What’s Black and White and All Gray Area?

When it comes to lasting life lessons, the most important class I ever took was a journalism class back in high school. The teacher, Mr. Kim, divided the class into four groups and each group monitored the (then-current*) Vietnam War by reading a single news magazine: Newsweek, Time, Christian Science Monitor and I forget the fourth. After a few months, each group reported on the war from our magazine’s perspective —- and it was as though there were four different wars going on. The differences were not subtle. A battle lost according to one magazine was won according to another! That experience carved deep and healthy skepticism toward the news.

Below is today’s example of the same lesson, currently pinging around Facebook (I shared from a friend who shared a Twitter snapshot that originated on the timeline of George Takei).

BTW and P.S. THANK YOU MR. KIM!

It's all in the adjectives.

It’s all in the adjectives.

* yes, that’s how exceedingly old I am.

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Can You Spot The Redundant One?

Thanks to the bumper stickers, the politics of this car’s owner are clear. However, at least one of the stickers is unnecessary, telling us what we have already figured out. Can you spot the redundancy?

spotItphoto

Sidenote: due to genetics, or birds-of-a-feather tendencies (or both), the person who goes with this car is visiting this neighbor who remains fixed on the U.S. 2012 presidential election.

Sticking to Principles, or Just Plain Stuck?

For readers who do not follow U.S. politics (a wise bunch), some background: in November 2012, our most recent presidential campaign concluded. Obama and Biden won re-election. Their opponents were Romney and Ryan.

Every day I walk my dog around the neighborhood, twice. I try to vary our route but over a week we pass the same homes repeatedly. A couple blocks from me is a neighbor I have never seen on any of those walks, but fantasize meeting, to inquire about this obsolete campaign sign, getting weathered and worn on the front lawn:

A sign of defiance?

A sign of defiance?

What I want to ask – but let’s face it, never will – goes like this: Are you aware the election is over? Are you trying to will a different result? Is this a signal of your refusal to accept the outcome? (Insert rant about kneejerk intransigence in the federal government.) Should we call the SWAT team – have you been held hostage in your house for more than 12 months, unable to walk out front to remove the sign?

Please advise.

(This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge wants to see habits.)

Blogging Feels Wrong

Warning. This post won’t be fun to read.

December 14, 2012 was a terrible day for the human race. It feels wrong to blog about it, to tweet or plurk or Fb it. Sure we all need to talk about what happened in Connecticut (and in China) but I am finding our social narcissism so disturbing. Worse though are those who keep blithely updating profile pictures or talking about weekend eating plans. I understand I have no right to judge how another handles stress. Grief.

I am mad at everyone but especially, perhaps, myself. I feel no hope that the United States can make the changes in societal attitudes that will reduce the number of such killings. Intellectually I’m thinking I should be out organizing for change. The rest of me retreats to a dark private corner where I can pretend I am not involved.

So many kids die all the time at the hands of adults with guns, but they die one by one and largely unnoticed, the car crashes to yesterday’s plane crash. If I were the parent of one of those other kids my usual sorrow would explode with the new distant grief yet chill with resentment that my own child died with so much less attention.

Every time there is a terrible public gun tragedy I think surely now- after this -it will be impossible for them to deny the connection between easy gun access and gun tragedies.  Every time I am wrong. 

Maybe we could start small. Maybe we could ban ammunition.

Gun advocates, please don’t point to the knife slayings in China as some kind of twisted indication that guns are not the problem.

On the internet I savor the opportunity to meet and get along with all sorts of folks and so I usually avoid discussion of politics or religion. Today that feels hypocritical: I can’t avoid mention of gun control to sidestep discovery of who is pro or con.

I am a Populist and This is My Time

I have always been a populist.

Populist: represented or connected with the ideas and opinions of ordinary people. (Cambridge)

Populist: a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people. (Merriam-Webster)

(Actually those definitions seem distinct and different to me – and there is a separate issue about how I balance populism with curmudgeonry – but don’t let me distract myself.)

How do I know I am a populist? As a film student, I wrote my thesis on Frank Capra’s populist masterpiece Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Watching an interview, I’d rather hear from the man-on-the-street than a celebrity.  And so forth.

This is such an exciting time to be a populist – consider just these few examples of ways that populist movements are changing our world:

  • The Occupy kids started discussions that now infuse mainstream politics.
  • The Arab Spring is still toppling governments.
  • Self-published books have an escalating share of the publishing industry.
  • Open-source software expands coding in so many directions.
  • Popularity bred by browser clicks has become so important that people now tout their expertise with “viral marketing”.
  • And – sustaining all the above and more – social media give voice and influence to everybody.

I can’t wait to see what comes next.

P.S. What else should be on my list?