Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Takin' it to the streets!

I admire the folks in North Carolina who take to the streets every week for "Moral Monday."  They are demonstrating for - and against - a number of things.  The last time I checked, over 700 had been arrested.  Looking back through the news stories, I found that those 700 included pastors, retired people, college students, college professors, lawyers, teachers, doctors, homemakers ... those were the ones identified and quoted in some of the news stories.  I also remember reading about an electrician and a hair stylist and a short order cook.  They felt so strongly about voicing their opinions, that they risked arrest and possible fines and/or jail time.  I applaud their conviction.

During a discussion about "Moral Monday" a former colleague of mine said instead of taking to the streets, they should simply win an election.  Here's his direct quote:

"Fact: Their side lost the last two election cycles. So, if your side loses elections, the recourse is to take to the streets? What is this, 'Walk Like an Egyptian'?"

Basically, what he's saying is this ... if your side loses an election, you can just sit down, shut the hell up up, keep your views to yourself and try to win the next election because ... YOUR SIDE LOST SO YOU DON'T HAVE A RIGHT TO VOICE AN OPINION!  

Sounds like my former colleague believes the First Amendment is put on a shelf in between election cycles and it's only good for those who win, anyway.

So let me give you a fact of my own:  the First Amendment isn't there to protect the majority - or the popular speech.  It's there to protect the minority and the unpopular speech!  Come on, that's common sense; by virtue of what they are, the majority and popular speech don't need to be protected!

"It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech.  Immediately on attaining power, each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own."  ~Herbert Hoover.

Let's be clear ... good 'ole Hoover is not my favorite president, but he's right!  And this is what's happening around the country right now.  The elected leaders (at least at the state level) are refusing to listen to the minority view even though they represent those people!  They are paid to represent ALL people in their districts or state!  And when the so-called leaders ignored the minority presence, those people took to the streets.  Should we expect them to sit quietly on their hands and watch until the next election cycle?

"You must stand for free speech in the streets."  ~Mary Harris Jones

Using my former colleague's rationale, Mother Jones should have stayed in her kitchen in 1903.  Hey, Mother Jones ... just keep your mouth shut because it's not election time!  Instead, she organized the Children's March in 1903 ... she was upset about the lax enforcement of child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and marched from Philadelphia to the home of then President Teddy Roosevelt in New York.  Mary Harris Jones saw an injustice and brought attention to it through the First Amendment.  Right on, Mother Jones!

Just a word to the wise (or, at this particular moment, the not-so-wise Republican leaders around the country):  If you would just listen to the minority viewpoints represented by the people in your state, they might not take to the streets.  You could at least pretend to listen, but you're not even doing that.  Leadership is more than saying ... Hey, I won and anyone who disagrees with me can go suck eggs.

You might also want to pay a bit of attention to these words ...

"To suppress free speech is a double wrong.  It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."  ~Frederick Douglass

Sunday, March 31, 2013

So ... what is Facebook to YOU?

Gail Lindenberg, a long-time friend and Facebook friend, recently posted this as her status:

"It's not what you say, it's not how you say it either, it's what you believe and what you do about it."

Gail's status resulted in a discussion about what posts appear on Facebook.  I immediately thought about comments made by five of my FB friends in the last month about hating all the political posts they see.  Hmmm ... I certainly must be in that hated group because many of my posts are political in nature - and I mentioned that in my reply to Gail's status, including the fact that I would probably be dropped by some FB friends.  Then Gail said this:

 "... Much of what I post politically fulfills my need to speak my mind. I know there are some who have blocked my posts because they are entrenched in their own views. As for me, I like to know what others think. It informs my own opinion. When I watch a debate, I want to see both sides. When I taught debate, my students were trained to research pro and con so that they could point out fallacies and support strong logic. Our public debates are, all too often, a series of pundit points parroted. ... We do change the world with our views. We sustain ignorance with silence."

So, why do I post political messages ... and political information?  Because I'm doing something about my beliefs. I'm trying to change the world even though many people don't think that can happen - especially on Facebook.  But I'm a history teacher.  I KNOW people can change the world because I teach that very thing every single day.  Ordinary people who voiced opinions, ordinary people who got involved in whatever way they could.  Ordinary people like you and me who made a difference - and changed the world.  Maybe I can be one of them.

I just went through my Facebook newsfeed covering several months.  Here are the topics my Facebook friends tend to post most often:

Football               Photos               Recipes
God & Jesus        Quotes               Dogs
Rescue dogs        Gardening          Politics
Arts & crafts        Basketball         Jokes
Cats                       Music                FB games
Military                 Fashion             Children
Grandchildren       Movies             Books
Hockey                  Hiking               Education
Memes                   Sex                    Partying
Travel                     Work                 College stuff
Lost pets                Shopping           Baseball
Celebrities             Love life           Science
Health info             Horses              Community events
Soccer                    Weather            History

I'm not interested - at all - in 26 of those 42 topics. However, there's only one that would cause me to hide someone from my newsfeed (and that's only if the posts became oppressive or rude).  The other topics I just ignore and move on.

When my five Facebook friends mentioned their disgust with political comments, I immediately thought I should pull back ... ration my status posts that are political in nature.  But, wait just a darn minute ... that would be putting my own interests on a shelf, thereby letting others determine what's important to me!

We come from different backgrounds and have different experiences.  We have different opinions and are in different stages of life.  We are individuals, therefore our Facebook involvement will be as unique as we are.

So ... party on, Facebook friends!  Do your thing!  If I'm not interested in certain topics, I'll move to the next post.  I'll celebrate our differences - and I will enjoy your Facebook friendship.