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Entries in dialogue (4)


Down With the Punchy Political Graphics!!

We try to teach the next generation the value of kindness and compassion.

We talk to them of difference, acceptance and tolerance.

We discuss sportsmanship and compromise in elevated tones and disparage bullying and name calling.

Then, those little tornadoes go to bed and we jump on our blogs or the Facebook and post things like "Mitt Romney is big, fat stupid with his stupid magical underwear and I hope his stupid money catches on fire and that his stupid (handsome!) sons get hundreds of teenage girls pregnant so he knows why Planned Parenthood is useful and not stupid like him and his stupid magical {{repeat loop}}."

I won't lie, I thought these political updates of the graphic variety on Facebook and Twitter were super fun at first, but they're totally devoid of substantial intellectual discourse. Essentially, they convey that political belief can be boiled down to pithy sayings and badly put together graphics.

Politics should be complex, well thought out and discussed in a measured manner. If your stance on anything political can be summarized in a punchy graphic or even a series of them? My friend, I hate to break this to you, but you're doing it completely wrong. 

Consider double checking the "Share" potential and its relevance to meaningful discourse of a graphic before doing so.

"Is this completely missing the point of the kind of consensus that led to the building of our great nation?"

Now, I know some smarty pants is going to point out that in the 19th century, Aaron Burr, then Vice President of the United States, shot and murdered Alexander Hamilton, then Secertary of the Treasury and that this does not at all point to consensus and yet our great nation was still built.

I'm talking about macro-consensus... big picture stuff, Smarty Pants. Also, my response to that, which you should feel free to use any time someone points out a historical situation that may undermine a point you're trying to make, is this: "That was before the Internet."

So, okay. Let's try this instead.

"If I were in charge of modeling appropriate behavior to a small child who knows nothing of the world, would my behavior be a reflection of who I believe I am?"

Your values are only real if you practice them with integrity. Integrity loosely means "wholeness." Which I will loosely interpret as "as much of the time as is humanly possible" because I know even the best of us have our bad days.

If you're going to share something like this, for example:

Please stop telling your kids not to bully people. Don't tell them it's not nice to call people "dumb" or "stupid." Because that would make you a hypocrite -- one who is lacking in integrity.

I think Mitt Romney is a poor choice for a president.

I think Barack Obama is a better choice.

My reasons are complex, well thought out and are not based on assuming there are "thousands of dumb things he hasn't said." Don't get me wrong, he's said some dumb things. But who hasn't? I bet President Obama has said dumb things.

Once or twice.

Kidding, because as someone who believes heavily in compassion as a value, I will not champion dialogue that is not only dispassionate, but blatantly and gleefully cruel.I know this is a time honored tradition in the realm of politics -- mud slinging, berating, insulting. But... that was... before the Internet?

Tariq reminded me the other night that one of the easiest ways to change a dynamic is to assume the best of intentions on the part of the other. I assume that people who support Mr. Romney have good intentions and I'm very interested in those intentions. I'm not going to make assumptions about them because I know what it feels like to have people make assumptions about me. I will most likely not agree with them on many things, but I will be a more thoughtful person because I know how they feel and why they feel it. In that way, I win. We all win.

I will also not turn politics into moral judgment. I find it interesting how many of my fellow liberals will eschew our conservative countrypersons as injecting their personal morality into politics, yet have no problem making sweeping statements about how people who don't support universal health care think it's okay for people to die. News flash? That's a moral argument. I also seriously doubt anyone wants anyone to die. Point is, if you're posting stuff like that on your Facebook wall, you will never know the truth of the matter because you've initiated a conversation by automatically putting someone on the defensive.

And... telling them that they want people to die. I mean.


That's not going anywhere productive.

Like, ever.



When It Comes to Trolls, You Always Have the Upper Hand #Blogging

Were you anything like me when you started experimenting with the Internet?

I imagined that within a few short weeks of starting a blog, I'd maybe make some friends. Then, in a year or so, I'd achieve international super stardom when my blog was deemed the best blog ever. While the verdict on being the best blog ever is a matter of debate, I'm not an international super star. At least, I don't think I am. It's possible that the hope of being given expensive Italian shoes and French designer clothes for free is limiting my definition of success.

Along with dreams of super stardom, there was another naive assumption in that I thought everybody was going to behave online as they do in the real world. By this, I mean that I thought if someone didn't agree with you, there was a 99% chance they'd just move on to another forum where the people they did agree with congregated.

Confessions of Matured Blogger

Four years later, I'm having a very difficult time not laughing hysterically at my naive assumptions. While there's definitely beauty, laughter and friendship on the Internet, levels of cruelty exist in this space that are unsurpassed when compared with the non-virtual life.

The upside of the virtual life, though, is that it offers you the opportunity to face cruelty in a controlled environment. In real life, if someone says something cruel to you, you may react the way I do. I usually start off with doubt.

"Did they really just say that?"

Then, shock. "They really DID just say that."

Doubt again. "Did you just say what I think you said?"

Anger. "Are you KIDDING? What the hell is wrong with you?"

Regret. "I should have just let that go."

All of the above occurs in less than five minutes which, of course, makes me feel even more looney toons.

You Got This

The Internet gives you an opportunity to ... (is it possible?!) stop and think before you express and, importantly, before anyone even knows you're upset. It's a modern day miracle.

For the most part, Internet trolls, known in non-virtual terms as a-holes, jerks, or bigfatSTUPIDS, are mostly unaware of the disadvantages they have in the online space. The funny thing about new bloggers is that they, too, are unaware of some of the distinct advantages they have in the online space.

Emotional distance. When someone's in your face, there's a natural instinct to react immediately. Furthermore, your face can give away a myriad of emotions that you'd rather not have your "aggressor" see. In the online space, you have time to construct a response that is value based instead of "get the hell out of my face" based. Meaning, you can react in the classiest way possible.

Blocking. How nice would it be if, in the non-virtual world, you could physically block someone as soon as garbage comes out of their mouth? I envision a large box just falling from the sky and trapping them inside long enough for me to move away from them. Don't be afraid to block people from your blog, Twitter account or Facebook account if they're being obnoxious. And don't let anyone tell you how much obnoxious you have to tolerate before you do that.

Engagement. Sometimes, it's possible that a troll isn't really a troll. More than a few times, I've come across people who are simply unaware of online etiquette. If this is the case, I may politely point out that I understand their overall point, but I don't like the way they're saying it. If it's someone I know, I might e-mail them separately. Being online gives you the advantage of conscientious construction. As opposed to, "Just shut up already, you're a moron."

La, La, La, I Can't Hear You. My absolute favorite way of dealing with a troll is pretending they don't exist. I had a friend who was being harassed by a troll and her approach was to simply skip that comment while replying to others. It was terrific. I think the worst thing you can do to a troll is act like they don't exist.

Always Be You. The Best, Kindest, Most Awesome Version of You.

I'm sure there are more strategies and advantages that can be shared in the comments here, and I invite everyone to share how they deal with trolls - whether they appear on Facebook, Twitter, on blogs or under bridges. I do want to leave you with this, though: the manner in which you react in both virtual and non-virtual situations is always up to you. Your reaction is ultimately a statement of internal beliefs and values. Don't let some troll tell you who you are.

Unless who you are is someone who is getting free designer Italian shoes. Which would be awesome.

Photo Credit

Speaking of dialogue (wait, what?), we've resumed recording Hey! That's My Hummus!. This week, we discussed that six year old kid that got suspended for singing LMFAO and the concept of "brown" face. If you're not subscribed on iTunes, you can stream the audio directly from our site.


"The Month": Race, Difference & Diversity

Have you heard of The Week?

It summarizes op-eds on "hot" current event topics for the past week.  Like Cliff's Notes.  Cliffs' Notes.  Whatever.

Let's do a The Month post for my blog.


It's going to be good!!



Early in the month, I posted "How to Talk so People (or Racists) will Listen".

JM Randolph of accidental stepmom pinpointed how this situation can be awkward:

It's difficult to speak up when confronted with intolerant beliefs.  For me, it's exasperating if it's my own family or people I'm close to. Sometimes, I don't even bother because I know the person enough to know my words won't make a difference.  I wonder, though, is speaking up about these issues about changing someone's mind or is it about making a statement about who we are and what we're willing to tolerate?

In "The Help... in Mississippi or in Pakistan", we discussed K. Stockett's best selling controversial novel, The Help

Kailyn elaborated on the objections eloquently and passionately:
What pissed me off about the book was the widespread popularity of it. For me it was the feeling of, “What? The experiences of my family are only valid if they are told by a white woman?” The more and more I thought about it, it just all felt like more of the Great White Savior being played out.

When I read literature about India, Pakistan or even Muslims written by individuals outside of those cultures, I can feel like that.  Sometimes, those perspectives seem to emanate from academic ivory tower conjectures. That's not to say that only African Americans can write about African Americans, etc, but people write best when they offer their truth as they have lived it.

Still, while I agree with some of Kailyn's assessment, but Windyfairy offers the zero sum of my opinion:
Part of racism was that ethnic people were stripped of their voices. [...]Maybe what we should take from this story is that there were people willing to work together for the same goal, despite their differences. Maybe what should be important isn’t who told the story, but that it was told.

It's entirely possible that my not being African American is a factor in my tendency to agree with that.

It was also my birthday on the 9th. In addition to a MACBOOK AAAAIRRRR(!!!), I got an extraordinary "present" on my Facebook wall from Dave2 at Blogography.

I celebrated Dr. M.L.King, Jr.'s birthday here in Memphis this year, too. It was significant and beautiful experience for me.  One comment in particular on that post from RW, however, brought home a stark reminder of the realities of our times.
There’s no question but that for a lot of white Americans this is viewed as a “black” holiday that they have to just put up with not getting their mail on.

Including my family, there were six individuals who were not African American at the event I attended. I can unequivocally say that for me "black" or "African American" are rarely the first words that come to mind when I think of Dr. King.  Do people really still see him as an African American hero and not just a plain old American hero?

Megan finished out the month by graciously offering a guest post in the style of her blog  One Thousand Words (Or More).  I was honored to celebrate her talent and beauty with you.

Finally, I want to extend thanks to Nyt, and like bloggers.  As someone who can often fall on the other side of political and social issues than me (and most of the readers here), Nyt often takes the time to express opinions here. Disagreeing is more than just "okay", it is needed. We can never be less for acknowledging "the other side" and taking the time to consider opinions oppositional to our own.  Being open minded means, well... being open.

Most posts this month were inspired by race, difference and diversity.  As always, I'm impressed with the respectful nature of the dialogue here and want to thank everyone for respectfully participating in conversations that could have gone horribly awry.

Also I've started a Native Born Facebook page, where I'll be posting articles, videos and fascinating things relating to my blog.  And Star Trek.  Vampires, too.

Photo Credit

How to Talk so People (or Racists) Will Listen

This video is around four years old, and you might have seen it already. I've seen it before, but I still thought it was terrific when I stumbled on it a few weeks ago.  Mr. Smooth explains a concept here that is so simple that it often escapes us at the crucial moments that we need to remember it the most.

Everyone has prejudices and stereotypes stuck in their brain about how the world works and who people are.  Prejudice isn't the problem because it's always going to be there.  The biggest problems arise when it comes to matters of race, multiculturalism, politics, or even "tastes great, less filling" because people forget how to talk to each other.

We're trying to go for the kill when it comes to discussing controversial topics.  "The kill" is not the end game. Attacking someone with a zinger might feel good, but, forgive me for bursting that bubble, but it achieves nothing. In the end turning a discussion about race or politics into an exercise in promoting one's own feelings of self righteousness is of no value.

The end game is not feeling good about yourself, you know? It's compassion, harmony, a pluralistic understanding of humanity. I will go so far as to say that watching what you say and how you say it is at the core of achieving that. Let me add here, though, that living in a more compassionate world is likely going to make you feel good about yourself.

Watching this video might be the most important three minutes you spend today.

Unless you're a heart surgeon or a pilot or something.

How to Tell People They Sound Racist