back in his recently purchased, leather high-back chair, he says, “I’d like to help but we’re out of money. Maybe we can consider it in the new fiscal year.” The new fiscal year, of course, is nine months away.

We’ve probably all experienced this at one time or another. Especially in corporate or government work.

It goes like this:

  1. There is a problem.
  2. There is a solution. (Usually multiple solutions.)
  3. No one is willing to take the time or the necessary action to solve the problem.
  4. The problem continues.
  5. The decision-makers continue to complain about the problem.
  6. Business as usual.

No action.

This perfectly describes the majority leadership of the Elgin City Council*.

The City of Elgin, Illinois had an estimated population of 111,117 as of 2014. This makes it the eighth largest city in Illinois, yet it has maintained the same feel of any small town in America. And that’s a good thing.

The bad thing? The center of downtown is a ghost town and has been for years. Especially after 5pm and most weekends. Aside from a few struggling restaurants and bars and three (yes, three) tattoo parlors; most nights– there is just nothing going on. I’m not counting  the Centre of Elgin recreation facility (operating at a deficit every year since it opened in 2002) or the library which are both to the north end of downtown. South of downtown is the Grand Victoria Casino which has also seen a major decline in attendance and revenue in recent years.

DistributionNoMoneyElgin’s 2015 Budget is $290,535,730. I repeat, nearly $300 million dollars! But according to the City Council, Elgin has no money. That is, for important things. Things that are holding the city hostage– like the lack of economic development.

We need economic development NOW.

Why is there no economic development department? No money. At least that’s what they say. Of course you don’t have to look far to see where the money could come from, if the City Council really wanted to take the steps to advance this agenda.

You know the saying. “You have to spend money to make money.” But, what happens when you spend money and you don’t make money? You make excuses. Elgin constantly defends ineffective actions of poor financial decisions with phrases like, “Oh, they (or that) are (is) invaluable.” Or, “Some things just can’t be measured.” Really? Did you even try?

Throwing Money at the Wind Two non-profit organizations that could be considered responsible for economic development are the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) and the Elgin Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (EACVB). Both are mostly ineffective. Neither, despite continued funding, show any accountability. Neither are even able to effectively use their websites or social media towards successful progress.

I feel I need to repeat that these are nonprofit organizations. They are not Elgin governmental departments. The money they receive for the city is basically theirs to spend how they see fit, without regulation. The DNA started as a volunteer organization and now has a paid staff (as does the EACVB) . The city gives them this money without any expectation of measurable return.

The DNA was supposed to be financially independent of the City as of 2015, and the City had not budgeted to continue funding their efforts in the current budget. Yet, on June 24th, 2015, the City Council voted to continue to give them money, through a Purchase of Service Agreement for an unbudgeted amount of $135,000. And, not for just one more year, they amended it for two more years. In spite of a few Councilmen raising their concerns, the Council still voted 9-0 in favor of this continued expenditure.

But, wait! There’s no money! So where is this unbudgeted $135,000 coming from? And why isn’t it being spent to hire a director of economic development instead?

Good question.

Now, the DNA may try to claim success with the recent opening of three new downtown businesses. Okay, that’s nice– but what about the seven that closed in the past year? That’s right, seven businesses have closed. While it’s not the responsibility of the DNA or City to make businesses successful, they should still be providing support and resources to give them every possible chance.

There was an article in the Daily Herald recently about the Elgin Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; questioning its expenditures (71% staff and travel) and suggesting there should be proof of its effectiveness. Nearly $200,000 of their budget comes from about half of Elgin’s hotel/motel tax revenue.

LOOK! I found money! If the City of Elgin took the money they gave these two nonprofits ($335,000), they could easily hire and create a small department of economic development. That’s still only a pathetic 0.1% of the City’s annual budget.

The Elgin City Council believes that throwing money at something–even after years of no measurable results, is better than nothing. Which is exactly what they are getting in return.  Then they can continue to shrug their shoulders and point fingers of blame at others, claiming they (the Council) tried. If I’m wrong— show me the numbers.

The Elgin City Council needs to learn how to cut its losses. They need to learn how to say ‘no‘ and ‘enough is enough‘. Continuing to fund ineffective organizations and projects with no accountability, is irresponsible and being poor stewards of our community’s money. This has gone on for years and it’s time that it stops.

The City of Elgin needs some sound financial planning and should be focusing on developing and reinvigorating our community. Not, continuing to toss money at organizations that are not effective, in order shift the blame.

So back to my original scenario… there are always people that have the ability to make change- to make decisions (sometimes difficult) that are better choices when looking at the big picture. Unfortunately, people often make decisions that are selfish, self-serving, or just downright easier.

There always seems to be money for the wrong things… Ideas that aren’t fully developed, things that are personally or politically beneficial; and it’s always easier to ‘do the same old thing’ than to commit to bringing about change. People are so afraid of change! Why is that?

Elgin City Council, you were elected as the leaders of our community to manage, protect and improve the city and its finances. It’s time you step up to the plate, make some tough decisions and do the job you were elected to do. Stop singing the ‘No Money Blues’ and fix the problem. The time to act is now.

*NOTE: When I refer to the Elgin City Council, I am referring to them as a whole. This includes the City Manager (non-voting member) who, as the senior ranking staff member on the City’s payroll; oversees and is responsible for bringing the majority of the financial and policy decisions to the Council for approval and implementation. There are only few individual Councilmen that are frequently vocal– seeking change and not always voting with the majority. Unfortunately, as members of the Council, for purposes here, they are lumped into the whole– guilty by association.

 

 

Love Is Love

My profile picture with the FB celebratepride filter.

My profile picture with the FB celebratepride filter.

I have to say I didn’t get too emotional yesterday with the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision in support of gay marriage. Maybe because I knew it was still only a small step– a very historic step—  but still just a small step towards acceptance and equality in the United States. Perhaps it’s because I’m a little numb from a lifetime of exposure to hate and bigotry. When I was in my late teens and early 20’s, I never thought I’d see this day.

The court’s decision isn’t going to instantly change people’s opinions. Only time will accomplish that.

But then this morning, as I scrolled through my Facebook Newsfeed, something happened. Not only were there a myriad of posts celebrating the landmark decision– friend after friend had also changed their profile pictures, using the celebratepride filter, overlaying the rainbow pride flag over their image. I found myself incredibly moved.

It suddenly became real to me.

Love equals Love. Equality gives way to the very Freedoms we are supposedly all guaranteed in the Constitution. Maybe there is Hope. Maybe Amerika can become America again– or maybe even, for the first time.

Every step we take in this country to remove Hate, opens the door to love and acceptance.

Gay marriage can now just be called marriage. Eventually, Gay pride may become an unnecessary celebration and can give way to American pride. It’s all about Equality. Each and everyone of us equal.

Some of the love being shared on Facebook.

Some of the love being shared on Facebook.

I think it’s important to be consciously aware that the Supreme Court’s decision was not a strike against Christianity. Many people are choosing to take it that way; and I find it extremely sad and nearly pathetic. The fight was never about changing anyone’s religious beliefs; it was the always about equal rights under the law. In ancient times, marriage may have only been strictly viewed as a religious contract– not anymore. There are too many rights under the law regarding married people to maintain that defense.

Love is Love. It transcends gender and race. It is more powerful than contracts, vows or religion.

All we need is time.

Where’s the Art in Elgin?

Art-ShowI’ve lived in Elgin for over 15 years and have a working history with Elgin arts organizations that goes back over 23 years. I can attest that not much has changed in a quarter of a century. Groups and artists come and go, leaving what has always been a small, typical community arts base. Pretty much what you’d expect to find in most communities this size, anywhere in America.

Imagine my amusement while watching a broadcast of a city council meeting, as a speaker made a statement to the council that went something like this:

Elgin has the best, vibrant, world-class arts community outside of Chicago and possible New York. Everyone knows our reputation.

I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea.

I laughed out loud.

I don’t want to belittle the talent and creativity or the blood, sweat and tears of Elgin artists. I just want to draw attention to some of the misperceptions of what the arts community really is, in relation to other communities. It’s wonderful to be proud of your community– and it’s a totally different thing to be completely unrealistic.

I’d say Naperville has an up and coming arts scene… Oak Park’s art scene is pretty impressive…. but Elgin?

Maybe there’s just something I’m missing here.

Where is the ART in Elgin?

If I live here and I don’t know about it– That’s a problem. If I look for it and still can’t find it– That’s a bigger problem.

Visibility I looked at the city calendar. If I go by what’s listed, there isn’t much happening in Elgin for the next six months.

Calendar Check:

Elgin Art Showcase Calendar & Special Events– Lists no art related events for at least the first six months of 2015. This calendar is an offshoot of the main city calendar. There is a link on the Art Showcase main page to upcoming performances which only includes a prayer breakfast in January.

City of Elgin Calendar– Includes Holidays, Board and Committee Meetings and ‘all’ city- wide events; Aside from the Winter Blues Bash at Hemmens this weekend, the calendar only lists Elgin Symphony Orchestra performances on it’s calendar. Coincidentally, the ESO owes the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans on top of ongoing city backed financial support.

The Hemmens calendar and Art Showcase calendar are (perhaps unfortunately), a subset of the city calendar.

Downtown Neighborhood Association – No events are listed on the DNA calendar for the first six months of 2015 except : (pre-populated) First Friday Improv at Hemmens (listed every month). Their website shows past events but is not promoting any upcoming events in 2015.

With no luck finding art on the city sponsored sites and as someone that doesn’t subscribe to a printed newspaper any more (Does anyone?) –I turned to the only other place I knew to look…

Art-is-Life-Life-is-Art-Philosophy-Photography-Art-by-PLATUXGoogle Anyone? Google searches aren’t terribly revealing either. I searched live entertainment in Elgin and live entertainment in Elgin, IL and only a few bar bands popped up. I did learn that several Elgin eating establishments offer occasional musical entertainment. Art in Elgin, IL brings up a couple links to gallery/performance spaces but mostly martial arts studio links. Top searches for Fine arts in elgin il bring up Westminster Christian School first, the Art Center at Elgin Community College (ECC), Larkin High School, and lots of links to groups in St. Charles and Naperville.

A search for music in Elgin IL lists mostly repeated bar links, music lessons and finally, halfway down the second page the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. Searching for theatre in Elgin IL ( and theater) is a little more successful: Elgin Theatre Company, Children’s Theatre of ElginJanus Theatre (site not updated since June 2014), ECC, Side Street Studio Arts, and the Marcus Cinema movie theater come up before many links to other communities outside of Elgin.

Now here’s probably the most important: I searched art in Chicago suburbs, art in Chicago Northwest suburbs, theatre (theater) in Chicago suburbs, music in Chicago suburbs, dance in Chicago suburbs, things to do in Chicago northwest suburbs…. going 5 pages deep on each search, only one Elgin-related link came up and only in one of the searches.

This is distressing because Elgin needs to bring in people from other communities for economical success.

Facebook or Twitter? I follow a number of organizations, city pages and Twitter feeds and the use of social media by Elgin arts groups is pretty unsuccessful. Of those that use it, none seem to be aggressively targeting audiences, if at all.

Appearance is Everything. I searched for and checked out the websites of a number of Elgin groups and most of the websites are pretty unappealing.Some aren’t even up to date. Many look like no effort was put into them and do a poor job of marketing their art.

The best looking website belongs to Side Street Studio Arts. It’s visual, informative and features an up to date listing of events.

There are a ton of events listed on the Art Center at Elgin Community College link– but it still takes some navigating to find, the pages are not visually appealing. The descriptions of the events are minimal and not very enticing as well.

Snail Mail? We get a periodic newsletter, from the City of Elgin, sent to all residents. They do a good job of publicizing their seasonal festivals in it– but not other arts events. We also get a postcard publicizing upcoming events from one group. That’s about it for snail mail.

City Representation? The Elgin Cultural Arts Commission exists primarily as an advisory committee. They accept applications for artist and organizational grants and make their recommendations.

One of their purposes states:

Provide a vehicle for publicizing all arts related events of various organizations as well as community, state or national events related to the arts, and provide a strong public relations program for communicating the commission’s goals and their impact on community life.

In my research, I cannot find any evidence that they are having any success in this very important area. I can’t even find a list of arts organizations in Elgin. Shouldn’t that be a priority?

According to their last publicly available meeting minutes, from last November (2014); they are looking at creating a stand alone website, separate from the city’s where they could provide more information and links. This would definitely be beneficial. Especially if it gave them control over content.

Art.So WHAT’S the SOLUTION? First, I don’t mean to sound like I’m solely blaming the city for the lack of visibility. BUT– This is a symptom of a major problem in Elgin. The downtown area is dead. Yes, new businesses have opened… and many have also quickly closed. Not enough is being done to revitalize the downtown area. Token efforts are made like the River Walk redevelopment and the huge financial investment the city made in the Elgin Artspace Lofts — but without any big picture, comprehensive plan– stand alone efforts are not going to bring back a prosperous downtown.

One park, business, or space is not a community. The city should really look at building a niche market and focus on nurturing businesses and spaces with open public access. Investing in one thing without a comprehensive plan for the community is not going to make a difference.

I state this, because the arts community, if visible, can have a huge economic impact on the city. There are a few restaurants in the downtown area but all don’t keep regular hours. At five o’clock, most of downtown– shuts down. It leaves a dark, seemingly unsafe neighborhood.

If someone comes to an event downtown, they might also eat in a restaurant. They might shop in a store. These places have to exist, first. Second, people need to know they exist. Third, patrons need to feel safe in the neighborhood. Without all three of these conditions, the downtown will continue to flounder.

I don’t mean to limit the focus on downtown. It’s just that it’s supposed to be the hub of activity. There are arts opportunities all over the city– at least so I’m told. I might know for sure if I could find them.

I just looked at a Courier News article, online titled, Five Things To Do Around Elgin Jan. 16-22 and not one them listed, is in Elgin.

So tell me–

WHERE IS THE ART?

 

Is ‘Black Lives Matter’ Hurting More Than Helping?

BlackLivesMatterIt’s trending and blowing up on Twitter and Facebook– #BlackLivesMatter. I get it. I understand the intent. Is it really helping though?

I personally find it a little offense and I need to explain.

Don’t #AllLivesMatter?

Here’s the thing: Singling out a particular race, as a call to action; in an effort to end racism, protest inequality and police brutality– Isn’t it just broadening or solidifying the divide instead uniting us?

I can completely identify with the expressions of sorrow, anger, and disappointment. Then when I see the hashtag– I feel like I’m being alienated. I understand this is intended to draw attention to one issue but I still feel it creates an us against them mentality.

We need unification in this country, not a divide. We’re already divided. People pick sides. We need to come together in order to make real progress.

Throughout my life, when discussing the race issue, I’ve been told, “you don’t understand– you can’t understand”…. but I do understand. As a gay man I’ve experienced many of the same issues. If I say that, then the response is usually, “but people don’t immediately judge you because of the color of your skin.” This is true. Still, I’ve experienced hate. I’ve experienced prejudice. I’ve been angry and afraid. Not the exactly the same, maybe, but at the gut level, it is.

When you say “you don’t understand” to anyone, regardless of the issue– you alienate them. How does this help the cause?

If you say #BlackLivesMatter is to draw attention, show anger or disapproval– then I’d say the campaign is successful. If you tell me #BlackLivesMatter is to bring about change, then I’d suggest there might be a better way.

Yes, Black Lives Matter. Gay Lives Matter. So do Hispanic, White, Poor, Rich, Disabled…. need I go on?

UnificaAllLivesMatter2tion.

Attack the problem.

Prejudice, Stereotypes, Assumptions, Racism, Sexism, Unlawful Judgement, Inequality, Police Brutality of any kind… those are the problems.

Preaching to the choir is pretty pointless.

If #BlackLivesMatter is building solidarity that’s great– but why not include everyone?

Make a difference. Talk about it. Unify everyone.

#AllLivesMatter.

Liberty And Justice For All: An American Fallacy, Pt.1

Justice is a fallacy. A fallacy is a flaw in reasoning.

Justice is an ideal. Ideals are models for imitation. An Ideal is the conception of something in its absolute perfection.

Absolute perfection does not exist.

Perfect Justice does not exist.

10403056_10152842025119780_8786610817675958005_nLast night, the grand jury decision to not press charges in the case of Michael Brown – the black 18-year-old who was shot and killed in Ferguson on Aug. 9th by white police officer Darren Wilson, was announced live on national television.

My social media network immediately began to blow up after the announcement, with mostly– expressions of anger and distrust; and only a few in support of the decision. For most of my friends (and the people I follow), it was about the seeming lack of justice and ongoing racism in this country.

At 1:30 a.m., Police Chief Jon Belmar announced at a briefing that at least 12 buildings were set on fire, two police cruisers burned and reports of bottle throwing, broken windows and gunshots were widespread. The police responded with smoke, pepper spray and tear gas aimed to disperse potentially unruly crowds.

 

It was reported that the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days and heard more than 70 hours of testimony from approximately 60 witnesses, three medical examiners and other experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.

frederick-douglass-justice-deniedFerguson is just a match re-igniting the fire that is racism in America. This is not the beginning of something new– it is only another episode in the long, ongoing battle of inequality and racism, sparked by distrust and a long history of violence.

As long as there is the perception of racism…

Then racism is real.

Tyrants-Opposition-10513500_1508536292711859_522097056596663394_nI do not condone the outright unlawful, destructive behavior of the violent protestors. They have become terrorists. They are no different than ISIS or Al Qaeda.

They are destroying their very own community. They are hurting their neighbors and themselves. Unfortunately, for many of them, this is the only way they know how to be heard.

 

Treat people like animals and they’ll eventually behave like animals.

The American Justice System is not perfect. It’s certainly not absolute perfection. But, it is the system we have. It works in theory. But theory in itself is a test. A test that at times, America seems to be failing.

I think it’s important to draw a line between the justice system and the the issues it is forced to try and reconcile.

Any unlawful act creates a situation in which there will never be complete justice for all. Not to mention all the legal acts that unjust.

A friend of mine on Facebook shared this:

The West Wing Season 7, Episode 8- Undecideds Written by Debora Cahn

Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits)
SANTOS
You know, I find myself on days like this casting around for someone to blame. I blame the kid, he stole a car. I blame the parents, why couldn’t they teach him better. I blame the cop, did he need to fire. I blame everyone I can think of and I am filled with rage. And then I try and find compassion. Compassion for the people I blame, compassion for the people I do not understand, compassion. It doesn’t always work so well.

I remember as a young man listening on the radio to Dr. King in 1968. He asked of us compassion and we responded, not necessarily because we felt it but because he convinced us that if we could find compassion, if we could express compassion, that if we could just pretend compassion it would heal us so much more than vengeance could. And he was right: it did but not enough. What we’ve learned this week is that more compassion is required of us and an even greater effort is required of us. And we are all, I think everyone of us, are tired.

We’re tired of understanding, we’re tired of waiting, we’re tired of trying to figure out why our children are not safe and why our efforts to try to make them safe seem to fail. We’re tired. But we must know that we have made some progress and blame will only destroy it. Blame will breed more violence and we have had enough of that.

Blame will not rid our streets of crime and drugs and fear and we have had enough of that. Blame will not strengthen our schools or our families or our workforce. Blame will rob us of those things and we have had enough of that. And so I ask you today to dig down deep with me and find that compassion in your hearts because it will keep us on the road. And we will walk together and work together. And slowly, slowly, too slowly, things will get better.

God bless you. God bless you and God bless your children.

The West Wing episode 7.08 “Undecideds”, original air date 4 December, 2005 – See more at: http://westwingwiki.com/2014/04/season-7-episode-8-undecideds/#sthash.z0J1gg11.dpuf
liberty-and-justice
Dialogue, discussion, education, truth and understanding are what is needed here.
Not violence.
America is still young. The American ideals of freedom: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; liberty and justice for all; all men are created equal—  didn’t even exist in reality when this country was founded. Slavery and the inequitable treatment of women the most blatant at that time.
Today, we are dealing with racism, equality, gay rights, women’s rights, immigration… the list goes on.
Lip service in this country must end.
Eyes must be opened.
The blind faith of justice revealed.
Positive action needs to occur.
Otherwise, the violence will never stop.