That’s a general question, directed not only at myself (for not having posted in three months), but also at the state of our country, and the state of the Earth as a whole.
What (TF) are we DOING?
Seriously, it feels as though we are losing our sanity and that up is now down and black is now white (literally and figuratively, given the astoundingly ballsy claims of “racism” against black people by white people who obviously do not have “racial harmony” as one of their top concerns – indeed, quite the opposite).
Just look at the recent totally manufactured controversy over Shirley Sherrod. Personally, I don’t know which is worse: the manipulation of 25 year old videotape to create a “story” designed to punish the NAACP for suggesting that the Tea Party should distance itself from the “fringe” of that group who spew racism at every turn (and coincidentally ruin an innocent and honorable woman’s reputation – oh well, guess that’s just collateral damage…) or the Obama Administration’s astounding deference to those who shouted this “story” from the rooftops (or their tv and radio stations), without checking the veracity of the underlying facts.
Seriously, why-oh-why does the Administration feed into the far-right’s daily hyperventilations, which are almost always skewed and misrepresentative of the facts, if not outright lies? And while I’m at it, why are people so afraid of calling a lie a lie? Or a liar a liar? The best I can come up with in understanding this is that people now say, “Well, we don’t know whether the person (who obviously just lied their ass off) believed what they said or not.” Huh?
I was astounded that Shirley Sherrod was so quickly and unceremoniously thrown under the bus (query: is that worse than being made to sit at the back of said bus?) by both the Administration for whom she works AND the NAACP – and here’s the salient point: without even being given an opportunity to defend herself.
What ever happened to the idea of not playing into the hands of those who want to bring you down, or make a fool of you, no matter what tactics they employ? What is the current state of our society teaching our children?
I am being serious here. Over the years, my husband and I have tried to give our sons an honest assessment of and pragmatic approach to handling the occasional nasty people and situations that come up in life. You know – how to deal with the people who cross our paths who generate the occasional rumor, perpetrate an outrageous slight, exclude us from the “popular” clique, or just treat us unkindly for no apparent reason. Often these people act out of jealousy or just plain surly attitudes. We’ve actually tried to get our kids to see things from their point of view, or perhaps even consider that their taunters may not have things quite as good as we do; that they may live in an environment where their parents blame other people for their misery or treat their kids in the same mean, surly manner. But we’ve never, ever suggested that our kids change who they were to avoid being picked on.
It is one thing to try to understand where a mean person is coming from and to have compassion for their (obvious) misery. It is quite another, though, to allow those miserable people to change our behavior or perspective. If trying to deal with the situation through good humor or pretending the hurts don’t, well, hurt doesn’t work, then the next line of defense needs to be deployed: outright ignoring them, which can often drive bullies out of their minds or at least cause them to cast their “Eye of Sauron” misery elsewhere.
Yes, the ignoring option does have its potential downsides, such as causing one to be perceived as weak or unwittingly encouraging the bullies and liars to crank it up a notch or ten. This is true for the local zoning hearing board to the POTUS every bit as much as it is true for grades K through 12. And when push comes to shove, when you’ve dealt with the bullies and the liars via every civil means you can think of (or that your mother taught you) and still find them to be relentlessly peddling their nastiness to whomever will listen, then you need to speak up. You need to demand accountability.
Which leads me to yet another example of our society’s current up is down, right is wrong, night is day “reality.”
I don’t know if anyone else heard about the latest scary and deeply troubling act spawned by a devotee of hate radio, but just last week, a man in California was stopped by police for drunk driving while literally on his way, replete with body armor and a pickup truck filled with guns and ammunition, to snuff out the lives of some employees of the Tides Foundation, ostensibly in the hopes that his act of “valor” would spur a political revolution. Haven’t heard of the Tides Foundation? It’s a relatively small public charity devoted to promoting social justice, or as their mission is succinctly stated on their website:
“Tides Foundation partners with donors to increase and organize resources for positive social change. We believe healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for human rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.”
Where did this guy get the idea to lay waste to innocent employees of an organization dedicated to making our world a more peaceful, socially-responsible place? Gee, I don’t know. Ask Glenn Beck. He was apparently crowing on his radio show just this past Monday that he is the savior of all that is good in the world by “shining the light of day” on the Tides Foundation (and ostensibly revealing that it is engaged in some nefarious plot to destroy democracy in America). Apparently he’s been hammering home his bizarre, history-and-fact-ignoring fantasies and highlighting the Tides Foundation on his “blackboard” since the inception of his television show in 2009.
Tell me his behavior is not tantamount to inciting a riot? What is the difference between this type of hyperbolic, inflammatory provocation to “defend” one’s country (drummed into the ears of those who feel lost and disenfranchised and – ironically – would probably be some of the most likely in our country to benefit from the good will and best intentions of groups like the the Tides Foundation) and the act of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater?
Tell me. Did you hear about this thwarted plot to massacre Tides Foundation employees? Did you hear that this drunken, gun-toting, anti-government “defender of our country’s values” was in a gun fight with the police who stopped him, wounding two of them? I didn’t. Not until I read the article to which I linked a few paragraphs above.
Where is the accountability in our society? WTF? There has to be a reasonable and reasoned response to the flagrant lying, bullying, and misinformation being conveyed over the airwaves, and this response must come soon – before the tragedies that are certain to occur if it is not stopped. (And that does not even count the lives lost already in acts that stem from this provocative inflammation, such as the plane deliberately crashed into the IRS building, or the guard who was shot at the Smithsonian Institute, to name only a few recent examples.)
Instead of the Obama Administration rushing to fire Shirley Sherrod before a videotape of allegedly racist statements (made 25 years ago and which were, in context, a tale of redemption and transformation) were to be featured on Glenn Beck’s program that evening, how refreshing would it have been if the Administration had listened to Ms. Sherrod, realized the outrageous distortions that were going to be aired, and countered that smear with wall-to-wall coverage of how that video was actually an example of hate-fueled distortions?
Perhaps the Administration should have stood in their truth. Perhaps they should have asked themselves why they care about the trash spewed on Beck’s show anyway? And finally, perhaps they should ask what the ramifications must be for the day in and day out lies and distortions saturating our airwaves and inciting people to violence. Distortions that we all know, in our hearts, prey on the fears of those who think they are going to be treated the way many of them have been taught to treat those “less than” themselves.
No wonder these bullies are fearful. But the irony is, if Shirley Sherrod is an example of those who were once perceived to be “less than,” but are now rising to places of power, her story – when clearly and fully told – shows that fear to be baseless. In point of fact, her story was that she realized there was no place in her heart to treat others the way she’d been treated (or her father, who was murdered by a white farmer who was never indicted).
And finally, if we are ever to counter the blatant fear-mongering and bullying rampant upon our airwaves, perhaps our country needs to ask itself why the Fairness Doctrine should not be reinstated immediately.